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Can anyone suggest useful, sensible questions to ask when trying to decide which school to choose.

(11 Posts)
TooManyCuddlies Wed 13-Jan-16 14:07:25

I'm moving in a few weeks, and have to do an in-year application for my DC.

Where I live currently, everyone just goes to their nearest school, so we didn't have to worry about choosing the best one!

I have spoken to the council, and there aren't spaces for both DC in the same school, so I am going to have to choose different ones.

DC1 isn't much of a problem as hardly anywhere has places; one of the schools is much better location-wise (although unfortunately is still a ten minute drive away).

For DC2, who is Reception age I have a choice between 4 schools, and I am going round in circles not knowing what to do. Three are within walking distance, one is a drive away - in roughly the same direction as DC1's school will be.

They are all either 1 form or 1.5 form entry, all seem friendly and have good Ofsted (though most were last inspected several years ago), results seem good for all of them, all have a similar demographic.

If I went for the one that is a drive away, that would potentially make life easier while DC1 was still at primary (3 more years) - though it would still be a struggle to manage drop off and pick up in two different places - but then I would still be committing to the drive for the next 4 years after that when DC1 was in secondary.

Or I could go for one of the walking-distance ones, and put DC1 on their waiting list. But then, I'm not sure if I'd want to move him anyway once he'd settled in the other school confused. So in that case I'd be committing to tricky drop-off and pick-up for the next 3 years (I'd probably have to use the breakfast and after school club for one DC every day in order to manage it).

What sort of things should I look out for, and ask, when I am seeing round the schools, to help me decide. At the moment, all I have is that one seems to have a much better home-cooked lunch menu than the others (who all have the same not-terribly-inspiring menu, which I presume is centrally provided by the council). Is more nutritious food really a good reason to choose one school over another? Can anyone think of what things to look for and ask that would never have occurred to me?

marmaladegranny Wed 13-Jan-16 14:13:40

My school selecting days are past but have recently been helping DD select a nursery. My advice, tried and tested for 3DC and DGS, is go and see all possible schools with an open mind then go with your gut feeling. You will pick up on things that you realise that are important to you but would not have thought to ask!

Seeline Wed 13-Jan-16 14:18:25

I would check their exact start and finish routines eg my DCs primary had a start time for KS2 5 mins earlier than KS1 and KS1 finished 10 mins earlier. Also with KS2 the kids could arrive at 8.35/40 and the doors would be open for them to go straight to their classrooms so you didn't have to hang around. Things like that might help with separate schools.
Otherwise gut feeling for each school.

drspouse Wed 13-Jan-16 14:20:24

We've just been looking round for a Sept 2016 entry and it was a lot more to do with the feel of the place and how it would suit our DC (and DC2 who will get sibling priority): how calm/quiet it felt, how well laid out it was, what the outdoor/indoor spaces were like, how easy does the transition from R to Y1 in terms of layout/expectations as that can be challenging I know; how diverse is the entry and is this the same through all years (e.g. was it a neighbourhood school with all ethnicities represented i.e. in Y6 that has now turned into a white middle class school with people moving in to get a place i.e. in R, or vice versa).

Our DC are adopted and we also asked specific questions like do they have other adopted children on roll, what accommodations have they had to make for them, how do they use their funding (one didn't really know about it and was quite defensive when we told them what we know, not a good sign!); our older DC may have SEN so we asked about policies around those specifically (partly behavioural so how do they adapt behavioural policies to the needs of individual DCs). So most of the actual questions were relating to OUR children's needs whereas probably the more important things were the "feel" of the school.

We were shown round by pupils at one school. I really don't like this. I don't need to know where they keep their water bottles and what games equipment each year is allowed to use. I need to know what they use PPP for and what activities YR and Y1 are allowed free access to (and even though pupils have done this they may not remember or be accurate).

drspouse Wed 13-Jan-16 14:24:28

You will pick up on things that you realise that are important to you but would not have thought to ask!

Yes this!

Happymummy007 Wed 13-Jan-16 14:54:10

I wanted to know how long the teachers had been there - generally, although not always of course, schools tried to hold onto decent teachers and get rid of those that aren't so good.

Also wanted to know if a child shone, or equally struggled, at something - academic, artistic, sporty etc - what provision was there to address that. (One school I dismissed immediately said that they would be given "extra reading" - yes, even if they were good at sport!!!).

Homework amounts (not appropriate when they're very young I know), how you are given feedback, can you get in to see the teachers if necessary .....

Good luck!

TooManyCuddlies Wed 13-Jan-16 15:38:35

Thanks, this is all very helpful. I am busy making a spreadsheet to put everything on.

Interesting that "gut feeling" seems to be the way people do choose. DH is very logical and doesn't like making gut feeling decisions, I am more impulsive and that is usually how I make decisions grin.
But I do try and be more logical (hence the spreadsheet). I don't think DH will be able to come and look at any of the schools because of work commitments, which is why I am making an extra effort to try and think of some objective things to ask about!

I think I will also ask about supporting DC to make friends if necessary, and how they will help them to settle in.

TooManyCuddlies Thu 14-Jan-16 12:12:06

One of the schools with a Reception place has now told me that we can appeal for DC1 to go there too even though they don't have space.

I don't really understand what grounds we would be appealing under, other than the DC could perhaps support each other to make friends (completely new area, no friends or family locally) if they were at the same school.

How likely would we be to win an appeal? Obviously it would be much easier for me if they were at the same school, but I didn't think that was particularly relevant.

If we appeal and DC1 doesn't get in, can we then say that in that case we would rather DC2 went somewhere else as well? Or would it be too late by that point?

drspouse Thu 14-Jan-16 12:13:29

I understand that older primary aged children can be admitted to classes that would therefore be too big for an Infant class; is your DC1 past Infant age?

TooManyCuddlies Thu 14-Jan-16 17:26:19

Yes DC1 is 8, Year 4. I know they can go over 30 children, but I thought you still had to have a proper case for it, and I'm not sure that I really do.

Don't want to get everyone's hopes up, and have both kids have to deal with uncertainty about which school they are going to for longer if we are unlikely to have a good chance.

I want to tell them asap where they are going and start getting them excited about it - especially if they are going to have to be split up. I want them to see it as a positive choice, not a lost-our-appeal disaster if you see what I mean. But obviously if there is a chance they can be at the same school, that will make life a million times easier (and much cheaper!) for me.

Leeds2 Thu 14-Jan-16 19:19:15

I would look at the start/finish times of DS1's school, and eliminate any for DS2 which realistically wouldn't allow you to get him there/pick him up on time.

Look at availability and times of breakfast club/after school club if you think you might need to use these.

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