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24 Dec 2018

How to choose the best school for your child

Choosing the best education for your child is an important decision to make – it can be overwhelming for both students and parents! The school your child goes to will shape a chapter of their lives and so it is important to feel confident in your decision. We have put together a guide about how to approach selecting your child’s school.

1. Make a short-list

By identifying practical features such as location, you can eliminate schools that don’t fit your criteria. Potential factors include:

  • Location
  • State/independent (fee budget, for independent schools)
  • Day/boarding school
  • Professional home schooling
  • Mainstream/special school

When considering these options, it may be useful to outline the pros and cons of each option, if applicable. Independent schools have smaller classes than state schools and often offer a wide range of extracurricular opportunities. State schools may offer more diversity in their student cohorts. Alternatively, professional home schooling provides the flexibility around extracurricular commitments and the ability to design a bespoke timetable.

2. Research

Websites such as the Good School Guide and Ofsted report reports provide information about a school’s academic reputation and teaching standards. This will give you an idea of the appropriate school for your son or daughter’s ability and where they will best reach their academic potential. As well as academia, you should also consider:

  • Extracurricular activities
  • Facilities
  • Approach to learning e.g. holistic or traditional

3. School visit

Open days provide insight into the feel and ethos of the school. As well as academic reputation, the feel and atmosphere of a school is equally important. A daytime appointment will enable you to see the school in action rather than on open days which may be more staged. It is also an opportunity to ask any questions you may have to senior management.

Parent Facebook groups are another way to get a feel for the personality of the school. Joining the Facebook groups of potential schools enables you to ask current parents about how the school operates, teaching standards and pastoral support. Broader parent groups (e.g. North London Mums), and Mumsnet, often have ongoing threads about local schools. This could highlight other school options that might be a good fit for your child.

4. Apply

After you have visited your selection of schools, make sure to be aware of deadlines and application processes for each school, as these will differ respectively.

Below is a handful of schools that we have recommended based on our families’ criteria. We are glad to know that the students attending these schools are enjoying learning and achieving above and beyond their academic potential.


South London

Tiffin School – based in Kingston-upon-Thames, Tiffin is a high-achieving all boys state school. Open days in July and October.

Our students say…

“At Tiffin, we have the opportunity to go on lots of trips in the UK and abroad. This year, I went on the ski trip to America which was great.” James, Year 10

North London

The Henrietta Barnet School – all-girls selective state school, located in North West London. Excellent academic records and extracurricular opportunities.

Our students say…

“I’m in Year 9 at Henrietta Barnet School and I really enjoy it. There are so many clubs and societies to join.” Francesca, Year 9

Central London

Westminster School – historic independent day school, with the option to board. Fees ranging between £27,000 and £39,000 per annum. Extra-curricular activities include rowing, fencing and shooting.

Our parents say…

“The Golden Circle advised that my son was capable of succeeding and thriving at Westminster School. Although the application process was challenging, he is indeed doing very well – and loving it!” Mother of a Year 8 student

Boarding schools

Single sex

Dulwich College – all-boys boarding school – annual fees up to £42,000. Offers Cambridge Pre-U as an alternative to A Level. Linked junior school for students aged 7-11 and kindergarten.

Fees above £35,000 per annum

Wellington College – co-educational boarding school located in Berkshire for students aged 13 – 18. Annual boarding fees up to £40,000. Extensive range of extracurricular opportunities including equestrian, polo and sailing.

Our students say…

“There is a great sense of community at Wellington College. I’m really happy I decided to go here.” Alice, Year 8

Fees below £35,000 per annum

City of London Freemen’s School – all-through boarding school for pupils aged 13 to 18. Annual boarding fees range from £28,000 to £31,000.

Progressive schools in London

Day/boarding schools

Bedales School – independent boarding school for boys and girls aged 13 to 18, located in Hampshire. Holistic and progressive approach to learning. Annual boarding fees approx. £36,000. Linked prep and junior school.

Our parents say…

“After our consultation with Hannah, our daughter started at Bedales. It really is an inspiring and creative environment for children to learn and our daughter is very happy there.” Parents of a Year 7 student

Professional home schooling

Bespoke and flexible timetables

You can find The Golden Circle’s home schooling prospectus here and contact Hannah at hannah@goldencircletutors.co.uk for more information.

Our students say…

“My weekly timetable is based around my swimming competitions and training sessions. It’s ideal because I can study, as well as attending all the swimming meets that I couldn’t do before when I was at school.” Annabel, Year 10

Please contact us if you would like to schedule a consultancy session with one of our experienced educators.