Moving House: 5 tips for finding out about local schools
- Make a list
The first thing to do is make a list of the schools within the catchment area of the property you’re thinking of making an offer on. If you haven’t settled on a property in particular, you should still have a rough idea of the area you are looking at and should cast your net a little further.
- Visit the Gov.uk website
You can easily find and compare schools in England on the Gov.uk website. You’ll be able to view and download Ofsted reports, exam and test results, and financial information for each school. To do this, you can search by the name of the school, or input the postcode, town or street.
If you search by the name of the school, you’ll be presented with a summary of the school and lots of information that you’ll need to spend time digesting. You can click on a button to ‘Add to comparison list’, before searching for other schools in the area. Once you’ve added all the schools you’re interested in, you can click on ‘view comparison list.’ This should help you decide which school might be the best for your child, but obviously, you’ll still need to apply and be accepted. Typically, you need to select three schools for your application, if applying for a reception or Year 7 place.
If you search by location, you’ll be presented with a results screen. You can then filter by radius (e.g. within one mile, two miles etc.), education phase (primary, secondary, 16 to 18), school type (e.g. academy, maintained school, independent school), Ofsted rating (outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate), religious character (e.g. no religious character, Church of England, Roman Catholic) and pupil gender (e.g. mixed, girls, boys). Once you see a school you like, you can add it to your comparison list (as above).
- See for yourself
Many would argue, that you can’t build up a good picture of a school, without visiting it for yourself. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to go to an open evening, or you may need to ring the school and ask to book an appointment to look around. Chatting to the head teacher, teachers and support staff, should help you decide whether your child would fit in well, or whether you need to keep searching.
- Speak to other people
Do you have friends or work colleagues who already send their children to the schools you’re looking at? Why not ask for their opinions? They might be able to provide a real insight. If not, there might be a school fete or other event coming up, why not pop along and speak to a few parents?
If you go online, you’ll have access to a wider pool of people to speak to, with blogs, social media and review websites providing advice and comment from locals who know the area well. You can browse, or get involved in the conversation when you want to speak to people directly. If you go on Mumsnet for instance, you’ll find conversations covering schools and colleges in the area you are moving to, as well as conversations about the wider community.
- Think further ahead
While it’s important to think about where you children will go to school now, it’s important to consider what will happen in future. Is the property you want near good colleges or universities with world-class reputations? You might have careers in mind for your children, meaning the types of educational and professional opportunities in an area will impact heavily on whether you choose to live there.