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How I chose a school for my child: a parent's view

20 May 2016

How a Danesfield year 4 pupil's parents made the decision on which school to send them to.

Choosing a school for your child is undoubtedly an overwhelming decision made only more stressful by the wealth of possible options currently available within the independent sector. Aside from the obvious distance from the home, a few quick decisions removed some schools from the list: for us this included wanting co-educational at primary level and the length of the school day. We needed the flexibility of before and after school care due to work commitments, but also the option for finishing early enough to enable our daughter to attend clubs and activities outside of school. For us, a 4pm finish with the option of staying until 6pm if needed was perfect.

This still left several schools on the list and so our next consideration was school leaver destinations. This still left a fairly long list of school options which meant that visiting each school and looking at it first hand was the only way forward. 

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of the phrase 'don’t judge a book by its cover'. Many schools offer amazing, state-of-the-art facilities to which it is very easy to be drawn. Plush reception areas, impressive on site sports fields, shiny classrooms and brand new laboratories, art and music rooms are offered by many schools. In our view, this became insignificant in comparison with the ‘softer signs’ which are so difficult for schools to market but which for us, became the most important considerations and deciding factors.

We were shown around Danesfield School by the Head Teacher. This may seem like a small thing, but having heard 'the spiel' from many School Marketing Managers whilst visiting other schools, it was refreshing to talk to someone who was so clearly involved with the school and knew all of the pupils.

The second clear message for us at Danesfield School was the warmth and friendliness and the flexibility of approach used with each individual pupil. We came away with the message that each child mattered – not just in the sense that any school will tell you, but that they actually, really mattered. That the school teachers took time to get to know each child individually: their likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, to ensure that every need and potential was met. And actually, in a school with only one form entry and classes of around 16 pupils, it’s not too farfetched to see how this is genuinely possible.

The icing on the cake (for our daughter anyway) was the swimming pool and having visited for her taster day, it was all we could do to persuade her to return to her current school for the next couple of weeks until the end of term. Not that this would have been an issue. In the spirit of the school flexibility we were informed that starting any week and any day was possible.

We left that day with the view that our child would be nurtured but stretched to achieve her potential and would become part of the Danesfield family. We haven’t looked back and as well as making excellent academic progress, our daughter has grown in confidence every day.  And that for us is more important than any bricks and mortar or shiny new art easels.

Parent of year 4 pupil at Danesfield Manor School, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey