4 years old

Applying to Primary Schools in London


The years are simply flying by, and I'm at the dreaded point of having to choose which primary school would be most suitable for Ethan as he is due to start in September.  I can not believe that he is already 4 years old, and while I know that he is more than ready to start school it's still difficult to be making a decision that will have such an impact on his life. And being a teacher in this situation is both negative and positive as I do know a lot about the school system and what I'm looking for, but I'm also very picky!

I'm sure that it works differently all over the country, but I was certainly surprised by how things are done in London as it wasn't as simple as I had assumed.  I always thought that you just went to the school that was closest to your house, and that was it.  However, a lot of these schools are oversubscribed, so there's a good chance that we won't get into the lovely school that's just down the road, and that's why it's so important to be familiar with all of the schools in your area.

In our borough the applications for next September have to be submitted by January (and we find out which school he will be going to in April).  So we have a little bit of time to do our research and learn about the local schools.  So here is our plan of action, hopefully if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed this will give you some guidance to get you started.

Step 1: Go onto your borough's website to look for a map of all of the local schools and find the six (or more) that are closest to your house, as well as reading through the application process to familiarise yourself with it.

Step 2: Make a chart (not vital, but I do love a chart) to keep track of information about your local schools.  Mine looks like this:

Step 3: Look at the schools websites to find out as much information as possible about them.  Take note of their OFSTED rating, and read the reports if you are concerned that they have a low rating.  Sometimes you might find that the reasons for not achieving 'outstanding' are not factors that are vital to your family and therefore not worth focusing on.

Step 4: Contact the schools via email or telephone to enquire about open days or school tours that they offer prospective parents.  I found that they were all very happy to show us around and to welcome us into the school.

Step 5: Visit as many schools as you can, my theory is that I want to see all the schools for myself, even the one with a terrible OFSTED rating that I have only ever heard bad things about, just to make my own mind up.  I'm also thinking that if we don't get into any of our other choices and end up in a school that I don't like and we want to go through the appeal process, then I want to be as informed as possible as to our reasons why we do not want that school.

Step 6: Go to the schools and look around asking any questions that you have.  For the most part I just like to walk around and get a good feeling for the school.  I like when I see happy staff and happy children, I think that's always a sign of a great school.  I want to know a lot about the reception class, how the children are supported when settling in, to see that they are learning through play and that they have access to an outdoor play area as well. Throughout the rest of the school I'm looking for displays of the childrens' work, well laid out classrooms as well as smaller rooms for groups to work with the teachers.  I like to ask about parent involvement, about school trips and about extra activities that the children are involved in.  I also love when there are children (often year 6 kids) giving the tours, so I can ask them what they like about the school and get more of an insider view.

Step 7: Decide which school you like the best and which will be the best fit for your child. I'm looking for a school with lots of space to run around outside and an emphasis on play throughout the early years as Ethan is a very active child and needs to get that energy out to be able to focus on any quiet work.  I'm also really like the idea of going to our closest school as I think it's an important part of the day to be able to walk to school, and that it would be nice to have his school friends living close by for play dates as well.

Step 8: Fill in your application form, make your decisions and try to forget about it until your acceptance letters come through.  Good luck (and wish us luck too, fingers crossed!)

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