I am writing this to share my experience having to pick a school for my daughters during this pandemic. So when I realised last year that it was time for me to look for a Primary school for my daughters (in my mind I thought I had another year). All the thoughts of how I was going to pick the right Primary school for my daughters?
I had a choice of 6 and you rank them in order of preference so how did I pick during these unprecedented times.
So the no brainer is to visit the Primary schools I was able to only visit one and it was at the end of the school day. So it literally was just a tour of the building with a few questions at the end so i couldn’t get a ‘feel’ of the school. I wanted to see clases in action and interaction between teachers and pupils. To get a real ‘feel’ of the school but that couldn’t happen due to the restrictions put in place for COVID. Overall the tour of the building was OK and we were able to ask questions but left not feeling that it helped me make a firm decision.
I had arranged to visit other schools but with the forever changing rules issued by the government meant that some got rescheduled then cancelled. So the only option was Zoom calls and virtual tours. One school did a Zoom open day which had a good mix of videos and the teachers were engaging. They openly spoke about Black Lives Matter and how they create a representative curriculum. Of course for me that was a big plus for me, I don’t need to explain the benefit for ALL children is to learn about different cultures.
Another point of reference is Ofsted (Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. We inspect services providing education and skills for learners of all ages). I am lucky that I am in an area where most of my closest schools are deemed ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’ with some ‘Outstanding’ areas. One major grip was many Ofsted reports mentioned the percentage of white children in the school. I really did not understand why this mattered and why this was deemed as the standard. Especially as the area I lived in is meant to be extremely multiculturally.
Majority of the schools most recent report was 2014 which is extremely outdated so again I didn’t find these extremely helpful a lot can change in 6 years. But it does give you an idea of how the school was performing and where it needs to improve.
The most helpful thing I found was online mum groups that were specific to my area. Facebook is helpful for this as I could search the names of the schools I was interested in. I could go through all the different comments people had put up. See if there were common complaints that would help my decision. I didn’t find actual schools facebook pages helpful, people tend not to leave negative comments on them. Yes you do want to see what current parents at the school are complaining about.
Of course word of mouth asking around if anyone knows anyone that has been to any of the schools you’re interested in. I done all of the above but the decision was still difficult and I felt I was denied a part of my decision making which was my gut. Only having virtual options made the decision that much harder. I am hoping the next academic intake won’t have to rely so heavily on virtual options to make a decision. But this may be the new normal for a little while.
So my major tips are:
- Start early have an idea of the Primary schools your interested in before September
- Focus on whats the most important factors for your decision e.g after school clubs, extra activities or curriculum.
- Check Ofsted
- Join local parenting groups
- Word of mouth
- No matter what happens you’re doing your best.