N starts school in September, which does seem to have come round really quickly which means its time for all the primary school visits.  Many people I’ve spoken to in the same boat are really sad that their child starts school but I’m a bit more pragmatic as I know he’ll be ready to move up from nursery, and it’s another step in him growing up.

I do hope that he’ll get more interested in learning and doing the activities that are set out in the timescale.  At the moment he’ll pretty much refuse to read any book that’s come home in his book folder from nursery school, and whether he’ll do the ‘preparation for writing’ activity sheets is another matter.  Pot luck comes to mind.  (Although this week they got wise and sent him home with a tractor book, which he wanted to read on day 1.

learning to write

I’ve already done some school visits, and need to book in a couple more at other schools who don’t do their open days until later.  Always worrying as I prefer to get my choices done early so I don’t have to worry about anything else, just the actual day of allocation in April.

School 1

The first school I visited is our local one that is always oversubscribed.  We’re within catchment (nice box round the farm to put us in!), and we’ve worked out that after those with siblings we should be ok unless a couple of families with twins or more move in to the village. 

I had a huge list of questions to ask the head when I went in for my tour and chat, and only had to ask 1 of them, because she’d answered everything else in what she’d already told me.  She’s spot on with her PR about the school, and told me lots of things she’d like to do, and that were in her plans.  Although having now spoken to parents with children already there, some of those plans seem a little un-thought through.  Hopefully they’ll get tested out before N gets there!

I did love that the children were coming over unprompted to the head to show off their work, and she knew all of their names.  Lots of positives, although it was a shame I didn’t get to see the reception teacher actually teaching, as he was on a study/deputy task break, and there was a regular supply teacher in.

The funniest bit was seeing N’s cousins in class.  The eldest just stared at me, my god-daughter just looked mortified when the head pointed me out to her (I would have done the same as her too), and the youngest denied knowing who I was!

It’s great having other parents to talk to, although you do then hear about the horror stories rather than the good bits.  With the rest of the family having gone through, or at the school currently, it’s a no-brainer that’s going to be our first choice.  It would definitely make life hard if he doesn’t get in with pick-ups and drop offs.  I just hope that the after school club that’s being planned, does actually happen as very few of the village schools near us are large enough to have them.

So then the debate comes…to put down a second and third choice, just in case.  I’ve heard conflicting things, but will likely put some down.  I’d rather have some choice, than none.

School 2

I then visited another school.  We’re outside catchment and outside the county (as we live nearly on the border), but the school is undersubscribed and is always rated good by Ofsted.  This visit was very different – my initial expectation was fast and efficient admin in response to my emails (from the head at 11pm one night, 2 hours after my email), but I’d heard some disappointing things about people taking children out and complacency by the head.

Although it was an open day, I was the only person looking round at that point, so it was a good opportunity to ask questions.  The school is an old building, typical school that needs a bit of care and attention.  I do think a head teacher should be singing the school’s praises and pointing out the good things, and not the bad, so I don’t think the head helped herself or the school really.  I did find it strange that reception were in a class with not only year 1, but also year 2.

Despite their sizes, both schools offer music and languages, although on a term by term, class by class basis, so you’d still need to have after school private groups or lessons if children wanted to choose an activity to do long term.  Wraparound care is non-existent in most of the village schools near us, but fingers crossed for our nearest school getting theirs set up.

I now need to visit a couple of others, neither in catchment, one in our county and the other just over the border.  They’ve both got temporary heads, so the schools may change from September anyway.

Questions to ask on potential new school visits - Bubbablue and me

I do quite like having a nosy round the schools (a throw back to me as a student showing parents round on open evenings), and I always take my list of questions with me otherwise I’d never remember what I needed to find out.

Questions to ask at primary school visits

Depending on your circumstances, you need to think about more than just how they settle in the children. Think about how they manage lunches, drop off and pick up, wrap round are, opportunities for after school clubs, bullying policy, how they look after children with SEN in and out of the classroom, staff turnover. Teacher parent communication options, homework, how they prep children for SATs and how they avoid stressing the children at that time. Think about longer term not just reception year.

If you’re doing school visits in preparation for choosing primary schools for your child, then you can download a copy of my list: Questions to ask on primary school visits. Just click on the image below.

questions for primary school visits

Are your children starting school next year?  What questions would you add to the list?

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14 Comments

  1. what a handy check list, it made me smile reading about bumping into the cousins in their classrooms. It feels like only yesterday I was going through all this and yet next year we need to think about universities! #BritMumsCarnival

    • I bet time’s whizzed by, soon you’ll have all of yours back in the sames school (and off to uni).

  2. I think that it’s really important to look around several schools for comparison but ultimately I think your gut feeling helps you make a decision about which one will be best for your child (and your family). Good luck with the decision making 🙂

    • Definitely what’s best for the family is important. Our 1st choice is a no-brainer, the other choices harder to make.

  3. Nortonmum

    Hi, Just read this from #britmumscarnival . I would say go with how you feel when you’re in visiting the school, great idea to share your questions.

    • Gut feel’s definitely key. We always knew our first choice would be our catchment school, but it’s a back ups that are harder to decide.

    • No worries. I found it handy, and you hear so many questions banded round, it’s helpful to have everything in one place.

  4. A fantastic list and very valuable resource. I recall doing one school visit with my wife and we were herded round and the questions I asked were considered an inconvenience. Needless to say, we didn’t put it on the list even though it was the one place all parents were supposed to fight to get their kids into. We got Helen in elsewhere and I’m glad we did. It’s worked out well for her. #TheList

    • I’ve heard similar about a school near us, where although it was an open day, there wasn’t really an opportunity for parents to ask any questions at all, and the head wasn’t ever there. Seems very odd to me, when surely these schools want good publicity. Thanks for stopping by

  5. This is brilliant I could have used this. I have been around six schools and have one more to go. And I had no clue what I should be asking what I should be looking for. I felt useless. Its so different in the UK than it is in the USA so i just walked and was stumped on how to make the best decision for my kids. Great post. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

    • It’s hard because when I was a child, everyone just went to their local school. Now they’ve brought in league tables, and it’s caused chaos. If everyone still just went to their local school, more would be brought up to standard, people would make local friends etc. But then you get to see all these other schools and notice all the better things they have, then it means more people don’t get their choices.

      I don’t really know how it works in other countries at all.

  6. Hayley @hayleyfromhome

    This is such a good idea to have your questions ready to ask as I’m sure they would just go out my head when I went in. I hope you get your first choice and it sounds like your heart is really with that school. I’m quite limited to where I can send L as I don’t have a car in the week but the school his nursery is attached to is lovely, I’ve put my choices in now, like you I like to get it done! #sharewithme

    • It’s good when your nearest one is a nice school, especially if they’ve been at nursery next door. Makes them feel like it’s an easier transition.

      I put in choices early, but think I’ll be changing my 2nd/3rd choices

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