This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
If your child was only going to a school for first three years - what to look for?(14 Posts)
Hi. We move a lot with our work. So the school our child will attend in September 2020 will only be for two, possibly three years. Then we’ll go abroad. She will be starting in reception.
Obviously we’ll be looking at their early years provision. But any tips on things we should ask about (or ignore!). If it looks good for the youngest but the older years aren’t quite as appealing does that matter?
This is our first time with school applications so all a bit at sea!
I'd look for a caring school that teaches phonics & reading properly.
Good point. How can I tell if they are teaching it properly? What specific questions should I ask? Thanks
a focus on pastoral care, caring and teaching how to be kind to others rather than results and homework.
I’d actually be very happy in a school that doesn’t have any homework (I never had any in primary), but it seems the world has changed a bit since then!
I'd ask how they teach it and what their pass rate is at the y1 phonics screening check (should be 90%+).
I'd expect to hear:
- structured approach
- fully decodable books to start with
- no mention of guessing' or 'using pictures as clues' or 'a mixed approach'
- definitely no mention of 'oh,our screening check % is lower as we find good readers move beyond phonics and so fail the check'
I don’t know where you are but we have lots of infant schools around here as opposed to through primaries. Would it be easier for your dc to be in on3 if those so to make a transition a bit easier e.g all children are moving on rather than just her? Do you have an idea about where you’ll end up - maybe find something compatible with that?
That’s so helpful, Teen, thank you
Actually we are visiting a few infant schools, and you’re right, that would be a real plus. We could be going anywhere in the world. Exciting but not super helpful at this point!
I would look for a school which a) teaches phonics properly (echoing a previous poster) and b) has a balanced approach to learning which combines rigor with enjoyment plus a broad, balanced curriculum (not obsessed with SATS to the exclusion of everything else).
If you have no idea where you could end up, I assume it's possible that you could end up with your child either going on to do their schooling in another language, or at an international school. If the former, this means that you may have to be responsible for your child's ongoing English literacy education going forward, and if your child can read and spell quite well at the end of Y2 and is starting to free-read for enjoyment because the school has also helped to inspire a love of books and reading, it will make your life so much easier because they will already have a secure foundation in place. A lot of international schools are of dubious quality--again, a really good foundation and a love of reading will help you out an awful lot, going forward.
Yes to good phonics teaching. Though it can be hard to find out beforehand! You could ask
Which phonics scheme do you use? (our school doesn't use any scheme, just a song)
Do you have enough phonics books that you can provide each child with books closely matched to their phonics abilities? (our school does not and isn't sorry about it)
How do you prepare children for the phonics screening in Y1? (Ideally they would answer that no preparation for the screening is necessary, as good phonics teaching is in place throughout and teachers are aware well before the screening which children need additional support)
Another thing I would look for is how big the change is between YR and Y1, and when it happens.
As an example, DC1 had a very relaxed and play-based reception year (as it should be). Y1 started much the same, and gently in many little steps adjusted expectations so that somewhere half-way through the year most children were doing more 'work' and the kind of 'school' stuff you'd expect - but they still had time to play.
DC2 a few years later, YR was a little stricter already, and at the end of the year they were all 'getting ready for Y1', so introducing lots of directed desk-based work, for example. From day one in Y1 the children were treated nearly like secondary school kids, with breaktime detentions if they hadn't finished their work, and zero play time - teacher said 'Y1 does not allow for any play time, there is too much content to get through'.
The school we liked best but didn't choose due to distance, in contrast, had a very Montessori-like approach. YR was highly disciplined (in a Montessori way) but child-led and play-based. The headteacher explained that this had been working so well for them that they had extended it to Y1 and in parts even to Y2. That child-led play based learning right up into Y2 scored them excellent KS1 SATS (this was an Infant School) and Outstanding OFSTED.
OP your child will be starting school at an age where, had you already moved to your next stop, they would probably still be 100% 'playing'. They might in two or three years time, join a class of first-year pupils. Your child will be ahead in reading/writing/maths whatever you do. But they might have missed out on years of playing/getting muddy/experiencing the world/growing socially and emotionally. This is much harder to catch up/make up. So I would primarily look for a school that treats the children as 4/5/6 year olds (respectively) rather than trying to get everyone over the exam thresholds.
I would pick a truly international private school (something like the American school) if available. Montessouris are okay too - you don’t want a focus on learning or academics just yet if you are moving abroad. But you do need a focus on social skills and depending on where you go after the UK early potty training support.
If you are likely to return to uk during your dc schooling I would not go to an international yet. Far better to establish strong basics in literacy and numeracy then it may put them at an advantage academically while they settle abroad. Methods and pace of teaching these varies hugely worldwide and from one system to another.
These are all really helpful comments, thanks. The children will go to a British school abroad, so although of variable quality they should hopefully switch in and out of U.K. schools with as little disruption as we can hope for.
Our daughter is currently in a Montessori nursery, which she loves. She enjoys the quiet, formal time they spend on individual ‘activities’, and her concentration levels have really improved. She also loves running around their garden playground shouting though!
She’s very sociable and likes learning. I just want her to be happy and enjoy school.
Your comments have really helped me. So much knowledge on here. I appreciate the time you’ve all taken to share it.