Tips for newbie! choosing a primary school(9 Posts)
Sorry, i'm sure this question has been asked many times, so please feel free to point me elsewhere for answers.
Just starting the process of choosing a primary school for DS1, and feeling like a complete newbie. Will look at ofsted reports and arrange to visit. But do you have any tips on what to look for, what to ask etc? Don't have any specific requirements, just a good school! We've been spoilt with a brilliant preschool, so i'm worried about what i may be taking for granted.
Thanks in advance.
The first thing to do is to look at past admissions data and work out what schools you are actually likely to get into. This may well reduce your list to 1 likely and 2 outside possibles (unless you live in London which seems to be a law unto itself).
You say you don't have any specific requirements but want a good school - you really need to quantify what you consider to be "good" - some parents want stellar results (which would mean they needed a school with suitable intake), some parents are keen on music so would be interested in music teaching and extra curricular opportunities - you get the idea.
For me I think it's a lot on gut feel when you visit the school. Also talk to parents who already have children there (especially parents who you feel share your values). However do not listen to neighbourhood hype. (Local people still turn their noses up at my DC's school based on how it was 12 years ago!). Ask about anything on the Ofsted that concerns you (you may feel the school has gone guns blazing to sort it out so no longer an issue).
Unfortunately it's very hard to know how a school will suit your child until you actually get there ...
Completely agree admissions criteria and furthest distance etc are essential. Research fully do not rely on what other parents or estate agents tell you.
Ask them how they deal with toilet accidents. This can be an illuminating question as evidenced by the horrific stories on here over the years. How a school actually deals on a day-to-day basis with such an issue will say a lot more about their values than any blurb you may read.
Work out what options you realistically have them visit them.
Yes. In most areas of the country you will need to let go of the idea that you are choosing a primary school. In some you will have a choice between a couple. In many it will be ranking a few possibilities in order of preference.
Secondly, I assume you are talking entry in reception in 2016? If so, in the nicest possible way, chill out a bit. Most schools will have open afternoons/mornings in the autumn term. You have a term to work it out and get your application in by the January deadline.
On Ofsted, take with a massive, massive pinch of salt. Especially glowing outstanding reports where the school hasn't been visited in years and years.
Ask the preschool staff where the children go on to from there, and what they hear about the local schools. Ask other parents whose preschoolers have older siblings where they go and what they like/don't like about it.
Consider the journey, and what it's really like on a wet morning at peak time.
And yes, look very carefully at which schools you stand a chance of securing a place at. Your aim is to have top choice/s (even if a bit of a long shot), reasonable choice/s with reasonable chances, and a 'banker' (as sure as you can be that you'll get in, even if it's only so-so, because better that than qualifying for none and being offered one just as iffy and logistically inconvenient to boot).
Yes don't be unrealistic with your choices - nearest school, as long as it's not dire, is usually going to be preferable - things like after school clubs, discos etc may mean you're to and fro more than you think.
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