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Choosing a new school

When you're looking to move house one aspect which will influence our decision about moving to a new area will be the local area's school system. We can think of the following main factors in deciding which school to send your kids to:

Reputation and performance
For most parents, this is the most important factor. But what is reputation? It is the history of the school, its perceived culture, the performance of the pupils at examinations compared to national averages and the ability of the school to adequately prepare children for the next tier of education - secondary or higher.

Modern government initiatives have helped make a school's reputation and performance more transparent. Reports on individual schools by Ofsted (the schools watchdog) are now in the public domain and schools have been required to publish their exam results for a number of years. The Internet has helped make this information available through sites such as that provided by The Department for Education and Employment Parent's site ( you can search for schools by postcode, compare performance with other local schools and the national average, read any Ofsted reports and link through to any web sites associated with the schools.

Figures and reports don't always tell the whole story. Investment, staff changes and unusually high or low ability levels for any given year can distort the figures and give a slightly inaccurate view. If you can, speak to some of the parents of current and ex-pupils and get their view. You should also be able to get hold of the Governors' annual report to parents. The more views and opinions you get, the better picture the you will be able to form.

Type of school
Some people will have a strong preference as to which of the type of school they want to send their kids to.

School facilities
It doesn't necessarily stand that the facilities at Independent schools will be better than at state schools. Whilst this is sometimes the case, many millions of pounds worth of grants and other funding are pumped into state schools each year, so you should try to find out financial situation from parents or governors.

School curriculum
Most primary schools follow a similar curriculum, though some schools in high-concentration ethnic communities may adapt their learning structure to some degree. Secondary schools can be much more specialised in what they teach. Whilst some schools are largely academic in their focus - with an emphasis on 'traditional' subjects, many schools are much more vocational. The view that academic schools prepare students for University whilst vocational schools prepare them for the workplace does not always hold true. Find out about extracurricular activities too - some schools will have a massive range of clubs and societies for your children to join. These can be a great way of making friends and finding passions that can live well-beyond school days.

Mixed and single sex schools
Most state primary schools are mixed gender as are most comprehensive or non-selective secondary schools. A reasonable portion of selective or partially selective state and Independent schools are single sex, at least up until the age of sixteen. Some people think this is a more work-orientated environment for pupils, whilst others argue that mixed sex environments prepare people better for the workplace.

Class size
This is a major issue, especially in primary schools where children generally all take classes together. You can find out directly form the school what its average class sizes are, whether the current trend is for growth or stability and whether they are considering expanding the number of classes to cope with higher numbers of pupils.

Location and accessibility
Is it within walking distance? Is the school well-served by specially laid-on buses? What is the traffic like between your area and the school? These questions are most relevant when you have quite a specific area in mind and a choice of different schools to send your children to.

And finally ...
Don't forget to consult your kids.

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