Ten Top Tips for Choosing the Right School for Your Child

As a parent who is also working or in business, you can often overlook the very important issue of choosing a suitable school for your child.  This is not because you don’t care or don’t understand the importance of a good education.  It is simply because you are time poor and just trying to cram everything in.  So you think you have done the groundwork to choose the right school for your child but certain important factors may slip under the radar.

Outside of sending your child to a school which has bad teaching, a lack of equipment and the like, I believe all parents would be devastated to know that they are sending their child into an environment where they are mistreated, mocked or even physically bullied on a daily basis.

As a parent you want to know that a solid education, coupled with discipline and safety, are at the heart of the school’s ethos.

To help in your quest, I’ve set out below what I think could help busy parents get it right first time.

1. If at all possible try to live in an area which is well known for its “good schools“.  You will need to know the “school catchment area”.  The “school catchment area” is the area around the school that you must live in to be able to attend that school as a first choice.  This is significant for the “good/outstanding schools” as these catchment areas are usually full of families with school aged children.  So if you are outside the catchment area of your preferred school you are unlikely to get a look in.  The catchment area could be smaller than you think so check with the school first.

2. Have a look on the school website.  Check that the website is updated regularly; that it offers children the opportunity to do extra work online; that the headteacher is involved in the running of the website – a nice smiling face with a “word from the head” is a good sign; and that an informative school newsletter is sent out regularly.

3. Observe the school playground.  Stand a safe distance from the school so as not to cause alarm and if appropriate let a school official know what you are doing.  Look for such things as: how well the children are supervised during breaktime; how the children interact with each other; obvious signs of bullying.  I know you’re busy, but try to do this a few times at different times of the day – it may save you many trips to the school later on.

4. Take your child to see the school with you before you make a decision.  It’s a lot easier for a child to settle into a new school if they have been there previously and had some input in the decision.

5. Forget trying to charm the school receptionist.  The decision of placing a child in a school has been removed from the school and is now the duty of the local authority. The local authority does this through their admissions and appeals department.

6. Work closely with the Schools Admissions & Appeals service.  The Schools Admissions & Appeals department can tell you which schools have spaces now or how long the waiting list is.  You can use this service to decide whether now is the right time to change your child’s school especially if you have just moved home or are thinking of moving.

7. Find out who the school governors are.  School governors effectively make key decisions about the school.  They appoint teachers, decide how the school budget will be spent, agree school policies and act as a “critical friend” to the school.  Look at the backgrounds of the governors.  Do they seem to have a varied past and experiences?  What, if anything, do they stand for? How accessible are they?  You should be able to get this information from the school website.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8. Look at the school Ofsted Report.  This can be found on the internet and is accessible to everyone.   Most parents judge the school entirely on the basis of the Ofsted report.  But this should not be the only tool that parents use when making a decision about the school.  I’ve put this at number 8 to emphasis that I really don’t believe this is the most important factor.  Having said that, the Ofsted report gives a good indication, not only on the current progress the school is making, but it also looks at how likely the school is to improve in the future.  The Ofsted report also has a section that discusses the effectiveness of the governors and the leadership of the school in general – which is very helpful.  This will help you to understand the politics of the school and just how well the school will be able to deal with issues as they arise.  By issues I mean problems that young children struggle with.  In my mind, chief among young children’s struggles is around bullying.  Ultimately, you want to know that if all else fails, your child is at least safe whilst at school.

So it is very important to understand the effectiveness of the school leadership as this may have a direct impact on how the school is able to handle the issues that children are likely to face.

9. Talk to other parents at the school.  Most parents will be happy to share their first hand experience of having a child at that school.  Try to speak to a few parents not just one or two.  Visit the local coffee shop on a warm day straight after school starts.  You’re bound to find lots of mums there relaxing before they start their own day.  They’ll be in a social mood – so go on approach them.

10. Attend the school fair.  Here you can see how all the elements of the school come together.  You will see how the teachers, children, parents and community interact with each other. Everyone’s guard is down and this can give a really helpful insight before making that final decision.

So there you have it, my top ten tips for choosing the right school for your child.  I have four children in four different schools so I decided to work it all out for other parents.

It’s worth mentioning that not all parents (and children) get a place at their preferred school.  If you’re not happy with the school your child is offered you have a legal right to appeal.  You also have the right to educate your child at home, without them going to a school at all.  You can either start the process yourself or get help from a Solicitor.

Well good luck with it all.  Here’s to your child’s happiness…and your peace of mind!

Oh & do feel free to add your own top tips below…

                    

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Rachel Toussaint is a Consultant Solicitor at Rogols Consultancy, Birmingham UK.  She is a human rights advocate especially as it relates to immigration, family law & civic duty.  She is also a consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In her blog she shares legal tips to empower clients to quickly and effectively resolve their legal disputes. http://www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com

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 Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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About Rachel Toussaint
Headed by Solicitor, Rachel Toussaint, we are a dedicated boutique niche law practice specialising in immigration for people who wish to come to the United Kingdom to visit friends or relatives; to study; to work or start a business; to join family members or people who are already in the UK and wish to stay here. We will carry out an initial free telephone assessment of your status and advise you on the best way forward to acheive your desired outcome. We have particular expertise in immigration that involves human rights and European law as it applies to the UK. Call 0121 448 9255 for your free "Immigration Status Check".

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