Wednesday, 4 January 2017

How To Choose The Right Primary School


This time last year I was in a panic. 11 days until the application deadline and I hadn't decided which primary school to put as first choice.

Choosing a primary school feels like an enormous decision. In most cases, you are committing your child to the same place for the next seven years. Not only is primary school an important foundation for learning, it is hugely significant socially - my best friend from primary school is still one of my best friends now. So what happens in primary school will have a massive effect on your child's life.

Have I made you nervous? Sorry. But if I have, this blog post is for you. It's for the people who have been on the school tours, asked the questions, and are still racking their brains with the deadline looming large.

If that's you, here are my tips on making the big decision.

1. Talk to parents of schoolchildren

One of the best things I did was talk to parents who already had children at the local schools. I didn't grill them particularly, but things cropped up in conversation which informed my choice. Absorb what they say - are their kids happy? How have issues been dealt with? Do they rave or complain about anything? Actually most of the parents I talked to seemed very happy with their chosen school but paying attention to their experiences proved very informative.

2. Keep an open mind

It might be that you'd always imagined your child going to one school but now you're having second thoughts. That's OK. It might be last minute wobbles, or it might be new information causing you to reconsider. Forget what you'd imagined and look at what you've learnt of each school over the last few months. Also, be open-minded if the school is having building work or renovations done - yes it might look a bit shabby now, but remember a lot can happen in nine months. It might be totally transformed by September.

3. Think about YOUR child

Are your friends all saying they like one school but you're not so sure? Yes it would be lovely to keep friendship groups together but you've got to think about what's the right setting for your child and your family. If you think a different school would be better for your little one, so be it, They will make new friends and can always see their old friends in the holidays.

4. Be realistic

Every area has that school that everyone wants to get their kid into, but be honest - do you stand a chance? Do you live close enough? Are they expecting an influx of siblings? Much as it might feel like you should put it as first choice just in case, to save heartache later it might be better to be objective and think about how likely it is you'll get a place, and whether you'd spend three months getting your hopes up.

5. Go with your gut

At one school tour we went to the headteacher said you'll know in your gut when you've walked into the right school for your child. Actually, we didn't. We only realistically had two choices and had reservations about both in all honesty. What guided us was a feeling that one school was NOT the right school! It felt strange to make the choice on a negative feeling, but in the end we just had to take the plunge, Both are good schools so we knew we couldn't go too far wrong.


Did we make the right choice? We'll never know - we can't set up an alternative reality in which Eleanor went to our second choice instead and compare. But she's happy, she's stimulated and the staff have been fantastic with her so far. 

And that's the most important thing to remember - you'll never know for certain that you got it right but as long as things go smoothly that doesn't matter. And if things don't go smoothly it's always fixable, you can switch schools later on, it's just trickier.

To those of you applying now, good luck! If you've done this all before, what would your tips be?

4 comments:

  1. Honestly- cross your fingers and hope for the best. I think the idea you really have a choice is rarely true and the idea that you have to choose makes people worry (maybe I'm just cynical though!!)

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    1. Yes, I think in some areas it's a case of take what you get which is a shame. Luckily it turned out that we did have a choice as our first choice want the closest school but we still got in. It a tense three months though!

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    2. I bet, glad you got what you wanted - the whole system makes me mad ( can you tell ;) )

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  2. Thanks for sharing such blog. This is really very helpful for those who are searching the right primary school for their kids. Talking about my experience, I too wanted to find the right school for my kid and it was not that easy. Finally I found the best school in baroda for my kid and I'm now quite satisfied with the choice.

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