When it's time to look for a primary school for your child, it can seem very complicated but in reality, it can be painless and if you get it right then your child can enjoy long-term benefits.
What is the catchment area?
The first thing to look at is your catchment school which is the school you get 'assigned' by your Local Education Authority. It's usually your nearest school. However, each school does have a designated 'catchment area.' Check online as your local council will probably have a list or a map you can look at. You'll see what your 'catchment' school is, but you do have the right to apply for others if you prefer.
What should you look for on a primary school visit?
It is essential to go and visit any school you are considering sending your child to, don’t rely on word of mouth, go and see for yourself. What’s right for someone else’s child may not be for yours. Most primary schools will hold open days when you can go and look around. If you can't make them, they will usually show you around in a small group or on your own. If you want to, you can go more than once as schools are generally pleased to show off what they have to offer. Also, go to more than one school so you can get a good comparison.
Take note of what the welcome like, are the office staff approachable and helpful? How does the building look? Is it well-maintained? Does it give off a warm welcome? Are there pictures on the walls and lots of evidence that the pupils are happy and proud of their school?
What's the head like? Does she or he know the children by name?
You’ll also get a good idea of how the kids behave and how the teachers act too. Take note of what’s on the wall? Is it displays of the work they have done and rewards systems? Then finally make sure you pay attention to the safety and cleanliness of the school, what equipment do they have and what are the outside areas like?
You’ll also want to ask some questions while you’re there, some schools might even give you a chance to talk to the older children. But also make sure you ask questions to the teachers. Find out what reading schemes they use, what discipline and reward systems are in place? How does playtime work? Does age separate the children? What is lunch provision? Are there kitchens or is the lunch brought in? Is there a healthy eating policy? What is their anti-bullying policy? Do they have any peer support, e.g., buddy benches, Year 6 'helpers' for reception children in the playground, etc? What does an everyday look like in your child's prospective year? Do they have teaching assistants in every class? Are they full time? How many other adult staff are available to help in classrooms? What extra-curricular children activities are on offer? Is there breakfast or after-school club? Make a note of all these questions and go in fully prepared to ask everything you need to know.