Most parents want to give their children the best education they possibly can and many consider moving house to be able to get into a better school. We are living in a society that has become slightly obsessed with league tables and OFSTED reports, so competition can be fierce in the catchment areas of the best state schools. Here are our top tips on how to get the best of both worlds – the dream school for your children and the dream house for you:
1. Start planning well in advance. We all know that buying and selling houses always takes longer than anticipated, so try to start the process well ahead of the admission deadline of your chosen school; you don’t want to end up ‘panic buying’ to make the deadline, or worse still, finding yourself between houses when the deadline hits. Remember, you need to have exchanged on your new house before you can use that address on your school application form.
2. Check out the schools admissions policy. Many schools have complex admissions policies that can work in your favour if you happen to qualify – or can leave you stranded if you haven’t done your homework. Issues such as how a school deals with siblings can have a dramatic effect on the actual number of places available to other children. Religious criteria are also quite common and can help you jump the queue if you’re a member of the required church. When in doubt, contact the school and ask to see a copy of their admissions policy.
3. When choosing the catchment area to move to, try not to set your heart on the small, extremely oversubscribed school surrounded by less than desirable schools where you’d rather not send your little darling. Instead choose an area with several good primaries so you won’t be too disappointed if you don’t get your first choice. Also think about secondary schools – it might seem like a long way off when your toddler is tugging on your apron strings, but it comes around all too quickly!
4. Always check catchment areas before committing to a house. Catchment areas do change, and estate agents won’t always be up-to-date on the latest boundaries. Make sure you check with the school or you might find yourself on the wrong side of the line.
5. Don’t base your decision solely on OFSTED reports and league tables. Always visit a school you are considering and see if it feels right for you and your child. Try chatting to some of the parents outside the school gates to get their views on the school. Or if you’re not comfortable with that, simply hang out nearby and observe – you can tell a lot from how the kids behave when they come out of school and how the parents interact with each other.
6. A head teacher is the single biggest influence on a school. Try to find out if they are planning to retire imminently or will be staying on for a good few years.
7. A good school can dramatically influence house prices, so expect to pay a premium for a house near a good state school. On the plus side though you will find this value holds well – assuming the school’s reputation continues to be just as good.
If this all sounds too time consuming and stressful for you, why not get ScoutBee to do the research for you? We can advise you on admissions policies, catchment areas and the general feel and reputation of schools you might be considering. And if there’s nothing on the market, we’re a firm believer in letter-dropping the target area with a heart-felt plea; this can often work in provoking a potential seller to make that decision to sell. Have a look at our services and see if we can help you.