What do you consider important when choosing a school?

(20 Posts)
Mammyofonlyone Mon 14-Nov-16 19:22:28

We are very lucky in that we have a number of good schools around us, both state and private. We need to make a decision for our daughter who starts next September. We are in the middle of looking around four close to us (two state, two private). What would you consider important when making the final decision? She is currently in nursery at one of the private options, which she loves and we are largely happy with. Any guidance would be great, thank you

TeenAndTween Tue 15-Nov-16 12:14:51

Pastoral care
Quality of education for my type of child
Quality of life (eg commute to school, does paying mean no holidays for us)

If comparing fees v non-fees, is the money really worth it for the things that are important? How much tutoring or external experiences could I buy with the money saved if I went for state. i.e. Yes independent might be better but is it really a good use of 10K per year (or whatever).

Hastalapasta Tue 15-Nov-16 12:16:04

Providing a nurturing environment and having a great academic record.

CookieDoughKid Tue 15-Nov-16 16:04:58

Leaver's destinations, exam results and if there is a significant cohort of girls doing A level Maths and hard sciences.

Badbadbunny Tue 15-Nov-16 19:56:13

The relationship between teachers and pupils/parents made our decision for us.

We visited a few school open days but found that the teachers didn't really engage - they tended to stay in their "huddles" and some gave the impression we were interrupting them if we asked any questions. The tours were generally done by lower school pupils so were fairly poor in terms of getting information from them.

However, one school really went to town, the tours were done by teachers or sixth formers so were far more informative. In each dept room, the teachers would come over and start the talk to us, some took our son with them to do activities. Generally, they were really engaging and helpful. My son took an immediate liking to the school because of how the teachers engaged with him.

For our son, the decision was right. He often says how friendly and helpful most of the teachers are, which for him, has made a real difference as he was a very shy/timid child and dreading secondary school.

justfor Tue 15-Nov-16 20:05:58

Gut feeling. We were in a similar situation, weighing up private/state options, and on paper our local state primary didn't stand out. But when we visited (on a normal school day, not an open day), having already visited various others which in theory were 'better' choices, I just knew it was where I wanted to send DD. It just felt right. Sorry, I know that doesn't help much, but what I'm trying to say is that you can't necessarily choose based on objective criteria.

HPFA Wed 16-Nov-16 07:44:57

Leaver's destinations, exam results and if there is a significant cohort of girls doing A level Maths and hard sciences.

As OP's child is in nursery this would be really planning ahead!!

Seriously, though, have a look at all the schools, if you like the state one best then decision made, if you like the private then you would need to weigh up whether you like it enough against what you'd have to give up to pay the fees.

CookieDoughKid Wed 16-Nov-16 12:09:19

Lol. Missed the nursery bit! Well in that case a nice nurturing primary school with a switched on headmaster or headmistress.

CookieDoughKid Wed 16-Nov-16 12:12:12

Depends where you are. Many of the state primaries in Berks and Oxon are very good with high achieving pupils. Im definitely happy with my state primary (and so are the parents many whom are degree educated professioneducor non degree but high achieving hard working folks).

jellymaker Wed 16-Nov-16 12:16:22

Attitude of the head is number one for me. We went to see what seemed like a good independent and met with the head who turned out to be a self seeking idiot who I could not relate to on any level. You need to get a sense of what the ethos of the place is - how interested they are in your child and whether you can get on with them. They make everything happen - or not happen as the case may be.

happygardening Wed 16-Nov-16 12:31:10

Exam results/leavers destinations/scholarships are relevant if your looking at a prep or even a pre prep.
OP my advise for what it's worth is try and find somewhere that matches your ethos on education. I guess state schools might have a more similiar ethos's but prep schools can vary widely. Decide what you want, selective/non selective, pushy, relaxed, Forrest schools, SS, coed, lots of sport so extensive playing fields, ditto music, lots of pupils going onto top super selective, preparing mainly for 11+ or 13+ (I think this us very important), fussy uniform? It doesn't matter what others think or want it's what you expect and want. It also worth considering after school clubs breakfast clubs extra curricular activities commuting,

Autumnsky Wed 16-Nov-16 14:18:53

I think for Primary school, it's important that teachers are kind and warm DS2 was really lucky to have very kind teachers and TAs in reception and Y1. The school looks well managed, the students are lively and happy. And I would check Ofsted report as well, the school should be good or outstanding.

Lollollollol Wed 16-Nov-16 14:26:58

Proximity to home. My DC attended schools miles away for a few years when we lived overseas so when we returned we loved the fact the schools were 5 and 10 mins away. They got into a grammar school but it's was nearly an hour away. Our local school was perfectly ok so they all chose to go. Two hours travel a day adds up.

BroomstickOfLove Wed 16-Nov-16 14:35:06

For primary I would look at the general atmosphere first - when I went into the school my children go to, my first impression was that the children were doing all the things I would love to do with them but didn't have the time, energy or skill to carry out.

I would see what the headteacher was like. I would ask about staff turnover - teachers at our school often spend most of their career there. I would ask about clubs, sports and opportunities to take part in the arts, both for all children and those with an aptitude in certain areas. I would ask them about relationships between pupils, and what they do to encourage kindness. I would ask them how they deal with disruptive pupils, and think about their answer from the point of view of the parent of the disruptive child. I would want to know how children play during their free time. I would ask how they use their pupil premium funding. I would ask about the transition from EYFS to KS1 and from KS1 to KS2 and how they help the children to deal with the change. I would find out where the pupils go after they leave that school. I would ask them about the ways in which they work in partnership with parents. I would ask them what makes their SEN provision special compared to other schools. In fact, I would ask them what makes the school special overall. I would want to know about pupil turnover. I would ask them about what the PTA does, and what they have funded in recent years.

namechangingagainagain Wed 16-Nov-16 14:36:46

Whilst I'm a bit of a pushy parent at times, academic achievement wasnt hugh upbon my list of priorities.
For primary school we went for the closest one (The only one we can walk to), with the benefit that they make friends within walking distance too. A forest school and engaged teachers helped too. I think you also get a feel from the school when you walk around..... People smiling, polite children and teachers who look like they want to be there! A bit like looking for a new house. We are lucky enough to have no 11plus here which takes pressure off in primary too.

For secondary we wanted somewhere big enough to offer lots and lots of opportunities. Whilst on paper it's not the best academically ds has loads of inspirational teachers and is doing really really well. Again when we looked around every teacher and pupil we spoke to was enthusiastic.....which wasn't the case at some schools which looked better on paper.

We didn't really consider private seriously because we have 4 children and we both quite enjoy working less than full time and having a bit if spare cash. The money we spend on instruments/music lessons/clubs and occasional extra tuition outside school is a fraction of school fees.

Good luck

Bobochic Wed 16-Nov-16 14:38:08

I really rate proximity to home and proximity to public spaces where DC from school congregate with their parents in the afternoon e.g. a park. A supportive local community is really valuable when DC are small, and very healthy for their well-being.

I also want to be aligned with the values of the school. This is far more important than swimming pools.

HummusForBreakfast Wed 16-Nov-16 14:47:48

The HT!!
My dcs have been in two different primaries and the difference was the HT
In one case, the HT had no issue always siding with the teacher regardless of the issue. That means there was no change when it was needed (e.g. Poor behaviour from the teacher such as grabbing a child up to the point of leaving marks or SN issues). It did show up in staff turnover too and the number if pupils leaving before the end of primary.
In comparaison, the other HT always listened to feedback from parents wo becoming aggressive and woukdctsle it into account. Teachers would stay at the school. There was better (bit not perfect) support with SN.

Other thing to look at us the size of the school and the general atmosphere between the pupils.
For us, a bigger school would have helped our dcs to fit in because it would have allowed more variety in the type of children there. One class per year meant they were always with the same kids. Not always good depending on the year.

troutsprout Wed 16-Nov-16 17:02:55

Ethos and proximity

CauliflowerSqueeze Wed 16-Nov-16 19:29:58

Find out about teacher turnover. That will tell you a lot.

Ask if the headteacher is kind and watch for the reaction. That's so important. If he/she is kind then that will resonate throughout the school and affect every relationship and the thought behind every decision.

I have worked for an utter psychopath who presented like Mary Poppins and, to the untrained eye, she appeared absolutely charming - genuinely smiley and witty. A few months down the line her inner Hitler came out and this had huge ripples across the school, resulting in massive turnover.

Mary21 Wed 16-Nov-16 19:56:47

Calm purposeful children when viewing classes on school tour. Proximity to home for primary. School honest that bullying occurs and what they do about it. Avoid at all costs the school that says they have no bullying. They are liars!

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