NHM Reader Comments: Homework in Infant and Junior School

Louise posted the following question on her Louise Nhm Smith profile “Good Afternoon Everyone. I’ve had a question from a NHM Reader that I’m intrigued to know the answer myself: “Has anyone advised their child’s school that their children won’t be doing homework in Infants school, and if yes, how did they go about doing this? My understanding is that homework isn’t mandatory until 8 years old…” TIA”

Thank you to all who contributed to this discussion, highlights are below and thank you to Juliet for putting this post together! 

NHM Readers comments on advising infant /junior schools their children wont be doing homework

Jaz said

“We’re clearly lucky as my school doesn’t believe in it so young. We just have to read each day- but I think that’s right! They do have a project over the summer which I think is fine. But also- if it’s making a project or something you don’t want them to be the only child that doesn’t do it and is left out…”

Mary said

“My son is y1 and his homework is a short writing exercise (often draw a picture and write a sentence); practice tricky words, read his book and number bonds. I let him chose to do it when he wants to. It takes no time at all. The teacher says it’s ok if not everything gets done. If I were you I would open the conversation with the school in an open and honest way. You might find they are open to your choice. Plus think about what aspects of homework you won’t do. Be prepared.”

Louise Nhm Smith said

“I have already had this response from a Primary school teacher who obviously wishes to remain anonymous: “I’m currently a Primary school teacher and when my little boy goes to school I will be doing the same and probably withdrawing him from KS1 SATs.

I would write a clear polite letter outlining why you do not want your child doing homework, inc references to official sources to support your view if you think the school will cause a fuss. I would also include what educational activities you will do i.e. read and discuss books, family meals, visits to places that engage your child (whatever is relevant to you). Speak to your child so they don’t rub it in to others and keep track that they are not doing it in break times.

I would however keep an eye on the projects because they can be fun for the family to share in and be aware they may miss out on rewards (merits, stickers). Good luck and I hope the school supports your plans.””

Louise Nhm Smith said

“Response from the same Primary school teacher: “After a very quick google search, there is no formal method to withdraw an able child from SATs that I can find. There is an option to simply not take them in during the week (and risk fines) or take them on an unauthorized holiday (less likely to get fines but as you will have seen in the press it is a hot topic).

From my personal perspective my boy is not due to take KS1 SATs until 2022 and a lot will change in that time. If they do not then I will have a conversation with my school about my concerns, and if not addressed, will consider not sending him in and taking the penalties/fines.

I have a lot of professional concerns about how schools are implementing the tests, especially at KS1 and the pressure that is put on very small minds, bodies and souls.

If you as a parent also have concerns your first port of call should be your child’s teacher. Understand how the school approaches the tests and discuss how your child can be supported so that they are not stressed. If this does not reassure you, I would go to the head as the ethos of a school can shape the exam experience. If you are still not happy you need to reflect on your options. The sad fact is that if you simply withdraw your child for the test week, they will still be taught as if they are sitting them and the stress that might bring. It’s a really hard thing to address and most schools have their hands tied and so (unfairly) pile the pressure on the children.

If you feel the pressure is affecting their mental health (scary at such a young age) or their love of learning/school, then I would bring that to the school’s attention asap. Always be polite and provide evidence: from language used at home (‘I hate school’, ‘I’m not doing well’, ‘I’m not good enough’), examples from work in school, sleep patterns etc. Explain that you are not happy that the year has become about a set of tests when they should be loving learning and see how the school respond.

If you have concerns you could always talk to the LEA to see what they’d expect in a year 2 class. Or consider changing school/home-schooling.

This is not in any way official, just the reflections of a mum who also teaches.””

Susan said

“My child is 5 (year 1) and has reading and maths and now spelling homework (10 words a week) and also “talking homework” but saying that the school is outstanding!!”

Emily said

“Yes. But it took my son’s paediatric consultant saying it three times before they listened…”

Louise Nhm Smith said

“A response from an assistant head at a local junior school who also wishes to remain anonymous: “Homework is not a statutory requirement in infant or junior schools in England. I am not sure it is statutory in KS3 but don’t quote me. However, parental involvement proven to be crucial in child development. There is no set definition of what parental involvement constitutes and it certainly isn’t restricted to ‘formalised homework’.

Many schools have project/topic related homework that is designed to encourage families to share in activities for those who wish to do it and many schools are more than happy to pinpoint parents to the right place to find suitable additional home learning tasks. However, this is again non-statutory.

Personally, as a teacher and a Mum, I do value reading at home (even if that comes in the simple form of a bedtime story). Spelling and multiplication tables/number facts are also areas that can make an impact.

The Sutton Trust report rated homework as having very little impact on children’s progress at school. However, parental involvement is paramount! Parents should feel confident in making a judgement about whether their child actually benefits from homework and schools will respect this if the child is generally supported by their parents in their learning.

By the way…homework is always a nightmare topic at parents evening because it generates such conflicting opinions. It’s very difficult for schools to please everyone on this one.””

Mata said

“Interesting it is not ‘statutory’ in Juniors. I wonder if that means the school does not have to set it or does it mean the child does not have to do it? My daughter’s school give them detention if it’s not done. Tried complaining but it’s hopeless.”

Karen said

“Only an education is statutory. How it is delivered is up to the parents. If you can’t find a school whose ethos you like or can negotiate with don’t forget home education is a perfectly allowable method of delivering education with no constraints on your curriculum or time.”

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NHM Readers Recommend: What to do if a sibling is allocated to a different school

I recently had a question from an NHM Reader ” Can anyone help please? My son has been allocated a school different to where his sister attends. Has anyone been in this situation? Any help appreciated.”

Thank you to the NHM Community for your responses, listed below:

NHM Reader’s recommendations for a sibling allocated to a different school

Helena said “It happened to a friend. Her children ended up going to different schools for 18 months until a place became available at her preferred choice (out of catchment) school for her youngest, where her eldest already was. I think she appealed but didn’t get anywhere.”

Joanne said “You can appeal the decision and see if that helps.”

Rebecca said “I’m in exactly the same position. You could appeal, but it’s very stressful (we went through 3 appeals for my son) and unless your second child has undeclared SEN or Hampshire School Admissions made an error (it does happen), then there’s really no point. One thing to bear in mind is that every appeal is pretty expensive for the school. We have decided to ask our son’s school if they can find out if an error has been made without going to appeal because we don’t want the school’s already stretched budget to be used for an appeal that has no grounds. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.”

Further information on the appeals process can be found on the Hampshire County Council’s website:

https://www.hants.gov.uk/educationandlearning/admissions/guidance/appeals

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NHM Readers Recommend: After School Drama Clubs

I recently had the following question from an NHM Reader: “Looking to see if your lovely followers can help. Looking for an after school drama club for my 4 year old. Looking for Monday’s or not Stage coach as it’s far too expensive for us.TIA”

Many thanks to the NHM Community for your responses, listed below in no particular order:

NHM Readers recommend after school drama clubs

Karen said:

“My little one went to Perform in Bramley. I think it was on a Friday but I’m sure there are others around on different days. Great for building confidence and learning life skills. Not in anyway like stage coach. They do a termly performance but it’s really laid back and no pressure on the children to be perfectly forms performers.”

Rachael said:

The Spotlight Centre not sure of the time table now as this was a few years ago. The person who we did go to has his own business now and is based at QMC but this is LAMDA I think he takes children from 7. It is called In Yer Face Productions.

“I think there is a group at Sherfield Park too”

Kate said:

“Is drama tots only pre school?”

Katie said:

Merry go Round Storytelling offer fab Stage Craft classes – they are Andover based but I know travel, and are regularly in Longparish, Whitchurch etc. Worth looking into. Amanda is lovely”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Private Tutors, Yr R

An NHM Reader recently asked: “I’m looking for recommendations for a private tutor for English in Basingstoke area – ideally someone who’ll also be working through the summer holidays?

My little boy is currently rounding off Yr R. His teacher has said he’s meeting all of the required development elements for his age but I’m really worried that he’s falling behind in his reading and writing. I guess it’s hard not to compare him to others and I often see mum’s posting the things their children can write, whilst mine still struggles with his own name. I’d just like to get a jump on getting him extra support now if possible.”

Thank you to the NHM Community for your responses, listed below in no particular order:

NHM readers recommend – Private tutors, Yr R

Mary said “There are a few clubs and tutors around, kumon club and there’s a place where blockbusters used to be. I know people who go to both.”

TJ said “We recommend Explore Learning my children love it. They take them from 4 yrs and accept childcare vouchers. https://www.explorelearning.co.uk/english-tuition/

Prubie said “https://m.facebook.com/educationmatterstutors/?ref=page_internal&mt_nav=1

Nita said “https://www.basingtutors.com/ are good, maybe worth a try”

Lisa said “Look for South Basingstoke Kumon Centre, they have a fb page. It’s group so less pressure than 1:1. If it makes you feel any better, my son barely even picked up a pencil for the first 2 years. Now in year 2 and “the penny has dropped” so to speak. It all falls into place eventually https://www.facebook.com/kumonsouthbasingstoke/

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NHM Readers: “After school” activities for pre-schoolers

As part of “North Hants Mum Question Time”, I was asked by Andrea “Is there any “after school” activity available for pre-schoolers? As a mum who works school hours but has a 2 year old, I would love to do a class or something with both of them after 3pm, but all classes for under 5s seem to be during the day.”

My response, as well as those received from the community, are below in no particular order.

NHM Readers: “After school” activities for pre-schoolers

Louise NHM replied: “Oooh, great question Andrea! These might help:
Tuesday: Fun Tots (PM)
2pm – 4pm – 1 year to 7 years
Basingstoke Sports Centre
Thursday: Fun Tots again and Emboite Ballet (PM)
4.15pm – 4.45pm – from 3 years to 5 years
Sherfield Park Community Centre, Sunwood Drive, Sherfield on Loddon, RG27 0FP
http://www.northhantsmum.co.uk/activities/

Nikki said “Andrea, we don’t offer after school, but do offer Sunday classes for 0-5s to cater for parents who work in the week. www.facebook.com/dinkydiscobasingstoke www.dinkydisco.co.uk

Rebecca said “I don’t know if it would interest you Andrea but something that I take both of mine to is Messy Church – they can play games for a bit, then there’s about 45 mins of crafts, a short talk and song, then dinner. At Christ Church Chineham it’s on a Monday (once a month) from 3:45-5:45, but there are loads around Basingstoke on different days.”

Louise said “Messy Monsters Basingstoke offer various single Sunday events which is very popular for working families. Messy Monsters Basingstoke

Karen said “Wessex Kids Club officially we start at 3 years but if parents stay we take at 2. Friday nights at Wessex Christian Fellowship. Free play, story, songs & crafts 6.30-7.30pm”

Sarah said “UCD runs on a Tuesday at Cranbourne College and Thursday at Oakridge Hall for All 4.45 all ages welcome”

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NHM Readers: When a child hates school

In response to a question from a NHM Reader, I asked the Friends of my “Louise nhm Smith” profile on Facebook “My 7 year old daughter really hates school. Every morning, for nearly an hour, she screams and shouts about how much she hates school and it’s too hard. This has been going on for about 4 months. If she hates it so much, should I be considering changing schools for her? I’m worried she might be the same wherever she goes though. We’ve talked to her about it in depth and tried everything but kind of at our wits end”.

Thank you for all of your very supportive responses, which I have listed below:

NHM Readers advise on when a child hates school

Claire said “Sounds awful for you both. No real advice, but speak to the school, perhaps get the teachers to try and find out what’s wrong if she won’t speak to you? I’m sure you will find a way to make her happy again”

Louise said “Talk to the school, they should take this seriously and offer practical assistance. Ultimately, changing school may help. Forcing attendance may not. You (and they) don’t want this to escalate into full refusal and school phobia. This website may be of help and there is a Facebook support group: http://www.schoolrefusal.co.uk/

Larissa said “Unfortunately not all schools are good at supporting parents and children with this sort of problem … I learned the hard way!”

Louise said “Absolutely, I’ve read some very difficult stories and it’s been a real eye-opener, I think this would be a very good reason to look for a new school. I’m sorry for you and your child’s struggles and am glad to read things are improving”.

Larissa said “My 7 year old daughter was the same for around a year. Last term it got so bad she was school refusing. My advice .. is there a reason for her not liking school? Bullying? Learning issues that the school haven’t picked up on? Talk to the school. We exhausted all avenues and were not getting anywhere so we removed our daughter. She was so unhappy and her self esteem was suffering. She is now going to a new school and her behaviour has got so much better. Sometimes one school’s environment just isn’t right for your child. Listen to your child and do what’s best for them. There is always a reason for this kind of behaviour.”

Marie said “Changing schools for my daughter when she had this problem was the best thing I ever did for her. Something is wrong, you need to show her you are on her side.”

Larissa said “Yes!! Totally agree.. I have moved both my children at different times .. my eldest having special needs it was the best decision I made. Always listen .. often challenging behaviour is a child trying to tell you something is not right”

Fiona said “Go and see the school ask for an appointment, write down what’s going on they may be able to give you support also other agencies may be offered for support”

Mary said “There is something schools can offer called ELSA so speak to the school, get some advice and see if they have noticed anything, ELSA is emotional literacy so it may help her to articulate her problem.”

Larissa said “My daughter’s old school told me there was no space to offer her Elsa!! But I agree Elsa is a great thing if the schools do it properly.”

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NHM Readers: Recommended books for a nearly 7 year old

I recently asked the Friends of my “Louise nhm Smith” profile on Facebook “I’m looking for some more books to read Miss NHM (nearly 7) at bedtime, especially some book boxsets, and was wondering if anyone had any recommendations?”

Many thanks for your responses, listed below in no particular order:

NHM Readers recommend books for a nearly 7 year old

“The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks

Ruth said “The Wishing Tree? There are two more books with it in a set, it’s Enid Blighton if i recall…”

Susie said “We’ve struggled with these. Although I loved the books, it’s very old fashioned & my 7 year old questions a lot about what different things mean. Shall try again when she’s older.”

Katie said “The Works had some really good book sets the other day. I got my son 1.”

Eleanor said “My 7yo is loving the Worst Witch box set.”

Yvette said “Anthony My 5 year old loves Roald Dahl”

Rebecca said “Narnia!”

Kelly said “My son is 7 just read Nania and loved every minute of it.”

Elizabeth said “Charlotte loved The Worst Witch.”

Charlotte said “Wishing Tree and Faraway Tree. Famous 5, Some of the younger Roald Dahl’s”

Emily said “I’ve just got an Enid Blyton box set for my niece for Xmas, it’s got the Faraway Tree etc in it, they were my absolute fave when I was that age”

Claire said “Clarice Bean are good and they move onto the Ruby Redfort series”

Yvette said “My 6 year old loves Roald Dahl. The Book People online is so cheap for boxsets”

Marie said “Anything by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Terry Pratchett”

Lisa said “David Walliams books and the Mr Gum series – they always make us laugh”

Melody said “The Chronicles of Narnia are a firm favourite, and for some non fiction, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls”

Helen said “Zoe’s Rescue Zoo”

Sarah said “Cressida Cowell’s How to Train your Dragon series are fantastic. I think David Tennant reads the audio books and they are fab!”

Fiona said “The Magic Faraway Tree. The Famous Five.”

Fiona said “https://bookloverjo.wordpress.com Jo is brilliant at recommending books”

Sue said “Magic Faraway Tree”

Amanda said “If you haven’t read the Christmasaurus or the Creakers I would recommend them”

Natalie said “Holly Webb is a fav in my house all animal based adventures (also often on sale in The Works) also can’t beat the classics Roald Dahl or Enid Blyton!”

Fiona said “Gangster Granny”

Heather said “The Witch Wars series are popular with my 7 year old and all the Lauren Child books (Clarice Bean particularly)”

Hannah said “Roald Dahl had been a bedtime favourite in this house. That and the Faraway Tree books.”

Anne said “Check out Pamela Butchart (Baby Aliens Got my Teacher), David Solomon (My Brother is a Superhero), Emma Carroll (Letters to the Lighthouse), Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike), James Nicol (Apprentice Witch), Lorraine Gregory (Mold and the Poison Plot). And Kathryn Rundell (The Explorer), Matt Haig (A Boy Called Christmas), Mary Alice Evans (Who Let the Gods Out). There are loads of recent fantastic authors writing for this age at the moment!”

Wendy said “My son loved the Great Hamster Massacre, there’s a series of them if you enjoy it. Captain Underpants and anything by Dav Pilkey are also good.”

Christine said “Roald Dahl (Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are favourites), Mirabelle (the chapter books not the abridged ones) by Julia Donaldson – we read them when she was 5 but they’re a firm favourite still, Stella Batts box set was very popular, Rainbow Magic (although quite boring in my opinion but my 6 year old enjoys them). We’re going to try the Worst Witch next”

Sarah said “The Rainbow Magic Fairies are great each one has a different girls name and they are available in box sets too. Winnie & Wilbur books are quite good too.”

Kate said “Jack and the Flum Flum tree”

Helen said “Roald Dahl- anything they’re fab. The Secret Garden. The Worst Witch. A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch. Judy Blume – Fudge, Super Fudge, Sheila the Great. The Indian in the Cupboard. The Borrowers.”

Susan said “James started with Harry Potter at age 6. We read them together…”

Liane said “How to Train your Dragon, anything by David Walliams, Enid Blyton’s Famous 5, Worst Witch, all really great box sets.”

Leah said “Rainbow Fairies series. Animal Rescue series. Wishing Chair & Faraway Tree series. The Works is great. And also the Book People. And Waterstones – you get discount too online/card”

Fiona said “http://www.worldbookday.com

Rebekah said “David Walliams books are all firm favourites in our house.”

Susan said “Just William went down well, but some of the language, and the concept of having a cook as well as a mother, might need explaining!”

Susan said “Naughtiest Girl in the School. Alex Ryder for action/spy stuff. Mrs. Wildings book corner is the answer, I think! She has a Facebook page. Young James Bond by Charlie Higson. Excellent series.”

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NHM Reader Recommendations: Paediatric First Aid Courses

An NHM Reader asked “Any idea how I could get on to/ find info on how to get on a children’s first aid course? Got a 3 year old and a 1 year old, and when my little one choked on a grape a few weeks ago I had no idea what to do!!! Luckily she was fine but would like to be more informed, just not sure where to start!?”

Many thanks to the NHM Reader recommendations below, which are in no particular order.

NHM Readers Recommend Children’s First Aid Courses

St John Ambulance

St John Ambulance

Samantha said “St John’s”

First Aid Angels Limited

First Aid Angels Limited

Marie B said “First aid angels”

Marie R said “I’d recommend Vicky at First aid angels too. We did a group class with her at my friends house when the kids were small.”

First Aid Angels Limited said “thank you for your support Ladies. We offer a 2 hour parents first aid course in your own home or venue Usually on a weekday evening. We are a Qualsafe approved centre and offer accredited Paediatric and adult first aid courses too.”

Tigerlily Training

Tigerlily Training

Kay said “We use Tiger Lily for our paediatric courses at Spotlight Centre.”

Kelly said “I have done the Tigerlilys 12hr paediatric course which is really good or they do a shorter 6hr course and a reasonable price.”

RCS Services

RCS Services

Bethan said “Speak to RCS. They run safe and healthy baby courses which incorporate a paediatric first aid training session”

NCT Basingstoke

NCT Basingstoke

Cerys said “NCT run baby & child first aid courses in association with Red Cross.”

Lizzie said “I did the NCT Red Cross one which was really good.”

Baby Resuscitation

Baby Resuscitation

Louise said “highly recommend this company Baby Resuscitation”

Keepabeat

KeepaBeat Basingstoke

Juliet said “KeepaBeat run Paediatric First Aid classes in the area”

Basingstoke Discovery Centre

Basingstoke Discovery Centre

Lucy said “I did mine at the library in basingstoke festival place… It was at a huge discount too so worth asking incase they are doing more (as this was a year and a half ago now)”

Lizzy said “We did ours at Basingstoke discovery centre & was very cheap. So definitely worth checking if they still do it.”

Viables Community Centre

Viables Community Centre

Luan said “Viables have some emergency aid courses coming up and they deal with various things including choking for infants and adults. Free too! Next is Sep 20th at 2pm”

Gail said “viables community centre are doing free first aid courses presently!!”

Birth to Beyond – Viables Community Centre

Viables Community Centre

Luan said “Our new Birth to Beyond course starts on Monday and a first aider will be attending to cover choking, febrile convulsions etc. The course is £20 for five weeks and we will be covering all sorts of other things too. First aid for infants is in the first week. 01256 473634 Viables Community Centre or office@viables.org.uk”

British Red Cross

British Red Cross First Aid Training

Susan said “We did ours through the Red Cross but I don’t remember any booking details.”

Heartstart Tadley Triangle Scheme

Heartstart Tadley Triangle Scheme

Madeleine said “Tadley Triangle Heartstart did free courses a few years ago”

First Aid For Life

First Aid for Life

Peta said “First aid for life. Owner is london based but she has health care gurus all over. NCT use her (very adaptable/personalised) courses regularly.”

Other Suggestions

Karen said “St John Ambulance – Get your FREE pocket Baby First Aid guide

Sarah said “you could try contacting local community centres or nurseries or play groups? sometimes they book a course for staff and have spaces left?”

Kelsey said “We went on a free one that the children’s centres were doing. Not sure if they still are.”

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NHM Readers Recommend after school football sessions for 5+ years

An NHM Reader recently asked “I’m looking for a football after school session if possible for 5 years +… starting in September. Would you be able to put a shout out for me? I know there was one done on pre-schoolers….”

Thank you to all those who replied. The responses are below and in no particular order.

NHM Readers Recommend after school football sessions for 5+ years

Sarah said “Hatch Warren Phoenix are after children in Year R and 1. Runs on Saturday mornings though very professional group and coaches are fabulous”

Evi said “Brighton Hill school power league, https://www.facebook.com/GolElite/ Thu 5-6”

Wendy said “There’s one at Everest on a Wed but the FA website doesn’t have the details. Give the community centre a call for info.”

For a Sat session, Lods Tods is training for 4 to year 1. 10 – 12 on Sherfield village green. £2 pay as you go.”

Candice said “These guys run during term time at Sherfield Park Community Centre on Mondays 5-6pm. They also run coaching workshops over the summer holidays (all 5 weeks here M-F 9am – 3pm or half days) so a great opportunity to maybe have a few trial sessions in advance of September Challenger Sports

Jo said “Tuesdays 6-7 at Richard Aldworth school with these guys…Pro-Skills Coaching Basingstoke

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Questions I would ask if Miss NHM was starting YR now

I’ve learnt a few things during the last three years, since Miss NHM started school.

We’ve changed school in that time and we’ve experienced two very different schools as a result.

These are the questions or the things I would be thinking about if Miss NHM were to start school all over again.

As I’ve said here before, I’m very aware that I only have experience of two schools so please take this with a pinch of salt.

You don’t have to agree with me and that’s fine. These are just my ramblings, as a parent, on what I would be asking or considering if Miss NHM was to go back and start school again.

Oh and apologies to any teachers or teaching assistants who read NHM and take offence to any of this. I think that the majority of you do a PHENOMENAL job under very difficult conditions and I’m very thankful for all of your efforts.

Visiting Schools/Questions to Ask

“What are your objectives for the school?”

“What do you want the children to get out of their time from school?”

If you are visiting lots of schools I would recommend seeing if you can get some time with the head. They are top of the food chain at the school and as everything flows down from them it would be important for me to understand what their “ethos” is for the school.

I would ask them about what their objectives are for the school and what they expect the children to get out of school. If they don’t mention the word “fun” at least twice during that conversation I wouldn’t even be considering that school.

If all the head or the teachers talk about is education and maths and english that would be a red light. For me, infants school (in fact all school) needs to be not just about education but also about the welfare ofeach child and how the school would support that.

I believe that there needs to be a fun element in school. Children should not be expected to sit at their desk all day long, especially not in YR.

I would also be VERY reticent if that head teacher came across as very cold and didn’t share anything about their thoughts or feelings. This will reflect throughout the school.

Length of service of the teaching staff

“How long has the head teacher been at the school?”

At Miss NHM’s first school the head teacher changed during the summer holidays just before she started YR. Parents were not informed and I only found out about this by accident. It was handled appallingly by the school and things changed dramatically from when we originally saw the school to when Miss NHM started school. To the point that we didn’t even know when Miss NHM would be starting school until a month before. This should have been an early warning sign to me.

Also, it was clear that the head teacher had no idea what they were doing and this reflected in Miss NHM’s experience of YR.

“How long have the teachers in YR been at that school? ”

This is really important. It’s very interesting to note that often when a new head starts, a lot of the existing staff leave within 6 months, so you will essentially be starting with a brand new staff team.

School Visits

We were given a tour of one school by a parent governor. I wouldn’t attend this tour again. They did not give us a clear picture of the school and we only found this out once Miss NHM started at that school.

I also attended another school visit that was led by children who attended that school. This was a DREADFUL way of seeing a school because it wasn’t possible to ask questions as we went round because the children were unable to answer them. Or maybe that was the idea…

Visit during the school day

As I’ve said before I would also ensure that my visits were during the day time whilst the existing children were in the school. This is VERY enlightening. If the children are all sitting well behaved behind desks, that wouldn’t sit well with me after everything we have experienced.

In YR children should be free to roam. Their focus should be on play activities. I would stand in the YR rooms and turn around slowly and take in the environment. Are the rooms free flowing? Are there mostly toys and sensory items available for the children to play with? Are several of these outside? These are the kinds of things I would be considering as a parent.

School Uniform

“What’s the policy on school uniform?”

Are the school really, really strict on school uniform? This speaks volumes to me if they are strict about uniform in infants school.

Particularly if they demand that the children wear logo’d T-shirts. The stress that we went through because Miss NHM wouldn’t wear logo’d T-shirts because they scratched, is still firmly etched in my mind.

“Extra” classes

“Does the school allow for any other “classes” during the school day?”

I know of some schools that have extra classes during the school day that parents can pay for. Things like sports, music and art, the stuff that the government doesn’t deem important enough to be included in the school curriculum on a regular basis.

If the school doesn’t allow external providers into the school, to me, this indicates the philosophy of the school.

Forest School

“Does the school have any provision for forest school.”

I know of several local schools that have forest school and I’m GUTTED that Miss NHM missed out on this at her school as they mainly do it for the YR and Y1’s in her current school and her old school didn’t have forest school at all.

The children turn up in casual clothes and spend the day outside. The fact that some schools recognise how important it is for young children to be outside would be important to me.

Holidays during term time

“What’s the school policy on taking a child out of school during term time?”

This was my “killer” question when we were going round to view schools before Miss NHM started YR.

All the schools will say the same. It’s illegal, the children will miss out on their education and become illiterate, stupid and will fail at life, you’ll get fined, blah, blah, blah. However, it’s not WHAT they say it’s the WAY that they say it. One head teacher of a school we visited literally tried to rip my head off after I’d asked her that question.

Her response made me think very long and hard about whether I would want my child in a school where the head felt it was appropriate to behave like that with a very reasonable question from a parent who was new to the schooling system.

Failing YR

“How does a child fail YR at this school?”

If a teacher or head teacher balks at the word “fail” then that’s what I would be looking for. If I got a long spiel about how children fail YR for whatever reasons, I would NOT be sending my child to that school.

Time outside

“How often are the children allowed to play on the school field?”

Does the school even have a school field and if they do are the children allowed to play on it or is it “just for show”. I would also want to know about break times and the times that children are allowed outside.

For example, if it’s a heatwave are children still allowed outside to play in the shade during their break times or do they need to remain in the sweltering heat in the classroom?

Additional Needs Children

“How are children with additional needs treated at this school?”

Even if I didn’t have a child with additional needs this would now be a key question for me.

Having seen the IMMORAL and inhumane way that Miss NHM was treated at her old school and having heard that several other children with additional needs have now been removed by their parents from that school, I would want to know exactly what the school was doing to support children with additional needs.

Even if my child didn’t have additional needs I would want to meet the SENCO and the ELSA of the school so I knew who these people were and I got to see how sympathetic and understanding they were.

You never know if your child is suddenly going to need extra support, like we did, and knowing these people in advance and what their “ethos” is would be important to me.

Reception Staff

Having experienced two school receptions I know EXACTLY what I would be looking for.

If the receptionist on the front desk is rude, dismissive or patronising, this speaks volumes about the school.

They will potentially be the first person that you speak too or meet. If they can’t be civil or understanding of a new parent who has no idea what is going on, I wouldn’t want my child at that school.

If the reception staff are bubbly and happy and very willing to give you advice if you are a new parent then this is what I would be looking for.

Sports Day

“What happens on Sports Day?”

This is a bit of a random one but having experienced two very different Sports days at two different schools I would want someone to explain to me what happens on sports day.

If there is no mention of Mum’s races, Dad’s races, toddler races or teacher races this would raise a red flag for me.

For me, Sports days should be a really lovely family affair and if parents and families aren’t invited to take part and it’s just about rigidly following the “structure” of the schools Sports Day, I would be concerned.

Primary Schools vs. Infants Schools

“Is the school a Primary or an Infants school?”

In my naivety before Miss NHM started school I was adamant that she went to an Infants school because I thought it would be better for her to be with children roughly the same age as her and that she would be with lots of her peers.

However, now that we’ve been through two schools I would ALWAYS opt for a Primary school, for many reasons.

Primary schools are normally smaller schools with smaller years, so instead of 3 or 4 classes of 30 children in YR you have 1 or 2 classes of 30 children for each year in a Primary school.

Younger children are also mixing with other children a lot older than them and I have only seen good things come from this. Miss NHM is in awe of the children in Y6 and is always trying to emulate her favourites.

Also, if your child is in Infants school you then have all of the anxiety and stress when they move from Infants to Juniors. I have several friends at Miss NHM’s old school who are living this reality and it looks like it’s quite stressful. Not knowing what the new junior school will be like can be very worrying (they often operate independently of the infants school), as well as stressful wondering about how things “step up” in Y3.

Go with your gut

Most importantly, I would trust my instincts. I wouldn’t let Mr NHM do some of the school visits on his own because I was busy working and trying to look after Miss NHM whilst she was still an un-diagnosed Coeliac. I would want both of us to go and see ALL of our local schools either together or independently during school time.

I wouldn’t just follow the system and think that the school that’s closest to us has got to be a “good” school because aren’t all schools “good”? (No, they aren’t).

I would trust my parenting instincts and if a school didn’t feel right for whatever reason, even if I couldn’t verbalise it, I wouldn’t send Miss NHM there.

When you go into a school and you speak to the staff and the children you will just “know” which school is right for your child.

I hope this hasn’t been too stressful to read for new parents who are due to join the schooling system soon.

Hopefully it’s given you some things to think about that I had never considered when Miss NHM started school. (I wish I had had the benefit of reading this post when she was 3 years old!)

What would you add to these questions?

Good luck!

Feedback from NHM Readers on this post:

Alison: “Some interesting points although I was rather shocked to find out that the school closest to you might be the only one you got even if you didn’t chose it.” 

Leanne: “Lots to think about although your bit about infant/junior schools I would say is unnecessarily worrying for parents who live where there is only a choice of separate schools and no primaries. There are also some enormous primaries! I’ve taught in both and I don’t think the type of school has been a significant factor in children’s happiness.

Also-no teacher or parent races at sports day would not raise a red flag. For every parent that enjoys that sort of thing, there is one that dreads it and hates the thought of letting their child down. Also, the more races there are, the longer the children are sat doing nothing which is especially not great during this hot weather!

I totally agree with listening to see if the HT talks about more than just English and Maths.”

Lucy: I’d add that your child isn’t legally required to be in school at all. It’s your choice how and where your child is educated.”

Leanne: “Oh and it is worth knowing that you can take your child out of school legally until the term after they turn 5 (when they then have to be in education). So if your child is 5 in May, for example, you can take them on holiday any time during their Reception Year but if they are 5 in November you only can for that first term.”

Lizzie: “Couple of things I would like to add. Firstly, your child is not compulsory school age until the term after they turn 5 so it is your right to choose how much they attend until then. Also, if your child is born 1st April – 31st August you can apply to decelerate them and start them at school a year later at age 5. You can ask for them to start in reception.”

Lizzie: “In regard to forest School – I am a forest School and outdoor learning teacher. If you really want forest school make sure it isn’t just one class that get the opportunity, look for a school that continues the provision throughout the school every year to get the most from it. Also, don’t get hung up on forest school itself. There’s schools out there that don’t have actual forest school sessions but outdoor learning and is embedded across the curriculum throughout the school. If a school values outdoor learning they will be telling you about it before you ask.”

Other questions to ask suggested by NHM Readers

Good Afternoon Everyone! I’m putting together a post with questions to ask and things to look out for when visiting Infants/Primary schools. I’ve had some great suggestions in the YR 2018 group but thought I’d ask the whole of the NHM Community if they have any suggestions? TIA 

Charlotte: “Ofsted report, exam results, behaviour management, teaching method as in topic based etc, class sizes, mixed year classes or years on own”

Mary: “Ask about toilets and the dignity of children when using them.”

Lisa: “Mainly go with gut feeling but also look at how happy/polite/well presented the kids are, how much homework do they get in each year, after-school clubs, staff turnover, parent involvement (trips etc), friendliness of staff particularly office staff, how often parents get feedback (i.e reports/parents eve)….”

Victoria: “You can ask all the questions in the world but you will ‘just know’ when you’ve found the right one for your child. When forming questions think about your child’s needs, current ‘academic’ interest, emotional maturity and then base your questions on that. In some way generic questions about OFSTED, sat results are not really going to give you the answers you need!”

Hannah: “Look for how the staff interact & engage with the children. I’d want to know more than anything else that staff would be able to build a positive relationship with my child (no matter how difficult they were being) so they would feel safe and happy… only then will the learning etc take place.”

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