Focus: on school choice

The nights are drawing in, the conkers are falling off the trees to be hoarded by children and squirrels alike: it must be autumn. But the other important event for many parents that heralds the changing of the seasons is a dawning realisation that you need to apply for a school place!

The secondary school deadline is before Christmas (not to mention if you need to get an 11+ exam in the bag), whilst primary parents have until early in the new year to make a choice.

In the first of our new ‘focus’ blogs we will explore what we know about how parents go about making this important decision. 

Factors in the decision

Let’s start by admitting that for most parents, there will not be just one reason for choosing a school, there will be many. Some may be more important than others, but weighing up all the options is never easy.

For parents choosing a primary school, location is the most important thing. This probably means the school that is nearest to you, or most convenient to get to. But like we said, it is not the only thing. Primary parents also say that it’s important to them that the school they choose has ‘an inclusive ethos where all pupils are valued” and that the senior leadership team is ‘effective’.

When choosing a secondary school, the same factors are still important, but so is “discipline and behaviour which promote effective learning.”

In both primary and secondary, around half of parents will take the schools Ofsted rating into account.

So how do you find this stuff out?

The starting point for most parents are the schools websites. Parents choosing a secondary school are more likely to attend open days and read prospectuses than parents choosing primary schools, but both will talk to other people about their decision. Perhaps surprisingly, few parents report taking to social media to find out more.

Who makes the decision?

So, once you’ve decided what is important to you in a school and got the all information you need, who actually makes the decision? The parents or the kids?!? Well, like with everything else around school choice, it very much depends whether you are talking about primary school or secondary school.

In general, children’s say in the decision is influenced by their age. Secondary school decisions are more often jointly made with parents. Before this age only a small proportion of children get any say. To be fair, whilst a 4-year-old is very happy hoarding conkers, they may be far less able to read an Ofsted report!

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