How to choose the right independent school for your child

There are many factors to consider when choosing an independent school. Picture: Getty Images

There are many factors to consider when choosing an independent school. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Choosing the right independent school for your child is one of the most important decisions a parent can make. Not only is it a big commitment financially but more importantly, it’s a priceless investment in your child’s future.

According to experts, there are many factors you should consider when choosing an independent school, including the location, whether your child is suited to day, boarding or flexi-boarding, whether the school offers the right extra curricular activities for your child and whether you can afford the fees, which could range from £3,500 to £10,000 a term.

It's also important to remember that every child is unique. Catherine Stoker, lead consultant at The Independent Education Consultants, said: "Some parents are primarily concerned about academic standards, many are as concerned about other factors that can make all the difference to their child's happiness and wellbeing at school: the pastoral care; scope for developing a particular enthusiasm such as rugby, design technology, drama, art, fencing or even polo; the availability of extra tuition if needed for a child who, while brilliant at football, has previously studied little French or is mildly dyslexic."

Catherine explains that not all children have the same needs and abilities. "Some flourish best in a more competitive environment. Others do better in a smaller, more homely setting where the emphasis is more on nurturing creative and communication skills than aiming for Oxbridge. There is no one best school that suits all children equally."

It is best for parents to consider all the options, such as single sex or co-ed, the same school as their siblings, how bright your child is, a traditional or informal school, religious affiliation and more. Once you have assessed what is best for your child, you can make a shortlist and visit those schools.

Schools are all about people and atmosphere, so a visit is a key part of the decision process. Visiting four or five schools is about right, as seeing more can be confusing and is usually unnecessary.

It is also far better to visit the schools on a normal school day as opposed to an open day as you will be able to see how it operates on a day-to-day basis.

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Make sure you have a list of questions ready - remember that you are the customer and it is up to the school to sell itself to you, not the other way round.

North London has a variety of independent schools for all ages. Some examples include: Highgate School, The King Alfred School, Lyndhurst House School, St Christopher's School, St Anthony's School for Boys, North Bridge Senior, St Christina's School, The Cavendish School and Arnold House School.

Top tips for choosing the right independent school

- Be realistic about their academic capabilities. Challenge and inspire to achieve more, but within attainable parameters.

- Review talents and interests and match these up to school facilities and curriculum on offer.

- Consider co-ed vs. single sex at different ages.

- See education as a timeline and plan your pathway from primary to secondary to sixth form. Avoid school changes where feasible.

- Meet the head teacher. Do they actively take an interest in the children and does their ethos for education match yours?

- Consider location and how the commute will fit with the rest of the family, especially if both parents work. Review school bus routes. Considering weekly or flexi-boarding broadens your search area.

To find out more about choosing the right school for your child visit