If you are anything like me, you will have spent hours poring over the nightmare that is your child’s education. How do I pick the right school? DID I pick the right school? What is this homework they brought home? I thought chunking was a word to describe weight gain, not a mathematical strategy!!! Well, fear not, because there is hope AND indeed help out there, readily available at your fingertips.
Most local education authorities will have their own websites which are hopefully easy to navigate and in themselves do not require you to possess a Doctorate in worldwide web triangulation. For the purpose of this piece, I have utilised the Staffordshire website which you can find on www.staffordshire.gov.uk/education. It hosts all manner of information such as term dates, catchment information and OFSTED reports for the surrounding schools for your perusal when making that all important choice for your child/ren.
Top tips for choosing the “right” school and your child’s education
1. Search and Compare schools: The days of a child simply attending the school nearest to them is long gone. Yes, you heard right. We have choices now as parents and we are permitted and indeed encouraged to exercise those choices by listing them on applications for schools, both primary and secondary.
2. Check the school’s admission criteria: Catchment is often key and for particularly popular schools where nearby residents buy for the postcode, you may find that the numbers are annually over subscribed simply by the numbers of children residing in the catchment area. Having an older sibling in the school is helpful, but there are other criteria most of us would not consider, such as a child’s religion if opting for a school of a particular denomination, or specific health needs of a child. Most importantly, NEVER assume your child will automatically get a place in your chosen school, so maybe consider a “back up plan”.
3. Is it a practical school: If the school you prefer is located 5 miles away through dale and valley, can you get your child/ren to school on time or through adverse weather conditions. Sounds ridiculous I know, but there is nothing worse for a child than persistently being the one who always turns up after the bell when their classmates are already settling into their seats and the class teacher is not so subtly looking at the clock and marking your child as LATE.
4 Does it suit your child’s needs?: This is particularly pertinent if you have a child with quite specific needs such as learning needs or disabilities. Never be shy to ask whether a school has the facilities to cater to your child. I mean this is their foundation for life we’re talking about and their key to the future.
5. Check the OFSTED results: This is a bit of a contentious issue as an Outstanding school may not necessarily provide an outstanding experience for a child. Read the reports carefully and consider what the school offers as a whole package. Our children are not one dimensional. They are 3D, HD, multi-faceted, sometimes unpredictable bags of fun and miracles, so look at the whole and not just the grades achieved in Numeracy and Literacy.
6. Go and see the school: Keep your ear to the ground for open days, or even just contact the school directly and make an appointment to look around. If possible and appropriate, take advantage of opportunities to speak to the children, for example, my daughter is an ambassador for her school and as such is integral to showing prospective parents around and answering any questions parents have from the perspective of the pupils.
And finally……. There is no such thing as the perfect school.
Have realistic expectations. Rest assured you’re not on your own. Good luck!
For all Ofsted Reports follow the link: