How to choose your child’s school during a pandemic – 9 top tips

For most young people October 31 is synonymous with Halloween and going ‘trick or treating’. But for parents with children who are due to move up to secondary school next September, the end of October is the cut-off date to apply for secondary school places.

“This is a really important time for families, and they need to take time to make the right decision for their child,” said Ruth Sparkes, MD at schools marketing firm, EMPRA.

Ruth added; “In normal times, before deciding which schools to apply for, parents would visit the schools that they are interested in, but we’re not in normal times and the annual open events and tours that schools would normally run are close to impossible this year.”

Although most children are given a place at their parents’ first choice school, this is not always possible if there are more applications for a school than there are places available.

Most councils have an over subscription criterion, and strongly advise families to provide preferences for three different secondary schools, they say this provides families with the best chance of getting their child into a school of their choice.

It is really important that parents apply by the deadline of 31 October 2020. Applying after this deadline may significantly affect what’s offered.

Top tips for choosing a school for your child 

1. Visit the schools’ websites that you’re interested in, and make sure you take a good look around it and start making notes, list any questions you may have – looking at the website – what does the school ‘feel’ like?

2. Think about your child, how they learn, where they excel and what they want. And of course make sure to discuss the choices with them.

3. When you’ve made a shortlist, visit the school website again, there may be a ‘virtual’ event or an online Q & A session that you can get involved with.

4. Organise to speak with the headteacher or head of year 7 (this might be via video or telephone) – ask as many questions as you need to, it’s a big decision and you need to make sure that you are well informed. Many schools have the email addresses of senior staff on their websites, they will be happy to help.

5. See if you can speak to students at the school – there may be an online video session that includes the head boy and head girl. Remember that every child is different so it’s important to choose the right school for your child.

6. Have a look at the school's prospectus to check that your views on education match the school's ethos.

7. Read the school’s most recent Ofsted report, not just the headline grades - what’s the pastoral care like? What do the students think? What’s behaviour like?

8. Have a look at the school’s social media presence – does it have a Facebook page or Twitter account. How is it engaging with parents?

9. Lastly, check the Department for Education’s Parent View site – this gives a snapshot of what parents think about their child’s school.

Remember, you need get your application in, either online or in paper form, by October 31.

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