If your child is heading to secondary school there are particular issues to consider: If you already have a preference for the country in which he or she may go on to university, choose a school that offers qualifications recognised there. The IB Diploma is recognised universally, but high school diplomas from US-style schools may not be accepted by universities that rely on public exam results such as those offered in Hong Kong, Britain, Australian states or by the International Baccalaureate Organisation. While well-regarded, the IB Diploma was designed for average and above students. It is not suitable for all, and less academic students might benefit from more vocational courses. Check out how a school ensures students achieve their best. The early secondary years, when children enter adolescence, are notorious for a dip in performance. Find out how a school caters for this age group. Check the systems they have to track students' progress through all years. Ask about other quality assurance mechanisms, particularly how exam results are monitored and acted on. Schools should be willing to provide results of individual subjects as well as overall school results. Ask which universities students tend to go on to, to see if these match your expectations. Check the range of subjects offered. Small schools may not be able to offer so many options. Rigorous academic study should be balanced with strengths in sport, arts and community service. Ask how the school is equipped to cater for student diversity and if it has programmes for those with learning difficulties, gifted abilities or language needs. Ask about opportunities for student leadership, and even participation in school decision-making. To what extent does the school see students as partners in their learning? Find out about the roles of student councils and prefects. Check out its lifeskills programmes and pastoral support. ESF and many international schools have a more liberal culture than local schools, with young people expected to be responsible for their own behaviour. Drugs and alcohol abuse, dating and even under-age sex are more prevalent than most schools admit to or parents might expect. Find out how the school deals with these issues. Most international schools test for drugs and have warning systems. Schools should be upfront with their policies and ready to alert parents to problems, not pretend they don't exist. Moral education and discipline are likely to be stronger in Christian schools, but some are strongly evangelical. Ask yourself if their missions are compatible with your own religious beliefs. Ask about anti-bullying policies. Many schools use outside agencies such as Kely Support Group for this and their other lifeskills education, but schools should have their own programmes too. Note the uniform and how students wear it. Some schools, such as French International School and Hong Kong International School, have no uniform and allow teenagers free expression in their dress. Uniforms run from modern and practical to old-fashioned and traditional and, to an extent, reflect a school's character. Has thought been put into how students are allowed to dress every day? Coloured nail varnish and extensive jewellery are acceptable in some schools, while others have decided to ban hair dye even for teachers and insist all students, even senior ones, obey strict dress codes. Most important, when you and your child visit the school, try to get a feeling for its ethos. Try to meet the principal and students - the latter may take you around the campus. Note how friendly and communicative both teachers and students are. Do students seem relaxed, mature and confident? Students are also more likely to tell you about some of the realities in the school that the principal may be reluctant to advertise. Find out more about a school by attending its open days and fairs with your child. Is it an environment where they feel they'll happily fit in?