How do I know which Primary School to go for?(14 Posts)
My ds has just received his school application forms, and we have to put down up to four choices by January.
He is my eldest and I've no experience of choosing a school. What do you look for? What makes a good school and a bad school? I know OFSTED reports give a good indication of how a school is performing but aside from that how do you tell - especially since many of the schools around here since to have the same OFSTED rating...
Any tips or advice appreciated!
Hi Spoonpaws I am currently going through the same process. I either made appointments or went on school open days to visit the schools, you can get a good feel for them by actually looking round.
We chose the school we did because it was the only school where we were shown round by the children - the head boy and head girl. We thought that, knowing how honnest children will be, that if the school had enough confidence in their pupils to allow them free rein with prospective parents, then it couldn't have anything much to hide.
Most schools have "official" open days for prospective parents, but will normally agree to show you round any time, if the open days are not convenient.
I think it's important to like the "feel" of the place as much as anything - are the classrooms well organised, do the children look happy, and are they learning when you walk round. What are the facilities like (check the toilets!) - does it have playing fields or a nice playground etc etc
OFSTED reports can be a bit misleading as they do focus on targets and box ticking. So, for example, a school with excellent results but a poor score in another area (like attendance - DS's school is OBSESSED with that figure), may not show up as highly as it deserves.
Like the others have said, the best thing to do is visit all the schools to get a feel for them. You'll soon get an idea of what you like or don't like.
It might be a good idea to sneak a look at the playground when school finishes & the kids are charging out. That'll help give you a feel as well. And remember, you'll have a few years of standing there with all the other mums! Ahh, the school gate. That's a whole 'nother story!
Can I suggest that the very first thing you should do is to work out how many (if any) schools you have a realistic chance of getting into?
Look at your LEA booklet. Look at applications per school last year, and how many of them got in. Look at the over-subscription criteria (ie what happens if there are more applications than there are places). If distance is one of the criteria, look at the last distance admitted from - and work out if it is less than the distance from your house to the school. If catchment is one of the criteria, look at the catchment area maps, find out if all children from catchment are typically admitted (this is often NOT the case) and whether any children from outside catchment were admitted. Are there faith criteria? Do you meet them?
The thing is, 'school choice' is largely a myth. There may seem to be large numbers of schools in your area - but it is likely that you only have a realistic chance of getting into a couple, plus maybe the 'undesirable' schools which are always undersubscribed. For example, there are probably 25 or so primaries / infant schools in my town. I have a realistic chance of getting into only 1 of the 6-8 schools within walking distance of my house (though I could also get a place in the 4 or 5 'less desirable' schools further away). All of my other nearest schools fill up with children from families who live closer / meet their oversubscription criteria better than we do.
Once you have your short list of schools that you might reasonably expect to get into in a 'normal' admissions year, then you should ring and make appointments to look round. One of the questions that you may want to ask when booking the appointment is 'we are in category .... of your oversubscription criteria, and I live in .... [or 'do have baptism certificate but am not in catchment' or whatever]', as secretaries are usually a fairly reliable, though not infallibale, source of information about what chance you stand of getting in.
Thanks all for your replies. teacherwith2kids, we don't appear to have an LEA booklet - I just got sent a letter with a pin number on it! Where do I find out all the applications per school last year?
you should be able to find the info on the LEA website. My personal view is that unless there is a strong reason against it your nearest school is probably the best - and normally the one you are most likely to get into
Spoon, Google your county / area + school admissions. Information should be available from the page that you find!
e.g. if I Google Oxfordshire [not where I live, just chosen as an example] + school admissions, I very rapidly get to:
which has a link to the .pdf document that you would need if you lived in Oxfordshire.
(PM me if you like if you can't find the relevant document - I'll see what I can find for you)
Gut instinct. Visit all the schools once or twice.
Good post from teacher.
Choice us a myth here, sadly people buy into choice, shop round all the primary chools and are then very angry at not getting into their choice schools.
Have a look at the Sunday times today - got the top 100 primary schools, plus a 'how to find a good state primary' section at the back
And is your LA doesn't give out all the info teachers post recommends, ask them direct for it.
All my local primaries are hugely over subcribed and the LA don't give out the last distance admitted as it tends to be about 200 meters from the school. Which frightens everyone silly once they know.
We were lucky, we had 4 schools in catchment, one just out of catchment the year before we applied and another totally out of the way and always oversubscribed.
We went to each of them and in the end choose two as our favourites where we felt had the best "gut feeling". Both were schools where the children didn't freeze when the head teacher came along, where there was a certain amount of organised chaos showing to us that they didn' feel the pupils have to be perfect and the head not permanently pointed out how good the school is academically.
It also depends a lot on your child. Our DD was a very shy one, just turned 4 in July and I found that a small, more informal, school would suit her better. Our friend's DD, August born but quite ahead of her age, needed a total different school where she would be challenged all the time.
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