A school’s reputation is often the key factor determining parental choice. It is my experience that parents will often choose a school with a good reputation, without researching how genuine the reputation is.

  • Reputations are sometimes generated by unreliable anecdotal evidence. For example, if one child is bullied, it does not necessarily mean that the school has a problem with bullying. If one child underachieves in their exams, it does not mean that this is the case for all students. If a serious incident happens outside the school, it might be the case that it has no connection with the institution itself. Students from one school invariably turn up at another school’s entrance when they want to cause trouble.
  • A school’s reputation is often disseminated by its neighbours. However, they are not a reliable source. All schools cause disruption for those living next door. I rarely hear a school’s neighbours say ‘this is a good school’, whatever its credentials.
  • Oversubscription often depends on a reputation which is is not necessarily proof of a ‘good’ school, it is simply proof of enduring perceptions which may be inaccurate. There might be an ‘emperor’s new clothes’ situation, with people following each other, without really questioning the quality of the school they are subscribing to.
  • Reputations are often out of date. Schools can decline very quickly and reputations rarely keep up. Sometimes parents are responding to perceptions which were current when they were themselves at school.
  • A parent needs to find a school that is improving. This school might actually be one that is living on an out of date ‘bad’ reputation. Choosing a school like this would be rather like buying property in an area, where there is going to be an increase in values.
  • If a school’s standards are rising, everyone is more enthusiastic, has more energy, and more creativity. If a school is declining, staff and students may be complacent, or have lost enthusiasm. Only an environment of positivity will breed success for students.

Further Information

Local Media

Look out for significant changes in your local schools which could lead to an out of date reputation. A change of Head, for example,may precipitate a rise or a decline, as could a change of building, or title.

Open Evening

Don’t pre-judge schools, and only go to the open evening of the school with the best reputation.Visit a selection of schools in your catchment area, so that you can compare what is on offer. Visit one school in your catchment area that has a ‘bad’ reputation. Even if it turns out that its reputation proves to be accurate, at least then you can measure it against your preference, and be reassured have made the right choice.

Case Study


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