This is a collaborative post
I can’t believe that this time last year, I was waiting on tenterhooks for school decision day. A friend of mine is in the exact same position now and talking to her at the weekend just sent me spiralling back to what a nerve-wracking time it is.
As a parent, selecting the right school for your child can be a really stressful job. I have been incredibly lucky that Zach’s school feels like the right one for him. He is happy, his teachers are lovely and he has a little bunch of friends that he gets to see every day. But when it comes to filling that online form in, when you have to make your order preference – it can be really hard. Here are some tips to help you when checking out your child’s potential school.
Meet the staff
You are within your rights to meet the staff of any school that you are considering sending your children to. You should speak to the headteacher and senior management team, and see how you feel about them becoming role models for your kids. I saw a range of very different headteachers, and I knew which ones I would be happy to have in charge of my boy. Also make sure you pay attention to how they interact with other staff members and children. They should understand the backgrounds of different children, know their names, and have their priorities in order. We saw some absolute shocking things in one particular school, and there was absolutely no way in the world we would have sent Zach there.
Stay for playtime
Don’t just meet the staff and make your decision based on what you see here. Sticking around for play time and seeing how children interact on their own terms can help you to decide what to do, too. Playtime shapes children’s experiences of a school (we all know it’s the most fun part of the day). Have a look and see what the school playground equipment is like, and the general outdoor space too. It was one of the biggest things that drew me to certain schools, as these spaces often play a big role in building a sense of belonging to a child.
Check out the wall displays
This is one of the things that was a big thing, even in choosing a nursery for Zach. The wall displays in a school should give you a good idea of the work that goes on, the values held there, and how they are practised. Ideally, social and moral values will be practised and celebrated at the school and they should be child led and child centred. Teaching kids about friendships and relationships – for example, being kind and honest – is crucial to their learning and development and helps them to reach their full potential.
Other things to consider
There are of course, so many other things to consider when you are looking at schools:
- Your child’s individual needs e.g. a more or less structured environment
- How the school fosters creativity
- Whether your child needs more or less challenging work
- Your child’s learning style
- Whether your child is musical or artistic
- The location of the school and how you’ll get them there
- The school curriculum
- How large the classes are
- Special achievements the school may have achieved
- Whether there are uniforms or a dress code
- School safety/drills
- Field trips
- Application process and deadline
What not to do?
Try not to focus too much on standardised test scores and Ofsted reports. Whilst they are useful to have as a backup, digging a little deeper and seeing how the school runs for yourself can give you a much better picture of how effective a school actually is at supporting a child’s learning and growth. Also, quite often the reports are a few years old. The school Zach goes to, was in “requires improvements” when I put it down as my number one, but Ofsted went in just before he started and upgraded it to good (they also downgraded the “good” rated one that we were less than impressed with!).
Viewing schools and making the final decision can be really quite overwhelming. You are having to make a major decision in your child’s future, that they have absolutely no say in at the time. Remember that teachers come and go, but a school’s ethos rarely ever changes. If you look for a head you can trust, along with a great ethos – you’ve likely found a great school for your children to attend.