I know it’s Saturday (YAY!) but I want to talk schools…. it’s fast approaching the time when options have to be put in for school places. There are lots of secondary school open days coming up and forms have to be in at the end of October! (Yes, that soon!) If your child is moving up next summer (or even the summer after) then this is for you!
Firstly, know your options: Know what school their current one feeds into and investigate all others to see if you live in their catchment areas. As a side note, you may live in a catchment area but not be entitled to transport (or it doesn’t stop very near you) so that may stop you choosing that one.
Catchment Areas: Big buzz words that even the property websites are using to sell houses. My advice? There’s probably a half-decent school near you (as there’s nearly always more than one choice) so unless you live somewhere near a school that is known for weaponized crime, you probably don’t need to move. If you want to move anyway for practical reasons, then, of course, it makes sense to look at realistic properties in catchments of schools that are good for your family. Be aware though that if you are buying/selling a house to do this, it’s a lengthy process and the current year 6’s parents will have to commit to a school choice before moving.
Secondly, visit everything: Most children will survive whatever school they are put in..kids are stronger than we think. However, the doting parent naturally wants the best for their child. Try to pick a school that’s linked to your child’s career choice, or at least something they’re good at. (See Careers and Options) For example, our teenager needs all 3 sciences at A-Level for her chosen profession so it would be pointless sending her to an art specialist college or one without a sixth form (for A levels). So have a chat with your young scholar and see where they want to be in 5 years or so, or at least what areas they’re interested in now, then visit schools accordingly.
Ofsted reports: These things terrify teachers and parents alike; to a teacher, the inspection causes fear like a driving test you can’t retake, and to the parent who really likes a school, they can throw deal-braking confusion at you. Don’t worry.
Ofsted has recently changed their grading system (for the worse in my opinion) and it now only has a 4-point scale; every school in the country split into just 4 categories. 1 is great, 4 is not. While a school with several aspects being marked as a 4 may need reconsidering, the problem lies with the 2s and 3s.
People look at 2s positively and 3s negatively, but there may be little between the schools in each category and the 2-graded school be on the way down but the 3-graded one is improving. To get a better picture, look at all recent Ofsted reports and see if areas that are important to you are improving or not.
The best way to find out about a school is to visit, preferably at different times…open evenings are great for questions but to get a feel for the atmosphere, go in the day as well. Don’t be bamboozled by sales pitch presentations about percentage pass rates, or staff who say there’s no bullying or graffiti; they are fibbing, it happens everywhere. The better school won’t deny it, they’ll tell you how they deal with it.
You and your child will know when you’ve been there if it’s right for them. The best advice I can offer is to visit as many as you can to see what you consider positives and negatives for your child, just because one person loves the school it doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone.
I hope this helps, please ask me if you need to know something about the process and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction; I’ve done this from both the parent and teacher sides and am happy to help if I can.
Have a lovely weekend!
PS if you want to visit in the day you are legally allowed to take your year 6 pupil with you, so don’t worry about absence policies, just let the primary school know.