- Education and Science
Local Primary Schools
The best local schools awards
We often get asked what are the best local schools in a particular area and the reasons why a certain school is better than another. So, we thought we would put this question back to our website users and find out what they thought of their children’s schools and what made them the best local schools. After a few weeks of collecting data we collated the information and found some interesting results. Want to know what fellow parents think makes the best local schools? Then read on…
- In first place, our parents went for the quality of teaching. This may seem an obvious choice but it isn’t always possible to know which schools offer the best teaching until your child is actually in a school. So, it is always useful to ask other local parents of children in schools to find out what the teaching is like and therefore what you can expect for your child.
- In second place in our best local school awards, our parents went for the availability of after school clubs. These clubs provide an important resource to parents who work full time and commute to and from work as well. It isn’t always economical or indeed possible to give up work or work on reduced hours every day, so very often these clubs are important to families looking to place their children in schools.
- In third place, our parents chose school facilities as a barometer of the best local schools in the UK. Facilities range from the quality of the buildings to the catering services to the parking and sports pitches. Although the parents use very few of the facilities personally, they want what is best for their child, and understand that better facilities usually mean better schools.
- In fourth place in the best local schools awards we have OFSTED reports. We would expect to have seen these come higher up in the rankings, but, OFSTED inspections are not carried out very often in schools, and the children of most parents are already in the school when the inspection is taking place. It would be very rare for a parent to withdraw their child from a school as a result of a poor OFSTED inspection, hence this not being higher up the list!
- Last, but by no means least in our awards for the best local schools is the reputation of the school itself. Parents want to know their children are in good hands, and moreover that the choice they have made for their child is the right one. So, school reputation was considered the 5th most important factor for parents when deciding on the best local schools.
There are over 24,000 local primary schools in the UK, meaning there is a huger choice for parents to make when looking at the local schools and deciding which one is the best bet to send their children. The feedback from our recent survey gives an indication as to what other parents think about when considering primary schools for their children.
The 5 features of the best primary schools
We all want our children to go the best primary schools and we all want them to have the best education. But what makes some schools better than others, and what are the common similarities between the best primary schools? We have come up with a list of the top 5 features of the best local primary schools to make your decision on where to send your child that much easier.
- OFSTED report - The best primary schools have the best OFSTED ratings. Of course they do! This may seem obvious, but it’s a good place to start when measuring the varying quality of primary schools. OFSTED rate schools from 1 (Outstanding) to 4 (Needs Improvement), the best primary schools obviously sit at the top of this scale.
- Teaching – the best primary schools have the best teachers. This is a bit self-fulfilling in reality, because the best primary school teachers are attracted to the best primary schools, which in turn makes the schools themselves better. You may know of local schools which have good or bad reputations, and these reputations tend to stick, mainly because of this very thing. Moreover, the teachers at the best primary schools are less inclined to leave their post as the chances of them finding a better job are slim. So, if you find a school near you with a lot of long standing teachers, chances are the school is a good one.
- Facilities – the best primary schools have the best facilities. When we look at the facilities of local primary schools, there are a lot of different things which we can consider, and not all of it is important to everyone. Think about the sports facilities, the catering facilities, and the school buildings. Generally these are the three biggest considerations people think about when they search for a school. The best primary schools always have the best facilities to work with.
- Location & Transport – location is a massive factor when you choose a primary schools, but the best primary schools usually have the best transport links. It isn’t much use choosing a school with no bus stop within 2 miles if you are going to need to use a bus to get there. Rural primary schools will not always have good transport links, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t good schools. The local roads and transport are not their fault. In urban areas, however, the best pupils and the best teachers will be attracted to the primary schools with the best transport links. So if you are looking for primary schools in urban areas, remember the best ones will have the best transport.
- After school care – last on our list, the best primary schools will usually have the best after school clubs. If you need your child caring for after the 3 – 3.30 closing time of most primary schools then you will need to consider before and after school clubs. Generally, these are held at the primary schools, at a local nursery/play centre, or not at all. The best primary schools host their own breakfast and after school clubs giving you confidence that you child is going to be in the safest possible hands.
Every parent looking to send their child to school for the first time needs to consider the relative qualities of different schools and how they relate to their own circumstances and the needs of their child. All schools are different, but the best primary schools all have a few things in common. Be sure to consider these things when looking at primary schools so you make the best choice for your child.
8 Top Tips to Find Local Schools
Finding your child’s first ever school can be a little bit daunting. It is a big decision to make and will shape your child’s development for the next 7 or 8 years. So just how do you go about making this choice?
The first thing you need to do is make a shortlist. The majority of parents will base this shortlist on a radius around their house. Some will be left with a choice of 1, some with a choice of up to 10. Wherever you are on the scale, it is important to add these 8 questions to your analysis to find the best local schools.
- Know the admission criteria – this may seem obvious, you apply and you are accepted or rejected. However, school admission criteria runs much deeper than that and it is well worth checking out the rules beforehand. A church school, for example, will prioritise local baptised children over non-faith children who live 10 miles away. Don’t waste one of your schooling options on an unrealistic choice.
- Check how far from your home it is – drawing a radius on a piece of map software to find local schools is fine, but how accessible is the school. 3 miles in a straight line may be more like 5 miles down a country road! Think about your walk to school. That 20 minute walk on a warm June morning might sound blissful, but will it still be the same in mid-January when it is cold and dark?
- What are the public transport links like around it – if you are relying on public transport to get your children to school, then consider the details. Is there a bus, tram or tube stop nearby? Can you park your car nearby if you are driving? You will also need to check the times during both summer and winter of any public transport you intend to use to make sure it is viable.
- What secondary schools does it supply – you may already know this, you may not have thought about it yet, but it is important when you set out to find local schools for your children that you consider where they may go to secondary school. Remember, your children will have made friends and will probably be keen to follow those friends onto secondary school rather than cut ties and go in the opposite direction.
- What is the school’s OFSTED rating - OFSTED is the single most important barometer of a school’s quality and ability because it is a standardised report of the operations of a UK School. You can see OFSTED ratings of any UK Primary school here, helping you choose the best local school for your child, not just the most convenient.
- Does the school have a good catering service – will your child be taking food with them, or will you be availing of the school’s own kitchen? If it is the latter, make sure the quality is adequate and that your child gets the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn.
- What are the class sizes – class size is important when you set out to find local schools for your child – too large and the teaching becomes diluted, too small and the classes often get merged with other year groups, or your child may not make as many friends as you would anticipate. This is a personal choice but needs to be considered.
- What after school clubs are available – if you need before or after school childcare or want your child to take part in sports after school then you must consider the availability of these clubs and the quality of them. Working until 5.00 p.m. is absolutely fine and can be continued, provided there is some after school facility on site or through school transport.
So when you set out to find local schools, remember to make yourself a list of local schools, set out your criteria from our recommendations and your own personal choice, and use these to score each one. Your process of finding a local school for your child will be simple!
Getting in to the local primary schools of your choice
You may already know which local primary school you want your child to go to, you may have no idea. You may have only just started looking or you may be on the verge of making a choice. Wherever you are at, it is important to ensure you have all the knowledge at your disposal to make the right decision.
So how do you go about choosing and what criteria are local primary schools using to make decisions as to who to offer places to?
- Decision makers - Local primary schools themselves do not decide who does and does not come to their school. This decision is taken at local authority level, so the school will have no influence in their intake save for trying to attract local children through open days and parent meetings.
- Religion – many local primary schools in the UK are denominational. That is, they follow a faith, usually because they are next to a church or in the parish of a church. As a result, these local primary schools will use faith as a key part of their entry requirements – usually in fact the number one item on the list for a faith school is acceptance into that faith. So if you have a Catholic school on your doorstep and you want your child to go there, then there is a good chance they will want your child to have been baptised into the Catholic faith.
- Locality – it may seem obvious, but local primary schools want local children. Next on the agenda for local authorities making decisions is their home address. If two children are vying for the same school place with identical backgrounds, then the one that lives in the school’s catchment area will get the place before one that does not. This is important to local primary schools because they are concentrated in residential areas in order to serve the needs of a community, unlike secondary schools which are less concentrated and serve a wider community as the children are much older and have the ability to travel there independently.
- Siblings – local primary schools, as the centres of the communities in which they exist, will always favour family members over non-family members. So if an applicant has an older brother or sister in a school, then they are more likely to be accepted in a school than an applicant without a sibling at the school. This doesn’t mean that children without brothers or sisters will not get into the school of your choice, but it is worth considering in smaller communities where the primary schools are often quite small.
So whichever local primary schools you are considering for your child, it is always important to remember the chances of them getting accepted to go there will be influenced by many different factors, not just whether or not it is down the road from your house. It is always worth speaking to the school first and getting some input into how their selection criteria works. Every school will have a list of criteria which you can see to help you make the right choice.
Who are OFSTED and why are they so important?
There is a lot of debate and some confusion surrounding OFSTED and its value in determining the quality of primary schools in the UK, so who exactly are OFSTED and what role do they play in telling parents the difference between local schools.
OFSTED are the Office for Standards in Education, and are a branch of the Department for Education within the government. They are responsible for defining levels of quality in schools, childcare facilities, teacher training and even adoption. Their breadth of responsibility is therefore immense making them a hugely important part of the education sector.
So how do OFSTED go about measuring the quality of primary schools? Well, there are 2 key things they do for each and every school – they conduct inspections; and they provide a report with a grade, much like students get graded on the quality of their own work.
The Inspection – when inspecting primary schools, the current OFSTED system requires them to visit for a period of 2 – 3 days which is generally carried out every 3 years or so. Although the school will therefore be aware of the general timing of an inspection, they will only be given a couple of days’ notice to prepare for the inspection, ensuring it is as fair and accurate as possible. Every school is treated in exactly the same manner making the system consistent between schools. Once the OFSTED inspection has taken place, the examiners will prepare a report which will then be published on their website for all to see.
Insert image of report
The Report – OFSTED grade schools on a sliding scale from 1 (Outstanding) to 2 (Good) to 3 (Satisfactory) and 4 (Inadequate). Within grade 4, the OFSTED inspectors also have the option to place the school into what are known as “Special Measures” meaning urgent improvement is required. In this instance, the next inspection will not wait 3 years, the school will instead be continually monitored to ensure the improvement is swift. Assistance is given to schools in special measures by local authority and OFSTED themselves to assist in bringing the school back up to a decent standard.
Each report details the score at the last inspection and the score at this one, so parents can see if the school is improving or getting worse. It also offers a series of pointers as to how the school can improve in order to reach the next grade up. This is important for parents to consider when choosing schools for their children as the scale only has 4 grades, yet the variance between schools can be much bigger than this. A pair of local schools, for example, which both have a grade of 2 won’t necessarily be exactly the same quality and standard. Within the report is the detail showing exactly what was good and bad about the school and why it isn’t in grade 1, which can give parents a much more detailed insight into which primary school is better for their child.
The power of OFSTED is obviously broad ranging and they provide an important service to UK schools and the parents of children which attend. They are the sole method parents have of gaining an independent view of a school; and being able to fairly compare one school against another.
Finding the best schools near me
Parents often ask us how they should go about finding good local schools. For many looking for the first time, there seems a lot of questions to ask, and limited places in which to find the answers. This article is designed to help you find the knowledge you need to make sure you pick the right primary school for your children, even if you think there is too much information to learn and not enough places to find the answers!
So, here’s our definitive guide to finding the best schools near me -
- Ask other local parents – if you already live in the area where you are hoping to send your child to school, then hopefully you will know some parents of local children who attend the various schools. Your first port of call should be to ask them for their advice about the schools, and speak to the children, they are surprisingly honest when it comes to sharing information! If you don’t live in the area already, see if you can check some local Facebook groups or parents groups relating to schools near me. There are plenty of forums for discussions on the subject.
- Look at OFSTED reports – OFSTED reports give you a great insight not just into the individual schools near me, but allow comparison between schools due to the scale being universal. Remember, there is much more to the OFSTED score than just the number, so take the time to read the report, find out if and how the school has improved, and what recommendations the inspectors have put in place to make the school better. OFSTED reports are a great insight into the quality of primary schools.
- Go to the school open days – all primary schools near me hold open days for their prospective intake to call in and take a look around. This is your chance to get an idea of the school day, the feel of the classrooms, meet the teachers, and view the extra facilities like sports and play areas. School open days will help you in more than any other way as you can see and hear first-hand what is good and bad about a particular school. There are often pupils in attendance too, so don’t forget to ask them their opinion too!
- Check the local press – local newspapers and magazines will often have stories, articles and advertisements about the local schools near me, and are a very easy place to go looking for information about primary schools. These articles are usually informative and well written (as they are done so by professional journalists) and should be unbiased. They will give you a good insight into what the schools near me are really like!
- Go on the schools websites – most primary schools near me have their own website. Don’t judge a school based on the quality of their site – this is never a good barometer as the school has had the site made by an outside source. Judge the school on the website content – there will be lots of information on there about the school, the curriculum, the out of school activities, the catering and the teaching staff and many other things, but a school leadership team that has put effort into making their site great to attract the best children probably puts effort into all areas of the school as well, making this a good barometer of quality.
Looking for schools near me and making the right choice is not easy, but with a little effort the process can be both straightforward and enjoyable. Using our advice should help you make the right choice in the long term for your child.
How to search primary schools near you
One of the most important decisions you will make on your child’s future is to find the right primary school for them to continue their learning journey. So the search for primary schools can be a tough one. Sure there will be primary schools near to your house, but are they the right ones for your child? Do they tick all your criteria for sending your child there, and will your child leave ready for the demands of secondary education?
When you begin to search primary schools for your child, one of the biggest factors will be the quality of that school. The universal rating for schools in the UK is the OFSTED report, a government initiative designed to grade all schools on the same scale, thus allowing parents to see the relative differences between 2 or more different schools. In this context, it allows you to search primary schools with the best OFSTED ratings to decide where your child should go. Remember when you are looking at these reports to read the contents as well as looking at the numbers. Each primary school is given an overall score between 1 and 4, however this doesn’t paint a complete enough picture. It is important to consider the whole report and how it relates to your decision, as not all schools who score a 1, 2, 3 or 4 are the same as one another.
The next thing to consider when you search primary schools around you is their location. Closest is not necessarily best, even though it may be the most convenient for you! Remember, when you search primary schools near to your house, you are doing so for your child’s benefit, not your own. The best advice is always to go and look around local primary schools. Find out when the open days or open evenings are, and make the effort to call in and get a feel for the learning environment, picture how your child might fit in at that primary school. Only then will you really know if that is the right primary school for you.
So your search for primary schools has gathered pace. You have checked out the OFSTED scores, you have visited some local schools, and you have narrowed down the search. You now need to consider the criteria by which your child will be accepted into the local primary schools. It is no good having done all your research that you decide upon a school which is out of reach because of location or faith. So, check with the local schools when you are searching what their entrance criteria are. If they are a faith school, check what faith it is and whether they require a baptism or christening certificate. If they are in an area full of new build properties, check what their intake level is and how far their catchment area spreads. Generally, it isn’t a good idea to search primary schools in new build villages if you do not live in the area, as these villages are usually populated with families with young children. Remember to search primary schools which are realistic to your child’s criteria, not just the one you think would be best.
The search for primary schools can be a big challenge, but in reality there are only a few small things to consider. Think about this from the start of your search for your child’s first school and you will save a lot of time and effort in the long run. The search for primary schools doesn’t have to be a tough task!