How to choose the best school for your child

Look beyond the brochures to find out just how to choose the best school for your child

Look beyond the brochures to find out just how to choose the best school for your child - Credit: Getty Images

Choosing a school for a child is such an exciting time for everyone. Gone are the days when parents would be forced to frogmarch their offspring to the lacklustre junior school or bad reputation comprehensive now there’s choice - plenty of it, from glossy prospectuses to smart websites - and that in itself can make the choice a little overwhelming.

First step is to find out what schools are in your area and find out the admissions criteria for those you’re interested in - the local council will be able to help you with this. You can also apply to schools outside your local area through your own local council.

You can find out more about a school by:

Visiting the school and attend an open day - most schools have these and will publish details on their website

Reading the school’s most recent Ofstead Reports

Checking school league tables, which include exam results

Talking to other parents about what they think of the school

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Schools must include in their website:

How much money they get from taking underprivileged children (the ‘pupil premium’), what they do with it and the effect it’s had

Curriculum details

Admission criteria

Behaviour policy

Their special educational needs policy

Policy on disability

Links to Ofsted reports

Links to performance data

The school’s latest Key Stage 2 and 4 attainment and progress measures

You can also get advice about choosing schools from your local council. All councils have teams to help parents get their children into schools.

All schools have admissions criteria to decide which children can be allocated places.

Admissions criteria are different for each school.

For example, schools may give priority to children:

Who have a brother or sister at the school already

Who live close to the school

From a particular religion (for faith schools)

Who do well in an entrance exam (for selective schools eg grammar schools or stage schools)

Who went to a particular primary school (a ‘feeder school’)

In care or being looked after (all schools must have this as a top priority)

What is the most important thing I can do?

Take on board your child’s comments and opinions.

Schooldays after all, are supposed to be the happiest of your life. It is the youngsters who will be spending most of their time at school. If it looks right and feels right, then it more than likely will be, but if your child isn’t going to be happy there then all the agonising about facilities and results just won’t be worth it.

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