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Moving home: 5 ways to find good local schools

When you are moving your family to a new area, you need to find out more about local schools.

Here are our five top tips for discovering the best schools close to your new home, so you can rest easy knowing your children will be getting a great education.

1. Look at Ofsted reports

There are different school regulators in England, Scotland and Wales. Each commissions reports on achievements, absence levels and quality of teaching, which can be used to compare schools in the local area or across the country.  

  • Ofsted rates every school in England according to how well they are performing, with ‘outstanding’ being the highest ranking. There are four grades (‘inadequate’, ‘satisfactory’, ‘good’, ‘outstanding’), that a school can be given, along with written comments on a number of areas. 

  • In Wales, Estyn is the regulator. It uses colour coded categorisation to rank schools. The top ranking is green, which means the school is ‘highly effective’, followed by yellow, amber and then red, which shows a school is ‘in need of greatest improvement’.

  • In Scotland, reports are carried out by Education Scotland, which provides quality indicators across performance, children’s experiences and whether their learning needs are being met. 

2. Research school rankings

Another way to determine if there are good schools in a particular area is by searching for school league tables and rankings, where schools are ranked by exam results and Ofsted reports.

There’s a school performance search tool on the gov.uk website, or on news sites such as the Telegraph, while local newspapers often have their own league tables, listed area by area. 

3. Check local news stories

While school league tables and Ofsted reports give you a general overview of school performance, local news sites and Facebook pages are often an excellent source of ‘real world’ examples about particular schools.

Look out for sporting achievements, theatrical performances and other special events that show how proactive the local schools really are. 

4. Rethink your idea of ‘good’

What does a ‘good’ school really mean to you and your family? Are you looking for particular teaching methodologies, specialisms in a certain subject, or support for children with specific needs? Think about your child’s interests, and consider the quality of wraparound care such as before and after school clubs, that will support your family’s routine and lifestyle. 

‘Good’ might also mean other things to you, such as convenience. It’s important that you consider how your children will get to school, whether that’s walking or if you are able to give them a lift. If neither are possible, is there a school bus? This is worth considering before you move and it will greatly affect your lifestyle once you do. 

5. Chat to local parents and teachers

One of the best ways to get an idea of schooling in a particular area is by talking to the local people. Ask parents where their children go to school, and how happy they are with their education, but bear in mind that there may be some bias.

If you know any teachers, or visit a school open day, try and find out what the working environment is like in particular primary and secondary schools. The more supportive a school is of its teachers and pupils, the better it will probably be for your child.  

If you want your children to go to a good school within a certain area, you need to consider its catchment area. You can find information about school catchment areas on the government schools admission website. You can also find out which primary schools “feed” certain secondary schools, so that you know if your child’s next school will be as good as the one they currently go to. 

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