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Primary School visits: applying, visiting and getting ready...

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

I wrote this blog in 2019 - BC (Before COVID), however much of it still applies. I have since created my online bundle: THE BIG LEAP: Real School Readiness (Currently 50% off!), which takes you through the whole starting school process and transition. Click the link to find out more about it.

From the minute your child is born you’ll be offered advice and opinions left right and centre but by the time your child is ready to start school you will have learnt that the number one place to go for direction is your gut. Your parental instinct. This is to be heavily relied on when you’re choosing your preferred schools- it needs to be listened to above and beyond Ofsted reports and hearsay.

You know your child and when you visit a school you will likely get a 'vibe' as to whether it will meet their needs and suit their interests, personality and character. HOWEVER the weight of the decision (if you have much choice) can weigh heavily. Therefore it is also a good idea to have a few key questions up your sleeve to help cut to the core to help make your decision.

Gaining Perspective

You may also want to dig deeper and find people and parents with knowledge of the school. This can always be tricky because you will get people with very different opinions. Everyone's expectations and experiences are different - as are their children. I would always trust those who give a balanced view - those who can tell you the things they love and the things they aren't so keen on, so that you can decide if you feel it is aligned with you and your expectations. Also ensure you talk to those with recent experience as school can change!

Questions to ask Primary schools are generally lovely, nurturing places with staff who go above and beyond. It would be hard to find somewhere truly awful but equally, it is important to find the right one for your child.

I get asked every year what sort of questions to ask when visiting schools so I have drawn up a comprehensive list that is part of the Big Leap Bundle. These questions will help you weed out what is really important to you. The things that aren't included on Ofsted reports or school websites. By no means expect to ask them all but choose those that stand out as most important to you and your child and, just ask away!

One key thing to consider or ask is how many siblings the school are expecting to provide places for. Siblings get priority so if the school have thirty places and are expecting twenty-nine siblings then there will be 1 space available. It might be worth prioritising a different school but that is up to you. The Application Process

When applying for your schools, you should put down in order of preference (considering distance/ sibling rule and which you like the best) and fill out all of the choices.

Many of you may not actually have much of a choice as school places can very much be a postcode lottery but it is important to visit a few schools so that a) you’re making an informed choice and b) because you absolutely should put down ALL available choices. I’ve heard so many people say ‘I’m only putting the school that I want and if I don’t get it I’ll appeal’. The school will not be able to admit an extra child on the basis of ‘but it’s not fair’.

Unless the school is private or run independently to the local authority, the schools do not actually receive your application. It has nothing to do with them. It is all managed by the Local Authority and worked out depending on the list of priorities (check your local authority website who will publish this list). If you don’t get a place at your number one school (because there were lots of siblings and maybe a couple of 'looked after' children and a few that live closer), then you may well find that you have no grounds for appeal as those children all deserve their places.

You will then have needed to have put a second choice and so on and so on. I know of people who only put their number one choice and when they didn’t get it they got a place at the least popular school....very far away. One family had to get four buses. They completely ruined their chances of getting a better choice nearby and took an unnecessary risk. Putting a second, third and fourth choice is not the same as saying “I don’t mind if I don’t get my first choice” but you are making sure you don’t get a really terrible choice, or worse still- no school at all.

If you want a lot more support with this process do check out my Big Leap Course Bundle here!

Currently 50% off!

You can also share this blog with any other parents you know embarking on this huge milestone.

Good Luck!


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