Choosing a secondary school – is a single-sex school the best option for my child?
- Credit: Archant
We spoke to Paul Ramsey, Headteacher at Verulam School in St Albans, who shares his top tips to help you choose the right secondary school for your child, and explains the main benefits of single-sex schools.
Q: What can parents do to help them choose the best secondary school for their child?
A: Consider how the school operates: how do they make the transition from primary school to secondary school easier for pupils? What are they doing for students’ welfare? Is every child valued as much as the other?
You may want to think about the curriculum, and whether the extra-curricular activities are rich and suit your child’s interests.
Holding discussions with current parents with children at the school, and past and present students, is a great way to get an unbiased insight into the school. It’s a good sign if the students seem passionate – if your child enjoys school, they will thrive.
You can really get a feel for a school by attending open days/mornings. Many schools may struggle to organise an open event in the current climate, but if it’s possible to visit the ones you are considering, I would highly recommend it.
Q: Do you think how a school responded to the lockdown is important to consider?
A: I do think the way a school responded to the lockdown sheds light on how they operate and their priorities.
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It’s been a tough time for all schools, and some have been able to respond better than others.
We were lucky that our children and staff were accustomed to using technology and even Google Classroom to a certain extent before the lockdown. Our teaching staff worked very hard, training to use Google Classroom as effectively as possible, and conducting lessons successfully online.
Throughout the process, we listened to feedback from our students – a lot of them found they learnt best through narrated presentations – and ensured they were given plenty of variety. A lot of the study was independent, and we gave the students plenty of practical tasks to break up the monotony of staring at a screen all day.
Q: What are your school ‘must-haves’?
A: It’s important that students have the opportunity to progress, have access to plenty of extra-curricular activities to broaden their learning, and that they are comfortable and happy at school.
A school must communicate well with the students and their parents and be transparent – life isn’t always perfect - it’s best not to bury a problem, but accept it and communicate how it’s going to be rectified.
Of course, it’s also essential that a school offers good teaching and learning, and that its vision and morals are clear.
Q: What are the benefits of a single-sex school?
A: As a single-sex school, we can tailor our learning to suit boys to ensure they excel and reach their full potential. Although both as capable as each other, boys and girls respond better to different teaching methods. Take the stereotype that girls are good at English and boys are good at Maths as an example. This may be the case in a mixed school as boys try to fit in, but the boys at Verulam School love English, as much as, if not more than the stereotypically masculine subjects. This is because they don’t feel they have to conform and can truly be themselves.
We nurture our students, but challenge them equally as much. Students at Verulam School go on a seven-year journey, from the start of Year 7, where they become a Verulam learner, to the end of Year 13, where they ensure their future success. We dedicate ourselves to bringing out the best in our students, supporting them in their learning and monitoring their wellbeing so they graduate as confident, happy individuals.
We are conducting an open morning on October 3, 2020, with different time slots to aid social distancing. Please contact us if you require more information on the safety measures we will be putting in place for the event - we would be happy to talk you through them.
Visit the school for their open morning at Brampton Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 4PR.