The school will endeavour to support parents and carers as much as possible when choosing a secondary school for their child. The choice, however, resides with parents and they should take the necessary steps, in good time, to ensure that they make a sensible and informed choice. Transferring to secondary school can be a very stressful time, especially for parents living in a densely populated city like London, where there is a significant demand for places. If parents are looking at a popular school there are often not easy solutions and a lot of thought and time needs to be committed to this endeavour.
Deciding on which secondary school
Choosing a secondary school for your child is a huge decision and one that it is essential that you make for yourself and your child, based on your knowledge of them and your own research. It can be very easy to be swayed by the community view of which schools are good and bad but the real picture is much more complicated and different for each child. Before you start this journey it’s worth taking a step back and thinking through what sort of education your child might benefit from:
- Do you want an all boys or all girls school or would they be better off in a co-educational environment?
- Is strong pastoral care important due to issues they’ve experienced or are experiencing, or do they require support for special needs?
- What do they enjoy doing? What do they dislike?
- Are they very academic, sporty, shy, musical?
- Do they love trying new things? If so a school with lots of clubs and activities might appeal.
- Do they have a favourite subject? Languages, drama, dance, music, IT, art or sport. If so, look for strength in those areas.
- Think about whether a smaller secondary or a larger one with more facilities and clubs will suit them best?
- How long are you prepared for your child to commute? A school may be further away, but the journey may be shorter or simpler. Check out the route they would do (and ideally do it).
Perhaps write a wish list of secondary school characteristics which you can use as a checklist. Ask your son or daughter for their views too.
You will never find the perfect school and it helps to remember that from the beginning. In every school there will be moments of magic and elements which you dislike as a parent. For children one of the key ingredients will be who exactly ends up in their class and whether they have a good form tutor. Something you cannot control whichever school they end up going to!
- Talk to parents who actually have children at the school rather than someone who has heard something about it.
- Trust your instinct. Take your child with you to visit your top three schools to gauge their reaction to the “feel of the school”.
- On open days talk to the pupils, not just the staff. If a child shows you round talk to them about their experience, they are usually brutally honest when they are away from staff!
- Walk away from the main show areas. What does the school look like, what does the school ‘feel’ like – is it a place you feel comfortable in, what are the toilets like, they say a lot about a school!
- If you can manage it visit away from the main open evening, watch the school operating on a normal day.
- Think about your child’s journey. Secondary school is exhausting at first, a long journey can put stress into the situation. Think about the return journey after sports or music events in the evening and the pressures this may put on family life.
- Fill in all the places on your application form for the borough. Putting just one school first won’t make it more likely that you get it and could mean that if you don’t get it they can allocate you anywhere.
- Put the open days and deadlines for applications in your diary in the summer holidays so that you don’t miss them.
Advice for Year 5 parents on secondary school
The school will endeavour to support parents and carers as much as possible when choosing a secondary school for their child but the ultimate decision and responsibility for this is the parents’. It is really important to start the process of visiting schools in good time if you are considering a range of different options.
Many pupils move to the two state secondary schools that are the closest to Barnes: Richmond Park Academy and Christ’s. Many families at Barnes may not fall in the Christ’s catchment area but Richmond Park Academy is the closest and we have good links with them. To visit their website, click here.
Most schools hold open days in September for entry the following academic year. It may be a good idea to attend these when your child is in Year 5 so that you have a clearer idea as to where you would like your child to attend.
It is useful to consider making a list of questions to ask before you attend a school open evening, particularly if your child has any special educational needs. Some ideas can be found on the following document:
A number of our Year Six pupils sit entrance examinations to highly competitive private secondary schools. Each school has their own entrance requirements but most involve examinations and interviews, which usually take place towards the end of the Autumn and the beginning of the Spring term in Year 6. This can be an extremely stressful time and it is important to register your interest and attend open days in good time so that you are well informed and can approach the decision as calmly as possible. For some children this is the first time in their life that they have “failed” at anything and the pressure to succeed can weigh very heavily on them. It is important to manage this process carefully by keeping the children’s best interests at heart, managing expectations and making appropriate choices thereby reducing the stress and anxiety levels of all children as much as possible.
As with many things, individuals will have differing opinions on the secondary schools to which our children transfer. However, it is really important particularly at this time that everyone keeps their opinions to themselves and is free to make their own personal choices.
We will be giving a strong message to the children at the beginning of their Year 6 that discussion and comment around people’s choices of secondary school is unhelpful and often unkind and therefore to be avoided. It is very important for us as a school to have a culture of respect around this and we would ask all parents to support us in this. This means keeping any strong opinions away from the children and speaking with them as a family about the importance of supporting and encouraging all their peers without exception.
The application process
State school applications need to be completed early in Year 6 which is why visiting Open Days in Year 5 is a good idea. The presentation below explains the transfer for those starting secondary school in September 2020.
Children who have an Education Health and Care Plan will be contacted by the borough in Year 5 about their choice of secondary school and will apply through a slightly different route.
All independent schools set their own deadlines for applications so it is important to be aware of these if this is something that you are considering.
Dealing with transition
Moving away from their familiar primary school to an unfamiliar, usually much larger setting can be a daunting prospect. Some children will try to mask their anxiety with bravado but it is worth thinking about some of the changes with them beforehand and preparing your child for this move to help the process go as smoothly as possible.
It is also a time of anxiety for parents as they move away from the close support group of familiar parents and teachers to a situation where they may not be as involved. It’s important for parents to anticipate this and get support from friends or family and to be careful not to let their own anxieties project onto the child.
The following link has some very helpful tips and is worth looking at with your child.
We try to invite some past pupils into school in the summer term to talk to the current Year 6 cohort and talk through some of the challenges that new Year 7s face in their first few weeks. These are some of the ideas they have suggested in the past:
Our current Year 6 and Coronavirus closure
For Year 6 this is a very difficult time. The last term of primary is a ritual which they are, as things stand, missing out on. All of the events they have been expecting; the play, Chessington, the disco, the leaver’s assembly are on hold. For this reason parents may see increased frustration and sadness in this year group. On top of this they will be both nervous and excited about their new schools. In this term we normally run sessions to help them prepare and again, at the moment that is something we cannot do. We very much hope that we are able to have Year 6 back before the end of term so that we can give them a proper ending to their time at primary school. In the meantime we would encourage parents to make sure that they are able to connect with their friends and to openly discuss these frustrations and anxieties as a family. The following document has some points which it would be helpful to run through with them as a starting point for discussions.