My ‘choosing primary school’ experience

classmates-snack-time-1465989-639x625In September my daughter starts school.  When we first moved to the area, there was a general unspoken decision that she would attend the local new school.  There was nothing more to be said, until we started having conversations with other parents with other ideas. This is my ‘choosing primary school’ experience.

For the last year, here are the questions I’ve asked, worried about and analysed for hours and hours, driving both myself, my other half and no doubt my friends mad. Before you say it, no, I’m not even going to mention the ‘O’ word, their reports are not the be all and end all.

  •  What is the wraparound care provision? – With us both working full-time and no family locally, this became a serious issue.  We ideally need 8-6 and, it turned out that the local school only had limited places, and only lasted until 5:30.  Just not quite long enough.
  • Will my child make friends? – It turns out that whilst nursery is less than a 5 minute drive from the local school, quite a few of our daughter’s current nursery friends haven’t put it as first choice due to siblings elsewhere already, catchment area issues or general preference on others. I had this bizarre idea that every one at pre-school would just migrate into the new school. The idea that they wouldn’t led me to start questioning our own judgement and wondering whether we should consider other schools.
  • How long will it take me to do the school run and is there time to walk? – Like many of my friends, I walked to both my primary school and my secondary school in the 80s and 90s.  I think, in my head, I had assumed that if we got our first choice, I would walk my child to school and mingle at the school gates for a few minutes before walking home and getting in the car to go to work.  Wrong! Even though it is only a 5-10 minute walk, if I’m honest, I know I will get myself, my daughter and all manner of bags, coats, and other kit in the car, dash off to school, run in and run out again and dash to work.  It won’t be like my childhood and I have to accept that.  It also flags that there actually isn’t too much of a benefit to sending her to the geographically closest school.  I don’t have a 4×4 yet, but I’m considering it!
  • What pastoral care and clubs are offered? – I’m big on experiences and trying out new hobbies.  Whilst the core subjects are important, we really wanted a school that could offer a plethora of new things to try.  It is incredibly important that there is strong ethos of individuality and desire to get the best out of the child by giving them the chance to find out what it is that makes them truly tick.  When you go to the open days, you see how different schools are and it can be quite surprising. One of our preferred schools has music playing in the foyet all day, which I love.
  • Will my child get in with a ‘bad’ crowd? – Now, this is the most ridiculous of them all.  Our daughter is 3, she’ll have just turned 4 when she starts school, and has at least 10 years to wait until she hits that pubescent stage that I am DREADING.  However, with her stubbornness, cheeky and headstrong ways, there is a chance she could end up ‘hanging-out’ with the children that don’t want to learn.  I found myself checking out the uniform of any children who were out playing really late at night, or mucking about walking home, trying to use some kind of warped logic to decide which schools had the ‘model’ children and which didn’t.

In the end, our third choice was a small village school – to try and negate the last question.  Our first choice is the closest and newest school, and our second choice is a school in a completely different area that has a fantastic ethos and plenty of opportunity.

Roll on 18th April.

Or not.

At the risk of alienating some of my readers, I have to admit that we also put her down for a private school too. The private school is the optimum for wraparound and pastoral care (but with a hefty price tag), so come April it will be make or break to compare our offered school against this one and decide once and for all.

We went from local school no questions asked, to putting her name down for an expensive private school in a matter of months, all because of my obsession with research.

Will my daughter be ok wherever she goes? Probably, because a major part is down to the supportive parenting and the home life, where parents get involved with helping their child to learn and to love to learn.

Do I regret worrying and researching so much?  A little. I feel slightly embarrassed to have looked towards private education as state school was good enough for both me and my other half. However, our options are still open and in April we will make that decision, stand by it, and shed a tear of pride with a tinge of sadness as our daughter poses for the customary first day of school smartphone picture.





Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday



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Amelia Salisbury

A thirty-something working Mum of one who devotes her spare time to helping other paranoid, worrying, stressed parents who are trying to juggle careers and parenthood.

12 thoughts on “My ‘choosing primary school’ experience”

  1. I can totally relate how difficult choosing the right school for our kids. There’s a lot of worries and anticipation. A lot of pros and cons. Hope you’ll get the place for the school of your choice. Good luck!

  2. Oh its a mine-field isn’t it?! We are putting Mia’s name down at the end of this year and I’m dreading it as its becoming a bit of an obsession for me! The school we want is very popular and too far away so we are moving nearer but its an expensive area so we really aren’t sure what to do! I wish there was a handbook! 🙂


    1. Tell me about it! When you are making life-changing decisions such as moving house especially for the school, you can’t help but bounce back and forth. Even writing a pros and cons list didn’t help too much. 🙂 #KCACOLS

    1. Well, we got our first choice but as we’re likely to be going down the independent route it is a bit of a non-event. I’m still not 100% about the independent v state thing though! #KCACOLS

  3. Thanks Amelia for your informative post, I hope you managed to get the school of your choice. Although we are not at this stage in our thought process for our little one (she’s only 8 months old) it does start our thinking for when we will eventually submit her primary school application. There is so much to consider – location, friends, distance, before and after care, and I can see how challenging that this must have been for you, especially the before and after care as I know that this sometimes can be quite costly too. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back next Sunday. Claire x

  4. Great post!! I went for the exact same thing with my eldest a couple of years ago. I was not very sure about the local schools. It is hard to find a really good state school in London. We didn’t have many options and the catchment area is very small and restricted. We were not part of the catchment area of our favourite school for just a block and that was so frustrating. For these reasons we also put down our daughter in a private school and we got the place. She has been there for 2 years now and we are very happy although our worries are increasing now that my second daughter will need to get to school in a couple of years as we won’t be able to have them both there! So I’m not sure what are we going to do! Need to start thinking in a solution. I hope you get your first choice or that you made your mind about the private school. Good luck lovely!! Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS. It is great to have you for the first time. I hope you liked it. I t would be nice to see you again tomorrow, 🙂

    1. Thanks Franca, I grew up in London so know how tricky it is there to find a decent state school – my own primary school went downhill a few years after I started secondary. We’re still on the private school bandwagon at the moment and it is just about manageable when you only have one child but it means I have incredibly high expectations for it. Will be interested to know what you decide to do about your second daughter. Sorry I missed #KCACOLS on Sunday.

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