Whether you are choosing a first school for your child or moving to a new area following a breakup, the following simple steps will help. If your child is due to transfer to junior or secondary school, your child should bring home details of the procedure for transfer and information on pending open days so that you can visit the schools.
- Ring several schools in your chosen area and ask for a prospectuses and application forms. Find out how long the waiting list is for each one
- Find out whether the school has any admissions criteria e.g. membership of a particular faith or entrance ability test
- Check the class sizes and staff to child ratio. The smaller the classes the better in most cases
- Ask other parents what they think of the school
- Ring and make an appointment to visit the schools that you are interested in, unless they have any pending open days for prospective parents
- Find out about public transport to and from the school and ring your local education office to find out if your child is entitled to help with the cost of transport
- What extra curricular activities are available at lunch times and after school?
- Does the school have a bullying policy and how is bullying dealt with? Be careful of any school that claims not to have a bullying problem. Every school has bullying and the difference between good and bad schools is in their approach to the problem, not turning a blind eye to it
- If your child has special needs, speak to the special needs co-ordinator and find out what extra learning support is available. If your child is academically gifted how are pupils stretched to meet their full learning potential?
- School results are often used a benchmark for good schools. However, you should consider the catchment area, the number of students on roll with special needs and whether your local area operates a selective (grammar) system. Exam results are only part of what a school can offer and you should also pay attention to whether creativity is encouraged along with academic achievement and what pastoral support is offered. Visit the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) website for information on reports and exam results in different schools
Allocation of Places
The criteria for the allocation of places of a school will vary according the local authority and the school's own admissions policy. Usually, it will be based on the following criteria:
- Location, the nearness of your child to the school or that they live within a specified catchment area
- Medical reasons, your child has particular medical reasons for attending a particular school, this does not apply to medical conditions or disability affecting parents
- Siblings, because older brothers or sisters are currently attending the school
- Academic, the school has an entrance test or the school has special status and requires evidence of ability in a particular area, e.g. music, technology, sport
- Social, membership of a particular religion or culture for example
- First Choice applications, where you choose more than one school for secondary transfer some schools may give priority to children who specify them as first choice on the application form
Sometimes children are refused a place which could be on the following grounds:
- They do not meet the admission criteria, e.g. they do belong to particular faith
- They do not have the required academic ability or have failed the entrance test
- The classes are full, you can still ask to be put on the waiting list
- The applications for that year exceeded the number of available places and you did not place the school as first choice, or there is a school nearer to your home
You can appeal against a decision to refuse your child a place and the appeals procedure should have been sent along with the decision. However, you can also contact your local authority for details of how to appeal which will normally involve putting your reasons in writing along with any evidence to back up your case. Your local Member of Parliament may also be able to assist and advice on the appeals process and help you to find a suitable school for your child.