School gate and dinner party banter can make the senior school choice process confusing for parents. We are fortunate to have diversity of choice across both state and independent sectors, but how do parents decide on the school that is best suited to the needs of their child?

Decide on your school search area. It must fit with both family and work commitments. Take into account the opinion of each parent, but keep an open mind. Try not to allow personal past experience or family history to colour your judgement as to what might be right for your child now, in the 21st Century.

Draw up a list of schools within this area which meet your criteria; state or independent, budget, day or boarding, single sex or co-ed, academic strengths and interests of your child, any additional support your child may need and transport links.

Review websites, attend a school fair to talk to schools face-to-face and seek independent advice.

Make a short-list of no more than 4 schools to visit and take along a list of things you need to ask while you are there. Open days or a private visit each have benefits. Get a feel for atmosphere, ethos, educational philosophy of the Head, staff-pupil relationships and check the curriculum supports your child’s strengths and interests, as well as their future career ambitions.

Discuss pros and cons of each school after your visits. There may be a couple of front-runners that you feel need a second visit. Remember gut feeling is usually the right one. Stick to your decision and don’t allow further school gate and dinner party banter to confuse or change your mind later.