Choosing A Primary School In The UK
Deciding where to send your kids to school is a big decision, especially if you haven’t always lived in the UK. Factors like catchment areas, educational needs, teaching style, and your finances can all affect which primary school you choose for your child.
Choosing a primary school can be tricky, especially if you’re not used to the UK school system. If you haven’t chosen a school for your child yet, here’s everything you need to know.
What to look for when choosing a UK primary school
From location to pupil population, here's what you need to know about choosing a UK primary school for your kids.
1. Location and catchment area
Location is an important factor for choosing a primary school. Most schools have a catchment area, which means they’ll only accept pupils who live within a certain distance of the school.
Think about how close the school is to your home and workplace, and how your child is going to get to school each day.
Use sites like Locrating to find out which schools accept pupils from your postcode.
2. Religious affiliations
Many primary schools in the UK are Church of England schools. Also known as C of E or church schools, these schools are committed to sharing and upholding Christian values and celebrating Christian festivals.
Your child can be any religion (or no religion) and still attend a C of E school. Most C of E schools also give pupils of other faiths the opportunity to celebrate their own religious holidays. But not all parents are comfortable sending their pupil to a school that conflicts with their own faith.
There are also many non-religious primary schools in the UK, as well as schools linked with other religions.
3. Special educational needs
If your child has special educational needs, you might want to consider sending them to a school that can give them the best support.
Specialist schools in the UK help children with many different needs, including:
- Hearing impairments such as deafness
- Learning difficulties including dyslexia and dyspraxia
- Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome
- Visual impairments
- Down's Syndrome
- Complex health needs.
There are lots of schools dedicated to supporting children with specific disabilities or needs in the UK. You’ll also find that many mainstream schools employ specialist teachers to provide one-to-one support.
If it’s relevant to you, ask the headteacher or SENCo (special educational needs co-ordinator) at the school for more information about the support they offer.
4. Teaching styles
Some parents seek schools that promote a specific education style, such as child-led activities or curriculum-based learning.
Most schools have a website where they talk about their approach to education. Speak to teachers and parents to find out more about the teaching approach of the schools you're considering.
5. Ofsted results
All UK state schools (and many independent schools) have to be inspected by Ofsted. Ofsted is the UK’s education inspection authority. It aims to make sure all schools provide high quality education and care to their pupils.
After each inspection, a school is assigned a grade:
- Grade 1 — Outstanding
- Grade 2 — Good
- Grade 3 — Requires Improvement
- Grade 4 — Inadequate.
Most parents want to send their child to a Grade 1 or Grade 2 school. There’s more competition for places at these schools, so try to do your research in advance and apply early.
6. School atmosphere and amenities
Most primary schools offer opportunities for you and your child to visit the school before you apply. You’ll be able to see what facilities they have, and get a feel for the school.
Facilities you might want to look out for include:
- Sports facilities
- Spacious classrooms
- After school clubs
- Breakfast clubs
- Nature areas
- Sensory rooms
- Computers and IT facilities.
7. Links with preschools and nurseries
Lots of nurseries and preschools are linked with primary schools. So if your child is already at nursery in the UK, there may be a school that most of their friends are planning to attend.
Friendships can be difficult to leave behind. Starting a school where they don’t know anyone can be hard for your child, so give any connected schools strong consideration when choosing a primary school in the UK.
8. Pupil diversity
You may want your child to go to a school where there are other children from a similar background, or from lots of different backgrounds.
The UK is very multicultural, but some areas are more diverse than others. If your child is going to school in London, Manchester, Birmingham, or another large city, there’s likely to be a more diverse pupil population than in village schools.
All schools will have a diversity policy, but this won’t tell you much beyond their commitment to creating an inclusive environment. For information about specific schools, ask about pupil diversity.
9. Private vs state schools
Primary schools can be either:
- State schools
- Private schools
State schools are run and funded by the government. All children living in the UK have the right to attend a state school for free. Most children in the UK attend a state school.
Private primary schools are also known as preparatory schools. Parents, guardians, or caregivers must pay for their child to go to private school. The average cost to send a child to private prep school is £4,827 per term (or £14,481 per year).
10 questions to ask when choosing a primary school
1. What are the class sizes at this school? Larger class sizes can mean your child gets less individual attention.
2. Does the school run after school clubs? After school clubs can be helpful if you work longer hours.
3. How will you update me on my child’s progress? Many schools now use apps to share information.
4. How do you help new pupils settle in? This is especially important if your child is joining mid-way through a school year.
5. Do you have an open-door policy? An open-door policy allows parents to come in and speak to their child’s teacher about any concerns at short notice.
6. How will you support my child as an individual? Find out how they tailor learning to each child in the class.
7. What food options are available for children? This may be important if your child has dietary or religion-based food requirements.
8. How is behaviour managed at the school? Learn about rewards systems and other behaviour management tools.
9. How often do children get fresh air and time to play? Learn about the school routine at break times and lunch times.
10. What experiences will my child have at this school? Find out about school trips, activities, and other experiences the school offers outside the standard curriculum.
Build generational wealth for your family’s future
Finding the right school to nurture your child and help them flourish gives them the confidence and capability to create a life they love in the future. That’s why education is such a key investment.
Learn more about providing for your family’s future through intergenerational wealth planning.