Turning five in the United Kingdom is a big change for a child and of course you because from this point your child enters the education system and is legally obliged to whether it be a state school, private schooling or home education.
The majority of children in the UK will attend a state primary school and follow the National Curriculum. The process can seem very daunting but there is plenty of help and advice available to you. The first place would be to get your hands on the free local education authority hand-out which is readily available in many local libraries in your neighbourhood. The hand-out will explain the process and any deadlines you should be made aware of.
How do I find out about what primary schools are available to me?
You can search online at www.directgov.uk for a complete list of primary schools in your area. Many of these schools will also have their own websites so you can gain further information at your leisure.
It is worth noting however that many schools have catchment areas. In other words to be in with a good chance of getting into a primary school you must live within a short distance of the school. Your local council will be able to advise what schools are within your catchment area.
Of course there are lots of things you will be taking into consideration such as the size, the recent Ofsted reports and ease of access. Again your local council website will have a wealth of information that will hopefully narrow many of these questions down.
When you have narrowed down your search make appointments with schools and attend their open days. There are mixed views on whether you should bring your child along to these open days. It can be a distraction for you and other parents inspecting the school. You may consider taking them to a second viewing.
Making an application for primary school
Once you have found the perfect school the next step is applying. It is worth noting that lots of schools in built up areas are often over-subscribed so do not take anything for granted and ensure you have a number of choices.
Highly considered as one of the most important steps of the school admission process is ensuring that you fit the admissions criteria laid out. Each school will have their own criteria such as:
- Priority given to siblings
- Priority to children in care
- Priority to a child of a particular faith
- Priority to a child with a disability
Unfortunately millions of parents waste a lot of time applying for a school where they do not meet the criteria set out. Your local council are there as support so use them where possible. Explain to your local council that you new to both the area and country.
It is the role of your local authority to coordinate the admissions process for primary schools. You will need to complete an application online or by post outlining your choices.
You will hear the word “key stage” used a lot in primary school. These gradings are used to see how well your child is doing and that all subjects are being included in the classroom.
Key Stage 1: aged 5-7 (years 1 and 2 – infant school)
Key Stage 2: aged 7-11 (years 3 to 6 – junior school)
Primary schools are a big step up for young children but it is an exciting one. There is plenty for your child to get involved in such as show and tell, plays, taking books and getting involved in sports. Some of these extra activities will involve a cost such as day trips and school lunches. It is worth checking though as some schools allow you to take in packed lunches for your child if you would prefer not to pay for school dinners. In addition to this parents are given the opportunity to explore how their children are settling in with regular parent’s evenings.