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Choosing a school

Deciding what school I want my child to go to

When you are applying to start or transfer between schools, you can express your preferences to the School Admissions Team. Choosing an education setting for yourself or your child can be challenging. There are lots of things you can consider when selecting your preferences for which school or college you wish your child to go to.

You should try and visit as many schools as you can to find out more about it and to see if you like it. Most schools have open days, contact any school you are interested in or go to their website to find out when the next open day is.

To help make your decision, you can ask the school questions about these topics, or ask children/ young people who go to the school and their parents what they think. The BBC has a list of questions you can ask a school to help you make your decision.

Things you might like to consider when choosing your preferences are:

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Support and Inclusion.

If your child has SEND or you think they might have SEND this is very important. If your child has SEND and you are struggling to understand what support your child should get or what questions to ask, you can contact the Special Educational Needs and Disability Information and Advice Service (SENDIASS) for advice.

Even if you don’t think your child has SEND, it can be helpful to know about SEND Support as any child or young person can develop a form of SEND in the future. You can find out more about what support schools should usually offer for SEND and what information about SEND support should school share in our SEND Section.

You can also ask what support, policies and procedures exist around safeguarding, pupils experiencing problems in their lives (like bereavement), english spoken as another language (ESOL), and inclusion for pupils from marginalised or disadvantaged backgrounds.

The SENDIASS have shared a Things to Consider When Choosing a Secondary School Guide and a Choosing a Secondary School for a Child with an EHCP Guide.

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), you do not follow the usual admissions process. Go to our SEND section to find out how the admissions process works.

Getting to the school.

How convenient the school is to travel to is important. You can consider how long it will take you to travel there, whether your child needs your support or supervision to travel there, when the school starts and finishes and any breakfast or after school clubs you could use and their cost. How close the school is to you might also affect how likely you are to be offered a place.

Children and young people in education receive free and discounted travel with Transport for London. A small number of children and young people, mostly with SEND, can receive support to travel between home and school (including independent travel training, direct transportation, and financial assistance). Click here to find out more about assistance with travel.


What your child wants to do when they are older.

When you are applying to secondary school or post-16 education settings, you should consider what qualifications your child could get or what subjects they can study. Some schools have a specific focus, for example, science or sports. What qualifications you have can affect how easy it is to get into the career path you want. Consider what qualifications your child might need and check whether the setting offers that.

Considering what kind of post-16 education, career or further education path you want yourself or your child to pursue can be challenging, in our Preparing for Adulthood section we explain more about how you can make your decision, including information about preparing for employment and university.


Admissions and priority criteria.

When schools have more people who want to attend than there are places, the Local Authority decide who will get the place. They have criteria which says who they need to prioritise and give the places to first. Examples of things they prioritise first include children in foster care, children who have siblings at the school or people who live close to the school. The School Admissions Team have the school admissions criteria available each year online.

Admissions processes for pupils with Education Health Care Plans are different, go to our SEND Section to find out more.

It is important to understand these before stating your preferences, as this will affect the chance of getting a place at your preferred school. Selecting schools that you are unlikely to get into based on the priority or admissions criteria may lead to disappointment. If you are having difficulty selecting your preferences, you can contact the Transition Support Service who can advise you.

Some schools have their own admissions criteria that you need to meet before your child can be offered a place (this could be about faith background for example). Information about a school’s admissions criteria will be available on their website. You may need you to complete a Supplementary Information Form so you can prove you meet their criteria, you can find information about which schools need this on the Schools Admissions Page.


Ofsted Ratings.

Ofsted are an organisation that inspects schools and makes reports about them to provide information to parents about a school’s effectiveness. They will look at the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management of the school. You can find the Ofsted Rating of a school in Tower Hamlets on its page on our Local Offer, or find the full report on the Ofsted Website. You can find more information in the School inspections: a guide for parents.


Performance Tables.

Different performance tables can measure different things, the performance tables from the government report on school’s exam and test results, Ofsted Reports, and financial information. You can use the government website to find and check the performance of schools and colleges in England here.

There are other League Tables that are made by independent organisations which measure different things (including parent ratings for example).


Extra-curricular activities.

Schools offer lots of activities for pupils to get involved in, including sports, music, arts and extra academic or career development activities. Getting involved in these activities can support your child’s wellbeing, skills and applications for further work or study. You can ask the school what they have on offer. You can always find non-school based extra-curricular activities in the Events and Services section of our Local Offer.