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Choosing an independent school…


There’s no doubt that everyone wants the very best for their children, it’s only natural. And quite often that best takes the form of deciding to use an independent school. Perhaps the decision to opt out of the state education system felt like a huge one, however, it’s only the beginning of the choices you face.


Some families have a tradition of sending their youngsters to a certain school – perhaps going back generations. While this is a strong motivating factor, it should be borne in mind that much will have changed in the 20 or so years since the parent last set foot in the school. Don’t let loyalty and sentiment cloud such an important issue.


A fundamental decision is whether or not for your child to board or be a day pupil. To a certain extent boarding school frees you from considerations of location, although the length of journey will still be a factor when it comes to visits or the start and finish of term.


Boarding is a considerably more expensive option, but many parents feel their children get great benefit from the independence it fosters as well as enjoying the ‘whole school day’ experience of comprehensive extracurricular activities.


The list of schools within reach of a day pupil will be shorter, however, near cities and the


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school can offer coaching and somewhere to train. Other schools have a particular strength in the performing arts.


By Ellen Arnison


central belt, it is still extensive. Your family’s basic


requirements must be the starting point in the decision over which of Scotland’s 100 or so independent schools to choose from. Your child’s age, gender, religion, and the location of the school will dictate a great deal.


Do you have an opinion about which qualifications you want your child to pursue? For example, many independent schools do offer the Scottish SQA exams, but others offer the English curriculum or the International Baccalaureate. Will the school you’re looking at meet your child’s particular needs? For example, does it have the sports facilities they want or offer the specific courses or instruction required? If your son or daughter shows great promise as an athlete, then it’ll help if the


There are plenty of league tables and other measurements to give an idea of the results the school produces. These can be based on exam results or further education the pupils move on to. However, impressive as these may be, they are only part of the picture as there is so much more to a school’s success than exam passes.


What’s much more important is to visit the school, meet pupils and former pupils. Ask questions and observe, get a real feeling for the school as it is today. What’s the ethos? How does it make you feel?


If you can’t make it to a school’s open day, pop in and ask to have a look around? Sometimes it’s even better to do this on a ‘normal’ school day anyway, to get a better, more natural feel for things. Chat to pupils and parents if you get the chance – this should tell you everything you need to know. But perhaps the most important person to talk to is your child – they, after all, are the one who is going to be most affected by your decision.


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