Choosing your child’s first school is such an important decision for so many reasons. From the quality of education to how close the school is to your home, there are plenty of different factors to consider before you make your choice and here are the most important:
You can ask friends and relatives about their opinion of how the school is performing but the best way to understand the standard of a school is to read the Ofsted reports. Most schools will advertise their Ofsted rating on their school website if they are using it to promote the school but schools performing badly are not likely to.
Also, the rating just gives you a very high-level idea but reading the full report will give you a better idea of strengths and weaknesses and enable you to decide whether it is suitable for your child. ‘Outstanding’ and ‘good’ schools are at the top end of the scale but it is also important to see changes from the last report to see what direction the school is going in.
A Good Headteacher and Staff
The school’s headteacher says a lot about the school in general, as they will be making all of the key decisions. Many headteachers will invite you to an open evening or even a private meeting to discuss the school in more detail. You should use this time to ask lots of questions and get to know the head as much as you can.
Try and work out what their values are and how well they seem to know the children. Work out how involved they are in the school from day-to-day, as you will find some tend to stay in their office and are more management roles than working with the teachers and children on a daily basis. You should also find out as much as you can about the teachers, particularly the one that will be teaching your child first. Take a look at the classroom to get a feel for what kind of teacher they are and find out if there is a high turnover of teachers at the school as this indicates that there are underlying issues.
If you have several local schools to consider then that is great but not everybody has that luxury. You might need to factor in whether you can drop them off on your way to work etc. but it is worthwhile spending time doing some dummy school runs in peak traffic to see how you get on before you choose the school. Ideally, you want to choose a school that you can walk to but failing that, somewhere that is going to be easy for you to access. A lot of parents choose the most local school to ensure that their children can be with local children and play with them outside of school hours.
Not all schools are equipped to the same standard so go and have a look around and see how good the facilities are. Do they have the latest teaching technology, stationery and books, nice furniture and well-decorated rooms? Are the toilets clean and well looked after? What sort of meals do they serve for school dinners? You should be able to find out the menu and see for yourself.
The standard of facilities at the school can give a good indication of where they spend money and what the overall priorities are as a school. Do they have a good sports hall and an outdoor playground that looks safe and well maintained? What is the school website like and how well do they use it to communicate with parents? You can visit this website to see how it compares to other school websites. These are all key factors in deciding which school is the best one for your child.