It is that time of year when parents are stepping into unknown territory, checking out school websites, working out if catchments areas mean anything anymore and questioning which school will be the best for their darling child. The difference this year is that this directly affects me too! I have already seen the lists of open days, been asked where he is going by family members and mentally debated with myself over not putting down our catchment school as an option. The thing is none of us first-timers really know what we are supposed to be doing.
When it came to picking a pre-school I did the usual Googling of websites, checked out their Ofsted reports and carefully selected a couple that looked good. The first I arrived at and was spoken to quite rudely, I couldn’t look around and I came away feeling deflated. The second was the complete opposite. I was welcomed in, invited to stay as long as I wanted and spoken to by every member of staff. Jake was encouraged to join in, asked to play with the other children and he loved it. I made the decision right there and then. I just knew this was the right place for him and I could see he would enjoy it.
Now I have the trickier task of choosing a school that he will need to attend 5 days a week and one where he can thrive. So, I have created this list with the help from other parents, to help us all decide on what to ask, what to look for and work out what is important to each of us.
What You Can Do Before
– Look at their websites to gain an idea of what they stand for, what they offer, view their prospectus etc.
– Look at Ofsted reports (office for standards in education, children’s services and skills) but don’t base your final decision on these. Also look around the school to get your own ideas.
– Speak to other parents to gain their honest opinions of the schools in your area.
– Location. This will come down to your personal choice and whether you are prepared to drive each day or would prefer to walk.
– Check their open days/evenings. Some schools will require you to make an appointment and some will only open their doors on certain dates. Don’t miss out on these because applications need to be in by January 15th.
– Check with the school before attending the tour to see if your child can accompany you. This will give you a better indication of whether this is the school for you based on how your child reacts.
– Plan to view more than one school to be able to compare them and select the right one for your child.
– Have it clear in your mind what you need for your child. I know mine is sporty and active, he is big on communication and needs a lot of stimulation. I would also like music to be a big feature as I am very musical myself. These areas are just as important when making a decision.
– School layout. Take this into consideration as you look around. How big is the school? Will it be overwhelming to your child? Are infants and juniors separated?
– Accessibility for parking.
– Outdoor space. Is there adequate space for sports? What is the playground like? What is on offer to them during their breaks?
– Get a feel for the place as you walk around.
– What sizes are the classes? How would this affect your decision? Would your child benefit from a smaller class where they may receive more attention?
– Are any classes split? This sometimes occurs due to class size, school size or ages within the year.
– Watch how the teachers interact with the pupils in class.
– Are the children engaged? Are they working? Are they being disruptive? Are they paying attention?
– Are the children happy in the school setting?
– What subjects are of focus to the school? Art, music and sport may be important to you but do any take precedent?
– Religion. This may be important to you depending on your own beliefs or you may not want any religious activities to take place in your child’s school day. This will be something you will need to check on their website and possibly bring up on the day.
– Are there TA’s/LSA’s in all classes? What roles are they playing?
– Look at the displays on the walls. Are they complete? Are they encouraging? Is there artwork?
– How are you welcomed on the day? How are you spoken to? Do you get a good first impression?
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Questions to ask
– How is information relayed back to parents? Email, apps, letters?
– What is their ethos/motto?
– How do they cater for special educational needs?
– What is available to the pupils outside of the curriculum?
– What after-school activities are there? What age can they join in with these from?
– How many activities take place outside? Is this important to you?
– Do they have a breakfast club?
– How quickly do they react if they notice a gap in a child’s development? What procedures are in place to cope with this? Is there a support team?
– How do they discipline? Do they use timeouts or do they have a more mindful approach?
– Funding. With school funds being cut more and more will any funds for particular activities need to come from parents?
– Do they run regular school trips? Where do they visit?
– Are swimming lessons covered within the school day?
– Are there teachings of equality, diversity and kindness? For example, is there a buddy system in place?
– Ask to view a school dinners menu.
– Ask about uniforms. How much needs a logo on it? What are the costs? What else may you need for starting school?
– Does the school run parent workshops to help them to understand what is being taught within the classroom? When are these run and how often?
Above all trust your instincts. You know what your child needs, what subjects they will want extra focus on and the type of environment that will suit their personality.
A big thanks goes out to the following bloggers for their input:
Pete, Household Money Saving
Eva, Captain Bobcat
Debbie, My Boys Club
Samantha, North East Family Fun
Emma, Me and B Make Tea
Faith, Raising Moonbows
Leslie, Messy Blog UK
Natalie, Confessions of a Crummy Mummy
Erica, The Incidental Parent
Leyla, The Motherhood Diaries
Sinead, Sinead Latham
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