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How to choose the right primary school

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Woman Boy school
Choosing a Primary School is a big decision for parents - our guide will help you pick the right one!

Do your research

It may sound obvious, but you'd be amazed how many parents rely on rumours and opinions of a certain school rather than using their own judgement, and their own eyes.

Start by going online to get all the inside knowledge on schools in your area. Go to ofsted.gov.uk/reports and type in the name of the school. Or try schoolsfinder.direct.gov.uk. You should be able to instantly access the school's most recent Ofsted inspection report which is a detailed 'warts and all' description of everything from the school's attendance records to the quality of teaching in every lesson.

These reports are invaluable and make fascinating reading. But do take note of the date the inspection was carried out (they only happen every three years). Don't write a school off on the basis of a three year-old report. A lot may have changed since then.

Arrange visits

Nothing beats a personal visit. Make an appointment with the school secretary to have a look around, with or without your child.

First impressions can be very accurate. Does it seem a happy school? Are the children absorbed in their work? Are the staff friendly? Is the classroom bright and cheerful? Is the artwork recent? Is equipment worn or well cared for?

Make sure you understand the school's discipline procedure and attitude towards bullying. Does it have a Parent Teacher Association? Are parents encouraged to help out in the classroom? By the time your visit is over you should have a really clear idea about the school's priorities and whether your child would be happy there.

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Be realistic

You may never find a school that's completely perfect, and if you do, it's very likely to be oversubscribed. So be realistic. Your four-year-old child doesn't need a state of the art gym or ten acres of playing field to do well at school. A good teacher and a calm, happy atmosphere is all that's really required. If you can find that, without having to move house or drag your kids half way across town to the school 'everyone else' raves about, you'll be doing well and so will they.

All pages in this article

  1. 1. How to choose the right primary school
  1. 2. How and when to apply

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Andy S

A post worth sharing. True, in this hustle and bustle environment, finding a good primary school can be challenging for parents. But, after reading this, parents like me can have clear view of what they must look in a primary school for their child.

JudeVFR400

Kate is so right when she says nothing beats a personal visit. We were shocked by how messy, noisy and disorganised the catchment school was when we visited. The primary school that on paper was worse, was quieter, the children more polite and staff appeared more organised. So don't make any decisions until you actually see the school.

Ian MacDonald

I like the idea of your site. This article is helpful as far as it goes. It is a pity it does not mention specialist school options which are often open to everyone within a local authority, and often with transport provided. These can often be the answer when the choices among regular schools is unattractive. These schools, such as music schools, denominational schools, and, outside of England, increasingly numerous Welsh, Irish and Gaelic schools are often harder to find out about unless you know they are there. I think your article should encourage parents not to rule these out, even if their speciality focus doesn't initially seem of interest - the education offered is of a quality similar to the best schools in the area. Local authority web-sites and individuals contacted by phone usually have information about these schools, but you may need to persevere to obtain it. (Also, the schoolsfinder link on the page doesn't work because it is missing the.uk part.) Kind regards, Ian MacDonald parent

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