Prospectuses & websites

The school website is a fuller version of the school prospectus. It will give a feel for the curriculum, activities, the buildings and environment, as well as the staff and pupils. It may also give you a sense of the school’s ethos. The prospectus itself is likely to be a stripped-down version of what the school thinks prospective parents are interested in.

What you will find varies enormously. The worst give just sketchy outlines, motherhood-and-applepie aspirations and some pious phrases. Others are highly professional with elegant text, beautiful photographs (even a virtual tour) and, crucially, loads of information; not just ‘many extra-curricular activities’ but lists of what they are, the ages/times these are available, the trips out of school that may be involved and where to etc.

Read these thoroughly − but with caution. Websites may not be revised all that often (printed prospectuses only every three or more years) and the aim is to present the best features of the school. They will not dwell on the smoking behind the bike sheds or last year’s A-level physics failures, or any of the shortcomings which surface occasionally, even in the best-run establishments. To get a real feel of a school, you must visit it.