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Primary school visits(21 Posts)
I'm probably a bit too early for this at the moment but starting to think about school applications for DS who will start in Sep 2020.
Our nearest school looks nice, Ofsted is good and like what I've read about them so will definitely visit there but wondering how many others to visit, if at all.
How many did you visit before making your application - is it good to do a bit of compare/contrast or just keep it simple with the closest school if we like it there?
If you like your closest school and you're guaranteed a place, I wouldn't bother visiting others.
If you're in a trickier position for distance then visit all the possibilities.
I definitely would visit all that you would consider... I liked our local and it was well rated but saw two others which were so so much better. So the local one ended up third on the list. Think I saw 5 schools in all.
Thank you - we are fairly close to first choice so would be hopeful of a place but couldn't be sure.
I've had a look at others not too far away and have a list of 6 so it sounds like it might be worth a visit to most of them.
Do you tend to take your DC with you to visits or is it more for parents at this stage? And is there any other research you did that was helpful (other than school website/Ofsted reports etc.)
Sorry for all the questions!
How would you be 'guaranteed a place'?
Please visit more than one school.
Don't take your DC with you, they spend the entire time distracting you and make it hard to look around. I mean don't place to much stock on the visit, ask parents who have kids there and look at Ofsted, most schools can manage to look ok for a 10 minute visit.
I wouldn't take a pre-school child with you if you can avoid it. I think the negatives of distracting you outweigh any possible benefits.
Think what is important to you, not only now for your tiny 3 yo, but also what they will need when they are 9, 10, 11.
- Do you get a good vibe
- How do they teach reading (you expect to hear phonics, and not anything that sounds like mixed methods. You should also expect them to have expectations that almost all children will meet the standard of the screening test end y1, and not hear any rubbish about children going 'beyond phonics' so failing)
- Are you happy with their homework policy
- Do they have before and after school childcare if this is needed for you
- Do they have examples of work on the walls and if so is it a variety of levels or only from the best/brightest
- are the y5/6 children you see like you would want your precious one to be (e.g. smiling, confident, polite, articulate)
- do they have an active PTA
- when you ask how they push the more academic or support the less academic, are you happy with the answers
- are you happy with their behaviour policy
- are you happy with their y6 results AND how they are achieved
How would you be 'guaranteed a place'?
I only applied for one school as we were effectively guaranteed a place. The school has a PAN of 90 and usually admits 50-60ish, plus we are close and it's our catchment school, so no real risk of not getting one.
We were 'guaranteed a place' as my DC are adopted, but I still put more than one school down on the form!
We visited 4. We didn't like one (our catchment school), quite liked one and really liked two. Different schools suit different families so I would definitely look at more than one.
I looked at 5 but now wish I hadn't as I then wasted about a year of my life trying to choose! Finally did choose - the furthest away one - and a year later the head and governors have already changed.
So there is something to be said for just visiting say your two nearest and keeping it simple. Can still put 4 down on the form based on Ofsted, website and reputation.
Your local admissions website should have data on who got in to your local school in previous years to help you assess how sure you can be of a place.
Also don't take dc but do take dh (or another helpful adult) on the school tours as I found it really hard choosing by myself, feels like a huge responsibility!
It's not early at all. Most schools will get their school tours dates out in the next few weeks. I highly recommend all your schools which are close by. It hardly takes 30 mins - 1 hours per school and I am guessing it won't be more than 6 schools. This is going to be a school where your child will stay for many years so why go by ofsted report alone, when you can visit as well.
We toured all the schools which had a good reputation. So we toured 6 schools. While touring schools, I could clearly see how one school would be very good for one child but not for another. Other than ofsted ranking to get a basic understanding, it also depends on your child and your expectations from the school. We live in an area where there are 5 outstanding schools within a mile and not all of them are equal. Some were far better than others.
Please visit the schools.
Echoing the don't take the kids, but do make the most of every welcome day or preschool meet up you can.
As I said, go and see the schools. I was told to watch the parents and the kids at drop off and pick up as it would tell me more about he school than anything else! Don't set too much store by your choice - as op have said, heads and governors can change quickly (but equally you can change schools if it's that bad!).
FWIW, the school I hated the most (it had a really depressing atmosphere, they had a secretary who had been there a week show us around, and when we left there were at least three kids sat in the infirmary with banged somethings...) the head told us he was leaving imminently. I can't describe it well enough - everything on paper looked ok and the kids were playing etc but I just got just a sad feel from it. I wasn't the only parent to feel that. None of us could explain why you would send you kid there if you had been to look at any other school in the area. It's a village school in a very nice area (but also an area people move to for top state schooling).
The school we went with, the head had a very clear and committed vision as to what he was doing for the school and to improve it - it's already good and he was actually quite guarded about future plans (I guess in case they weren't able to happen) but between him and the pta , the things they have achieved for the school and students in the time he has been there and future plans was amazing. Essentially there seemed be to be very much an attitude of 'we'd like this to happen, so we'll make it happen'. Head obviously loves the school and although I don't doubt will move on at some point, is still very excited by the ideas they have for the schools future so I really can't see it being anytime soon!!
No, do not take the child, leave that for secondary. When visiting, imagine your child there. How do the staff (not just the classroom teacher) interact with the kids? Does the school work well for 4- and 11 year olds alike?
One school we visited had an outstanding Ofsted report, we went and felt it looked neglected (dead plants, broken furniture in an atrium) and the teachers did not appear to know or even much acknowledge kids in corridors. It went to "requires improvement" the year after, so don't pay too much attention to Ofsted. Another school was lovely and warm with the teeny tinies, but we met a mortified year 6 girl wearing a huge sash to indicate she is allowed out in the corridor to go to the toilet. In another school a dinner lady walked briskly down a corridor and asked the kids waiting if their brother was better and if they'd found their scooter. It had all sorts of good reports and results, but what really made it a great school was the fact it was a community and all the adults seemed to really care.
Look out for those interactions between adults and kids at the school, they tell you all you need to know on top of reports and results. Do you need wrap-around care? Some schools do not have after school clubs or breakfast clubs (or do not allow reception children in those), ask about them.
I work in a school and we are booking parent tours for Reception 2020 now. Applications have to be done in Jan so now is the time to start visiting. We prefer parents not to bring the children.
We visited all the schools near enough for us to seriously consider putting them on the application form.
Our closest school wasn’t close enough for us to feel secure about getting in given the few previous years admissions data.
I think generally it’s better to not take DC if possible, so that you can concentrate properly on looking round the schools.
If you know any parents with children at the schools you’re considering, then talk to them about the school too.
If schools work on catchment areas, check with the LA web site that they take all in catchment. Other schools might take catchment plus others up to x distance from school. You then decide if you would qualify for a place or not. Many of us in rural areas get our catchment school and would not get into anywhere else. Visiting 6 would be a waste of time. Cities are very different.
Bucking the trend. We were really glad we did take DS1. It was extremely telling how each school treated the (invited!) DC. We visited 6 in a week, didn’t like our nearest school and put it 3 out of 3. Very happy we got our first choice.
We are welcoming visits at school for next September entries. We are also happy for you to bring the children, but if you bring them, please remember that other children are learning. Last year we had several young children pull down science experiments or fiddle with laptops, walk off with things on desks etc.
Visit all the classes, is the learning something you would like for your child? Is the ethos right for your family (ie if you are atheists and have a choice not to send your child to a faith school, think carefully about that CE school, even if the results look good)? Perhaps ask about staff turn over, extra-curricular opportunity?
Just a further thought, many schools around here take their yr7 from feeder schools- they are higher up the admission procedure. If this is going to be an issue, consider it now.
I forgot I had started that thread and just noticed it again - sorry for not replying sooner!
Thanks for all of your tips and advice, some really useful stuff. I feel much more informed. Good point about Ofsted and staff sometimes changing quickly. Think the 'feel' of the school and how staff interact with the pupils will be a key factor.
It seems like not taking DC is recommended so will try and time visits with a nursery day. DH will come along too as I'm very indecisive! Our nearest school has just advertised their tour dates so will give them a call tomorrow and will also visit any of those around us where we might fall into their catchment area.
TeenPlusTwenties I am going to take your list of questions/things to consider along to visits with me as lots there I wouldn't have thought of, thank you.
limitedscreentime that's a good tip, will try and catch a school drop off to see what vibe I get!
It all feels very real now, DC has only just turned 3 (summer baby) so cant quite believe we are looking at schools already!
Thanks again all.
some great advice on here. Just to add a minor point:
Given that (as PP mentioned) some things are liable to change rapidly. So there is some value in prioritising things that aren't likely to change. Though I agree that the 'atmosphere' and how adults interact with children and all the other things such as homework policies etc are important. We chose a school based on all that stuff but unfortunately 5 years later, the school is barely recognisable as the same school anymore.
Things that are less likely to change:
- Size of school
- Being a through primary or only Infant school; if the latter, consider the junior schools that the school tends to lead to as well.
- Location and ways of getting there. Can you walk/cycle, is it along a main road or footpath through a park, if you have to drive what is the traffic like at drop off/pick up times.
- Facilities and buildings: Does it feel light and airy or cramped and dark. Are there things the school cannot offer due to lack of space (e.g. no wrap-around care After-School-Club, no sports, no 'forest school').
Our first choice school, 7 years ago, has become so much worse in the important things (atmosphere etc) that we are on the brink of moving the children. But we hear that our second choice school has had not one but two changes of head teacher and many unhappy parents, too. So at least we have a lovely walk to school, bright friendly facilities, and the size of school we wanted, albeit with a bad atmosphere; whereas at the second choice we might have the same bad atmosphere but with a horrible walk to school and dark cramped facilities.
Of course you're not going to choose a school that doesn't hit the right vibe with you, but if you have two that seem nice, then using the unlikely-to-change factors to decide between them, seems reasonable to me.