Our local school has an excellent reputation - people talk well of it and it's OFSTED outstanding. DS and I want to see it today and were expecting it to be great. But I hated it! I came away feeling sad
There's another school down the road (also OFSTED outstanding) which I loved when I saw it.
I think both schools are probaly great in reality, but the main difference between Near-school and Down-the-road-school is the ethos IMO.
Both are infant schools. Down-the-road-school has an emphasis on learning through play and creativity. They're obviously atheist-led: interpreting the requirement for Christian worship in the looses possible way - no overt mentioning of Christ or God, no hymns for example. (We're atheists). They do their lesson planning and choice of topics based around the children's own interests, which is very ambitious but great for encouraging learning IMO. The walls were covered in colourful children's own art and work.
Near-school is very formal in comparison. Reception class all sitting at tables. In one reception class a group was colouring in and there was a right and wrong way to do it (which made me want to scream!) They do religious assembly with prayers and hymns every week, and say grace every day. The whole school is following the same topic. The art on the walls in reception looked very adult-directed to me, and in YR1 and YR2 the emphasis was on written work on the walls.
I can see how many people would prefer Near-school, perhaps if you value discipline over creativity for example (the children were all very quiet and well behaved). I value encouraging creativity more than discipline at such a young age however!
But ... we're not guarenteed a place at Down-the-road-school. I worry it might would be a bit of a gamble.
Really nervous now! Worried if I put Down-the-road school as our first choice we might end up not getting in and being shipped out to a school miles away!