Starting the first year of school is a huge milestone in your child’s life. For myself and I’m sure for many parents, it’s a daunting time. Not only do you worry about how your child will settle in; especially considering the setting is likely to be on a much larger scale than what your child might be used to with a nursery or pre-school, but you also worry about what school you should choose.
Choosing the right school is a big decision and one I’ve recently made myself with my little girl starting infants in September. So, here are some things to consider when choosing a primary school. Hopefully, they can help you make this extremely important decision.
It’s common practice for most parents to look at schools in their area only. After all, you don’t want to be travelling too far for the school run. Unfortunately for me, I only really have one within a 20-minute walking distance and a further two with a 10-minute drive. But, if you’re lucky enough to have several options close to home then you’re off to a great start.
The school you choose needs to be right on a practical level. A 30-minute commute every day is soon going to become frustrating for you and your child. Not only that but if your child gets sent home sick, it’s a long time to spend in a car or public transport with a sick child.
Unless you live in the sticks, hopefully, you have a few good options fairly close to home. It’s worth considering the distance and how you would get to and from the school every day.
Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. They are a government department in England with the role of inspecting and ensuring organisations providing education, skills & care services are doing so to a high standard.
It’s also the place many parents turn to when looking at what school is best for their children. The Ofsted website reports.ofsted.gov.uk/ allows you to search the name of the school you’re interested in and provides the latest reports on the inspections carried out. The school will either be rated: inadequate, satisfactory, good or outstanding. A school judged good or outstanding are usually inspected every 4 years. Whereas a school judged satisfactory will be inspected within 2 – 3 years and a school judged inadequate, will be placed in a category of concern and regularly monitored.
Ofsted reports are a good way of checking the schools overall performance but bear in mind it may have been a number of years since the school was last inspected and many big changes may have occurred since then.
There are many different factors involved when a school is graded. And from what I’m told, the grading system can change from time to time as does the Primary National Curriculum which can negatively impact a schools ratings if they haven’t been given enough time to implement those changes.
So, although the Ofsted rating should play a role in your decision, don’t allow it to be the only factor.
One of the best ways to get a feel for a school is to ask other parents. Do you have friends who have had children in that school? If not, why not ask a local parenting group on Facebook.
But don’t just ask one or two people, you need to speak with a number of parents to get a broad view. If you happen to speak to just one parent who’s had a bad experience, it may not be a true reflection.
Knowing what the local word is on the school can help you understand how the school operates.
Is The School Right For Your Child?
It’s easy to focus on Ofsted ratings and location but children spend a lot of time in school, therefore you should think about your child’s personality and what school would best match.
Look at the school’s mission statement and core values. Do they align with your own?
What about the size of the school? If your child is naturally quite shy and quiet, a smaller school may be more appropriate.
Do you have an outdoorsy kid? Then look into the schools outside space and how often they utilise it. For example, we live close to forest and love to go for forest walks which usually involve bug hunting and talking a lot about nature so I was thrilled to find out my chosen school like to get the kids outside as much as possible.
The best way to find out if the school is right for your child is to visit in person. Book a tour when the school is open and full of kids. Speak with some of the teachers. More importantly, speak with the headteacher and ask preprepared questions; After all, the success of a school is a reflection on its leader. The better the leader, the better the school.
Choosing the right school is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be a minefield.
You’re usually given a couple of months from when the application process opens to the deadline, so start your research well in advance and take your time. But don’t leave it until the last minute, you don’t want to rush your decision.
You know your child better than anyone so trust your instincts and the school you choose will be the right one.