With settling in sessions taking place at school around now, we realise that it will soon be time for another round of open days for parents seeking their child’s first school place. It is an important decision and can be a daunting prospect, which is why we have come up with this guide on how to choose a primary school.
Check out official records
You will be able to view any official Ofsted reports and records about schools online. Each school will have an Ofsted rating of either Inadequate, Requires Improvement, Good or Outstanding. You will be able to read through each inspection report to better understand these ratings and the strengths of the school. These reports are a useful starting point for deciding which schools to consider, but you will want to make up you own mind by visiting the school and talking to staff, pupils and parents.
Think about the location
You need to consider where the school is, firstly to ensure that you are within the school catchment area and secondly to plan your daily route. You will be on this school run for several years so you want it to be as smooth and as easy a journey as possible. Ideally you will want it to be within walking distance, but if not, do take a look at it at school drop off time to fully assess the parking situation.
Chat to the Reception teachers and classroom
On open days the Reception teachers are usually on hand to answer any questions that you may have. Take the opportunity to talk through any concerns, ask them about how they settle the children in and look around the classroom. It is great to look at the work on display and what the children are up to when you visit as it offers an insight into what your child will be required to do. Do ask about homework policies and what a typical school day will look like for your child.
Tour the school
Most open days will include a session delivered by the headteacher and a chance to meet the Reception teachers, before touring the school. Ideally these tours will be given by older pupils and you will want to see them demonstrating pride in their school and a willingness to chat about it. As you walk around, look at the displays, the teaching taking place and of course the children.
Ask about extra curricular activities
This can vary hugely from school to school and is something that you might like to factor into your decision. A school with plenty of options for music, drama, sports and other activities offers your child a lot of opportunities to try things in an environment that they already feel comfortable in. They are also more likely to try new things with their school friends and if the club is directly before or after school it can offer you more childcare time.
Look for reward systems
There should be a clear policy around reward systems, so take a look and ask questions about it. You’ll probably see house point charts or TokensFor tubes dotted around, so ask the pupils to tell you more about those. It can be very telling how well these systems are used and understood if a child cannot effectively explain it to you. Most schools should have rewards in place for good behaviour and then systems to manage unwanted behaviour and all should be clearly documented.
Talk to other parents
This is by far our biggest tip, and the one that you are likely to gain the most from. If you are looking at a school in your current area, the chances are that you will know someone, or a friend of a friend, who already has a child at that school. Take some time to talk to them about their experiences. You will really be able to get the inside track on the school this way and can ask anything and everything about how life there really is for the pupils. Try to ask more than one parent if at all possible, and ideally go for someone that you already know and value their opinion.
Choosing a primary school for your child is obviously an important decision and one that you are seeking to get right. Just do remember that if at any point you do feel that the school is not a good fit for your child once they have started, there is always the option for them to transfer elsewhere, you don’t have to stick with that first choice. You will want your child to enjoy their school experience and sometimes this might mean giving them a fresh start.
What did you look for when you chose your child’s primary school?
This is a collaborative post.