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.

The 5 Features of the Best Primary Schools

We all want our children to go the best primary schools and we all want them to have the best education. But what makes some better than others, and what are the common similarities between the best schools? We have come up with a list of the top 5 features of the best local schools to make your decision on where to send your child that much easier.

1. OFSTED report – The best primaries have the best OFSTED ratings. Of course they do! This may seem obvious, but it’s a good place to start when measuring the varying quality of schools. OFSTED rate schools from 1 (Outstanding) to 4 (Needs Improvement), the best primary schools obviously sit at the top of this scale.

2. Teaching – the best schools have the best teachers. This is a bit self-fulfilling in reality, because the best primary school teachers are attracted to the best primary schools, which in turn makes the schools themselves better. You may know of local schools which have good or bad reputations, and these reputations tend to stick, mainly because of this very thing. Moreover, the teachers at the best primary schools are less inclined to leave their post as the chances of them finding a better job are slim. So, if you find a school near you with a lot of long standing teachers, chances are the school is a good one.

3. Facilities – the best primaries have the best facilities. When we look at the facilities of local schools, there are a lot of different things which we can consider, and not all of it is important to everyone. Think about the sports facilities, the catering facilities, and the buildings. Generally these are the three biggest considerations people think about when they search for a school. The best primary schools always have the best facilities to work with.

4. Location & Transport – location is a massive factor in your decision, but the best primaries usually have the best transport links. It isn’t much use choosing a school with no bus stop within 2 miles if you are going to need to use a bus to get there. Rural primary schools will not always have good transport links, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t good schools. The local roads and transport are not their fault. In urban areas, however, the best pupils and the best teachers will be attracted to the schools with the best transport links. So if you are looking for primary schools in urban areas, remember the best ones will have the best transport.

5. After school care – last on our list, the best schools will usually have the best clubs. If you need your child caring for after the 3 – 3.30 closing time of most primary schools then you will need to consider before and after care. Generally, these are held at the schools, at a local nursery/play centre, or not at all. The best primary schools host their own breakfast and after school clubs giving you confidence that you child is going to be in the safest possible hands.

Every parent looking to send their child to school for the first time needs to consider the relative qualities of different educational establishment and how they relate to their own circumstances and the needs of their child. All schools are different, but the best primary schools all have a few things in common. Be sure to consider these things so you make the best choice for your child.