Find a new home and the best schools without the stress!
We all know that moving home can be stressful, especially for your children. You need to be confident they will be happy in their new schools before you move.
School is about more than just exam results. It’s where your children make friends and learn how to deal with people who are different from them, where they develop a sense of curiosity about the world, and where they discover their talents. School will help you teach your children right from wrong and set their core values for the rest of their life.
While there’s no substitute for visiting schools and meeting parents, when you’re considering a number of potential locations how do you make choosing a school a manageable task?
Here are three useful steps to help make choosing a school a little easier:
1. What’s important and what’s most important to you?
Most areas of the country offer parents a choice of school. If you’re also moving home, that choice expands dramatically. So it’s worth being clear on what’s important to you by asking yourself some key questions before you start. As with house hunting, where you’re usually trading off location, space and condition, prioritising what’s most important for your children’s schools will help you reach a compromise you’re happy with:
- Will your child be happier in a larger or smaller school?
- Will a single-sex or co-ed school will be better for your child?
- How important are independent inspectors’ opinion of the schools?
- Which of the many school exam results data are key for your child?
- If your child has one or more special educational needs, how well will those be met?
- How important is the mix of other children at the school?
- Do you think the assessed quality of teaching or class size is more important?
- Can you afford (or do you even want) to pay for their education?
- Do you want your children to attend a faith school?
2. Use RM School Finder via Rightmove to speed up the whole process!
Especially if you have a shortlist of a number of possible locations for your new home, researching a home and schools can feel like an impossible task.
Against each property you’ll notice the “Map & schools” tab lists nearby Primary and Secondary schools. Each school has an easy link through to RM School Finder to find out more including key published results, inspection reports and school profiles. You can also compare schools to others in the same area to find the best fit for your children.
Finally, if you prefer a different local school you can then link back to Rightmove to find properties nearest that school instead.
So, for each of your shortlist properties or locations, start with some quick school comparisons using RM School Finder for those criteria you’ve decided are important in step (1). Use those criteria to weed out schools that aren’t a good fit to leave you with a shortlist.
It’s worth remembering that:
- Especially for Primaries, looking just a couple of miles from your original location can dramatically change which schools your child will be able to attend, without making much difference to your commute or distance to family and friends. So it’ll be worth widening the net a little at this stage so you consider the neighbouring schools too.
- Most state schools’ catchment area is decided with their local authority (LA) and available on the LA’s website. But take care, catchment areas can change annually, so it’s worth checking with your preferred school before purchasing your new home.
- If this will be your ‘forever home’ and you have young children, it may be worth taking a quick look at what the local Secondary is like and whether it’s improving.
3. Visit the school, talk to the students and a few parents
Once you have a few shortlist schools, phone and ask to meet the Head. The school leadership team is usually core to the success of the school. They set the tone and aspiration for the staff and students so a few minutes with the Head will usually give you a very good feel for whether the school is right for your child.
Here’s our checklist of things to consider before that visit:
- What are the three key questions you want answered?
- Don’t forget to discuss whether there’ll actually be space for your child to join mid-year, if the timing of your move make that likely.
- Check whether your shortlisted few properties fall well within the school catchment area, and if there are plans to change how that catchment is measured before your children join.
- Try to visit during term-time so you can make up your own mind whether the students look happy and confident.
- It might be worth timing your visit so you leave just before the end of the school day. That way you’ll be able to ask a few parents whether they’d recommend the school on your way out.
- Alternatively, after your visit ask for a range of parents’ views over social media discussion sites.
Happy home and school finding!