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Advice on choosing school?

7 replies

satinshoes · 14/03/2007 20:48

Really sorry if this has been done before. DD1 will be going to Reception in 18 months and we have a really cruddy school for our catchment. There are a few other which DH and I will look around soon but i wondered what should i be looking for / asking questions about / trying to avoid?

Many thanks

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rowan1971 · 14/03/2007 20:51

A friend of mine gave me what has turned out to be pretty good advice: take a good look at the head teacher, and think about whether you'd want them to be ultimately in charge of your child's education. Also, find out about staff turnover - average length of service should be pretty substantial if a school is good.

amynnixmum · 14/03/2007 20:53

Always try to visit while the children are there so you get a real feel for the place. Check out their latest OFSTED report which you should be able to get online - if not you can get a paper copy. Ask local parents what they think

saadia · 14/03/2007 21:00

I visited a few schools and chose on the basis of the school atmosphere, where the children were confident and very engaged in what they were doing, but were polite at the same time. They did not seem to be intimidated by the teachers but were not disrespectful either. But TBH when visiting, a lot depends on what is happening on any given day.

A school I rejected because it felt cold and unfriendly to me was picked by a friend for her ds and they are very happy with it.

Similarly another friend, whose dd has SN picked a school which has an outstanding OFSTED report in all categories, but she feels her dd is isolated within the school and not really progressing.

I think it is very much a gamble, but I also think that, when visiting, you will instinctively know the ones that won't suit your child.

Hulababy · 14/03/2007 21:02

I looked at a number of schoosl, and researched all the background stuff too on them. In the end it was the one that felt right for us that swayed it though.

christywhisty · 14/03/2007 22:29

i also visited the school fetes. I found that it gave quite an insight into the behavior of the children.

frogs · 14/03/2007 22:40

The single most important factor is that you like the head. And like as in, you feel you could sit down with him or her and sort out some bothersome issue with regard your child and come away feeling listened to and respected, and have trust in him/her to do the right thing for your child.

Walk past the playground at lunchtime and hometime and see what's going on. Fighting in any form should be a big no-no, or any kind of behaviour that looks as if it might become a fight. Ask how they prevent football-playing boys from taking over the playground, or what they would do if a child seems to be finding it hard to join in with others.

Wrt academic standards, ask by what age the majority of children move onto 'chapter books'. Any time from Reception to Y1 is good, Y2 acceptable, if lots of Y3+ children are still on reading schemes, that is not great. Grab a handful of Y3 exercise books -- by that age they should be able to write reasonably comprehensible prose with intelligible spelling and have a stab at sensible punctuation. Joined-up legible writing at this age is a good sign.

For Reception/Y1, ask how often they change reading books. Once a week is not unusual, twice is better, more often is great (but rare). Ask to see some reading records, and check whether this tallies with what they're telling you. Ask the class teacher and a helper or two, to see if you get the same story. Ask what reading scheme they use. If they use a phonic scheme for teaching reading, ask if the reading books they send home come from the same scheme or not. Lots of schools will feed you a line about using a mixture of methods, which often means they've switched to a phonic scheme in accordance with govt guidelines but haven't invested in the books to back it up.

This reading thing will take over your life for two or three years, so worth finding out the deal before you sign up.

satinshoes · 15/03/2007 12:19

this is all such fabulous advice. Things i wouldnt have thought of !

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