Keep calm and choose the right secondary school

By Colin Cartmell-Browne

Confused over school decisions? Well, fear not! Choosing a school for your child needn’t be a daunting process!

Confused over school decisions? Well, fear not! Choosing a school for your child needn’t be a daunting process!

PARENTS of children in Year 6 have until the Monday October 31 to chose a secondary school to send their children to.As this is a really big decision it’s worth getting right and considering all the options available.So, to make it feel less daunting, here are a few tips for choosing the secondary school best for your child:

Nearness

Choosing a school should not be just about how near it is.There can be good reasons for sending your child to the school nearest your home, but the nearest might not be the best choice.Your child is unlikely to be in many of the same classes as their primary school friends and will quickly make new friends anyway.Schools have particular catchment areas in which to recruit from but this doesn’t mean that schools further away can’t be applied for.Both Keswick and Cockermouth Schools have children from the Egremont and Whitehaven area and it is possible to get into these very well thought of schools.The quality of the teaching, how well resourced the school is, and the ability of the school to look after your child, are more important than whether the school is close to home.

OFSTED

The school’s OFSTED report will provide judgements on various aspects of the school, including the quality of teaching, progression of children and behaviour management.

The reports should be published on the school’s website or can be downloaded from reports.ofsted.gov.uk.

There are, however, a few things to consider.

Firstly, an OFSTED report reflects the politics of whichever government is in power.

Secondly, standards in education are changing all the time and while a report may have been accurate at the time of it was written it may no longer be true. Schools get inspected approximately every four years, so if the report is three years old then the school is likely to be due another inspection soon.

It is also not unheard of for a school which achieved a very good OFSTED report three years ago to be requiring improvement in the next report.

Equally, a school which didn’t do well in a previous report should, have worked hard to make significant changes since the date of inspection.

Open Days/Evenings

Most schools will soon be having open evenings.

This is your chance to view the school and get a feel for the place.

But remember – the school are trying to advertise themselves so will only want to show you the good bits. Science Departments in particular seem to love showing off explosive experiments during open evenings.

Go with an open mind and be prepared to ask lots of questions about how they teach, what science subjects they offer, how do they monitor pupil progress etc. A good, enthusiastic, teacher will be prepared to answer any of these questions, and more.

Other things to note would be whether the school looks well maintained, how well stocked the library is, or does the school seem to have enough computers for the number of children in attendance?

Two of the schools in Whitehaven and Egremont are academies. Academies are sponsored by a large company which invest money in the school. As you look around the school, ask yourself what the school has got out of this arrangement and what benefit to the children this has had.

If you do miss the open day then contact the school and ask to visit – any Head Teacher should be willing to consider this request.

Once you have made your choice you just need to complete the online application form on the Cumbria County Council website.

You should have received a letter detailing how to do this. Around March you should be informed of which school your child has been allocated to.You don’t need to accept this decision. If you feel the school is not in the best interests of your child there is an appeals process.

Further information on the admission process is available online at www.cumbria.gov.uk