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Primary schools - where do I start?

(12 Posts)
halcat Tue 22-Mar-05 12:13:15

Please help! I have a 2 year old dd and another baby on the way, currently living in NW London. We're going to have to move soon as we don't have room for the 4 of us and can't afford a bigger place nearby. So as we're moving we'd like to try to buy a house/flat in the catchment area of a decent school (probably Barnet LEA).

Can any of you give me any advice about (a) how urgently we need to do this with regard to applying for schools (b) how to tell a good school from bad (is ofsted enough?) (c) how hard it is to get into a really good school? (ie is it even worth trying to move near a no 1 or 2 school or is competition just too fierce?)

Any tips would be gladly received, and also if anyone's kids go to a school in Barnet LEA that you recommend I'd also love to hear.

We are the first out of all our mates to have kids so just don't know who to ask, or where to start.

Thanks, halcat

Lonelymum Tue 22-Mar-05 12:17:39

I used to teach in Barnet and my sis still does. If you know any names of schools, I might be able to give you a teacher's view of them.

With regard to starting off, yes check Ofsted reports and SATs results if that concerns you. Sit outside the schools at home time - that gives you an idea of the sort of school it is re behaviour etc. But the most important thing to do is definitely to visit the school. get the head to take you round. You will get a far more realistic impression of the school doing that than anything else.

hewlettsdaughter Tue 22-Mar-05 12:18:19

Hi, you will probably need to apply for school sometime during the academic year before your child is old enough to attend (someone correct me if I'm wrong - that's how it worked for us).

I don't think OFSTED reports tell you enough about a school. The best thing to do is to visit, get a feel for a place.

halcat Tue 22-Mar-05 13:52:35

Thanks for your help both of you.

With regards to going to look round, is that easy to do? Can you literally just ring up a school and ask to be shown round, even if you don't actually live in the area yet?

Lonelymum, I don't yet know where we can afford to live which will affect what schools are available to us, but I might get back to you on that if you don't mind, that'd be really helpful.

hewlettsdaughter Tue 22-Mar-05 13:54:39

halcat - in answer to your qu, you can but try!

foxinsocks Tue 22-Mar-05 14:00:53

in terms of when to move, check out the council (Barnet's) website. They often have dates as to when you have to apply (you can see what it was for this year and then get an idea). Having said that, we have friends in Ealing who were on the waiting list for their chosen school (2nd in the list) and were told they had fallen down to 7th as 5 families had moved into the borough who were closer to the school. They eventually got a place but it was a term into reception.

I know here, if you apply late - wherever you move - you go to the back of the queue so I think each London council probably does it differently.

Matonic Tue 22-Mar-05 14:31:35

Halcat, yes, just ring the school up (numbers are on the Ofsted reports, also on Barnet website here ) and ask for a tour. They might ask where you live and you can explain that you are moving into the area. Some schools are fussier than others - one school I called refused me an appointment because I didn't live in the catchment area (!), another promptly made a date and never asked me where I lived at all.

Lonelymum Tue 22-Mar-05 16:37:28

Halcat, all I can say on the asking for a visit side of things is that we have just moved and I rang up all the schools in the area and asked if they had places for my children (obviously you wouldn't do that, just say you are interested in finding out about the school for your dd) and I asked those with places available for a visit and was accommodated immediately even though they had no idea when I wanted my children to start (although obviously it was for this year.) If any school hadn't been prepared to take me round, I would have assumed it was not the sort of school I wanted my children to go to! A school should be open to visits from prospective parents in my opinion, and to be fair, most are.

Having said that, as your dd is only 2, it might be considered a bit early to be visiting now although if they have a nursery attached which your dd could start when she was 3, it would not be too early. Anyway, as you said, you need to know which are the schools you like before you look for a place to buy. It is tricky.

By the way, if there is no nursery and your dd will start when she is coming up to 5, you need to apply the year before the September of the school year she starts if you follow me.

Bozza Tue 22-Mar-05 16:44:48

DS due to start reception this Sept. Deadline for applications was end of Oct 04. Seperate admissions criteria/policy for nursery and reception. He stayed at his private nursery though.

halcat Wed 23-Mar-05 13:59:50

Thanks everyone, you've been really helpful. I guess I'm going to have to be brave and ring up to try and get a look round before we move - hopefully they'll let me... It didn't occur to me that I'd be able to do that though so thanks for your advice.

Lonelymum, would you mind if I got back to you about schools you know of in a few months once I've got an idea of where we might be able to afford to live?

Cheers all
halcat

Lonelymum Wed 23-Mar-05 14:03:06

If I can help at all Halcat, feel free to CAT me - more likely to see that then a message on MUmsnet.

halcat Wed 23-Mar-05 14:51:17

Have done, thanks a bunch.

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