Primary Pick: How to choose the right primary school
With the primary school applications deadline looming (you’ve got until 5pm on Monday 15th January 2018, don’t miss it!), it can be hard to know how to make the right choice. From Ofsted reports to the local rumour mill, there’s so much information to try and help you whittle it down to just three.
To help guide you through the decision, we spoke to a panel of parents who have been through it to tell us what matters most and what they learnt from it all. With loads of advice on what to look out for and reassurance that your gut feeling is probably best, here are our tips for choosing the right primary school for your child.
Trust your gutBook a visit. Whilst you may know which one you prefer on paper, you can quickly change your mind. From everyone we spoke to, you just get that gut feeling that you could really see your child being a pupil there, and that’s the thing you should trust. If you get to look around properly, keep an eye out for happy and bustling classrooms, displays proudly showing off work and friendly staff, as well as any other specific criteria you may have (e.g. class size). Once you’ve been to two or more, you’ll easily be able to compare, which will make the decision a whole lot easier.
Ofsted doesn’t tell you the whole storyWhilst you’re unlikely to put an inadequate rated school at the top of your list, don’t let Ofsted act as the be all and end all for your decision. Jennifer got her third-choice school which was only rated satisfactory at the time, but over the past few years, it’s improved drastically. An outstanding school at the time of application won’t necessarily hold the same status a few years down the line, and likewise, an underperforming school can turn things around. Look for a good headteacher, they can make a huge difference to a school’s overall performance.
The school-runWhilst the school 2-miles away might beat your local choice hands down, will you still love the 4-mile round-trip every day when you’re three years down the line? For lots of you, proximity is an important factor, especially if you don’t have access to a car, and a shorter journey to school means a less hectic morning routine too – bonus.
Let’s do the maths, a four-mile return school run every day, for an average of 190 term days a year = 760 miles a year. Times that by the seven years they’ll be there and that’s 5,320 miles. Suddenly the school around the corner doesn’t seem too bad…
The third-choice conundrumYou get three choices on the application, and the best advice we can give you is to use them all. Whilst Matt was told that if they didn’t pick a third they’d be more likely to get their first or second choice, this is by no means guaranteed. For Sarah, Kate and Victoria, not putting a third choice means your child could end up anywhere, it all depends on availability.
It’s better to have some input into the school your child gets, so unless you’re almost guaranteed one of your first two choices, it’s best to not take the risk.
Hope for the bestSadly, despite all the research and carefully considered applications, it can sometimes just come down to potluck, especially in oversubscribed areas. If you get your application in on time you stand as good as chance as anyone (it's not first come, first serve, so submitting your application early won't affect your chances), but you're unlikely to secure your first choice if you submit your application late. But it’s not all doom and gloom if you don’t get your first or second choice. Whilst there are ways to appeal and try to get a coveted place, don’t stress too much – sometimes it all just works out, and you’ll end up loving their new school as much as they do.
But just in case, don’t miss our guide to what to do if you don’t get your primary school place.
Did your child get their first or second primary school choice, or did you struggle with the whole process? Let us know in a comment below!
Thank you to the following parents who gave us their top tips for picking a primary school:
Twinderelmo | Whinge Whinge Wine | Birds and Lilies | Lylia Rose | Boo Roo and Tigger Too | Counting To Ten | Our Bucket List Lives | Mummy Cat Notes | Mummy is a Gadget Geek | My Little Cheeky Monkey | My Mummy’s Pennies | Yammy Mommy | Emma Reed | Household Money Saving | The Ish Mother | Donna Alos
If you're still familiarising yourself with the UK school holidays in 2018, we've got all the dates to help you plan ahead.