Lots of our parents have been asking me for some advice on school applications for our pre-schoolers. My eldest has just started Primary school this year so I thought it would be worth me writing a little guide using my experience of the process and choosing schools.
Where to begin?
Start by researching what schools are out there, most schools have catchment areas which means that if you live locally, your more likely to get into that school. Some schools however don’t have catchment areas (Little Houghton Primary School, for example) so it’s worth doing a bit of research before you decide on a school.
Some schools offer open days/evenings or will book times for you to come and have a look around. Each school is different so again, find out what each one offer and it’s well worth going to have a look around a few to see what’s out there.
You’ll need to apply before the 15th January 2019 via the website https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-primary-school-place. You’ll need to provide the names of more than one school as if you don’t get in you first choice, they will then move onto your next one. Results of which school your child has been allocated is released on 16th April, usually via email unless you request it in writing. If you aren’t happy with your allocation, you may want to appeal which you can do via the Gov.uk website where you applied.
What do I ask?
Some parents have been asking for an idea of questions they may want to ask when visiting schools and I have my list that I used when looking at schools last year for my eldest. I have listed them below but some of the questions may not be of importance to you, so pick and choose which ones you think are important:
- Food – where it’s made and quality. Some school have food make on site by a trained chef, some have food delivered or ‘meals on wheels’ as I like to call them. If your child has allergies it may be worth you finding out how they manage this at meal times.
- Class size. Most class sizes are around 30 however some schools, particularly small village schools, may have smaller numbers. Depending on your child, smaller class sizes may suit them better however some children thrive in larger classrooms
- Reception expectations. Reception should be very much like nursery as the focus it still learning through play. Of course there will be times where work will be done alongside teachers but it shouldn’t be just formal teaching. There’s plenty of time for that later on!
- Homework expectations. I felt quite passionately about this one! Some schools will set homework right from reception age. Personally, whilst I know the benefits of homework, I feel that after a long, tiring day at school homework can sometimes be a bit too much, depending on how much is given and how often. I was also keen to know what would happen if the homework hadn’t been completed as some schools will ‘reprimand’ children by excluding them from play time after lunch.
- Ofsted rating. It’s always worth finding out the details of school previous Ofsted report, when it’s next due and what their areas for improvement were. Some school has changed into academies which some schools can mean very different methods of running the school so again it’s worth investigating what it entails.
- Most schools require their children to wear uniform however some schools are happy for you to source your uniform yourselves rather than having to order from the school shop or a specified provider. It’s worth finding out how relaxed different schools are about this as school uniform can be costly if you are required to purchase it all from the specified place.
- Breakfast, afterschool and holiday clubs. If you require out of school provision have a look at what the school offers and how much it is to use it. You may want to ask what they offer for the children to do whilst they are there as it can differ from setting to setting.
- Graduated start. Some schools start children off on half days for the first few weeks or term whilst children are settling in. Schools don’t often give you the option to change to full days instead so again it’s worth being aware of this so it isn’t a shock when you child starts
- PE and outdoor play. As we all know physical and outdoor play is very important for children PE is part of the National Curriculum but some schools take it more seriously than others.
- What extra curricular activities on offer. Some schools offer excellent additional activities for children during lunch times or after school.
- There’s no denying that bullying still takes place in schools. Unfortunately it’s something that most children experience to some degree whilst in education. The most important thing is finding out how is it tackled when it does occur.
- How do they support high and low achievers? Is your child a summer-born child or one of the eldest in the year? How do they support children as individuals rather than a class group
However, all this being said you may just walk into a school and feel it’s right for you and your child!
I wish you all the best for finding a school. I hope this information was useful to you but please feel free to grab me if you have any other questions.