Wednesday, 10 October 2018

STARTING PRIMARY SCHOOL: The Questions to Ask

STARTING PRIMARY SCHOOL: The Questions to Ask
During September, October, November and December is when parents all over the country will be anxiously looking around their local primary schools trying to decide which is best for their child next year. I honestly can't believe that it's me this year, as Isabella starts school in 2019. Those big decisions, that will impact Isabella's whole primary school life, are down to us as parents and I'm feeling the pressure to 'get it right'. Looking around schools is vital to making this decision, as it allows us to get a feel for the school environment and ask any questions we have. All you have to do if you want to look around is ring up the school's office and ask to book in to have a look around as a prospective parent and they should offer you a time/date. When you arrive you'll probably be shown around by the headteacher, but sometimes it will be a deputy head, a teacher or a couple of the older pupils. If it is possible to get hold of the headteacher it is ideal for asking all the questions you have, as they should know all of the answers.
I've looked around a good few schools in readiness for choosing a primary school for Isabella, despite living in a fairly rural area. I'd highly recommend doing this, even if not all of the schools are in your catchment area because it allows you to compare what else there is around you. Also look out for school's open days, which are usually during the autumn term but it is worth considering that these are probably showing the best of the school. That's completely understandable from a school's point of view, but personally I also like to look around on a 'normal' school day to see more of what the day to day school life is like.
If you're not sure what to look for or what to ask when looking around primary schools then below are some of the questions you may want to ask. Don't be afraid to take notes as you look around, especially if you're looking around a good number of schools. 

What are the school day hours?
Are there any extra curricular clubs after school?
Do they do swimming lessons?
Is there a before and after school club?
Which phonic programme do they use?
Is there one year per class?
Do reception free flow between the indoor and outdoor areas?
How many Teaching Assistants are there within the school and how are they utilised?
Do they use any specific intervention programmes?
How is the transition between foundation stage and Year 1 handled within the school?
What computing facilities do they have?
Are there any parent meetings regarding phonics at the start of the school year?
How is homework approached within the school?
Where do the different years spend break and lunch time?
Is there an option between a packed lunch or hot dinner?
What is the catchment area?
Are the children in reception taught cursive (joined up) handwriting to begin with?
Which more structured sessions do reception have during the school day? Phonics? Maths? Reading?
How often do children read with members of staff within school time?
How big is the school?
Is it a requirement to have the school logo on their school uniform?
What school equipment do children need ready for their first day?
Are there any external companies that come in to teach certain subjects?
What are the class sizes throughout the school?
Do they run a creative curriculum?

Looking around schools can seem intimidating and like being 'back at school', but by focusing on what your child is like and what you want their school experience to be like can really help to make the big decision.
Which are the most important questions when looking around a primary school do you think?


Feel free to leave a comment - I love reading every single one :)


Helen x 
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17 comments

  1. Some really insightful questions on this list that you might forget to ask!

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  2. These questions are great! We don't drive, so we only really have three schools to choose fro.. Jenson's nursery isn't attached to a school so I do worry about the transition for him as he's quite a socially anxious child. We looked at our first school last week and it was incredible - I want to go! I hadn't asked some of these questions so I'll definitely ask at a return visit. The second school we looked at was awful in comparison, and it's our nearest one, so I really hope we can get out first choice. We're looking at the furthest one next month and I have a feeling, if we asked Jenson, he'd pick that one as his cousin goes there, but I don't think he'd understand that he wouldn't see him as he's a year older. It's crazy how scary this is. You'd think the level of education would be the same everywhere but our first school is so incredible - creative, lots of outdoor play, guinea pig, interactive lessons, extra pastoral care, great library... It's a 10/10 and the other is a 2. How can schools be so different?

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    1. Aww I still can't believe our babies are starting school next year! It's good that you have a variety of schools to look around, especially if there's such a difference between them. It is crazy how different they can be; I guess a lot of it will be funding but also management and the staff they have teaching there. My fingers are crossed that you get the one you want :)

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  3. Wow that's a lot of questions to think about, I don't even know what I'd be thinking about if I was in that situation x

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  4. I am very lucky that we are well within catchment for a brilliant school and all 6 of my kids have thrived there. I am at the worrying about secondary school stage

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  5. When we looked for our daughter back in 2011, we had an idea of where we wanted her to go. However, she totally fell in love with a different school and we knew we had to trust her instinct and go with that one!

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  6. There are some great tips here. When we were looking at schools for our daughter, I was shocked at how little support and guidance there is available, some of the schools we approached also didn't allow visits or open days so anything to help make the right choice would come in handy.

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  7. really good questions. I think discipline is a good thing to ask about, as well as how involved parents can be. My daughter just started reception, and you just get a feel for the school when you look around

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  8. I think you’ve got them pretty much covered. We got down to two schools who were both offering pretty much the same but it was the outside and sensory play for reception that did it for us. All the kids looked like they were having a lot of fun x

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  9. They're a brilliant set of questiona to ask. I'd never thought of many of them. The school system is very different here in Portugal and we've another 2 years to go until our son starts formal school. But it's no less a scary prospect

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  10. Some great suggestions of questions. My daughter started school this year. We're only just now adjusting to the routine but oh boy does she love school and I'm so glad she does. I think its definitely down to choosing the right school though. When we looked around schools, we just knew the exact one that my daughter would love. Even though it wasn't the one that gave us all the answers we were looking for. We looked around quite a few schools and there was only one that we could really picture her in. It was just so friendly and lovely. We're really glad we chose it.

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  11. Pickle went to the school that I attended - and his siblings so I didn't have to decide which one. These are great questions to ask. Kaz

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  12. My youngest starts school next year too, so we need to register him November. But it's fairly straight forward in Edinburgh, as most kids just go to their catchment school. It's quite difficult to get a place out of catchment, unless you go private. So we just need to go to our catchment school on registration day and sign him up.

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  13. I think you've covered all the bases when it comes to questions about primary schools. It has been a long while since we had to consider this but it is so important to get it right.

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  14. These are great questions to ask. Luckily our school hosted LOTS of evenings for parents to attend that covered pretty much everything and really encouraged parents to get involved. We have quite a small town so lots of parents know each other already which made transitions easier. The school is huge on parental involvement so it’s reassuring to always know what’s happening and who to talk to about certain things.

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  15. It must be am exciting and equally stressful time for parents trying to find the right school and asking the right questions in hopes that school is good for their child.

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  16. That is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
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