Here are some suggestions which you can follow to choose a primary School for your child. If you haven’t started yet, don’t worry and just join in the cycle where you can.
Perhaps using the word ‘selecting’ is over egging the situation, ‘applying for’ might be a more accurate, if less empowering, phrase. While getting the school of choice is more likely with primaries than secondaries (there are more of them, and parents often want the most local to them), the choice is not certain.
It is important to choose a Primary School that best fit your child needs. OFSTED reports are, of course, handy but they tell only a fraction of the story. They are overwhelmingly influenced by public examination scores, and although they look at things like pastoral care and behaviour, these are hard to quantify and so, they don’t try.
The deadline for applications is usually mid-January for September start. Check your county website for exact details, but they do vary to a small extent from region to region. Applying online is the best option, because you then have a record of your application, along with the date it was sent. Local authorities do, frequently, make mistakes which they will almost certainly deny (from my experience) so having a clear record of communications could prove to be extremely important.
Talk To Friends And Neighbours
The first step, and I am assuming here that you do not know too much about the local schools, is to talk to independent people like your friends and neighbours. Use their analysis of local provision to help you begin to form an opinion. If your child attends an independent nursery, sound out parents and staff as much as possible.
Go To Open Days
Most schools these days offer Open Days. They are handy for prospective parents as long as not too much weight is given to them although as general fact finders they serve a purpose. In the past, where children pretty much attended their closest school, and parents did not consider other options, there was no need to put on any kind of show.
Today, though, with parents properly exercising their right to choose a primary school, most schools feel the need to show off their strengths – and most do this very well. As hopefully most people know, funding is based on the number of pupils.
Although caps are placed on maximum numbers, schools with shortfalls of pupils will also have a shortfall in funding. Therefore, the open day is a major marketing tool for the school.
However, behind the spin and the show, parents can see whether the school might be right for their child. Do remember that the best show does not necessarily equate to the best school. Some places are brilliant at selling themselves, but the product is poor. Tell me about it!
Narrow The Choice Down
With the information you now have, I would suggest contacting three or four of your favourites and arrange a time to meet the Head and tour the school on a normal day. This is really important, because you can guarantee that the open day will have been highly choreographed.
Touring the school on a normal day will give you a really good insight into the atmosphere. Are the children smiling? Are classrooms hives of activity, with a working murmur? Or, is every room silent, the teacher sat at the front marking? Are classroom doors open? Do the children walk in the corridors, or charge like stampeding animals? Break times are a real eye opener if you can be there then. See how the children integrate with each other.
Prioritise Your Child’s Needs
Is being with friends the most important thing? Do they need a school that offers lots of sport, music or drama? Will they respond to a heads down academic type environment? Do they like experimenting?
Once you have done this, and talked to your child (perhaps taken them on the school tours, although that can be a lot to take in for young children), then you should have a clear idea of your top picks.
All schools have admissions criteria to which they are legally obliged to adhere. These criteria vary from school to school; however, they will usually follow something like the list below:
- Special need for the school (this is something like a special needs provision that only that school can offer. It applies to very few children)
- Looked after children – again, the numbers here are likely to be extremely small, most probably no more than one or two, if that.
- Distance from School – that is the distance from your home.
- Special characteristics – often this is limited to church schools, so regular, documented church attendance might put you higher up the application list)
- Other factors, which can vary from school to school.
Realistically, if you live a long way from a school that you know is going to be oversubscribed, and there is no documented reason why your child needs that particular school, then you won’t get a place. The admissions forms allow for a number of choices, and it is best not to waste one that has no chance of succeeding.
If you are not successful with your first choice, you can appeal. You will need to prove very strong extenuating circumstances, or an error on the part of the local authority, which controls admissions for all non-fee-paying schools.
However, if it is a church school, or an academy, then trying to get the Headteacher, local religious leader and so on with you could be a help.
Choosing your child’s school is both exciting and stressful. And it needs a good deal of time and effort to make sure the one you favour is right for your loved one.
The post How to choose a primary school for your child? appeared first on The Educator Blog.