It’s weird that the girls were only 3 in the summer and yet we’re already looking into the start of their school career. Next September they will go into Reception class and we have until January 14th to choose our first, second and third choices.
I went on a visit to my first choice school last Thursday and was very impressed, 10 laptops per class, an interactive white board in every class which I saw in action and actually wanted to have a go at myself. There were outside areas for each class, an ‘eco garden’ and a lovely feel to the school that made me wish (for a fleeting second) that I was back there again.
The deputy head took us around and I was far too lively asking far too many questions but were they the right ones? What should I be looking for in the school that will give my girls their first step in the education system? I don’t know about you but I feel this is a huge responsibility and I’d like to think I’m getting it right first time round, I like every other parent out there would like to think I’m giving them the best possible start in life and with the postcode lottery I’m all fingers crossed that we get two places at the above school which is walking distance from our home.
Luckily on my Butlins day out in London the other week one of the other Mum Ambassador is also an Early Education Expert – who better to put my thoughts too? Her name is Rachel and she blogs over at Right From The Start Have a look at her helpful tips she kindly pulled together for me below
Looking for a school
- League tables will only give an indication of academic performance and don’t give a true picture of the school , similarly don’t take an Ofsted inspection as the only deciding factor – always visit the school and get a feel for whether it is right for your child.
- Remember all children are different what is a ‘good school’ for one may not be for another. Think about factors such as is there enough outdoor space if your child is active, is the class size very large if you have a timid child etc.
- Talk to other parents .
- Make a list of the most important elements of a school for your child, we all have different criteria and try to pick the one that has the closest match.
- Look at a wide range of schools, many schools in affluent areas are good but some are only good because they serve more affluent families. Some of the best teachers choose to teach in inner city challenging schools as they want to make a difference and love the challenge. Don’t rule them out because they are traditionally seen as ‘less good’ you may be surprised at the rich and exciting learning experiences they offer.
Good Questions to Ask on your visit
- What have you done in recent years to improve the school ? Look for detailed descriptions rather than talking about aesthetics or meeting targets. A good school will be open and say that they are continually reviewing what they do for the benefit of the children. We have found that ….. so we…….and the results have been …….
- How do you decide what you will teach the children? Do the school follow topics and if so do they stay the same each year or do the children’s interests help to decide? Is learning the same for each child or does it take into account strengths, preferences , learning styles etc.
- How do you encourage children to be well behaved? What are the values of the school regarding behaviour, is it important that they sit still and listen well, is politeness and kindness to others rewarded, are children encouraged to take responsibility etc.
- How will my child be stretched if they are bright or supported if they are struggling?
- How will I know how my child is doing? Expect more than a few parent’s evenings – does it feel as if the school values your input?
- How long have the staff been here? In my experience a school with a high turnover of staff usually means that the staff are dissatisfied with the way in which it is run (this is not always the case as you may have predominantly female staff of childbearing age who are on maternity). On the other foot sometimes a large number of staff that have been there for 20+ years can mean that teaching is a little old fashioned and lacking in new inspirational ideas. Again this is a generalisation as I have worked with some inspirational experienced teachers who have taught in the same school for most of their career – if you meet one their passion for teaching will be immediately evident.