What to consider when choosing the first school for your child

Girls playing in the playground at Guildford High Junior School, Guildford, Surrey, England.

Girls playing with hula-hoops out in the playground at Guildford High Junior School. - Credit: Julian Andrews

Choosing the first school for your little one can be a daunting proposition and seem like a huge responsibility. We speak to Fiona Boulton, headmistress at Guildford High School, about what factors to consider before making a choice, and why GHS Junior School could be the school for your daughter.

Q: What should parents consider before visiting a school?

I always advise parents to spend time thinking about what kind of school may suit their child and, indeed, their family.  Whilst it is easy to be wowed by facilities or the reputation of a school, it must be right for you. Consider the logistics of the school run, catchment areas, single-sex or co-education (particularly if you have more than one child), the total cost of independent school fees and pre/after school care if required. Once you have understood your needs, then it’s time to start your research and visits.

Q: What should you look for when you visit?  

Ofsted and ISI inspection reports can give you an initial insight, as can virtual tours. If you get an opportunity to visit a school then ask yourself, do pupils seem happy and engaged in their lessons? What impression do you get from the head and the teaching staff? Consider the facilities and space available.   

Most importantly, trust your gut reaction. A school that ticks all the boxes on paper may not feel like the best fit for your child when you visit, and if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Guildford High Junior School girls taking photos of flowers on an iPad in Guildford, Surrey, England.

Girls taking photos of flowers on an iPad at Guildford High Junior School. - Credit: Julian Andrews

Q: Why choose Guildford High Junior School? 

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There is a strong sense of community within the school and although we are a small school, we achieve fantastic results.  We were delighted to have been named Sunday Times' 'Southeast Independent School of the Decade' in 2020.  

Our priority is to ensure that our girls are happy, and, as a result, make great progress, not just in their learning but also in sport, music, drama and their personal development.  Variety is key to us, and our girls thrive in our busy, vibrant school.  When pupils leave the Junior School and transfer into our Senior School, they are ready to embrace the wealth of opportunities on offer to them.

We are particularly proud of the exceptional standard set by our specialist subject teachers across the curriculum.  Being a through school from 4-18 enables Junior pupils to benefit from teaching by Senior School teachers in modern languages, humanities and sport too. We successfully combine tradition and innovation - iPads and apps support pupils’ learning.

Q: What do you offer for parents who may require pastoral care for their child?

Pupil well-being and sense of belonging are at the heart of Guildford High Junior School, and we are proud to have received the ‘Best School for Pastoral Care’ award from The Week magazine in 2018.  The girls build successful friendships and relationships with their peers and adults, whilst teachers ensure pupils feel secure, relaxed and nurtured at school. 

We encourage resilience, determination and compassion. We gently embed a real understanding of the challenges pupils may face growing up, with self-awareness and the strength of character to ask for help if needed.

Headmistress Mrs Fiona Boulton at Guildford High School in Guildford, Surrey, England.

Guildford High School Headmistress, Mrs Fiona Boulton. - Credit: Daniel Cook

Q: What does the Guildford High Junior School extra-curricular programme look like? 

Our extracurricular programme is huge, with over 90 weekly clubs including fencing, yoga, classics, art and percussion.  We encourage our girls to get involved with all that is on offer.  Choirs are open to all, and our beginner musicians are encouraged to join our orchestra.  Frequent trips complement the extracurricular programme; they are closely linked to the curriculum and make a significant contribution to the girls’ social development. We really do believe that our extracurricular programme is central to our aim of helping parents raise happy, healthy children.

Information about visitor mornings can be found at: guildfordhigh.co.uk/visit. Alternatively, contact guildford-admissions@guildfordhigh.co.uk or 01483 543853.