What to look for in a good school ?(7 Posts)
I am about to start looking for a new house and am really concerned about choosing another school for the children to go to.Question What do I look for in a good school
Depends on how old they are. In a primary school, I look for an awareness of the physical needs of very young children, a caring and friendly environment, an attention to the individual needs of children and a negative attitude to the national curriculum!! (Bit flippant the last bit.)
I'd also look for a commitment to non academic subjects like music, art and games.
I don't know what I'd look for in a secondary school because I haven't got there yet!
When I looked for my daughters new school (she starts in Sept this year, I did all what MeanBean suggested, I also asked for the prospectus of the local schools, looked at their aims and where they were going with the pupils, I went along to the schools to see what they were like, just wondered past in my spare time, usually lunch time (I don't know what they must of thought, a lone woman walking slowly passed a playground) and looked at the children, the school I chose for my daughter, had happy smiling children, they're didn't seem to be any loners, they were all enjoying themselves.
As a secondary teacher, I really think you can get a good feel for the school if you pop by a few times at home time. Are the pupils supervised in bus queues, or are they pushing, shoving etc? What state is the uniform in (all kids look scruffier by 3.30, but some are MUCH scruffier than others). Are the pupils lighting up that first fag as they stroll out of the gates, or do they wait until they are round the corner? etc.
Also look at results and recent inspections on Ofsted website.
Follow up this informal research with a visit to the school; you should be shown round by a senior member of pastoral staff (Deputy, Head of Year etc) and should not get the impression anywhere is off-limits. Watch for pupils standing outside classrooms - is there much evidence of this and if seen, how does your escort deal with it? (Should have a quiet word with pupil concerned IMO).
Hope this helps - no good if your kids are primary of course!!
Word of warning, as you are in Kent like me... We only looked at houses in walking distance of "good" (by reputation) primary schools, when we moved house within the same town. Once we'd found a house we asked at the school if they would take our kids & were told they couldn't give us an answer (either way) until we had completed on the house. We completed & moved on the same day, as you do. The school then turned round & said no they didn't have a place . Had they told us that first, we'd have moved elsewhere!
Because they were already at school, & in the same town, they weren't a priority & the LEA offered us the school I'd turned down when the first one was 5 as being totally unsuitable!!
We moved one of them a bit later. We narrowed it down by the League tables (& I know they don't mean much, but we couldn't visit every school!) then visited half a dozen schools. You get a good impression of whether your child will be happy there just from walking around. We also wittled it down by the start & finish times. One school that was really nice started at 8.30 am & finished at 3 pm & there was no way we could fit in drop off & pick up with the other kids.
THanks for your replies.Yes I have primary school aged children.We are looking to move to chalk,meopham,strood,Higham all the surrounding areas to these.I have been looking at league tables and I don't want to move somewhere where the school has got a bad reputation.I would hate to move and then have to drive my children to their currant school.They go to a good school now reallt and I just want to move to a village where there is a good school.
I think league tables are a useful starting block, especially if you look at them for a few years, Look at the value added bit as well. Many teachers think that counts for more.
speaking from experience of sending my sons to three different primary schools, mostly due to house moves, I'd say:
check the head is a good one - difficult to do as a parent, but see if you can find out some facts. Heads' reputations travel fast IMO. Has he/she a good strong leadership style? does the head support the teachers (IMO really important) I'd have reservations about choosing a school with no proper head, unless the current head was retiring.
Also, I think it's a good idea to see what happens at school pick up time as others have said. And see what the staff turnover is - are there lots of supply staff? IMO it's better if my sons are taught by the same group of teachers as much as possible.
As a very general rule of thumb, I'd pick a smaller school over a bigger school if all else fails. At least the teachers are more likely to know all the pupils by name. My son felt the two big primaries he attended were a bit impersonal - he much prefers the feel of his very small primary.
I think another thing you can do definitely, is to chat to local playgroup leaders, local nurseries, cub and brownie pack leaders, anyone really who comes into contact with primary aged children in the area you want to move to, and ask them what primary schools they would recommend. Word of mouth from people who know the current state of the schools is invaluable - but still not necessarily the whole truth - but it's a good start! HTH
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