This time, last year, I was struggling with the decision of which school to send my son. The decision felt colossal as this choice would set the foundation of his education. As my first child, he also was setting the path for any future children (I wasn’t pregnant at the time). Choosing was very over whelming and I felt stressed by the pressure.

Here is how I made my three choices for the application.

Location

Make a list of the primary schools nearby. Have a look at where they are located and decide if they are easy for you to get to as the school run will be twice a day.

You may choose to apply for a school close to your place of work or near friends/family whom will be primarily doing the school run (I.e. if you have support from a grandparent).

Performance

Check the league tables. Every year (around January) they publish how students at the school are performing and schools in the country are ranked. This can give you an idea of whether teaching is effective.

However, remember that parents positive involvement will enhance their child’s learning and you can get a year group of very bright students. A school can change drastically by a change of head or boost of funding. Use this data to get an idea of whether the school are getting results from children but bear in mind that it can change.

Ofsted

Read the Ofsted report. This will give you insight into how the school is run. Again, take care to make your own judgement as to whether you agree with the grade given.

One local school was performing in the top 100 in the country but despite their results, Ofsted didn’t like how it was run and scored then as needing to improve.

Also, the feedback from Ofsted will prompt the school to make improvements so the school may already be in a better position than when they were inspected.

Tour

Once you have a shortlist, contact the schools to arrange a visit. Don’t leave this too late as many schools set dates aside and if you cannot make it (or leave it too late) then you won’t be able to visit.

I found the tour the most valuable data in making my decision. One school told me the dates after they had passed so I felt they were disorganised. Another school, I couldn’t get through to on the phone, so, I decided they would be difficult to contact if I had a problem.

The tours enabled me to see the culture of the school and establish if I felt it was right for my child.

The school that won me over wasn’t the best performing in my short list but I got a really positive vibe and decided to trust my gut. I was right to do so because when the new performance table was released, it was top out of all the schools in my short list!

Friends

If your child has made good friends already, you may wish to find out where they are going and consider the same school. However, lots of children start school not knowing anyone and make friends quickly. Knowing other children going can make the transition easier as they know some people to play with but don’t worry if you choose a school and don’t know any other children going.

Word of mouth

Ask around to find out other people’s views or experience of the local schools. Use social media and ask for an opinion on your local Facebook group. This is like checking reviews before buying a product and will give you valuable insight from other parents perspectives.

Making the Application

When making your application, you get three choices. You rank these in order of preference.

You don’t have to give three choices. However, although the council will try to meet your request where possible, if they cannot offer your first choice then they’ll consider you second choice and so on. When they run out of your choices, they will select a school for you – usually the school closest to you home with a place.

Places are allocated firstly to children with additional needs (or in care), then siblings of children from the school, then by catchment, then in order of distance as the crow flies.

All my choices were out of catchment so I did use all my options and gave a reason why I had chosen the school and felt it was most suitable to my son. I gave three options as I really didn’t want the council choosing my son’s school.

The Result

I was fortunate enough to get my first choice and my son has settled in well. He’s making friends and the other parents are really friendly and welcoming. I couldn’t be happier.

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