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New year, new decisions

For children entering primary school this September, this month marks the deadline for state school applications. While location and catchment area do place certain limitations, parents are facing increasing choice when it comes to selecting schools – both at primary and secondary stage.


And though it may seem that academic performance is top of most families’ lists, there are in fact many influencing factors, pulling parents in multiple directions. So what does drive school choice – and how do you ensure you’re making the right decision in the end?


With so many schools to choose from, often with their own application processes, it’s a complicated and time-consuming system to navigate. Oversubscription at state schools means places are never guaranteed. Independent schools work to different deadlines. Even the league tables differ, depending on which source you use. So where do parents start?


When we’re faced with such complexity, studies in behavioural economics suggest we make ‘mental shortcuts’ – allowing social norms to drive our decision-making. In the face of too much choice, we stick to the status quo, or just follow the lead of our peers. We may also rely on a single, simplifying rule – for example, choosing a school based solely on its facilities, or its location.


But given that every child has their individual learning style, and will thrive in their own way, there’s a risk that the subconscious choice may not be the right choice. As much as possible, parents need to dedicate head space to the decision, and look pragmatically at all the considerations. Location does matter, but so does school ethos, extracurricular activities and homework schedule. Look at the league tables, and research online, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the ‘best’ school is always best for your child.


For more advice on what to look for in a school, read our top tips on finding the right school. And if the choice is overwhelming, don’t be afraid to seek help – the Figtree team is on hand to guide you through your options, from shortlist to selection.

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