Finding A Primary School
Finding A Primary School
Ralph Lucas (Editor, The Good Schools Guide) gives expert video advice on: How early should I start thinking about a primary school for my child?; How can I find primary schools in my area?; What should I consider when looking for primary schools? and more...
How early should I start thinking about a primary school for my child?
If you're really serious about it, then before conception because the key to finding a good primary school is where you live. Most primary schools are selective on the basis of geography. The good primary schools around here will have a radius of three, four hundred meters within which they accept people. If you're outside that and within the caption of a primary school that you don't like, there is essentially no hope. Choosing where you live becomes the absolute key to knowing whether you'll get a good primary school. The earlier you do that, the better. Doing that when you're pregnant, moving house when you're pregnant is no fun at all. Moving house when you've got a child is a absolute nightmare.
At what age does my child go to primary school?
You have to go to primary school in the year after his or her 5th birthday. My daughter is 4 and a half at the moment. She was born in October. So she will be going to school or will have to go to school in September 2008. But, most of us start school earlier. Most of us will be involved in reception class which starts a year earlier, or maybe the nature attached to the primary school at the same time. But the official starting of school on the whole school curriculum is the September following the 5th birthday.
What should I consider when looking for primary schools?
The first thing to look for is how well supported the school is by its parents, because that really makes a lot of difference to how well a school is able to deal with the varied backgrounds that these children come from. Some will have had a lot of exposure to books and will have been read to by their parents every night. Others will have had lead a relatively lonely and bleak childhood until then, and this isn't the matter of social class. People who are working hard and in a concentrated way, whatever their level in the world, can leave their children in a state where they don't absorb enough to be ready for school. But if you've got a lot of parents involved in a school, then that whole process of socialization, of working well with a school and giving a school the support it needs to get things right, and giving the school the ambition that parents have to do well for each child, will transmit itself to the school and will be part of that school's ethos. So that's a key thing to look for. It's also something which you as a parent can understand and pick up on, whereas the quality of education being given to children at that age is quite difficult if you're not an expert, to understand what's going on. This is because it's a level of understanding that you've mostly forgotten about and you can't talk to the children about what's happening the way you can in a senior school.
What should I look out for when I visit the school?
The first thing to look out for is what the head is like. In a small school, like a primary school, the head makes a lot of difference. Their particular interests will set the whole tone of the school. You don't have to like the head, but you do have to respect them. If you don't, if the head can't command your respect then they won't be running the school well. If they can command your respect then you've got to be happy with the way they're running the school, and their attitudes to academic work or whole child development or the way children are taught will inform the way that the whole school is run. You've got to be comfortable with that. The next thing to look at is the children, because you understand children. You will be able to interpret the way they're looking and feeling and acting, as to whether they are happy, as to whether they are engaged, and as to whether they are excited by what's going on around them. Look at the way they behave and the way the place is kept, and make sure it's something you feel comfortable with. Then, because you are going to be spending the next six or seven years in that company, take a look at the parents. Stand outside the school when they arrive in the morning or when they disappear in the evening and say, is that the lot of people that I want my child spending time with, and I want myself spending time with, over the next six or seven years?
There are no good primary schools in our local area. What can we do?
You can go to private schools, but it's very difficult to get into primary school - a good primary school that's distant from you because they will almost all have criteria based on geographical location. If you're in London and don't have a good primary school close to you, the solution is that before conception, convert to Roman Catholicism, because then you have that whole network of schools, and in London they are good. You can get to a Roman Catholic school which is much further away from you than you can into any secular school. So there are ways around the system, ways of expanding things, but none of them are easy and none work well, and if you're stuck with bad primary schools, you take advantage of religious schools, or you just go private. There is no other way out. There is nothing you can do to get yourself into primary schools any distance from you other than those.