The transition from state school to independent can be stressful for both parents and children. Education expert Sue Laidlaw offers tips on making this big move a painless one
Anyone who has waited, at collecting time, in the playgrounds of certain primary schools across London - and there are many of them, will have witnessed it! Small groups of mums, a few buggies and toddlers scattered around, conversing and discussing the pros and cons of particular independent London day schools
In today’s competitive world, the playgrounds of certain postcodes can sometimes seem almost as stressful and cut throat as the offices and boardrooms that their parents frequent. It is relatively common practice for strategic plans to be put in place soon after a child has entered Reception. There will be a smattering of little boys (and the occasional little girl) that will move from the local primary school into the independent sector at 7+. 8+ or 10+ but the majority who make the move over will do so at the end of primary school. I confess, we have taken this route ourselves for all of our daughters - the result has been a wonderful rich education with an all-embracing outcome spanning both sectors. These personal experiences, added to the thousands of children that have been under Laidlaw Education's wing over the past decades, have taught me a thing or two about this rite of passage.
If your child clearly shows an academic streak, don’t be put off by aiming at the more academic schools.
So, how is it best for children, parents, families to “cross the Rubicon” between state primary school and independent senior school - and continue to keep smiling throughout?
Firstly, embrace three simple rules:
Rule 1: AVOID PLAYGROUND GOSSIP ON THE SUBJECT
What is right for your friend’s child is not necessarily what is right for your own. Neither is better or worse. Choosing schools can be likened to choosing houses. The wonderful property that your friend might have fallen in love with may leave you wanting to run out of the door. It is, therefore, wise, to avoid getting caught up in conversations that might leave you wondering if you are doing the right - or wrong thing - and cause more stress and anxiety than is needed.
Rule 2: BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR CHILD AND YOUR EXPECTATIONS
This is always easier said that done but, when embraced, leads to a calmer and more straightforward approach to things. If your son is simply uninspired by the thought of aspiring to a future 1st XV, sending him to a school that puts a great deal of emphasis on rugby would not be a likely match. Similarly, if your daughter has been a happy hard-worker who has always attained a good average in her class, a highly academic, constantly tested school environment is unlikely to make her more academic. On the other hand, if your child clearly shows an academic streak, don’t be put off by aiming at the more academic schools. It all sounds very obvious but unless you adopt a pragmatic approach it is easy to be swept along in the whole process.
RULE 3: STATE PRIMARY SCHOOLS ARE NOT USUALLY SET UP TO ADVISE ON INDEPENDENT SENIOR SCHOOL
As a general rule, primary school staff are not necessarily experts in the options available in the independent sector. You may be fortunate to be a parent in a primary school that is the exception rather than the rule but, nevertheless, be ready to do your own homework on the best fit of school for your own child. If necessary, seek outside professional advice.
RULE 4: BE ORGANISED IN YOUR APPROACH TO AVOID STRESS FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY
At this point, you will need to adopt a ten point plan in order to avoid unneccesary stress for yourself and your child...
Before you know it, it will be September and the first day at the new school is upon you... a new chapter begins (but that's another article for another day!)
:: Laidlaw Education is a west London centre offering private tuition, mock exams, special needs assessments and schools admissions guidance, among other services. Established in 1992, we are based at Duke’s Meadow, Chiswick. For more information on our services, click here.