Every parent knows that with a good education, their child will have the necessary skills and abilities to succeed in later life, which is why choosing a school is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever have to make for their future.
It’s vital that you make a well informed decision to ensure the school, nursery or sixth form can cater for your child’s needs. Every child is different and, whether you’re looking for a nursery, a primary or a secondary school, or helping your eldest choose the right sixth form, there’s a lot to consider.
From the quality of teaching on offer to the distance from your home, the standard of exam results and whether to opt for a community, state, independent, faith or academy school.
Many schools, particularly secondary schools, also specialise in specific subject areas, like the performing arts, foreign languages, science, media or sport, which may appeal to your child’s interests and abilities. Whatever factors influence your decision, to have the best chance of getting your child into the school of your choice, you must apply well in advance.
If you’re looking for a primary school or a nursery for your first child, and are finding the whole process a bit daunting, the first step you should take is to contact your local authority and ask for a list of schools in your area and for information on the application process and deadlines. You should also contact each school in your area to ask for a prospectus and arrange to visit during an open day.
As well as giving you the opportunity to see the facilities and meet teachers, open days also often give you the chance to talk to existing pupils about their experience of the school, find out about the admissions criteria, get a feel for the school’s ethos and find out more about all other aspects of school life, such as the provision of extra curricular activities, school dinners and school buses.
Open days provide an opportunity to discuss any concerns or special requirements so that you can be sure this is the right school for your child’s specific needs. If you’re considering an independent school, the open day is also a chance to discuss tuition fees, find out whether funding or scholarships are available and find out more about anything your child will need to take an entrance exam.
Before applying for your shortlist of suitable schools, it’s essential to gather as much information as possible by attending open days, reading school prospectuses, reading through Ofsted inspection reports and looking at school attainment and achievement tables, which are published each year by the Department for Children, Schools and Families for key stage two (primary schools), key stage three (secondary schools), key stage four (GCSE results), and post-16 (Alevel results).
Such tables provide a guide as to how each school is performing and contain National Curriculum test results so you can compare the school’s you are interested in applying to. Ofsted reports grade schools on factors such as achievement and standards, pupils’ personal development, the care and support provided by the school, the quality of teaching, the leadership and management of the school, and the curriculum provision.
All Ofsted reports and attainment tables are available on the Government’s website (www.direct.gov.uk), so you can be sure that you’re making a well-informed decision.
With so much to take into account, the earlier you start to research potential schools for your child, the better.