How to Choose a Primary or Prep School for Your Child

One of the most important times in your child’s life is their first day of school. It’s the very first step in their journey towards the rest of their life – so, where your child goes to school matters.

That’s why it’s essential that you choose the perfect school that’s right for your child.

There are more options out there than you’d think. With a choice of independent schools, state schools, prep schools and church schools (to name a few), it can be overwhelming to find the right fit.

That’s why we’ve compiled this guide on how to choose a school for your child.

Pupils running down a school path

What Do You Want for Your Child?

Before you even begin the search, you need to think about what you want for your child. This could be anything from universities you want them to think about in the future to how much nature they’re exposed to daily.

We recommend that you make a list of everything you want for your child. Don’t worry if you think your wants are frivolous; you can always reconsider aspects later.

For now, focus on the kind of school you picture your child spending the next few years.


An important thing to note when making your list is the role you want faith to play in your child’s education. Of all UK primary schools, 26.1% are Church of England, and 9.8% are Roman Catholic.

If you practise a religion other than Christianity but don’t want your child to go to a specialist school, make a separate list of exceptions (such as allocated time for prayer and holidays) that you need and look at schools that can accommodate them.

Children singing during a Christingle Service

What Does Your Child Need

Once you know what you want for your child, consider if your wishes reflect what your child needs.

Where Does Your Child Exceed?

Think about what your child enjoys doing and what they’re good at. A child will rarely love every aspect of their school life, but you can try and make the situation easier for them by picking a school that accommodates their interests.

If your child is particularly active, maybe a school with good sports facilities and provision would be a good fit. If they’re creative, an art school could be better.

Extra Support

There’s nothing wrong with needing a little extra support.

Think about anything your child may need a little extra help with.

For example:

  • Accessibility – does your child have mobility aids such as a wheelchair or crutches?
  • Learning difficulties – does your child struggle with numbers or letters? Do they need a little extra help with their reading?
  • Mental health disorders – has your child been diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or autism?

Make sure the schools you look at understand your child’s needs and can offer the proper support.

A child reading in a school dormitory

Boarding Schools

Another option available is a boarding school. If you move around a lot or believe your child could benefit from a boarding school, there are other things to consider.

These include:

  • Is the school full or flexi-boarding?
  • How do the school holidays fit in with your family life?
  • Are the fees all-inclusive, or are there optional extras?
  • What environment is the school in? Is it a bustling city or a countryside location?
  • Contact – how much, how often and how?

Be Practical

It’s all well and good to think big, but now you need to think practically. Every child is different, and schools can’t cater for everything.

It is important to look at the things you want in a school alongside the practical aspects and see if there is anywhere that matches your criteria.


If you’re looking to send your child to a public school, then consider the catchment area that you’re in. This can affect your child’s chances of getting into the school, so it may be worth focusing on schools in your area.


Once you know the distance you’re willing to travel, you need to consider how your child will get to and from school every day.

Is the school within walking distance, and are you available to walk them? Do you have the time to drive them each morning, or is there the possibility of a car share? Does the school offer a bus or taxi service?


If you’ve decided that a private or a boarding school is the right fit for your child, you also need to consider the cost.

You will need to pay for your child’s uniform and maybe their school meals. Some private schools also charge for additional help when requested as well as extra lessons for music.

Do Your Research

With your wants and your child’s needs narrowed down, you can start looking in a more in-depth way at individual schools.

Most schools have a lot of information available to view online, so do your research. Make sure the school can accommodate any extras you need and that their core values resonate with you.

Take a look at the school’s academic results as well as the school’s inspection reports from either ISI or from Ofsted.

You’ll also be able to see what other opportunities the school can offer your child. Things such as sports teams and afterschool clubs might be an excellent way for your child to make friends.

There’s nothing wrong with setting your sights high, but it’s a possibility that there isn’t a school that caters to every one of your specifications. Be willing to compromise, but don’t settle; this is your child’s future, after all.

Reception class photo in their adventure playground

Visit the School

Once you’ve narrowed your search, it’s time to go and visit the school.

This way, you can get a feel for the place that will have a considerable impact on your child as they grow and learn.

While you’re at the school, think about:

  • The teachers – are you happy for them to teach your child?
  • The area – is it safe and accessible? Are you comfortable with your child spending five days a week there?
  • The Head – though they may not be the one teaching your child, the school is a reflection of them. Do you share their values of education?
  • If you can, try speaking with some of the children currently at the school. Can you see your child among them?

Some also offer prep school open days for prospective parents. This may not fully reflect the day-to-day life at the school, but it will give a good idea of what the school values and promotes.

Remember to trust your gut. You know your child better than anyone and, if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it’s not.

The most important thing for you to think about when choosing a school is your child. All of this is for them, to help prepare them for a bright future.

Make sure you keep the big picture in mind. Your child is young and bursting with possibilities. Find a school that will nurture them, and you can rest assured that they will thrive.

If you think St Peter’s Prep could be the perfect fit for your child, please contact Rachel Elliott, Director of Admissions & Marketing, on 01395 280335 or email

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