They can be the best days of our lives, and as parents we do everything we possibly can to ensure our children’s happiness at school. When moving home, finding the right school is often the number one priority above all else. So, how do we go about finding the right school for our children?
Nowadays schools must be totally transparent; an Ofsted inspector can almost make an initial judgement on a school from website information alone. Therefore you would think that looking at a website and reading the most recent Ofsted report would tell you all you need to know about a school. However, this is not always necessarily the case.
With fifteen years’ experience as a teacher and senior leader in a number of schools I have found schools that are rated “Requires Improvement” on paper might actually be one you choose to send your children to.
To give an example, one school I worked at was – prior to my working there – deemed one of the worst schools in the country. Its Ofsted report read very poorly indeed, with numbers on its roll dwindling as parents scrambled to enrol their children elsewhere. Following this a raft of changes were announced; the school became an academy along with a new head principle and senior leadership team. With that, and a full change of staff, order quickly followed. Fast-forward four years and the school gained Outstanding Ofsted status in every area. The school still remains Outstanding and is recognised as the best school in Leeds and in the top two dozen in the country for progress of pupils.
During the four years of change and transition, the staff and children at the school worked harder than anyone else I have ever worked with before to prove they were not inadequate, they did not require special measures and in fact they were outstanding. It was definitely a school I would have considered for my own children (had I had them at the time). If parents new to the area solely relied on the previous Ofsted report, they would have dismissed the school immediately as they would not have seen all the hard work going on.
Of course I am not saying that all schools that “Require Improvement” go on a similar journey and their road to “Good” or “Outstanding” may be a lot longer. The purpose of this anecdote is to show that when choosing a school, don’t judge a book by its cover. Visit the school; get a real feel for what your children will experience. Understand its ethos, see how the school makes you feel when you’re inside. Observe the way the staff interact with the children and the way that the children interact with each other. Look at standards of work that are on display as you walk around, or ask to see a few anonymous examples of work from books. This will give you a real understanding about how proud the children and the staff are of the work produced.
School searches are something I offer as part of my standard relocation package. With fifteen years’ experience working in schools, you can trust me to help you to choose the right school for your children.