10 tips for finding a good school
It's every parents worry, how do you find the best school for your child. It doesn't matter if it's the first school that they are going to attend, you are moving to a new area or it's got to the stage where your child is moving to the next stage of their education ( from infants to juniors, primary to middle or primary to secondary for example).
There are many things to consider when looking for a new school, some of which are more important than others, while others are easier to establish than others.
Listed below are 10 tips on how to find a good school..
1. Get a list of schools in the area.
Our web site lists schools in any given area and you can search by postcode and type of school. There may be more than one available school in the area although you should check on school catchment areas with the individual schools concerned. If you live outside the catchment area it is going to be much more difficult to get into a school.
It is possible, that with the latest set of admission policies that have been "enforced" on schools that your local schools will have dropped catchement areas from their admission policies. You should ask to see the admission policy from your selected school and check how high your child comes on the list (especially if the school is popular and the yeargroup is full). You should also ask to see the latest "school profile" in England, this is a report that replaces the old "Governors report" and will give you a feel for the school.
2. Talk to other local parents.
Try to talk to local parents with children in the same age group if you are moving to a new area. You could do this by meeting parents outside the school before school starts or just before school finishes if you are looking for a prmary school.
if your child is "moving up a school" in the year above your child in the school. If their child is older than yours they may well be at the school that you are thinking about sending your child to.
3 Try to visit the school
By visiting a school you should get a good feeling for whether the school is a happy school and whether you feel that your child will fit in. It is often obvious how well behaved the children are and how much control the teachers and other staff have in the classroom. Ask if you can see the class in action, although this is not always possible.
4. Check the OFSTED reports in England (or the ** in Wales and the ** in Scotland).
OFSTED (the Office for Standards in Education) is the body that inspects schools in England. Schools are inspected on a regular basis and are graded against certain criteria. Since the start of the 2005/6 education year schools are given about 2 days notice of an inspection, this is meant to ensure that inspections do actually reflect the standard of the school rather than the standard that a school has achieved having put in several weeks of extra effort.
5. Do not worry about League tables
The so called league tables do not measure how well a school is performing, merely how well a particular year group has done in exams. You should bear in mind that a school may have differing results year on year if one year has a lot of "bright" children and the next year as more "average" children. In a primary school, if you want to look at performance you should ask the schools for details of the "added value measure" This compares year 6 pupil's performance in the SATS (national curriculum) tests with the performance of other pupils.
When asking about educational attainment you should ask if there is a sufficient cohort of children similar to yours (in outlook, ability and gender) who are doing well enough to provide good role models? Is teaching inspiring (look for popular subjects, thrilled children)? Do pupils enjoy working?
6. Ask about non-educational things.
How good is the school at the other things your child and you care about? This will always be a personal list, ranging from morals to sport. You should ask for specific information about subject, prospectuses will often say that "we support a wide range of extra-curricular activities" - but how many actually attend the school orchestra and what's their standard? Do all who want really get to play football or only the best?
7. Think about what you have seen and heard.
All sorts of little things might have struck you and you will, no doubt, have accumulated an overall impression of the school. A school's character is made up of its staff, its environment and, most of all, in its pupils. It is passed down to each new year group and will change only slowly. A receptionist who is rude, a group of unruly children or a passing teacher who takes time out to talk will show what the school's spirit is really like..
8. What is is the Head teacher like?
The Head teacher is crucial to the running of the school and and therefore to your child's happiness. Both teaching and non-teaching staff need the head's support to do the difficult things like dealing well with bullying or children with special needs. Look for a head who is respected both by pupils and staff - and who gives you the time of day when you visit the school, again talk to other parents about the head - is he/she approachable if there is a problem?
9. How well does the school cope with special needs children
You may think that this is not be relevant to you if your child does not have needs, although bear in mind that special needs encompass both ends of the spectrum (very bright children have special needs as well as slower learners). If a school does not cope very well with special needs children they may become disruptive and this can easily affect other children in the class.
10 Trust your judgment
The most important thing is to trust your own judgment when choosing a new school. You are one of the few people that understands your own child. Teachers and other parents can give you some guidance but they can not know what makes your child tick.