How to pick a primary school

(26 Posts)
catg83 Mon 20-Aug-18 10:40:56

Exactly what it says on the tin!

Just got the letter from the council saying we need to apply before January. This is first born so never been through this process before. Is it just like picking a nursery? Do primary schools have open days? Any info massively appreciated.

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wendz86 Mon 20-Aug-18 10:53:16

Worth looking at your local council website to check the admission policy. Some do it on siblings first, some distance, some catchment. Also you should be able to find out how many children got in this year on each criteria to see if it's worth applying. Some schools can be filled with mainly siblings and only have a couple of spaces for those without.

Some schools do open days and some may offer to do a tour for you. Check their website or get in contact once school goes back to find out.

catg83 Mon 20-Aug-18 11:14:04

Thanks @wendz86 Didn't think of checking things like how kids have got in previously.

I'm the first in my friends to have a kid this age so no idea what I am doing!

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Tomorrowillbeachicken Mon 20-Aug-18 11:35:27

look on rightmove to see a basic idea of which you might have a chance of getting into.

EssentialHummus Mon 20-Aug-18 11:48:45

The website is useful for previous years’ catchment data, but it’s not perfectly correct - just helps you separate the “cat’s chance in hell” schools from “yeah, with a tailwind behind us”.

AssassinatedBeauty Mon 20-Aug-18 11:50:24

It isn't as simple as picking a school of your choice. You need to understand each school's admission criteria and what the likelihood is that your child will get a place at that school given those criteria.

Many people will quote myths and misunderstandings of how the system works, just make sure you refer to the current council information that's relevant to your area. Put your first choice school first and the others in your genuine choice order. You will only get offered one place, at the first school in your list that your child meets the criteria for. If your child doesn't meet the criteria for any of the schools in your preference list then you will be offered a place at any other school that has room.

Primary schools do open days/tours from September onwards - check their websites or email/ring them once term starts. As long as your application is done before the deadline it doesn't matter when it is submitted.

Tomorrowillbeachicken Mon 20-Aug-18 11:53:03

Also some councils have this years figures and previous years last child admitted distance on their website.


catg83 Mon 20-Aug-18 20:23:52

Thank you all so much for your advice and websites and knowledge. I feel a bit more prepared to start this process! I rang a couple of schools and was surprised when no one answered....That will be the summer holidays then! I blame the sleep deprivation.

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dungandbother Mon 20-Aug-18 21:27:59

Go to your council website and search primary admissions. There should be a pdf type booklet published.

In this will detail the schools, how many children they accept, whether they are religious, academies, etc.

Each school will have its own rules for admission. You need to check and read and understand them for your local schools.

Delving deeper in the publication it may give you the last few years statistics as in how many places went to each of the 'rules' (sibling, catchment etc).

If you are in any doubt then phone and email your council primary admissions department to have them clarify everything for you.

It is a bit of a mine field and most folks don't really understand the system hence all sorts of rumours get about.

You could throw in some Ofsted research too once you've understood admissions smile

dungandbother Mon 20-Aug-18 21:29:26

Oh the pdf booklet thing may not be the current one yet until schools go back. The admissions departments are probably still finalising them. Depends on your council. Some are far better than others. You need 2019.

Tomorrowillbeachicken Mon 20-Aug-18 22:55:28

You need fourth September onwards, but I’d leave it for a week or so after that. You have until beginning on jan to do your preferences anyhow

BubblesBuddy Mon 20-Aug-18 23:59:59

If your child is going to a local nursery then ask other parents who live near you what they think of the local schools. People tend to start chatting about schools next term ready for deciding what to do. Other parents will probably have older children in the various schools. Also, if the local catchment area school is good, and you like it, and you know you will get in, you don’t have to apply for several schools. It’s not obligatory.

However to arrive at this view (or the decision the local school isn’t for you) it is vital you start by getting the information from your council about the admissions policies for all the schools you might consider. For example: Voluntary Aided C of E ones could require Church attendance for a period of time. If you have not done it, forget applying. You need to find as much information about each school’s admission policies and numbers as you can. You appt directly to some schools for example.

You actually express a preference for the schools you like. It’s not a free choice. The process is managed according to the admissions criteria for each school. Many schools don’t change their admissions policies year to year so you could start looking at their web sites for information. Admissions policies must be published. The local authority must produce a summary of how applications were determined.

After you have worked out the possibles from the probables, go to the open days. Or ask to look around. Try and think beyond Reception. Is this school what you would want for a 7 and 11 year old? Are you enthused by it or did it feel so so? Would your child thrive at the school and did you warm to the staff? You will have lots of ideas of your own. The main thing is - don’t apply to schools you cannot possibly get into due to the distance involved or their admissions criteria being very specific and you don’t qualify. Be realistic based on fact.

Tomorrowillbeachicken Tue 21-Aug-18 10:53:30

Please, don’t just apply for one school though. Even ppl who think their choice is certain have ended up disappointed

afreshnewname Tue 21-Aug-18 10:55:08

If you are on any local Facebook mums groups ask about the local schools, any recommendations, breakfast clubs after school clubs etc

BubblesBuddy Tue 21-Aug-18 11:32:57

If there is a catchment school and all the children get into it, always, but other schools never have spaces for out of catchment or are CofE choosy, then it’s perfectly ok to apply for that one catchment school. However if that’s not the case and there are options, then apply to several. It only goes wrong when parents apply to one school and it’s not the catchment school, or unlikely to be successful for other reasons, so it is a dodgy decision. Sometimes the admissions authority have to select children within the catchment which can be an unforeseen complication. It wholly depends on circumstances which must be investigated before any decision is made.

knicksfan Tue 21-Aug-18 11:37:19

They have open days. Go and look at the ones within your catchment - you can find the info on the council website

You will probably be allocated the one closest to your house anyway

GrumbleBumble Tue 21-Aug-18 11:50:09

Go and see as many schools as you can (assuming there is any chance of getting in - it's not worth viewing a hugely popular school 8 miles away that only takes pupils within a 250 yard radius - especially if you love it and it makes you dislike realistic options as they don't measure up). How many viable options you have varies greatly from area to area. Think about thinks that are (or might be) important to you. Do you have other children that you will want to go to the same school? - if so squeezing into a distant school because its a low birth year might be storing up trouble unless they have a robust sibling policy. Do you need wrap around care if so does the school offer it? Do the offer music/drama/sports if these are areas of interest to you. Once you have a list of viable options go and visit. Ofsted reports are not the be all and end all it is much better to get a feel for the school by seeing it and the pupils in action. Head teachers make a huge difference so a school with a crappy reputation with a new head is worth looking at. Good luck.

meditrina Tue 21-Aug-18 11:51:33

Not everywhere has catchments.

And, in England, even if there is a catchment school there is no guarantee you will get a place if it is heavily subscribed, and they have to use a distance-from-school cut off in the 'children in catchment' criterions.

Your local council should publish information about admissions in previous years, including which entrance criteria the school reached, and the greatest distance offered in that category. That isn't a guarantee (distances can plummet if there was a bulge class a couple of years before, and there are more in-catchment siblings applying) ban be a useful indicator.

Yes there will be open days. Try to arrange for childcare and only take your DC along if you really have no alternative. Because you may want to be choosing based on a number of aspects of school and family like, and you understand that you are indicating preference not making a choice, and the last thing you need is DC insisting on the one with the red slide.

WhatInTheWorldIsGoingOn Tue 21-Aug-18 11:57:47

You need to go to the schools in your catchment and get a feel for it. Some children do better in bigger schools, some in smaller.

I would also say that it’s always the dissatisfied parents which shout the loudest so don’t always listen to the ‘reviews’ from other parents until you know the background. Facebook is terrible for this. Our local Outstanding school takes a pasting when people ask about it on Facebook. It’s the same 3 families whose children were excluded or the school pushed for a more specialist school nearby because of additional needs for behaviour. From an outsider point of view they look horrendous as the parents are very aggressively stating their point. Obviously the nice sensible parents aren’t going to join a bun fight on Facebook so it has these parents and their friends and a few brave souls that dare say otherwise. Annoys me every time!

I guess what I’m trying to say is you need to visit the school yourself. Speak to the children that are showing you around. Look at the children working and get a feel for the place. Then choose.

WhatInTheWorldIsGoingOn Tue 21-Aug-18 11:58:35

And we aren’t in catchment for that school and won’t get a place there either which is a shame!

catg83 Tue 21-Aug-18 16:02:51

Wow! Thank you for all this information. You have all given me loads to think a out and consider. Also made it all seem a lot more doable. Going to take this elephant one bite at a time. Yesterday we found out the closest 5 schools to us geographically (that aren't faith schools). Tonight is reading admission policies.

Thanks again.

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5000KallaxHoles Tue 21-Aug-18 16:53:54

Oh god we have the social media school slagging off thing going on as well. Two very very good, bordering on outstanding (both due a re-Ofsted next year to see if they get it) but one just seems to have a bunch of parents who need to have everyone bowing down in wonder their kids go to X school and spend an inordinate amount of time putting down the other school on social media at every opportunity.

Goes on for days and days the second someone mentions school choices on FB.

knicksfan Tue 21-Aug-18 17:19:21

Admission should be pretty much the same as it is the local authority not the school that decide whether your child will get a place and there is a set criteria.

Ragnar Sun 26-Aug-18 17:53:04

Have reqd everyone's responses but my best advice is to take your child to the schools open days and see which they are comfortable with, if any inspire them. For example on one of he open days we went to my little one took a book and sat down on the carpet with all the roe existing children, this along with other things she said and we liked made us chose that school for her. I chose a school based on the policy of a growth mindset, and free play, there's a forest on site and an allotment; basically things that appeal to our values. Hope you find somewhere you are happy with smile

RedSkyLastNight Sun 26-Aug-18 18:17:11

I would think it unlikely that this year's admissions info has been published yet - so check what you are reading and be aware that things may change (probably not substantially) for entry in 2019.

To the useful points made by others, I'd add finding out where local children go. I live in an area where it's nigh on impossible to get into anywhere other than your catchment school, so spending hours on reviewing schools would be a complete waste of time.
Also, ignore information from other parents unless they currently have a child at the school or have a child who has left the school within the last year or so. Local gossip is not a reliable source of evidence.

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