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NAHT: Personal touch most important when selecting schools

School leaders' union, the NAHT, is advising parents and carers that their top priority should be talking to the head teacher when selecting a school

Posted by Julian Owen | January 18, 2018 | School life

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is advising that the personal touch is more important than data when it comes to parents choosing a school for their children.

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of NAHT, said: “Finding a place for their children at a local school is a stressful experience for many families. Today, parents face the primary schools' applications deadline for the next academic year, knowing they may not succeed in securing the place that they want for their children. It’s a challenging time for families and schools alike. 

While data such as school league tables can be useful, there are no ‘health warnings’ given about the numbers published, and there should be. At face value, all the numbers tell you are how a relatively small group of pupils in a school performed in a set of narrow tests, focused on a small segment of the curriculum. Tests and exams are only part of the picture when judging a school’s effectiveness. 

What will make all the difference is visiting the school, talking to the head teacher, staff and pupils. It will help families get a feel for the school and whether it will offer the right environment for their children to be happy and nurtured.” 

Having visited a school, NAHT advises parents to turn to the school website, which can provide a wealth of information to help their decision. Talking to other parents with children already at the school is also a useful thing to do. 

Lack of systemised approach to planning school places 

The huge increase in pupil numbers over the next few years will make primary school admissions even harder for parents. The government’s own figures show that an extra 750,000 school places will be needed in England by 2025, to meet a 10% rise in pupil population. 

Paul Whiteman continued: “Since 2011, the powers of local authorities in planning school places have been significantly reduced, without an alternative system to take their place. We have authorities, academies and central government taking decisions in isolation. With the massive increase in pupil numbers and over-stretched budgets, we cannot afford inefficiency and conflict. 

Until some agency at the local or regional level has the information and the clout to prioritise school places where they are most needed, parents and children will always be unsure that the system will give them what they want. This does not necessarily need to be a local authority, but someone does need to do it.'

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