When I was looking for a reception place for my daughter to start in September 2018. She has now settled in her school and seems really happy. I hope your son/ daughter will be too. Here are some things you may find useful if like me back then, don’t know where to start…

Preliminary steps to narrow down/ create your initial list:

  1. Firstly check out which schools are nearby- Google will do for starters but then you will need to contact the local authority to see which schools you are near ‘as the crow flies’. They can also advise you as to the size of the catchment area from the last couple of years and your distance from the school. That way you can order the schools your child is more likely to get a place at.
  2. Get chatting to parents in your area. Strike up a conversation with parents who have children of primary age and get an idea of what the school their son or daughter goes to is like.
  3. Go to the School’s website and see if you like what they say they are about- aims and values for example.
  4. From the website, you can also look at Ofsted reports. If a school needs improvement, read why. Could you live with the things that need improving in case they don’t? If they are good or even outstanding it is still a good idea to read what they do well and should work on.
  5. If you can get a couple of hours or so off work of a morning, book to go to an Open Day.
  6. Read reviews and forums, go to Mumsnet and see what people with children there say.

Start a log:

Get a notebook, open a Google doc or whatever suits you, note the name of the school and the distance from your home, and other details as you find them out. What do you like? What do you not like? How would the journey be to and from your home? What Facilities and do they have etc.?

Open Day:

Schools want to fill places and also want your child to be happy there when starting in reception. Open days are therefore a great opportunity to find out more about a school. You can see the school from the inside, ask questions and generally get a feel for the place. I did a couple of visits with my daughter and one of them she told me she didn’t like. That was interesting and of course, I bore it in mind.

What to ask at Open day?

Anything relevant to your child and that you haven’t found out by browsing the website. Don’t be nervous, though, thinking, you may have read it but cannot remember. Ask anyway! They will be happy to have questions.  Some things I asked were:

  • If/how they cater for dietary requirements?
  • Do they have a breakfast club (plus hours and how to apply)?
  • How do they cater for gifted and talented children/ pupils with special needs…?
  • How much time do pupils get to spend outside?
  • How is the day structured?

You will find many of your questions answered on the day anyway.

The application:

Check this out well in advance!

  • Go to the local authority website and check what you have to do to apply for a reception place
  • Check the deadline for applications (it should be around 10th January)
  • Register with eadmissions.org.uk
  • Get your paperwork organised. I needed the following:
    • my daughter’s birth certificate (with translation as she was born in Spain)
    • proof of address (Council tax bill)
    • child benefit application reference (this turned out a bonus as I learned I was entitled to it! You need to apply even if you aren’t)
    • to send my daughter’s passport (we were about to go on holiday so I contacted them and was able to submit the application mid-January and send the passport when back.)
    • supplementary form for some schools (eg a Church school)
    • the application form filled out online with up to 6 choices (it gets sent to your number 1 first; they accept or reject. If they reject it goes to number 2 and so on)

Don’t worry if it all seems a lot to take in. Go with your gut feeling, submit your application and wait- until April when you will find out the outcome…

Wishing you all the best. Any questions, please comment and I will get back to you.