PENKETH High head teacher, John Carlin, is giving advice to year six parents as the deadline for choosing their child’s secondary school draws closer.

Despite 16 years of teaching, John experienced the same difficulties as most parents when deciding the best high school for his son.

To help parents before the submission deadline on October 31, John has put together a list of tips drawing on his experience as both a head teacher and a parent, including reading Ofsted reports, going on open days and asking for school tours.

Ofsted reports provide information on the quality of teaching, learning, pupil behaviour and school life but parents should bear in mind that schools can change quickly and the reports may no longer be accurate.

John said: “To draw on my own experience at Penketh High School, we have secured two consecutive years of significant improvement and this year we have achieved our best ever outcomes.

“This has been achieved as a result of improvements across the school centred around a culture that has increased the learning focus, improved the climate for learning and driven higher expectations of our outstanding young people.

“This is not reflected in our previous Ofsted report.

“Similarly, our previous Ofsted report identified improvements required in maths, which is now one of the best performing subject areas in terms of pupil progress.”

Some schools and academies work together as part of a wider organisation which could be a consideration for parents.

For example, Penketh High is part of The Challenge Academy Trust (TCAT), a Warrington-based trust consisting of two primary schools, five secondary schools and Priestley College which all have the same core values.

Another of John’s tips is asking for a school tour instead of just going to the open day.

He said: “If we’re being brutally honest, these events are a bit of a show, an opportunity for schools to showcase their best aspects – and why not!

“Tours are often more personalised visits conducted in small groups and, crucially, are normally conducted during the day.

“They give you a chance to see the school in action and get a good feel for the purpose in lessons and conduct of pupils.”

John’s final piece of advice to parents is to look to the future and decide if the vision for a school aligns with what is best for their child.

He added: “Give serious thought and consideration to where the school will be in five years rather than now.”