Choosing a primary school can be a fraught minefield, filled with worry and scaremongering. Written by a very knowledgeable teacher, this practical guide will take the panic out of the process and help you make informed decisions.
- Locate your home on a map and draw lines (with a ruler; schools round here (SE London) don’t have ’catchment areas’ per se, they operate on the basis of home to school distance measured as a straight line/as the crow flies) to identify the 10 or so nearest primary schools to you. It’s worth nothing that the home to school distances for the current Reception intake are under 400m for some of the Lee/Hither Green schools.
- Visit them, even if the school isn’t ‘outstanding’, is in a different borough, is a church school, is an unpopular school, etc., etc. – look on school websites for info re: visit days. School websites are usually www.schoolname.boroughname.sch.uk
- Use something like this: www.freemaptools.com/measure-distance.htm to get a reasonably accurate measurement of the distance between your home and each of those schools (not the catchment website posted further up!).
- Look in the ‘starting primary school in 2017’ (go to www.yourboroughname.gov.uk and search for starting+school) booklet for the home to school distances of your local 10 schools for this year. Compare your distances.
- Search council minutes for the names of schools vaguely near you that may be in ‘consultation’ re: bulge classes* or permanent expansion. Measure your distance to each of those. – use the search term school+places+planning
- Apply for six schools that you stand a chance of getting into based on distance, size of school and likely expansion. Don’t think that by using fewer of the preferences that you stand a greater chance of being allocated one of those schools; you don’t.
- Remember that children of parents who are interested, intelligent and supportive, are likely to do well at any primary school.
- Believe people when they tell you that there is a lot of movement between National Offer Day and September.
- School isn’t compulsory, education is (but only the term after a child’s 5th birthday).
- Don’t contact the schools expecting them to be able to tell you whether you’ll get in based on your address as most of the admissions are done by the LA (exceptions to this are church schools with parish boundaries as an admissions criteria or academies with weird, made-up criteria).
*This is particularly important if you are in Brockley or Lee where there are zillions of 4-year-olds and new builds but no new schools.
Mrs A is a local mum and primary school teacher. Having lived through the experience of her eldest child missing out on a place at a primary school approx. 700m from her home (this was 2009 and school admissions weren’t as fraught as they are now), she has made it her business to make sure as many parents as possible avoid being allocated a school 2.9 miles/two bus rides away.