How Do YOU Choose A School?

Posted on 20th September 2011 in department for education/ ofsted/ secondary school

With the 31st October deadline for secondary school applications looming, and several recent conversations I have had with people who are moving house NOW in order to be in their desired catchment, I am wondering how people choose their school places.

• Do you just opt for the nearest school?

• Do you go by the Department for Education’s guide which shows the % of pupils at the end of KS4 achieving Level 2 including English and Maths? If so, what percentage do you consider acceptable or unacceptable?

• Do you let your child choose?

• Would you (or have you) move house to get into catchment?

• Do you go by the ofsted report – if so what makes a difference to you?

• If the school you had choosen had just announced that it was now an Academy would that affect your decision?

If you aren’t sure which catchment area you fall in, or your likelihood of being accepted, have you tried the Good Schools Guide interactive catchment finder? Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to find it. 

I would love to hear how and why you have chosen your secondary schools – maybe you had a reason for choosing which I’ve not even thought of!

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  • Reply onlydads 21st September 2011 at 11:57 am

    If it helps CC, I have a theory – and that is take your year six child to variuos schools and let them decide. Or at least influence the decision.

    I found that both my girls had very clear (if different) ideas of what school they wanted to go to – and kids these days do talk with each other and are more able to express their preferences.

    Anya chose her latest school because it had a great big climbing wall in the sports hall – MUCH better than reading endless Ofsted reports in both our books :-)


    • Reply CoffeeCurls 21st September 2011 at 12:10 pm

      Lol I have to hand it to you Bob, no one else has suggested that I judge a school on it’s climbing wall! Good a place as any to start I guess :)

  • Reply NeilNeil 22nd September 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I come at this from a number of angles. First as a parent that has just had to go through the process, second as the Chair of Governors for a Primary School and one that has recently converted to an Academy.

    As a parent we were left with very little “choice” despite the ethos of governments over time being all about choice. The local secondary is under special measures and being combined with another school. The local non-selective boys school is massively over subscribed as are the other “out of catchment” good schools. We applied for a number and were given the choice of one….the failing local school.

    We’re fortunate in that private education was an option for us and that my son actually wanted to go to the private school (which also has a climbing wall… this a pattern?). If he’d wanted to go to the local state school, I honestly don’t know what we would have done. I’m all in favour of kids being involved, but at 11 do you make decisions from the same lens that you would make them say at 16?

    Would we have moved house? I don’t know. Maybe. Possibly. I guess even probably.

    Now from a School’s point of view. We know that Ofsted is a very important factor for many parents. We’re an “Outstanding” school, but it is often the ethos of the school that is more important to parents than the academic performance, particularly I think at Primary school. We try and impress upon potential parents the family atmosphere that we engender and the values of the school community. But the reality is that increasingly parents are choosing based on aspects such as wrap around care. As busy working parents look to find support, the idea of an 8am to 6pm school becomes appealing.

    Finally (and I will shut up soon) on the Academy question. I think the reasons for converting need to be explored before parents can make a decision. The Academy 1 programme was all about improving failing schools. They were given massive investment and support. The Academy 2 programme (aimed mostly at primary schools) was about giving outstanding primary schools freedom and independence. A lot can be learnt by looking at the trend in results over time, the history of Ofsted reports and, of course, parents of kids at the school.

    All in all it was probably one of the most stressful things we’ve been through as a family in recent years. Probably most of it driven by middle class angst rather than the actual situation at hand.

    • Reply CoffeeCurls 22nd September 2011 at 7:10 pm

      Thank you Neil for the time and trouble you took with this comment. Does rather seem as though I need to put ‘climbing wall’ at the top of my check sheet…

      I think your second paragraph where you describe the nightmare scenario of being left with just one option and the option being the failing school, is the situation that so many people are finding themselves in. You (or rather your children!) are very lucky to be able to take the private education route. I’m not in a position to do the same for my children unfortunately.

      I asked the Academy question because although I was under the impression that it is mainly failing schools who are being turned into Academy’s, I’ve noted that the ‘good’ school near me – which has 70% of it’s pupils achieving grades A*-C etc etc – has just become an Academy. This has really thrown me as currently the word Academy is almost synonymous with failing.

      You are so right about it being stressful, when ultimately whether or not a child does well is down to an awful lot more than what school they go to.

  • Reply Loonylis 22nd September 2011 at 7:38 pm

    We are not choosing the secondary school that is closest to us, when the time comes. The one that is closest to us is about 2 miles away. In order to get there my kids would have to walk next to a dual carriageway and cross at least 2 really busy main roads, close to a roundabout, on their own. School transport would not be provided, as we live less than 3 miles from the school. The other school is more than 3 miles away, therefore transport is provided. It’s a really messed up system.

    • Reply CoffeeCurls 23rd September 2011 at 7:35 am

      I’ve heard of that, it’s a very odd system isn’t it. However, what you may find is that you are only offered a place at the school which is closest to you. The problems I’m hearing about aren’t which school parents are choosing, it’s which school they get offered. I hope it all works out for you x

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