Choosing the ‘right’ primary school: what’s really important?

Have you had the task yet of choosing a primary school for your child? What things did you take into account?

Of course there are a number of things that parents might consider, some of these are about the child and some, quite frankly are more about parents themselves. I have heard parents over the years mention a whole host of considerations when looking into a primary school for their child and as a mum of four I have also had some of these thoughts and questions myself.

The first main question to answer is state school, private school or home education? The vast majority of children of primary age in the UK are educated in state primary schools, with the bulk of the remaining children being educated in private schools. However, for some families home schooling may be an option which needs further reflection.

Whatever your decision, you need to be sure you have looked at all the options and decided on the one that is best for your family.

You may go through some, or even all of the thoughts below when deciding on a primary school for your child:

  • Does the school have a good reputation?
  • Can we walk there?
  • How far is the drive and what is the parking like?
  • What are their afterschool activities like?
  • Do they have a breakfast club?
  • Do they have an afterschool club?
  • What sports are available?
  • Will any of your child’s friends be going to the school?
  • Are older siblings or family members at the school?
  • What are the high school options from this primary school?
  • What is the language of instruction?
  • Can the school cater for additional needs?
  • What are the good and bad news stories surrounding the school?
  • What are the options available for school excursions?
  • What do the inspection reports say about the school?
  • What is the uniform like?
  • How will I feel when I tell people my child attends a particular school?
  • What will other people say about my choice of school?

Everyone has an opinion about what is important when it comes to selecting a primary school for your child. Some parents spend thousands of pounds just to move into an area because they want their child to go to a particular school. Is this really necessary? Well ultimately it depends on your priorities and what you consider to be important and also a measure of a good school.

Should a ‘good’ primary school be solely measured on the inspection report? Or should it be measured on how happy the pupils and staff at that school are? Only you can decide really, but I would urge you to look beyond what is immediately obvious.

Private does not mean best; reputations are not always built on accuracy and inspection reports do not show the full picture.

There are parents I know who have made a decision about a school without even visiting, simply basing their choice of school on reputation alone. In my experience, children do their best at a primary school where they are happiest.

By visiting a school, you can gain a sense of the style they adopt in teaching, the facilities available, the staff and the general overall approach of the school. This leads to a ‘feeling’ of whether or not you think your child would be happy in that setting.

Visiting a school with your child further adds to this, by enabling them to see what ‘big school’ will be like and becoming familiar in the surroundings.

If your child is very anxious about starting school, you may feel that the most important factor is for them to attend a school where they will already know others, as this will help allay any anxiety. You know your child best and only you can decide.

Whilst there are many parents scrabbling to get into a particular school, because they have a perception that it is ‘the best in the area’, many others are more relaxed. Some parents feel that the important decisions come later for secondary school and primary school does not really have an impact.

My personal view is that the happiness of the child is paramount and children who are not happy at a particular school will not do well, no matter how much it costs, what uniform they wear, who else goes there and how many after school activities they do. However, I do feel that when choosing a primary school, you should consider which secondary school takes the bulk of the pupils.

Why is this important? Surely we don’t need to think about secondary school when our children are five years old? It is important because if you have strong feelings against the secondary school (for whatever reason) you are signing yourself up for potential conflicts and upset with your children later on.

At 11, children’s friends are everything to them, much more than at age five, if you suddenly tell your child they can’t go to the secondary school ALL their friends are going to you will be igniting all sorts of negative emotions at what is already a challenging age.

Only you can decide, don’t overthink the decision but do base your decision on what really matters, not the colour of the uniform or what the neighbours will say.


  1. It can feel like such a big decision. I found it easy but I went with my gut, I went to visit a couple of schools and I just knew which one felt right and I went with it, I didn’t dwell on figures etc… I think sometimes you just get a feeling from the school.

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