It’s that time of year again, school applications are open. Those days of nappy (cloth or disposable?) and weaning (purees or baby-led?) choices for your little one probably don’t feel that long ago but the time has come to make a decision around the formal education of your child.

Just for context, for those coming from education systems outside of the UK, children in England must be in full time education form the school term after their 5th birthday (September, January or April are the typical entry points). However, most children begin in the September when they are 4. All children access learning through a curriculum based upon play and giving core foundation skills for future learning.

It can be a minefield and as parents you may feel a little muddled in your thoughts as you become influenced by local reputation, hearsay and the thoughts and opinions of friends and family- whose own educational experiences may have been some time ago! Here are our top tips when considering choosing a school for your child:

  • Logistics– travelling a distance to reach the right destination is not unheard of and should definitely not be a barrier to your choice of school but always consider whether the school has facilities which can support you as a family e.g. a before and after school care service, and as they grow a homework club.
  • Facilities and resources– urban locations may take you by surprise in what they are able to offer in terms of facilities and space but also consider your child’s interests or passions you think they may pursue. Always take a look at the quality of resources and the suitability to the age group, these play a huge part in the enrichment of your child’s learning experience.
  • Academic rigour– test results and outcomes for students can of course provide some insight into this but I would encourage anybody to look in greater depth at the curriculum and which aspects the school promotes at the heart of their learning practice. 
  • Enrichment– consider what opportunities there are for your child to enhance their educational experiences, be that specialist teaching, after school clubs or lunchtime activities.
  • Visit– it sounds simple but it really is only by crossing the threshold of a school you get a true feel of what they are like. The ambience and ethos should be intertwined and you will know very quickly whether a school lives and breathes what they say they do!

Two final points which are somewhat ‘be wary’ tips:

  • Reports– official reports from organisations can offer great insights into the practice of a setting. However, these are only ever snapshots and can become quickly out of date or long expanses of time can pass between inspections- I would always say go and conduct your own ‘inspection’ and work out if it suits your child.
  • Reputation– again, reputation can become quickly outdated and based on a memory of a school which no longer exists. New heads, changing teaching bodies and a robust team of governors can play a huge part in transforming the direction and journey of school. Also, as with anything, no two persons’ experience of something will be exactly the same- what suits one will not always suit another. 

Finally, this decision, while not to be made lightly, does not define your child’s entire future, as it did not when you were making some of those initial decisions in parenthood. It is a stepping stone in a great pathway of learning. Embrace it alongside your child and enjoy that journey. Always reflect upon your choices knowing that you have and always will endeavour to do the right thing for your child!