Our Head of Junior School at Eltham College, Vikki Meier, shares her insights on the important decision of choosing the right school for your child. With her wealth of experience and expertise, we delve into the factors that make a school the ideal place for a child’s educational journey.
What advantages does independent education offer?Class sizes are typically smaller, which helps provide an individual approach for each pupil. At ECJS, we pride ourselves on getting to know pupils from their very first visit to the school and use our growing knowledge of them to ensure the make positive academic progress, recommend activities and co-curricular opportunities that both align with their current interests and introduce them to new challenges, and respond to their unique wellbeing needs.An independent school curriculum is often broader than any other, with a wider range of subjects taught. This unparalleled breadth ensures that pupils receive a rounded education and helps inform choices as they move up into the secondary sector. Specialised facilities and teachers provide an environment in which children are best able to learn, including science labs, art classrooms and at ECJS, over 80 acres of outdoor space.
- What factors should parents consider when evaluating different schools?Visiting a school is vital, both to explore its ethos and values and to review facilities. Where possible, speaking to current pupils and parents will help to hear directly from those at the school.What are your priorities? What sort of environment would you like your child to grow in? Are facilities important, and if so, which ones in particular? How well does the school seem to know their current cohorts, and what do interactions with them look like? What are the school’s priorities over the coming years, and how are they preparing children of all ages for a changing world?
- What role do co-curricular activities play in choosing the right school? Co-curricular opportunities are as important in an independent school as those taking place in the classroom. Not only do they expose children to a wide range of new activities, but also help them to develop physical, emotionally and socially. The wraparound care model helps ensure that working parents can be confident that their children are not only being looked after but have a range of purposeful activities to choose from. At ECJS, we offer an average 50 lunchtime and after school clubs per term to ensure that there is something that will interest everyone.
- What advantages do co-educational schools offer to children? The working world, and society as a whole, does not separate sexes, and a co-educational environment are familiar and confident in this environment before leaving school. It enables pupils to work and learn alongside each other, reflecting how society should operate, with everyone receiving the same opportunities and treating others with an equal level of respect. Co-education also supports diversity aims and overcomes misconceptions and stereotypes. Social skills flourish as children form friendships with a wider range of peers.
- What steps can parents take to ensure they are well-informed when making a decision about their child’s education? Ask questions – as many as necessary to feel confident in their choice. Try to speak to a wide range of staff at Open Events, rather than only the Senior Team, especially as there are any particular needs or concerns for the child. Consider not just their current entry point, but the next steps into secondary education and beyond, and how those operate. Review information the school releases, be that via their website, admissions information or social media channels. See if there are current parents available for a conversation about their experiences.
Vikki Meier is the Head of Eltham College Junior School.
After completing her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and her PGCE, she began her career in the maintained sector before transferring to the independent sector. She joined Eltham College in 2016, first as Deputy Head, primarily responsible for pastoral care and daily operations, before becoming Head in 2020.
Alongside her responsibilities at Eltham College, she is also a governor at a maintained primary school.