If you are lucky enough to have a choice then how do you choose the right school for your child? How do you also understand all the different types of schools that now exist?
All children aged 5-16 are entitled to a place in a state funded school. If you take up this option then you may have a choice as to where your child goes. You may decide to place your child in an 'independent', 'private' or sometimes called 'public' school. Here we deal with state school choices only.
Schools in England are managed and funded in different ways. There are four main types of school that you will come across; community, foundation,voluntary aided and voluntary controlled.
Community schools are run by the local authority. It is they who decide who is eligible to join the school and have the ultimate say over entry. Foundation or trust schools are run by a governing body and they decide who is eligible to join.Trust schools are run with an outside body, usually a business or charity. Voluntary aided schools are religious or faith schools. Here the governing body decide eligibility to join. Finally, there are voluntary controlled schools, a cross between community and voluntary aided schools.
You will also come across the following titles-specialist schools, academies, city technology colleges, special schools and free schools. Specialist schools are secondary schools that specialise in a part of the curriculum e.g. the arts or maths. These can be useful if your child has an interest or ability in a part of the curriculum. Academies are independently managed schools who work in partnership with the local authority and government. City technology colleges are secondary schools geared towards science, technology and work. These could be a good choice if this is your childs skill base.Special schools may be of interest to you if your child has a special educational need that is a learning or physical disability. A free school is normally a brand new school set up by parents and teachers. They are like academies and are funded in the same way.
Going to a school open day can be a good way to assess if the school is right for your child. Some schools hold them as a way of you having a look around and meeting existing pupils and staff. If a school you are interested in does hold such an event it is good to go and have a look around. If you can, take your child with you, chat to as many pupils as you can so you can understand how they feel about their school, look at work on display and if you can try and speak to teachers. Overall one of the main benefits of visiting a school yourself is to get a feel for the school so that you can determine if you can see your child there. This is mostly about instinct, so do listen to it.
You can also consult league tables and of course Ofsted reports. League tables will show you test and exam results for all schools.They are published annually by the Department for Education. In these reports you will see something called contextual value added (cva) scores. These tell you what progress students have made from the start of a key stage to the end. They also take into account factors like the background of students to help you understand the results. League tables have become controversial to many schools. If academic performance is of vital importance to you then they can be useful. If this is not your main driver then you may want to consider other factors like sport facilities or after school clubs.
You will find all Ofsted reports online.They judge a school according to its overall standards, pupil wellbeing, quality of teaching and learning, how the curriculum is taught and how well the school is led and managed. The scores are from one which is outstanding, to four which is inadequate. As these are based on the findings of school inspectors they can be useful. Do check the date of any inspection however as a school judged to be only 'satisfactory' may have made great improvements since the inspection.
Do check the school website. This will not only contain a lot of information about the school-events, fund raising, PTA but it will also give you a feel for the culture of the school. You should find minutes for PTA meetings, letters to parents which all contain the unique character of the school.
Other parents locally will always have a view on a school. It can be useful to ask people but do weigh this up against your own feelings and research. Neighbours, family and friends may all hold views that could be outdated or based on a bias that is not particularly useful.