Choosing A School

Boo is now 4, so I have just embarked upon the exciting journey of choosing a primary school for her. And I think it needs to be exciting, as this is a huge milestone. Now, I say I’ve just embarked, which means I’ve been to the school I was very much leaning towards most before the round of visits commenced, and the truth is that along with just embarking, I’ve also just completed this part of the journey! Yep, application was submitted last night, as I did love the school that much – phew! I’m not one to hang around!

classroomYesterday morning, I sat in a school hall, with a fair few other parents, listening to a headteacher explain his school. Telling us what’s so special and different about his domain.

He didn’t really talk about results, academia, homework, though of course he did explain the core subjects, learning objectives and curriculum. He actually skimmed over SATs, pointing out that all of the schools in the local area perform well at those, so why bang on about that? He’s right, of course. No, he wanted to talk to us about how he wanted to make the children in his school enjoy every day there, shape them to be confident and independent individuals and have fun and enjoy their educational experience. This was what I wanted to hear. I don’t know that this was the priority for every other parent sat there. Some may have wanted more results shared, clear indications of the children’s academic lives, I’m not sure. But for me, I was looking for an environment that allows my daughter to further develop her thirst for knowledge, her confidence in making and maintaining friendships, continue to encourage her self-belief and positive outlook on life.

He talked about something that really struck a chord with me. They have something there called ‘Making A Difference’. The pupils are encouraged to make a difference. Now, this may be anything, from wanting to help out a local charity with a cake-bake, through to writing to our local MP or the Prime Minister if they’ve a burning issue that they want to address. The point is that they are emboldened to believe that they can make a difference in the world. That what they do does count and they can do and be anything that they want to be. Before Boo was even born, I knew that as a parent, I wanted to work each and every day towards her being happy and confident and believing that she could do whatever she wanted to do in life. I’ve expressed this quite strongly to the Husband (you know him – fabulous, I adore him, but hugely pessimistic which kinda lends itself to a resigned way of thinking rather than sky’s the limit thinking!). He hopes that the children will adopt my ways rather than his! This school will definitely back me up.

The school itself? Woodland to go and explore in and carry out their scientific experiments (they’ll often come home dirty, I’m told!), every classroom is open plan, and books and mini libraries line the corridors leading to these open plan spaces (I know of a school that scrapped their library, because apparently iPads are the new books, so I need the reassurance of seeing books aplenty), and our tour was conducted by a year 6 boy who quietly informed us that ‘personally, I think this school is amazing’ – bless him!

It’s funny, but the whole time I was there, and indeed in the entire run up to this process, so I guess the last four years, I was thinking about my daughter and how she’d fit into a school like this. That’s natural, I suppose. But when I got home, for the first time I considered Little Man, too. As clearly, wherever Boo goes, he will follow. This is a decision I’m making for both of my children, and actually, I think it’s more important to think about Little Man. I feel that Boo will do well wherever she goes. She has an aptitude for school it seems, judging by her pre-school progress. She loves to learn, is very sociable, keen to help others and never breaks a rule (at pre-school that is – home is an entirely different story…!). I’m confident she’ll be fine. But Little Man, well, who knows? Truth be told, at just 13 months old, it’s a difficult one to call! His personality is definitely different to his sister’s, but I figure that if I work on the assumption that this school is all about engendering a strong sense of self and encouraging learning through play and activities, it’s an ethos that I can fully support, so he should do well there.

So yes, I believe we’re sorted. It’s just that long wait that I’ll be ridiculously impatient about now to find out whether she does have a place there for next year. I’ll be keeping everything that I have crossed, as my heart and gut are telling me this will be good for my children.

What about you? Are you in this boat, too? If you’ve chosen in years gone by, how easily did you make your decision?

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23 thoughts on “Choosing A School”

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    Certainly a sense of satisfaction to get the application in. From my experience, the headteacher creates the tone of the school. At the primary school my children go/went to we’ve experienced the effect of three headteachers. Each time the school has changed emphasize noticeably. I think we’ve been lucky and are surrounded by really good schools, so the choice has been easy. I hope Boo is very happy at her new school.

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      Yes, I think you’re totally right. And the tone at the school is great, at the moment. I did you with asking him whether he had any plans to leave! Glad your choices have worked out well, too x

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    Sounds like a lovely school. Well done on making your mind up so quickly. I think the head is very important for a school. It makes me kind of nervous about the fact that my son’s school’s head is retiring this year.

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      Thanks, I was so pleased with it, and we’re within catchment, so hopefully all will be well. Yes, I think the Head does make the real difference in a school. Hope your new Head is another good one then.

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    Confidence in your head is a great starting point and I hope Boo gets a place. At the new school my children go to the head is amazing, he knows all the children and their parents. He instils discipline in them without being harsh. They have thrived and come on leaps and bounds since we moved. Oddly their old school was rated outstanding when we left and the new school only rated as satisfactory, yet in the seemingly poorer school they have achieved more than we could’ve hoped for. We had a gut feeling when we moved that it was a good school, and my gut is rarely wrong 🙂

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      That’s so brilliant for your children, and I think you’re so right to concentrate on the feeling of the school and your gut instinct, rather than paper reports. They just can’t convey the whole story.

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    We didn’t have much of a choice (village school) but I got wind of an open day about a year before we had to apply when I was also considering home ed so I thought I’d see the alternative. And I fell in love. It was based on the gut feeling of the school, and the children (even four and five year olds) who were happily telling visitors about the different things in their class because they loved school so much. I didn’t go to any evening talks or meet the head before applying (the first head left at Easter of MG’s first year; her replacement sadly didn’t last a year; then there was a temp head who had been co-head in the past who pulled everything back together after 2nd head’s loss; and the 4th head started this Sept as MG started her third year at the school!) but the whole ethos has kept despite staff changes and you could really see that the school cares about the children more than anything. DG has just started and no regrets we didn’t home ed, they’re getting the sort of education I wanted anyway 🙂 Fingers crossed for you, and I hope it all goes well.

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      So pleased it all worked out well for you. Great to immediately fall in love with a school, as it’s so very reassuring. Like you, I just know this is where I want my children to be, and though I know I’ll be one of those parents really upset when she goes next year, I’m also really excited for her as I know she’ll love it.

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    I chose the town we live in here in the US purely because of the local school. The headmaster gave me a personal tour as well when I went to see it last year. They have a huge library and really emphasize reading but also have ipads and computer lessons…as well as violin lessons which began in kindergarten. Plus a real caring atmosphere. The great thing was my kids automatically had places when we moved into the district!

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      A great reason to choose a town, and it’s lovely when you just know that a school is the right one. Yes, reading and books are a very reassuring sight and you do get a feel about atmospheres.

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    We made the decision to send Roo (and hopefully Tigger) to a school on the edge of our catchment area. Whilst the extra 10min walk may not always be welcomed I’m so pleased we chose the school we did. The school is like a family, encouraging the children as I f they were their own and Roo has gone from strength to strength there. I would advise to take as much opportunity to partake in parental activities when time allows, to see their face when you come into school for crafts or a sing song is simply magical

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      This is actually not out closest either, but I just know it’s worth that extra journey, like you. Yes, I definitely want to get really involved, thanks x

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    We never had a choice, due to high birth rate and high competition for places it was literally the nearest one. I would have chosen differently. I still wish I could take my daughter out and I fear for my son too if our experiences are anything to go by so far. There is a new head in place from January so I hope with all my heart that things will change. If I were in your situation
    I’d be knocking down the doors of that school-the head sounds spot on. I really hope you get your wish-it’s a long wait!

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      It is such a long wait! We are in catchment, though it’s not our nearest school. It should be fine, though, going on previous years catchments. I know I’m fortunate to have a choice, and I really hope that your new Head brings in the changes that I know you’d dearly love to see.

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    I just wrote a post on exactly the same subject! (http://andthenthefunbegan.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/choosing-your-childs-first-school/). The school you have chosen sounds amazing! You are so lucky to have such a great school in your catchment. Not to say that we don’t have good schools where I live but I haven’t ‘fallen in love’ with any of them yet. Our catchment school seems to be all about the children’s emotional well-being, security, free play and learning through problem solving. None of which is a bad thing. I just didn’t feel excited about the place but that could change – I don’t know if its possible to always pick up on how good a place might be through the snapshot of an open evening/20 minute walk round. I do love the thought of encouraging the kids to ‘make a difference’ in the world though – what a brilliant idea! Almost seems American to me – as each American is taught that they could grow up to be president if they put their mind to it, us Brits seem more reserved and modest in our outlook, but why shouldn’t we encourage our kids to excel?!

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      Exactly – we should! I’m fortunate that I got the gut feeling there, and from just popping over and reading your post, I’ve no doubt you’ll make a great decision, too x

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    Applying for schools was the hardest thing I ever did. I loved all the schools in catchment, but hate we send them when they are four. I became a parent governor so I can keep voicing parents concerns over Micheal Gove’s – they just aren’t the same. I love the process and am happy to have the family involved with the school. Hope you get Boo a place at your first choice, it sounds lovely.

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      Yes, I think 4’s too young, too. Fortunately, Boo’s birthday is early October and Little Man’s is start of September so they’ll be amongst the oldest. The school does make me feel comfortable, and they encourage plenty of parental involvement. I’d already said to my husband that once I’ve a little more time when Little Man starts there, I plan to try to get on the PTA.

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