January marks a month of some very important decision making for my husband and I.
It’s the month that we will have to sit down together, discuss and eventually decide upon and choose a primary school for which to send our beloved H to, in the coming autumn term.
For some, this may be less of a tough decision, perhaps some don’t regard it as much of a big deal, but for me it is and I’m wanting to make the right decisions and choices for and on behalf of my little girl.
And as far as we’ve seen so far, the decision and application process when you choose a primary school is a rather daunting affair!
I must say we’re rather lucky in that we live in a fairly nice town, in a reasonably nice area of that town, which affords us the fortunate position of having the option of rather good primary schools to which to send her in the first place.
And before you say anything,… no, we didn’t move here entirely for that schooling reason.
Rather more we, or frankly I, had always intended to live in this area because this is where I grew up. It has the schools I grew up to know and attend, the parks I played in and it’s an area where many of my family and friends still live, and where they themselves are bringing up their own young families.
But still, we still need to make a decision and choose between those schools nearby that are available to us as options.
I suppose in an ideal world we would probably choose to send our daughters to a private school, though only probably because my husband attended one throughout his education and it would be nice if we could afford to do the same for our girls. But we don’t live in that world. And we certainly don’t have the funds available to us to afford that as an option.
Though, as I mentioned above, we are blessed and extremely lucky in that the state schools around here do very well indeed, so this is not so much as a concerning factor for us, as we believe our children will do perfectly well and be more than sufficiently educated in any one of them.
We’ve now made our choice, and at the end of the day probably realized that as much as we look at tables, compare results and academic achievement, nothing is to say that our children will necessarily do well in which ever school we choose!
But, one thing for sure is this. Instinct and impression go a long way.
At least we can be content in the knowledge that as parents we’ve done as much as we possibly can and have been advised to do.
We’ve ticked the boxes, covered all bases, dotted the ‘I’s and crossed as many ‘t’s off as possible!
We’ve chosen a school where we believe H will make some lovely friends, learn as much as she can from welcoming, kind and enthusiastic teachers (think Miss Honey from Matilda!) and above all be happy for the beginning steps of her academic future.
So, as far as us making this mammoth decision, what were the points that my husband and I discussed over the last few months and what were our deciding factors?
Points to consider when choosing a primary school
Location, Location, Location
Bit of an obvious one I suppose! How far away from the prospective school are you? Will it be easy to walk to/drive to? Are you actually in the catchment of your preferred school? If we’re going to be driving H to school, is it easy and safe to park the car?
Local reputation, Word of Mouth & Local Parents
This has always been rather a persuading factor for us. Some local schools most definitely have better reputations than others! Word of mouth and local opinion of a school go a long way. We actively sought out parents of whom we know send their children to these schools and chatted with them openly to see what their own opinions and experiences have been.
Did we like the local parents!!
Were they polite, friendly, From a very selfish point of view also – I would rather like to get involved with the school as much as I can as a parent – and having fellow parents that I like and get on with would be very nice indeed!! I want H to be able to go to her friends houses for play dates and vice versa, so I want to know that she is with people I can get to know and socialize with also.
You will find that each school has its own website on which you will find a wealth of information. This will list what the school does, what it believes in, what standards are expected etc and you can start to grasp a better understanding of whether you feel your child will fit within those boundaries and in that setting or environment.
Arrange school visits
This is crucial if you really want to get the best understanding of the schools you’re interested in. You don’t have to go round all the schools in that area, but instead pick the few that you are the keenest on and the ones you are likely to put into your top three on the application form. This is where you’d have probably ruled out other options and at this stage you are just trying to fine tune your decision making process, as the differences between the schools may be slight ones.
But also – this is where you will get a real feel for the place, its staff and the potential environment. Do the pupils seem to be happy and enjoying themselves? Look at the walls – the displays can tell a lot about the variety of projects the children have taken part in, and what abilities it caters for.
Is there a good range of facilities and resources available to the children?
Personally we are keen for there to be a wealth of extra-curricular opportunities available to our girls within their school. We looked at what sports and clubs were offered for H to get involved with if she chooses. We will try our hardest not to be pushy parents, so as long as the options are there, that is all we can currently ask.
Breakfast and After School Clubs
both my husband I work full time, 5 days a week, a breakfast and after school club are necessities for us. Naively I thought all schools now ran these sessions, but I was very wrong. If you need this as an option too – make sure you ask! Also, it seems that spaces at these clubs often book up quickly – so this is something you’ll want to put your child’s name down for as soon as their place has been allocated.
Hmmmm – this was a tricky one. Some people really think these are the ‘be all and end all’ and others don’t give them any credit whatsoever. Basically, unless the school has been ‘watched’ or is ‘on report’ recently, we have found that they are all much of a muchness. Though also, we’ve been informed not to just disregard a school if it in fact has been on watch, as sometimes these schools are so often stringently assessed that their standards increase and overtake those that have not been watched! Like I said above – it’s a minefield!!
This was another one for us that we wanted to investigate, as one day, when Little E turns 5, we would want her to attend the same school as her big sister. So, finding out how far down the criteria listing ‘sibling priority’ featured was important.
And finally – did we actually like it!
Is it a place where we feel H will be happy and looked after? Did we get a good ‘feel’ from the teachers that we spoke with? Were they friendly and helpful? How did the classrooms feel – were they chaotically organized or chaotically unorganized and a bit of a mess!!! (I’m learning that most primary schools have an element of happy chaos
Then of course other factors you may need/wish to consider are:
· The Schools policies
· It’s Aims and objectives, behavioral and discipline policies
· Do you have a preference whether or not it’s a faith school
· The outdoor play space available
· Investigate the previous year’s allocations and admissions
· Details of the curriculum itself
· Is there a special educational needs policy
Top Tips Roundup
· Do your homework
· Be realistic (ish!) to avoid being let down
· Be aware of ALL your options
· Book visits and visit the school websites
· Ask Questions!
· Know what questions you want to ask before you go in!
Gov.UK – Ofsted
Gov.UK – School Admissions