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Choosing a primary school

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Choosing a primary school for your child is such an important milestone in both your lives. When you are having to think about primary school places whilst your child is still in nappies, it can be incredibly daunting to think that decisions that you make at this stage are going to influence your child’s formative years. The the education you choose for them now will be the one likely to have the most influence on who they are as an adult and even where their interests and talents may lay in the future.

Location, location, location

Of course the decision on choosing a primary school is likely, to some degree, to have been dictated as soon as you decided to start a family or during their early baby years. It is at this point after all that many parents begin to reassess the areas they live in in relation to school catchment areas rather than simply what shops or pub are on their doorstep and will move if required.choosing a primary school

But it’s not always the case. When I, newly pregnant, fell in love with my first house the biggest influence on my decision was not the fact that it was within metres of a well-respected primary school and equally well respected secondary school but more to do with the idyllic stream-side outlook it had – the fact I could lean out of my front door in my dressing gown and see my little ones to school is but an added bonus.

Thinking ahead

But digression apart your choice of primary school is vital at this stage and needs to be considered early in the process because applications generally have to be in by the January of the year in which your child starts school – meaning in reality you have to start your assessments almost a year before your darlings are ready to don their new uniforms and nervously walk out the door.

So how do you choose?

Location will of course play a big part – your proximity to the catchment area of the school being one of the biggest contributing reasons as to whether you will get in or not but firstly you need to know what the options are.

Don’t be narrow minded in this process either. In general local education authorities will ask you to come up with a selection of schools in which you are interested and generally allow you to rank your choices too. Restricting your research and decisions to one school could endanger your child’s education if you have failed to take other locations into consideration.

Recommendation

As ever word of mouth recommendations are key. Speak to other parents of children in your town or village to get a view across a range of schools – be that fellow parents at nursery or playgroup as well as parents with older children who can give you a wider ranging insight into the school and how it has been run in the past as well as how it is being run in the present.choosing a primary school

Ofsted

Read their Ofsted reports – these give you a vital insight into parent views of the running of the school and its policies. Most importantly however is to attend open days for any primary schools that you may be interested in. As useful as recommendations go what is after all of most importance is how you actually feel about a school, the teachers and staff within it and your assessment of how happy and well behaved its pupils seem within that school. Tearaway, rowdy and messy children are after all not the by-product of a school that teaches its children good manners and discipline.

Visit the schools

Such visits also allow you to assess the practicalities of the school – is it easily accessible, how well managed are class sizes and how are children grouped, how in control are the teachers and how much space is there both for learning and play? What are their policies on technology? The structure of the curriculum? What’s their policy on school dinners and healthy eating and do they have drinking water freely available for the children? Do they offer stimulating activities both in school and out of school to stretch the children and do they supplement this with an active social calendar for the children too – such as organising children’s discos, Easter egg hunts or film nights. Can they be seen to actually care?

Don’t be afraid to ask!

As a new parent about to send your precious child off to primary school don’t be afraid to be seen to be asking questions and demanding questions and proof. This is a time when for once, you are likely to be asking almost as many questions as your little one!

 

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