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Choosing a school

All children in England between the ages of 5 and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school. To get this place you need to complete an application form. 

Whether you’re getting ready to apply for a primary school place or thinking about the right secondary school for your child, it’s important to do your research first.

Ask the right questions and think about what you know about your child. You can then choose the best school for them and help them take steps towards a bright future.

Check the school’s admissions criteria 

One of the first things to do is check out the school’s criteria for admissions. This will include the catchment area and whether they are a faith school.

You can find out about school catchment areas and the admissions criteria for primary/first/infant/junior/middle schools or high/secondary schools each school on our website.

It’s also worth doing a Google search to see what’s online about the school as well as taking a look at the school's own website.

What type of school is it? 

There are a wide range of schools in Staffordshire and you need to know which would be best for your child. 

We also have a number of university technical colleges. These are state-funded independent schools for young people aged 14+. They are sponsored by a business and an academic organisation (usually a university) and teach technical/specialist skills that are aligned with industry needs.

Most state schools have to follow the national curriculum. The most common ones are:

  • Community schools, controlled by the local council and not influenced by business or religious groups.
  • Foundation schools, with more freedom to change the way they do things than community schools.
  • Academies, run by a governing body, independent from the local council - they can follow a different curriculum.
  • Grammar schools, run by the council, a foundation body or a trust - they select all or most of their pupils based on academic ability and there is often an exam to get in.

Is it practical? 

Think about what practical arrangements you need to make.

  • Do you need childcare?
  • How will your child travel to the school you choose?

The family information service can help you find the childcare you need. You can also find out whether your child is entitled to transport assistance.

School performance/Ofsted results 

Each year the government publishes league tables for all schools. They show the percentage of children progressing and achieving the expected levels in reading, writing and maths, as well as the latest Ofsted rating. You can look at the school performance results using our search and compare page.

Make sure that you read the school's Ofsted report. Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. They inspect and regulate all schools.

Their report assesses:

  • achievements and standards
  • pupil development and wellbeing
  • the quality of teaching and learning
  • the care, guidance and support the school provides
  • how well the school is judged and managed

Have a look at the previous Ofsted report for the school as well as the current one. It will give you an idea of whether the school has progressed. 

What suits your child?

It’s not all about Ofsted results, what’s a great school for one child might not be the best for another. It’s worth thinking about what your child enjoys and looking at after school activities.

Check out what community and business links the school has and make sure you’re happy with their anti-bullying policy. You might want to consider the special educational needs and disability support offered.

Make the most of open days 

Visiting the school is a really important way of getting a feel for whether your child will be happy and do well there. Some people like to take their child to the open day because they’ll spot things from a child’s-eye view. If you prefer to go alone you can arrange to visit again at a later date without your child. 

When you’re there ask questions, particularly of the children already in the school. After chatting with them think about whether they seem happy and motivated. Do they speak positively of the school and their teachers? Trust your instincts, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details but get a feel for the school atmosphere, are the children happy here? Do they feel listened to? 

Don’t forget to look at the work on display. Does it represent a broad range of abilities? Do they value every child?

Remember it’s important not to base your decision on a particular teacher. They could have left by the time your child starts. It’s more about getting a feel for the school as a whole.

Making an application

You’re nearly ready to apply, find out more about the process at our applying for a school pages for primary/first/infant/junior/middle schools or high/secondary schools.

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