The Best Guide to Choosing a Private School
When you want to invest in your child’s private education, you will need all the best information to help you make your decision. Choosing a private school can be a little more complex than you expected. There are a few things that you will need to understand and put into balance to make the right choice. Read on to find out how the independent school system works, what you should know, and what options are available.
The Independent School System – How It Works
Independent schools and private schools are schools that are not financed by the state. Since they are not state funded, they operate by charging tuition fees or receiving gifts and endowments from the parents of enrolled students. The difference lies in how they are managed. Specifically, independent schools have a board of trustees supervising their activity. On the other hand, private schools can operate without a governing body and only have an owner or a director running them.
Some older public schools can also be private schools. Just like the other types of private schools, they charge fees and run independently from government regulations.
Private and independent schools accommodate students of all ages and the fees they charge can vary greatly. They establish their own curriculum, as well as their school hours and term dates. They also choose the exam qualifications students take. Some independent schools cater to children with specific talents or have single-sex students. Some accept boarders and some don’t.
Although they do not need to follow the national curriculum, all independent and private schools need to comply with official standards of education. They are regularly inspected by Ofsted, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, or the School Inspection Service to confirm that their compliance with educational, and health and safety norms.
Things You Should Know Before Choosing a Private School
How are private schools regulated?
The Independent Schools Inspectorate is in charge of monitoring private schools. This inspectorate reports to the Department for Education. It is also overseen by Ofsted.
The inspections that private schools go through monitor the school’s curriculum, their teaching methods, pupil achievement, the students’ welfare and personal development. Rankings run from excellent to unsatisfactory.
How are private schools organized?
Private schools can operate under one of several structures:
Pre-prep schools – for children between 4 and 7 years old; most are part of a prep school.
Prep schools (or junior schools) – for children between 8 and 11 years old.
Senior schools – for children between 11 and 13 years old.
All-through schools – admit children from the start of their education through to GCSEs or A levels.
Benefits of private schools
Private schools are preferred for their high academic standards. They are among the best performing in the UK. In addition, private schools have very well-prepared teachers, fewer pupils in a class, and excellent facilities. They also don’t depend on catchment areas. Many parents consider that their children will have better chances of gaining access to a top university if they attend a private school.
Additionally, private schools offer numerous extracurricular activities from sports to music, drama, and debate clubs. Children are also taught skills like leadership and resilience.
Cost of private schools
All private schools are fee-paying. The fees they charge annually vary, but the average for a day pupil is £13,200. Most schools also offer bursaries and scholarships. This way, students can benefit from financial assistance.
Differences Between Selective and Non-Selective Private Schools
Not all private schools are selective. Selective schools admit only students who fulfil certain criteria determined by the school. Non-selective schools don’t have pre-set criteria. Most private schools organise admissions. This means that although you will need to plan ahead and enlist your child early, you won’t have to do it right after they are born as you once did.
As for the assessment your child will need to go through to gain access to a private school, this is usually a less than formal evaluation of your child’s general or more specific abilities, as well as their social interaction level. Some private schools also offer special programs for children with special needs.
Pupils are also assessed at ages 7 or 8 in disciplines like maths and English. Some schools also require reasoning tests that measure a child’s potential.
Secondary private schools are more sought after and you may need to plan your application as early as 3 years in advance for 13+. For 11+ entries, you will probably be able to register in early autumn.
An increasing number of private schools use a pre-test for year 9 entries (either their own or the ISEB Common Pre-test) that takes place in year 6 or 7.
Private Schools in East London
Chigwell is a co-educational day and boarding independent school in the Epping Forest district. It offers classes for Pre-Prep (ages 4-7), Junior School (ages 7–11), Senior School (ages 11–16), and Sixth Form. The school is located on a 100-acre property sitting between Epping Forest and Hainault Forest, 10 from London.
Chigwell is a selective school with several entry points at ages 4+ (Reception), 7+ (Year 3), 11+ (Year 7), and 13+ (Year 9). There is one more entry point for Sixth Form (for boarders and non-boarders) at ages 16+ (Year 12).
Chigwell’s facilities include a large sports hall, cricket fields, a gym, tennis/netball courts, grass pitches. The school also hosts a Drama Centre, the Walde Music School and an Art, Design and Technology Centre.
Bancroft’s Independent School
Bancroft’s offers students a wide range of facilities and extracurricular activities. On top of the teaching facilities, pupils can also enjoy amenities like the school’s sports hall, swimming pool, performing arts centre and music school, as well as its science labs.
Bancroft’s has two main ages of entry. One is at 7+ (for Year 3) and the second one is at 11+ (for Year 7). There are also admissions at 16+ (for Year 12). Occasional vacancies may become available at other ages.
For admission into year 3, children must take a competitive test, held in January of the year of entry. For year 7, there is also a competitive exam in English and Maths, held in January of the year of entry. For access to year 12 students must take a competitive exam in November of the year before entry selecting their preferred subjects.
Forest school has a great location on the edge of north-east London. It is surrounded by ancient forest and has 17 school buildings on a 50-acre site, the Sylvestrian Leisure Centre, the Martin Centre for Innovation, and the Field, where children can play cricket and football.
You can attend one of the several yearly events held by the school for parents to meet and talk to staff and get a tour of the grounds. Forest School is a selective school with a diamond structure. This means that boys and girls are taught together from age 4 in the Pre-Preparatory School. After that, they are taught separately from age 7 to 11 in the Prep School and from ages 11 to 16 in the Senior School. Then, they return to co-educational classes in the Sixth Form.
St. Aubyn’s School
St. Aubyn’s School is set in eight acres of leafy grounds and offers excellent facilities such as a sports hall, all-weather pitches, a pupil kitchen, an art and design studio, a performing arts centre, music practice rooms, a school library, and two ICT rooms.
St. Aubyn’s School admits new pupils in three stages. The first one is the Early Years Foundation Stage, the second is at ages 7+ (Year 3) and the third at 11+ (Year 7). Entries at other ages depend on vacancies.
Registrations for the Nursery need to be made immediately after birth and parents receive an offer in late September of the year preceding entry. For admission, parents must visit the school before or after registration and met the Headmaster.
For 7+ year 3 entries, applicants are invited to attend a day of activities and undergo an assessment of their Mathematics, English, and reading skills. For 11+ year 7 entries, children undergo a formal assessment test in Mathematics, English, and verbal reasoning. They are also interviewed.
Woodford Green Prep School
Admissions to Woodford Green Prep School for boys and girls usually start at age 3+ and 7+. Pupils may also be admitted in other year groups if spaces become available.
For applying, you will need to sign up for an Open Event, complete an online registration form (paying a £75 registration fee). Children joining in Year 3 are required to take the 7+ assessment.
The curriculum of Woodford Green Prep School includes all the National Curriculum subjects and focuses on lifelong learning. It encourages independence and skills like hard work, taking risks, and resilience. The curriculum is applied based on each pupil’s academic progress.
Specialized classes include French, Spanish, music, art, languages, and sport. Extra-curricular activities include art club, ballet, chess club, choir, computer xplorers, fencing, karate, or orchestra.