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Primary School - what should I look for?(10 Posts)
My little boy starts Primary school 2021.
I know it's a little while off, but what is important to you when looking for a school? Whilst I know I'm not guaranteed a place at a particular school, do you think that catchment area is the biggest factor?
Thanks for the help, sorry bit of advanced planning!
The 'feel' of the place - hard in current climate but it is what made my final decision - I liked happy, calm, purposeful, engaged
Ease of getting to the school (walking is great as when they are old enough they can be independent)
Availability of after school and before school (not necessarily run by the school)
General ethos of the school (I preferred the whole child approach to the target setting approach - unfortunately ethos changed as my children moved through the school)
Ethos of reception class (I preferred child led to formal)
Likelihood of getting in - no point choosing your favourite school that is a couple of miles away but you have to literally live on the doorstep to get in.
Definitely the feel of the place. You get a feel as you walk round and go for initial visit. How do you feel the staff are on your visit?
Size of the school
Ethos of the school
Local reputation (although can be misleading).
Recommendation from parents with a child at a school you are looking at.
Can I get to it ok? If I need to drive is there enough parking?
If my child is SN what support is available?
Do I think my child will like it?
Is it over or under subscribed?
Is there an active pta? The pta works hard to bring in extra money for the school to provide things like equipment outside and in, subsiding things like school trips or swimming lessons etc. While you may not want to join (they are usually crying out for new parents to help) it is important to support the events they hold if you can.
Personally I started by working out which schools we had a realistic chance of getting a place at. I didn't want to love a school we were never going to get in to! Obviously it's not always that clear cut.
I wanted to see children engaged in what they were being asked to do. So no obvious poor behaviour. Enthusiasm and engagement of the children goes a long way. As do enthusiastic teachers.
Look at clubs they run. Is there decent music, sport and drama? What else is on offer? Look at the Letters on the web site from the Head. You can tell the ethos of a school from these. Look at the whole web site. It gives you policies and general info. Is it what you want and expect?
Look at the government stats for attainment. Is it average, well above average etc.? What else do the government stats tell you? Would you be happy with Sen provision, fsm numbers etc.
Do the classrooms look stimulating? What about the teachers you meet? Are they welcoming? What do local parents think? What do the children think of the school.
Lastly: do check you can get into the school from your address or whether you need to find religion. Admission policies are on their web sites. The LA should publish a list of admissions for last year (or even maybe tv is year by now). Check that the schools would have admitted from your address. Also are they feeder schools for secondary schools? What happens after primary?
I think you just click with certain schools. I viewed the ones we stood a chance at getting into. The best achieving one felt so cold and heartless which put me right off. The next one was CofE and was so warm and nurturing and you could tell the head teacher was 100% passionate. DD now attends this one.
Viewed an infant but the following junior school was an issue. It feeds on to two, one awful one amazing. Wouldn't have got into the amazing one.
Viewed a Catholic school and wasn't overly thrilled.
I'd suggest to look only at the schools you're likely to get into. In my experience good primary schools are in very high demand. We only really had the choice of our catchment community primary or a couple of faith schools which we weren't eligible for.
So if you are of a faith you have more choice, but otherwise your only choice is your catchment primary anyway.
We did look at our neighbouring primary school, not catchment but under 500m away. Put it as our priority but didn't get in. The notion of 'choice' isn't really that true!
That’s correct and religious schools exclude many who might live nearby. Always look at the information supplied by the LA Admissions on who gets in and where they live.
- Be realistic about what schools you could get into. The area I lived in had Priority Areas, so you had one school where you had Priority at. Realistically, you had to live in the Priority Area to get into a school, and even then it wasn't guaranteed if there were too many children. The only other option was sending them to a village school several miles away. Luckily the Priority school was reasonable... And we then moved before she started.
If any are Church schools, look carefully at any Supplementary forms you need.
I only looked at schools we had a reasonable chance of getting into. Check the admissions data on your council website.
We looked at 4. 1 of them was a hard no. We just felt it would have been a really poor fit for DD. It had no uniform, classes or formal learning for the first 2 years. The kids were mixed with the pre-school kids. It was more like nursery than DD's nursery is. The kids were running riot when we were there. Another was the complete opposite end of the scale, kids are full time from day 3 and it's very academic and quite formal. The other 2 were somewhere in between with a lovely gentle settling in process, warm and friendly teachers, great location and great results. There was almost nothing between them so we put the closest as first choice.
I think you'll just know if it's right.