Choosing a secondary school

As Belle has moved into year six this September, over the next few weeks we have to go through the process of applying for her place at secondary school.

You might think I’d be an old hand at choosing schools, but actually I’ve never really thought about it much before. My choice of primary school has mainly been driven by things like a nice smell, or a particularly attractive male teacher, and when it came to choosing a big school for Bee, we were living in Bridgwater, less than a mile from the school that pretty much everyone in my family has been to, so not a lot of comparing of league tables went on there.

Now we’re in Bristol though, it’s a bit different. I know nothing about the schools, and although other parents seem to have known since birth where they want their little darlings to be educated, I’ve found it difficult to drum up any enthusiasm for the subject until recently. Even now ‘enthusiasm’ would be a strong word. ‘Obligation’ is probably more like it.

This week then, we went to our very first open evening at a local all girls school that has recently gone from being fee-paying to an academy.

“Do you think there will be drinks?” Bee asked Belle as we walked down the hill.

“Yes,” she answered decisively.

“How about cakes?”


“No,” I interrupted.

“…not.” finished Belle, seamlessly.

If  ‘finding the entrance’ is part of the selection process, I fear we may have reduced our chances already, as it took us ten minutes and three attempts to even get in. When we did, we were greeted and shown around by a carefully chosen selection of wonderfully smiley and polite young girls in blazers. Rather too smiley in my opinion. A little bit Stepford Wives.

The school seemed fine. It had desks and chairs and everything, and far more computers than we had in my day obviously. Cue jokes from my children and Boyfriend about writing on slates and counting spearheads.

How do you know though whether a school is right for your child? It was the evening, meaning I couldn’t do my usual trick of judging the smell of the school dinners, so I was at a bit of a loss. It had everything a school should have facilities wise, but how do I know if it has that something that will ensure the right balance for Belle of fun, discipline, ambition and independence?

To add to the frustration, it’s doubtful that we’ll get much choice even if I should have a preference, as Bristol is well-known for being difficult when it comes to admissions. In that case, perhaps I should be focussing on the argument that says it’s support at home that’s what’s really important when it comes to achievement?

That sounds a bit too much like hard work for me though. Homework? Projects? Educational days out? I’d rather not. I quite like the idea that school is responsible for stimulating and educating her, and that I’m in charge of chillaxing. I always feel less guilty about her watching TV if she has been at school during the day.

Looks like boarding school it is.



  1. 20 September, 2012 / 1:53 pm

    Talking to the teachers gives you a good idea. And if you want to, there’s nothing to stop you asking to see the school during the day. Failing that, ask other parents in the area if you can find any that have children there already what they think of the school.

  2. 20 September, 2012 / 2:14 pm

    When they hit Year 7 is when they start demanding that you NOT walk them to the school gate and smother them with kisses and spit to wipe breakfast off their chin, so is the secondary school within walking distance for her? Losing the school run has got to give you an extra hour each day to work, doesn’t it? ;)

    • 23 September, 2012 / 11:47 am

      Now that WOULD be a bonus Mandy if it wasn’t for the fact that Belle already walks by herself! Walking distance is a must though – no way I want to START having to do a school run! If only there weren’t four secondary schools within a few miles of our house, that would make the decision much easier.

  3. sasofsussex
    20 September, 2012 / 2:52 pm

    My daughter and I went to the all girls high school this morning for a tour and wow was i overwhelmed! Never mind education, my mind is on the expensive uniform and the trips to Iceland, France, Germany and Spain that are on offer for the girls to go to. I better look for a second job now ;)

    • 23 September, 2012 / 11:46 am

      That’s the other thing isn’t it? The one we looked at may not be a fee paying school any more, but I bet they still have the attitude! Blazers, PE kits, school trips – it all costs money doesn’t it?

  4. 21 September, 2012 / 5:12 pm

    yeah why don’t they give out parenting medals for being ‘chillaxed?’ rather than for having endless patience to test your kids on latin grammar? good luck in your search for the ultimate school for Bee

    • 23 September, 2012 / 11:44 am

      Parenting medals full stop would be great – I love medals!

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