How to Choose a Primary School

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!

Choosing a Primary School

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.

It’s home!

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.

Choosing a primary school

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.

School Websites

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?

Extra-Curricular Activities

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.

Ofsted Reports

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!!

Selection/Admission Criteria

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!

Useful Websites:

Gov.UK – Ofsted

Gov.UK – School Admissions

Mami 2 Five


Brilliant blog posts on

Post Comment Love


  1. 13th August 2016 / 9:24 am

    nice post. I can completely relate with what you are trying to bring out in this post. Lot of research goes into shortlisting the best possible primary school for your children. Useful and valid information provided. I surfed the Ofsted Website and found it interesting and useful.
    Keep posting..
    Keith K. Moffitt

  2. 25th May 2016 / 11:10 am


    This is bind blowing…its quite super informative..

    After reading this …. I can say that this the perfect guide for all the parents…
    Children are happy if they feel purposeful and appreciated,praised for their successes,encouraged through their mistakes,and treated fairly along with their school-mates.

    So, choosing a right school is the most significant thing for parents…..

    thank you so much for sharing your great ideas…
    God Bless U!!!!

  3. 21st January 2015 / 9:02 pm

    we had to apply for Maisy aswell last week tough choices but what a great bunch of tips I could of done with this before! thanks for linking up to #sundaystars

  4. 18th January 2015 / 9:19 pm

    We have quite a few schools in our town but only 1 within sensible walking distance. I really hope she gets in there otherwise I will cry! haha! great list here hun, I made sure we did our research before we moved here. x

  5. 18th January 2015 / 5:12 pm

    Well done with all your research. I have to say that it was down to location and calibre of school when I chose for Grace. I hope you get what you want. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo

  6. 15th January 2015 / 10:58 pm

    Hello there, we have just done ours and had to change it at the last minute! I really enjoyed reading your blog-I am apprehensive but a bit relieved our application is finally-I hope you get the school you really like, will be keeping everything else! x #sharewithme

    • 25th January 2015 / 2:41 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment – I’m sorry I have been this late to reply! Yes – now all that’s left to do is to keep our fingers (and toes!) crossed for both of us! Good luck!! 🙂 Steph xxx

  7. 15th January 2015 / 3:33 pm

    This is brilliant and great info too as we just had to apply for Buba’s schools too. Today was the deadline for the applications and it was so nerve racking to choose which one was best and wondering if he will even get the ones we want after all that research and stress. Its’ so different than where I come from back home we just go to the school in our zip code and that’s that. Everyone knows how many live there and they have school big enough to fit them all in. I think we will be driving for a few miles every morning which will be weird would have loved to walk. Or have the choice. Great post. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. Apologies if you had any trouble commenting on my site. I am in the middle of a host transfer as my site kept crashing. #sharewithme

    • 15th January 2015 / 6:00 pm

      Oh gosh – the way they do it over there seems a much better system then, without all the aggro and social problems it causes over here!! I have my fingers crossed that our little ones get into the schools we’ve chosen for them!! xxx PS: My site has kept crashing recently too (I have cried on many an occasion – I am obviously melodramatic!!) – just wondered if your old host was able to tell you why, and who you’re moving to???

  8. 14th January 2015 / 9:45 pm

    I’ve also been making the same decision, and now it’s just the long wait. Just fingers crosssed.

    • 15th January 2015 / 6:05 pm

      It’s all just so stressful isn’t it!! Arrgghhh! I have my fingers crossed for you too! Thanks so much for commenting. Steph xxxxx

  9. 14th January 2015 / 9:44 pm

    Useful post, it can be a minefield can’t it. We love Oliver’s primary school, it’s a 5 minute walk and is the sweetest village school we could ask for. We also made sure we checked out other schools in case he didn’t make the first choice (which he luckily did). Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

  10. 14th January 2015 / 9:19 pm

    Great post. I think I have a pretty similar one on my blog somewhere from a few years back. People are still surprised that I say don’t set too much stall by the Ofsted report. Our school was Satisfactory for 2 years whilst my kids have been there and I felt it was grossly unfair (I am also a school governor so I see it from both sides). Like Rache says, there is an outstanding school near us that I wouldn’t be happy to send my kids to, and our school has gained pupils from that school, yet they’re supposed to be somehow better when the truth is it’s a more affluent area and therefore results are naturally higher for that very reason.

    Some other comments I will make:

    “Better” areas aren’t always a castiron guarantee of good schools and poorer areas don’t always come with bad schools. In fact, there are some amazing schools out there that are doing fantastic things in very poor communities.

    Extra curricular activities – this can vary according to the teachers and their own interests so may change as staff change. Some schools offer after school things run by outside providers occasionally but beware they usually cost. Many clubs may be aimed at the older children – certainly my kids have been offered more opportunities in juniors (KS2) than they were in infants. Reception will be particularly barren as littlies get so flipping tired in their first year.

    Breakfast/after school clubs – remember these will have their own Ofsted reports so you can check those out (they will be much shorter). Schools are not obliged to provide this, largely it’s an issue of space. Our school used to use the club in the school across the road but two years ago, they started one in school but they do have logistical issues with space. Because of that, there are very limited spaces so it is definitely a priority to get sorted if you get a place. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get a space straight away – people’s situations change, children move etc, or there may be an outside provider who will pick up from school for you – a childminder or outside club.

    On the parents, don’t worry too much about this. Parents turnover a lot. People move on as their kids grow up and a new lot come in (like you). What is more important, as you have noted here, is if you like it, you think it has a good feel and feel that your child will be happy and feel safe there. If you get the conditions right for learning, your child will learn.

    Finally…. don’t get too disheartened if someone badmouths a school. If you look hard enough, you’ll find someone who doesn’t have a high opinion of even the best school. People make issues out of the strangest of things and one thing I’ve learned is that many people will not always raise issues with schools, preferring to move their kids instead and sometimes at the drop of a hat. It’s like Tripadvisor reviews – for every bad review, you’ll usually find ten good ones. The problem comes if there are 10 bad for every good!

    I’ll shut up now.
    PS Choosing secondary school is even harder!

    • 15th January 2015 / 6:10 pm

      Wow!!! Thank you so much Kate for your amazing comment!! It’s always lovely to hear the views of those a little more in the know than me! Hehe! I really didn’t know that the pre-and after school clubs have their own Ofsted reports!!! Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed!! And I don’t even want to think about Secondary school just yet!! Argghhhh! Thank you so much for your lovely comment and tips. Steph xxx

  11. 14th January 2015 / 7:11 pm

    Really useful information and very informative! Thanks, as this will be me next year!!!! Jess x Good luck!

    • 15th January 2015 / 6:11 pm

      Thank you honey – doesn’t it all just come around so quickly! I’m going to be a blubbering wreck this year I think! Steph xxxx

  12. 14th January 2015 / 3:28 pm

    As a former primary school teacher and now a mum, I can say you have got it spot on when it comes to choosing a school – especially when it comes to ofsted. To be honest, ofsted reports are generally worth less than the paper they’re written on. I’ve worked in an outstanding school that I wouldn’t dream of sending my kids to, and I’ve worked in a ‘satisfactory’ school (now deemed notice to improve!) that I wouldn’t hesitate in letting them go to! #sharewithme

    • 15th January 2015 / 6:12 pm

      Thank you Rache – that makes me feel happy that perhaps I have made the right decision for my little girl after all. Now I’ve just got to keep my fingers crossed. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Steph xxxx

  13. 13th January 2015 / 10:31 pm

    It sounds scary!!! I have all this to come when my baby…sorry..daughter…starts school next year!! Eeeek! Good advice and some good points too x

    • 15th January 2015 / 6:24 pm

      Thank you so much Laura – yes – it was pretty hard to know what was going to be the right choice for your little one. But like I say – as long as you visit them and get a good friendly vibe from then – I’m sure you’ll be ok. Now it’s just time to keep my fingers crossed for the outcome!! Argghhh! Thanks so much for your comment. Steph xxx

  14. 13th January 2015 / 8:46 pm

    Scarily mind boggling isn’t it! It certainly sounds like you’ve done your research! Now let’s wait for April! I will be finding out what school M will be attending in September too!

    • 15th January 2015 / 6:26 pm

      Yes Rachel – I definitely looked into it all a bit didn’t I! Overkill maybe! Hahaha! Yes – fingers crossed for both of now I think! Steph xxxxxx

  15. 13th January 2015 / 6:57 pm

    im smiling whilst reading your post because we did all the research into our local schools. Like you we live in a good area for schools. There is one school that is the “go to” school though. We looked at that school and our catchment school. We all, including Katie, hated the vibe of the school with the marginally better reputation. We chose the smaller school and haven’t regretted the decision. Like you say Ofsted is a guideline more than a rule. You could send yourself crazy comparing all the schools. My view is whether the school will encourage and support my child. I want my children to feel positive about education for their whole lives so that might not necessarily mean choosing the best school according to Ofsted, it will be about the best fit for the way my children learn. I wanted Katie to have fun when she started school. She has enjoyed her first three years very much and we’re now transitioning to junior school so the selecting fun starts all over again!

    • 15th January 2015 / 7:11 pm

      Oh thank you so much for your lovely comment. I probably went a bit OTT in hindsight – but we only want the best for our children don’t we. I’m so pleased Katie has had an amazing and happy time at her school, and I don’t envy you making the decisions all over again for junior school!! Good luck!!!! Thanks again for your comment – Steph xxxx

Looking for Something?