Find a Flying School/Club
A few pointers that we hope will be useful.
Visit your local flying schools/clubs
Visit the schools and clubs near you that offer the training you are looking for. Ring up and make an appointment so you can be sure the right person is available. Your custom will be worth several thousand pounds to the school, so you should be made welcome and the answers to your questions should be clear and readily understood. If their approach is offhand, cross them off the list.
You'll be doing a lof of travelling to and fro. Make sure the journey is relatively easy. You won't be in a good frame of mind to learn if you've just had to battle your way through traffic to avoid being late. Ask about local airspace and weather. An airfield that's near to a major airport might have limitations on which direction you can go to train. If it's on the coast it may get affected by sea fog. You can have a brilliant sunshine a mile inland but fog on the coast in summer resulting from cool moist air being pulled in off the sea. On the other hand the coastline makes navigation that much easier! Remember that the weather at the airfield can be markedly different to what you have at home!
Find out what aircraft they have available for training, and ask to see them. Ask them how many people they currently have as students. Aircraft require maintenance and you don't want your training disrupted if an aircraft becomes unserviceable. See if the aircraft look tidy and well cared for. You're not looking for the glossiness of a new aircraft, simply for something that looks well maintained.
Ask how they notify students if a lesson has to be cancelled. They should have a ready answer. It may be necssary to cancel a lesson due to weather or unavailability of the aircraft or instructor for technical reasons or illness. You don't want to travel all the way to the school only to find the lesson's been cancelled. They should have a robust and erfficient way of letting you know if there's a problem.
Find out how many instructors they have, which of them are full or part time, and how long they have each been with the school. Constant changes of instructor will slow down your rate of learning. Often instructors are airline pilots who instruct during their spare time. Their spare time might not co-incide with yours! Sometimes the instructors will be commercial pilots who are filling in between jobs by instructing. When they get the job they'll be off and you'll be without an instructor. Similarly they might have recently qualified for their Airline Transport Pilot's License (ATPL) and will be applying for airline jobs, the same thing applies. Like instructors for sailing, diving, or skiing, flying instructors will work for low ages so they can fly. That's to your advantage when it comes to cost but can work against you when a better job offer comes along. Ideally you should be looking for someone who will continue to be available for around 9 months. Later on you'll want to meet some of the instructors so you can choose one you can get on with. All Instructors and Students are different, what works with one will not work with another. You'll progress faster if you are attuned to your instructor rather than struggling to communicate with each other.
Schools and Clubs walk a financial tightrope. Most of their income comes in during the summer but their costs have to be met throughout the year. An aircraft that's not flying still costs money in insurance, accommodation, and maintenance. Premises and staff have to be paid for whether the aircraft are flying and earning money or not. A prolonged spell of bad weather stops the flow of income. How long has the school been established, and has it always had the same identity? Schools may well offer discounts for "block hours" where you purchase flying time in advance. If you are tempted by these offers then you would be well advised to commit no more money than is necessary to secure the dscount, pay by credit card rather than cash, cheque or debit card, and do a credit check on the company you are paying the money to before you hand over your hard-earned cash.
Training abroad brings its own set of issues. You should ensure that you have an absolutely clear understanding of what you are getting. For example will you end up with an EASA Licence, or a National one which you will then need to convert to an EASA or UK one? The rules and procedures are different in other countries to the UK so you'll need to factor in the need to do some flying in the UK when you get back to accustom yourself to the differences. The weather is different in the UK too! It would be prudent to check with the UK CAA that a school that claims to be able to train for an EASA or UK licence is authorised by the CAA to do so.
Costs are likely to fluctuate according to the exchange rate and the course is likely to be intense. It would be as well to get as much as you can of the written examinations out of the way before you go to help lighten the load.