What you need to know about choosing your child’s school

Pupils at schools in Dereham. Photos: Antony Kelly/Matthew Usher/Ian Burt

Pupils at schools in Dereham. Photos: Antony Kelly/Matthew Usher/Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Introducing... a new column from Dereham resident VICKI COCKERILL, exploring issues related to parenting.

Vicki Cockerill, parenting columnist. Photo: Vicki Cockerill

Vicki Cockerill, parenting columnist. Photo: Vicki Cockerill - Credit: Vicki Cockerill

In this first piece, Vicki warns readers that the deadline for applying for your child's school places for September 2018 is fast approaching.

January 15 is the last day to get your applications in.

Read her advice on the subject below:

Get your checklists ready, it's school visiting time.

There are many milestones you go through as a parent. They tend to be the things that reduce you to a weeping mess, wondering where the time has gone.

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The first injections; rolling over; walking; talking; first day at nursery; first birthday; and then there is a slight lull until you approach the big one. The one that seemed so far away. The first day at school.

But, before then you must navigate your way through the minefield that is the application process a full year before your child is due to attend. You must view all the potential schools and take on the personality of Alan Sugar in the boardroom criticizing the candidates.

Suddenly parents find themselves out of the safety of a brightly coloured nursery, and have to worry about Ofsted reports, bullying procedures, and what on earth they serve for school dinners now Jamie Oliver has banished the Turkey Twizzler. With applications now being processed for the forthcoming September many of us will now be panicking about what to do next.

With a diary full of open day and visitor appointments do any of us really know what to look for in a new school? Or what we should be asking about?

Due to my own nosiness, I accompanied my friend around looking at some primary schools. A bit premature as the eldest isn't going until September 2019 but I wanted to be prepared, so I did what I do best, and researched the night before we visited.

According to the website Made for Mums there are a few things you should lookout for:

• Do the children and teachers look happy?

• Is there lots of art and projects on the walls?

• Is it tidy and clean?

• Engaging and warm atmosphere?

Taking your child around a new school isn't just a nice jolly walk around. There are things to consider and you will almost certainly forget that important question you wanted to ask.

• We all know that over the years classes have got bigger, but what is the child to teacher ratio?

• Is the school oversubscribed?

• Will you child be lost into the background?

• How do they support low or high achievers?

• How long have the staff worked there? A high staff turnover is something to take a closer look at.

Most of all I think as a parent all you can do is trust your gut and consider your child's opinion after all they will be the one going.

• Did they seem comfortable there?

• Did they relate to the staff?

See, not just the leisurely walk around you thought you would be doing, as you tick of everything on your mile-long list.

Are you currently looking around schools for the first time? Or are you a seasoned pro? Are you a teacher and have advice for parents? Do you have any experiences of some pushy parents? Who has any tips on the application process and getting the school, you want?

We would love to hear from you. Send your thoughts to dft.news@archant.co.uk