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What to ask when visiting primary schools

(9 Posts)
Nevercan Wed 07-Nov-12 18:52:18

Dd1 starts primary school in sort 2013 and I have my first primary school visit tomorrow. What sort of questions should I be asking or what should I be looking for to make sure it is a nice school? I have checked ofsted reports for a bit of a clue and admissions policy.... Thanks

Betty5313 Wed 07-Nov-12 19:19:08

We have just started looking too. One good tip I was given was to ask about bullying and how it is dealt with. The head of one school said it didn't happen (!), the head of the next school volunteered lots of info about their policies, caring for each other, playground buddies etc before we even asked. Btw we know that a reception child at the first school was physically bullied last year....

We also asked how they dealt with children who were either ahead or behind in various areas, about school meals etc

cathpip Wed 07-Nov-12 19:27:33

I have viewed a few for my ds who starts in Sept, and you really do get a gut feeling over liking some more than others esp when chatting with the teachers. My ds wears hearing aids and will be getting radio aids for sept so i ask about class sizes, if one to one teaching is available and i also check out classroom size for acoustics, there anti bullying policy is a good idea as is finding out about structure to the day, how much freeflow is there and how much literacy and numeracy is there. hope this helps

howiwonder Wed 07-Nov-12 19:30:45

settling in process in reception - how quickly or slowly they get all the children in.

their approach to play based learning - how do they ensure a balance of child led/adult led activities in early years? gives you an idea of how formal and structured they are with the little ones. also, how much access do they get to outdoor play?

how do they approach transition from reception to year 1?

sorry im a reception teacher so these questions are very reception focussed! but its all the kind of stuff i would be placing value on as i think it tells you quite alot about the school in general...

good luck! smile

horsebiscuit Wed 07-Nov-12 19:40:46

If you're looking at state schools, look on your Council website for the admissions criteria and distance of furthest child admitted last year. I say this because I, and my other friends, carefully looked at about 6 schools for our kids starting Sep 2012 and it was totally pointless as we all only fell in catchment for one school each, so there was only an illusion of choice. The only exception was where parents attended church and had choice of church school or nearest school. Ask also about bulge classes, have they taken one before or are they being asked to take one for next year?

Jooles999 Wed 07-Nov-12 21:26:01

I would say listen to post above and.

1) Have a good look round and talk to the kids as well as the teachers
2) How many are in the classes and how many teacher /TAs are involved (TAs are underrated)
3) Do they have extracurricular stuff, clubs, morning clubs, after school club etc.
4) May sound daft, but do they have an up-to date website. It does give an indication of if a school makes the effort. Don't want documents to download that are 2 years out of date.
5) not as important, but don't just check ofsted reports, look at parents view (if they have enough responses) they can be a bit skewed though if you have 3 unhappy parents filling in questionnaires.
6) This is the big one. Talk to parents. It might mean a bit of loitering, but ask current parents. They will give you the honest scary truth...

good luck


Nevercan Wed 07-Nov-12 21:38:49

Thanks all smile

PastSellByDate Thu 08-Nov-12 02:32:50

Hi Nevercan:

My advice is much the same as Jooles999 but I would add that it is very useful to understand how reception classes will start. Many parents are surprised to find out that their DC will start one or two mornings a week and gradually build up to full time over several weeks. The childcare logistics can be a real nightmare for parents.

Our school actually had 2 weeks of 'settling in' but clearly indicated days to new parents by July so I could book cover with the nursery and not take time off work. They also had visit times in July (usually a short visit with child whilst talking to parents in general + one play morning with a small group of children who will be in the same class the following Sept).

If a school won't tell you in advance what days your DC will be attending - that's quite a indication of the respect they have for busy parents and their communication skills. I'd always chose the school that is prepared to organise this in advance for new parents.

slipslider Thu 08-Nov-12 07:02:22

Pastsellbydate - I think you make a valid point about schools organising what days your child will attend to being with but it is not always possible. In our school the first ten oldest will start for the first 3 days, then the next ten and then the youngest ten. There is no way of knowing which ten your child will be in or which the teacher will think as you do not know who will be in the class or if your child will even be in the class yet! You may have a young cohort where there are a lot of summer born which means even if your child is say Feb born, they may be in the oldest ten. Likewise, you may have an old cohort where there are lots of autumn born and so your child may be in the last ten. A school that can not tell you this information 9/10 months in advance is not disrespectful to working parents but it may not not have the information to make those decisions yet.

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