Nicola Huggett, Head of Cheltenham College, says it’s crucial that parents and schools work together… And here’s why

You have reviewed the glossy prospectuses, shortlisted your favourites, had the red carpet treatment at numerous Open Days and now it’s time. Of course every school looked the part and the subject teachers said the right things. But how exactly are you supposed to know which school will provide the all-important behind the scenes pastoral support to best help them in all other areas of their school life; in the classroom, on the sports field, or when being ambitious with their higher education goals? At the core of a really excellent school are their values, communication and willingness to form a team approach with parents.

Good parent / school teams share the same values.

If you support the school’s values and boundaries, you show your child that they are in safe hands. That trust and confidence from a parent means that a child can relax and just get on with doing their best. Clear boundaries and consistent routines mean that, as a pupil, you know where you stand and you know what is going to happen if you do not, on occasion, meet those expectations. If you get it wrong – and people always do – you want the same thing to happen and then we all move on again with no lingering disappointment, shame or long-lasting guilt.

Great parent / school teams communicate well.

 Ask lots of questions about the communication you will have with those staff who care most closely for your child; their tutor, form teacher, Head of Year or House Parent . A good school with staff who pick up the phone rather than email will give you all the confidence that you need. If you keep in close touch with the school pastoral staff, giving them as much information as you can, you will become part of the essential dialogue that they are having daily with your child, albeit indirectly for a time. Remember that funnily enough, teenagers can find it easier to talk to teachers than to their parents. That is not the sign of a failing home-life in any sense. It is just that the fear of disappointing your parents is removed and you’ll often just get straight, consistent advice, that you may or may not want to hear. As a parent, good pastoral care at school that encourages open dialogue with your teenager is really good news and nothing to be feared.

Excellent parent / school teams realise that your child is part of the team too.

When you are attending Open Days, observe how your child interacts with both staff and pupils. If they feel relaxed in their company even after just a few hours, then it is probably the right fit for them. For all of the lists and tally charts you can make comparing one school to another, never forget to trust your gut on these decisions.

It can be a challenge entrusting a school with the care of the most precious person in the world to you. But don’t ever think that we do not understand or appreciate the responsibility that you have placed in us. Once you have made your choice, take a deep breath and relax about the contact you have with your son or daughter. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just sit back and wait. We all want the same thing for your child; confidence without arrogance, the curiosity to take on the inherent risks of growing up with caution but not fear, and a willingness to see the glass of life that is half full. That is at the heart of the growth mindset that we all seek to develop.

If you can trust the school to encourage this all-important independence, you will be amazed, and justifiably proud, of the engaging and resilient young person that returns home to you at the end of each term.