Top tips for choosing a school
One of the questions we are most frequently asked is “which school would be best for my child?”
We are unable to recommend schools, every child is unique and therefore everyone's experience will be different.
However, we can suggest a number of things you might want to consider or ask about when you are looking at schools, to help you make your decision.
Take a look at our video:
- Start with local schools
- Visit at least two schools so you can make comparisons
- Take your child's views into account
- Research all school options before making your mind up
Ofsted rating, academic results and opinions of other parents often influence choices. Though these can provide useful information, we would encourage you to think about your child and their needs, and which schools they might be most suited to.
The timing of the school day might be a factor, or length of lessons and access to breakfast & after school clubs.
For some families, the physical environment might be very important. For example, if your child would benefit from access to a calm-down area, it is best to visit the school and discuss strategies of support with the SENCo, (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) since not all primary schools may be able to provide a separate area.
When choosing a high school your child’s friendship groups may also influence decisions. Gathering as much information as you can will help you work out your preferences.
Make a checklist of all the things that are important to you and your child. This will help you to ask the right questions.
Have a look at the SEN information report, SEN policy & behaviour policy (should be on the school’s own website).
It’s a good idea to visit schools so you can have a look at the environment and meet the staff. Most offer open evenings or afternoons, where the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator) is often available. We would suggest you visit at least two schools so you can make comparisons.
Take any relevant information about your child, such as their EHC plan or any specialist reports. If you are going to an open evening, it may not be possible to have an in-depth discussion, so you may want to make an appointment with the SENCO.
You can also request a separate visit and meeting with the SENCO, where you can discuss your child’s individual needs in more detail.
Before you go look at the schools’ websites to view their SEN information & related policies as this may help you think about what you want to ask.
|How SEN provision is organised in the school.|
How teaching is organised, class sizes, teaching assistants, group or individual work etc.
Whether the school have any experience of children with similar needs and how they were supported.
The support you could expect for your child (share previous examples or how you help your child at home)
How the school communicates progress to parents.
What processes are in place between teachers & the SENCO to track individual pupil progress.
When applying you can rank up to three (mainstream*) schools inside or outside Suffolk (you accept transport responsibility for any school you select - find out more) and each of your preferences will be considered equally and separately. Listing second and third preferences will not affect your child’s chance of being offered their first preference. It is recommended you apply for more than one school.
A place at any school, including your catchment school, cannot be guaranteed.
Read the oversubscription criteria for each school and check if unclear. This is how applications will be ranked if there are more applications than places available.
For example if you choose 3 schools which are all oversubscribed the admissions team will offer you the next nearest school which has a place. It can therefore be helpful to include a realistic choice for at least one of your preferences.
Watch out when applying for some voluntary controlled, voluntary aided, foundation, academy or free schools as they may require a supplementary information form (SIF). Read more within the admissions web pages.
If you don't get the school choice you wanted, you can appeal for one or more of your preferences and information about how to go about this will be in your offer letter.
*for a place at a special school you will need an EHC plan for your child. See our information about choosing and naming a school in an EHC plan.
See also our Frequently Asked Questions