Getting in to the Local Primary Schools of Your Choice

You may already know which local primary school you want your child to go to, you may have no idea. You may have only just started looking or you may be on the verge of making a choice. Wherever you are at, it is important to ensure you have all the knowledge at your disposal to make the right decision.

So how do you go about choosing and what criteria are local primary schools using to make decisions as to who to offer places to?

1. Decision makers – Local primary schools themselves do not decide who does and does not come to their school. This decision is taken at local authority level, so the school will have no influence in their intake save for trying to attract local children through open days and parent meetings.

2. Religion – many local primary schools are denominational. That is, they follow a faith, usually because they are next to a church or in the parish of a church. As a result, these local primary schools will use faith as a key part of their entry requirements – usually in fact the number one item on the list for a faith school is acceptance into that faith. So if you have a Catholic school on your doorstep and you want your child to go there, then there is a good chance they will want your child to have been baptised into the Catholic faith.

3. Locality – it may seem obvious, but local primary schools want local children. Next on the agenda for local authorities making decisions is their home address. If two children are vying for the same school place with identical backgrounds, then the one that lives in the school’s catchment area will get the place before one that does not. This is important to local primary schools because they are concentrated in residential areas in order to serve the needs of a community, unlike secondary schools which are less concentrated and serve a wider community as the children are much older and have the ability to travel there independently.

4. Siblings – local primary schools, as the centres of the communities in which they exist, will always favour family members over non-family members. So if an applicant has an older brother or sister in a school, then they are more likely to be accepted in a school than an applicant without a sibling at the school. This doesn’t mean that children without brothers or sisters will not get into the school of your choice, but it is worth considering in smaller communities where the primary schools are often quite small.

So whichever local primary schools you are considering for your child, it is always important to remember the chances of them getting accepted to go there will be influenced by many different factors, not just whether or not it is down the road from your house. It is always worth speaking to the school first and getting some input into how their selection criteria works. Every school will have a list of criteria which you can see to help you make the right choice.

How to Search Primary Schools Near You

One of the most important decisions you will make on your child’s future is to find the right school for them to continue their learning journey. So the search for primary schools can be a tough one. Sure there will be schools near to your house, but are they the right ones for your child? Do they tick all your criteria for sending your child there, and will your child leave ready for the demands of secondary education?

When you begin to search schools for your child, one of the biggest factors will be the quality of that school. The universal rating for schools in the UK is the OFSTED report, a government initiative designed to grade all schools on the same scale, thus allowing parents to see the relative differences between 2 or more different schools. In this context, it allows you to search primary schools with the best OFSTED ratings to decide where your child should go. Remember when you are looking at these reports to read the contents as well as looking at the numbers. Each school is given an overall score between 1 and 4, however this doesn’t paint a complete enough picture. It is important to consider the whole report and how it relates to your decision, as not all schools who score a 1, 2, 3 or 4 are the same as one another.

The next thing to consider when you search primary schools around you is their location. Closest is not necessarily best, even though it may be the most convenient for you! Remember, when you search primary schools near to your house, you are doing so for your child’s benefit, not your own. The best advice is always to go and look around local primary schools. Find out when the open days or open evenings are, and make the effort to call in and get a feel for the learning environment, picture how your child might fit in at that primary school. Only then will you really know if that is the right primary school for you.

So your search for schools has gathered pace. You have checked out the OFSTED scores, you have visited some local schools, and you have narrowed down the search. You now need to consider the criteria by which your child will be accepted into the local primary schools. It is no good having done all your research that you decide upon a school which is out of reach because of location or faith. So, check with the local schools when you are searching what their entrance criteria are. If they are a faith school, check what faith it is and whether they require a baptism or christening certificate. If they are in an area full of new build properties, check what their intake level is and how far their catchment area spreads. Generally, it isn’t a good idea to search primary schools in new build villages if you do not live in the area, as these villages are usually populated with families with young children. Remember to search primary schools which are realistic to your child’s criteria, not just the one you think would be best.

The search for schools can be a big challenge, but in reality there are only a few small things to consider. Think about this from the start of your search for your child’s first school and you will save a lot of time and effort in the long run. The search for primary schools doesn’t have to be a tough task!

Virtual Learning Environments In Primary Schools

Although the idea of having Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) has been steadily growing in popularity over the last few years, the actual use of VLEs in many educational institutions, especially primary schools, has not really taken off. Ofsted blames a black of enthusiasm and peer support from teachers and learners for the lack of development on VLE initiatives, but there may be a wider issue to contend with, especially when it comes to how few primary schools have adopted VLEs as part of their everyday management.

VLEs are designed to allow learners and staff to access a wide variety of learning materials through specially designed computer systems. Resources commonly found on VLEs, especially in university and college environments, include notes and handouts, practice tests or exams, PowerPoint presentations, video clips and links to useful websites.

Ofsted’s report on VLEs found that they were still a relatively new concept which represented only a very small (and in many cases non-existent) aspect of learning. Colleges and universities were found to be making the most use of VLEs, while primary schools were lagging furthest behind.

The main problem in primary schools is the lack of a so-called “technology champion” – normally a key staff member who gets to grips with the idea, sees the benefits and works to help colleagues do the same in order to get whatever it is adopted in the school.

Most VLEs are designed for use by secondary or higher education institutes, with large amounts of storage, complex timetabling systems and a relatively streamlined appearance. This makes “off the shelf” VLE solutions eminently unsuitable for primary schools. Aside from the fact that most VLEs are priced out of the range of the average primary school due to the extensive features and storage (essential for secondary and higher education, but unwanted price padding for primary), their interfaces and functionality are fundamentally unusable by 4-11-year-olds. What use is a VLE which the pupils cannot access?

A primary school teacher does not want to add VLE updates to his or her already extensive workload. Who wants to enter a big list of marks twice? The mark of a proper primary school VLE is that it should simplify the job of the teacher while being easily accessible to pupils and parents. Big buttons, colourful graphics and easy-to-understand instructions are needed for younger students. Simple and easy administration which reduces workload rather than increasing it is needed for teachers and school admin staff.

Consider a primary school teacher, Miss Thompson, with a class of thirty pupils. Each time she wants to set homework for them, even a simple task like practicing spelling, Miss Thompson has to photocopy thirty task sheets, pin them into thirty homework books, and then later trudge through twenty-nine or twenty-eight returns books to see who has failed to return their work.

Most VLEs will then also require poor Miss Thompson to log in and do electronically the same thing she just did by hand in order to keep the admin system up to date. Her workload has been increased, if not doubled, by the new technology, so she is quite justified in not being a big fan of it! What’s worse is that none of her pupils or their parents bother looking at the VLE because it is far too complicated and looks like it was designed for a university, what with all the greyed-out buttons marked “timetable” and “practice exams.”

Now let’s compare Miss Thompson’s experience with a different VLE, which is not an adapted or trimmed down version of something originally made for secondary education or universities and colleges. This is a primary school VLE, designed and built carefully from the ground up to meet the needs of primary school pupils, teachers and parents.

Instead of wasting her time and school money on photocopying piles of homework (much of which will amazingly be “lost” during the complex expedition from the classroom door to the pupil’s home), Miss Thompson can send the document to her entire class with only a couple of clicks. At home, the children are happy to log onto a system which has big, colourful buttons, themed class images and a simple interface which a modern six year-old (and even his or her slightly less modern parents) can understand easily. As each pupil completes the homework assignment it is recorded in the VLE so Miss Thompson saves another half hour of sorting through paperwork. Even better, school department heads and administrators are able to look through class performance to see where issues may be arising and nip them in the bud. Little Susie hasn’t done her homework for a whole week? Time to check up with the parents before she starts to fall behind.

Suddenly a VLE seems like a sensible idea, and even a desirable asset for a primary school. Freeing teachers up from the time-consuming admin and paper shuffling in favour of letting them (gasp) focus on their teaching? Maybe it is time to start a trend after all.