A guide to choosing a primary school

Choosing a primary school for your child can be daunting, but it's important to get it right. Pictur

Choosing a primary school for your child can be daunting, but it's important to get it right. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Deciding on a primary school for your child can be daunting and the pressure as a parent to get things right is immense.

Primary schools lay the foundation for your child's learning for the rest of their lives and it's where they will learn the basics in order to develop.

There are many things to consider, such as the atmosphere, the staff, the ethos, and the head teacher's approach.

The Good Schools Guide says that above all, you have to consider whether you would feel happy leaving your child there and advises parents to ask themselves these questions:

- What is the head like? How do children (and staff) behave in their presence? Do they know the children by name?

- What are the classrooms like? Hope to see busy, inspiring, interesting rooms with imaginative displays.

- Do the children appear to be absorbed in their learning?

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- Are the cloakrooms tidy? Can children go to the toilet as and when? What about hand-washing?

- Is drinking water readily available, healthy eating encouraged and good manners encouraged at all times?

- Can you glean what the children are currently studying?

- What happens at playtime?

- Remember to look beyond the reception class. A promising start is important but you should look for sustained development, progress and continually high standards.

Starting primary school is one of the biggest milestones in a child's life.

Children need lots of support from parents and experts agree that it helps if you prepare your child as well as you can.

Here are a few tips:

- Read a story to your child about starting school, or talk about when you started school (as long as it's a happy story).

- Allow your child to take part in any transition to school activities organised by their pre-school, which may include visits to the school.

- Show your child where the school is in relation to home. Walk there a few times if possible, even if you intend to drive to school.

- Show your child where you will pick them up at the end of the day.

- Make sure they have comfortable and well-fitting clothes and shoes, they can unwrap their lunch, and they know how to ask to go to the toilet.

- Plan to take your child to school on the first day and if you're feeling emotional, try not to let them know!

- Teach them about good manners, such as saying 'please' and 'thank you,' which will help them to make friends.

Sarah Ebner, author of The Starting School Survival Guide, advises: "If you know anyone who's going to be at the new school, contact them to arrange some get-togethers before school starts - suggest going to the park after school early in the term or have a few play dates."

North London has some great primary schools, including Highgate Primary School, Muswell Hill Primary School, St Michael's CofE Primary School and Hampstead Parochial CofE, to name just a few. You can search schools in your area by visiting goodschoolsguide.co.uk.