Choosing a school: what really matters to parents

A joint survey between TES and Mumsnet has revealed what's most important to parents when picking their child's school - if they do in fact have a choice in the matter

Just 44% of parents with experience of entering children for secondary schools said they'd had a proper choice, while 19% said there was just one school which was likely to offer their child a place, and 37% said that only one of the schools they might realistically get into was one which they'd happily send their child to.

For parents making the decision where to send their child, the most important factors were how warm, friendly and supportive the school was and the school's approach to education. In addition, 8% of parents considered the distance from their home to be the top factor when deciding on a primary school, while those looking at secondary schools were more likely to be influenced by its GCSE results and the range of subjects on offer.

Interestingly, a school's Ofsted rating was less important to parents at both primary and secondary level - although 23% said they would remove their child from a school if it was downgraded by Ofsted.

See the full survey results below.


Thinking about state primary school, which of the following applies/applied best to your situation?

Answer options Response percent
We do/did have a genuine choice of more than one school that we were happy to consider and that our child is/was likely to get into 50%
We don't/did not have a genuine choice; there is/was only one state school our child was likely to get into 19%
We have/had a choice, but a limited one; although our child could get in to more than one school, only one of them is/was a school we were/are happy to consider 31%


Thinking about secondary schools, which of the following applies best to your situation?

Answer options Response percent
We do/did have a genuine choice of more than one school that we were happy to consider and that our child is/was likely to get into 44%
We don't/did not have a genuine choice; there is/was only one state school our child was likely to get into 19%
We have/had a choice, but a limited one; although our child could get in to more than one school, only one of them is/was a school we were/are happy to consider 37%


Thinking about choosing/selecting/applying for a state primary school for your child: how important or unimportant are the following factors for you?

Factors  Very important Quite important Neither important nor unimportant Quite unimportant Completely unimportant
The school's approach to education (how creative, academic, sporty, musical etc it is)?
51% 41% 6% 1% 1%
How warm, friendly, supportive the school is
82% 17% 0% 1% 0%
The opinions of other parents or people locally who know something about the school
22% 54% 17% 5% 2%
The reputation of the school in local or national media (including internet forums or social media)
13% 39% 30% 12% 6%
Any preference expressed by the child in question
17% 42% 27% 9% 4%
A sibling already attending the same school
66% 23% 7% 3% 1%
Ofsted rating 18% 52% 19% 8% 2%
Distance from home
49% 38% 9% 2% 1%
The secondary school it feeds into
17% 32% 30% 13% 7%
Facilities 23% 60% 14% 2% 1%
Size (pupil numbers) 19% 48% 24% 7% 1%
Year 6 SATS results 10% 35% 31% 17% 7%
Support for children with SEN, disabilities or additional needs
16% 30% 37% 12% 6%
What kind of school it is, eg academy, free school, community (local authority-funded) school
15% 27% 34% 16% 8%
Wraparound care (before and/or after school hours)
18% 30% 27% 14% 10%


And of the factors mentioned above, which is the MOST important to you? (Primary schools)

Factors Response percent
How warm, friendly, supportive the school is
41%
The school's approach to education (how creative, academic, sporty, musical etc it is)?
20%
Distance from home
8%
The opinions of other parents or people locally who know something about the school
4%
A sibling already attending the same school
4%
Ofsted rating 4%
Support for children with SEN, disabilities or additional needs
3%
Wraparound care (before and/or after school hours)
2%
The reputation of the school in local or national media (including internet forums or social media)
1%
Any preference expressed by the child in question
1%
The secondary school it feeds into
1%
Facilities 1%
Size (pupil numbers) 1%
Year 6 SATS results 1%
What kind of school it is, eg academy, free school, community (local authority-funded) school
1%
None of these/don't know/not stated
7%


Thinking about choosing/selecting/applying for a secondary school for your child: how important or unimportant are the following factors for you?

Factors  Very important Quite important Neither important nor unimportant Quite unimportant Completely unimportant
The school's approach to education (how creative, academic, sporty, musical etc it is)?
61% 33% 4% 1% 0%
How warm, friendly, supportive the school is
58% 39% 3% 0% 0%
The opinions of other parents or people locally who know something about the school
20% 53% 20% 5% 2%
The reputation of the school in local or national media (including internet forums or social media)
16% 42% 27% 11% 6%
Any preference expressed by the child in question
39% 50% 9% 2% 0%
A sibling already attending the same school
33% 32% 19% 8% 7%
Ofsted rating 22% 51% 17% 7% 3%
Distance from home
25% 49% 19% 4% 2%
Existence of sixth form/provision for post-GCSE education
29% 38% 22% 7% 5%
Facilities 37% 53% 8% 1% 0%
Size (pupil numbers) 16% 45% 30% 7% 2%
GCSE results 48% 42% 6% 2% 1%
Subject range offered by the school 50% 42% 7% 1% 1%
Support for children with SEN, disabilities or additional needs

47% 34% 18%
What kind of school it is, eg academy, free school, community (local authority-funded) school
12% 27% 38% 12% 11%
Wraparound care (before and/or after school hours)
5% 14% 37% 23% 21%


And of the factors mentioned above, which is the MOST important to you? (Secondary schools)

Factors Response percent
The school's approach to education (how creative, academic, sporty, musical etc it is)?
20%
How warm, friendly, supportive the school is
11%
GCSE results 9%
Any preference expressed by the child in question
4%
Support for children with SEN, disabilities or additional needs
3%
Distance from home
2%
The opinions of other parents or people locally who know something about the school
2%
Ofsted rating 2%
Subject range offered by the school 2%
A sibling already attending the same school
1%
The reputation of the school in local or national media (including internet forums or social media)
1%
Facilities 1%
Wraparound care (before and/or after school hours)
0%
Existence of sixth form/provision for post GCSE education
0%
Size (pupil numbers) 0%
What kind of school it is, eg academy, free school, community (local authority-funded) school
0%



If your child's school was downgraded by Ofsted/school inspector, can you tell us if you would consider removing your child from the school?

Answer options Response percent
Yes, I would consider removing them
23%
No, I would not consider removing them 55%
Don't know/not stated 22%

If yes - which of the following applies to you?

Answer options Response percent
I would consider removing my child if a schools was downgraded by Ofsted/school inspector from 'Outstanding' to 'Good'
5%
I would consider removing my child if a schools was downgraded by Ofsted/school inspector from a higher grading to 'Requires Improvement' 40%
I would consider removing my child if a schools was downgraded by Ofsted/school inspector from a higher grading to 'Inadequate' 71%
I would consider removing my child if it went into special measures 68%
Don't know 0%
Other 3%


Finally, the government recently announced plans so that all schools in England will 'either become academies, or be in the process of converting to academy status, by the end of 2020'. Which of the following statements comes closest to your view? (Respondents in England only)

Answer options Response percent
I think it's a very good idea 1%
I think it's broadly positive 6%
I think the effect will be broadly neutral
7%
I think it's broadly negative 18%
I think it's a very bad idea 42%
I don't know enough about the implications to offer a view 25%


Survey of 1120 Mumsnet users who have applied for a place at a state school in the last five years or so in England and Wales only. Conducted in March 2016.


Local info on schools in your area Education advice on Mumsnet MN survey: Family-friendly working

Last updated: 4 months ago