Society today values academic achievement more than ever, and success in life can be defined by exam results and university placements. So, it’s become more important, and more challenging, than ever to find the right school for your children.
Whether you are settled where you live, or whether you are willing to move in order to get your children into the catchment area of a good school, it can be difficult to find comprehensive information.
A good first source is the http://www.gov.co.uk website, which has information on subjects including admission criteria, application procedure and waiting lists. This website will also help you to find your local authority’s information on applications, Ofsted reports, league tables, exam results, special educational needs policy and curriculum. This works well if you know what location you are looking for.
It’s sometimes helpful to look beyond the Ofsted reports, which can be unrevealing, and to consult the Ofsted Parent View website for a wider range of opinions.
A more comprehensive source of information if you are undecided on location is a ‘schools map’ type website. Here, local primary, secondary and independent schools are all displayed with Ofsted ratings and catchment area as you hover your mouse over a map. You can then dig down for more information including school league tables, transport links, local amenities, points of interest and even houses for sale in the area.
If a school has converted into an academy, it’s often possible to find ‘pre-academy’ ratings on a school map website; you can then compile a shortlist of possibilities to help you make your final decision.
Here are our some of our top tips for navigating through the school selection process.
- Remember you have to supply a list of choices of primary school—The Good Schools Guide advises parents to include at least one where you are virtually sure of getting a place, even if it isn’t you first choice. Otherwise, you risk being offered an undesirable, under-subscribed school some distance away.
- Bear in mind that becoming an academy will not necessarily improve a school’s standards. In 2017, research by the Education Policy Institute found the lowest performing primary and secondary schools were in academy groups.
- If you are looking for a grammar school, remember they do not all have ‘grammar’ in their name. Likewise, many schools with ‘grammar’ in their name are actually fee-paying independent schools.
- If you think you can’t afford a private school, enquire about means-tested bursaries or scholarships. Almost a third of pupils educated in the private sector receive financial assistance.
- If you think your child is educationally gifted, ask for the school’s policy on gifted pupils, and contact the charity Potential Plus UK (formerly the National Association for Gifted Children) for help and advice.