Step 2: Judging for yourself

Below are some common reasons often given by parents for wanting a school and why it is important for your child that you get the whole picture:

'Everyone says it is a good school.' Schools can get good and bad reputations unfairly and can change very quickly with changes in head or staff. What suits one parent of the school may not suit another.

'It had an excellent OFSTED Report.' The reports are important as a guide but they can become very quickly out of date as changes of staff, particularly that of the Headteacher, can significantly alter the performance of a school. You may note particularly the inspectors' views on how well the school supports children with individual needs, what emphasis is laid on speech, language and communication needs, and how pupils behave towards each other, as bullying is inevitably a concern when your child stammers.

'It does well in the league tables.' There are different views on the usefulness of these and the Headteachers' associations are concerned that parents should not rely on them, as there have been mistakes in assessment of children in national tests (SATS) and in recording information.

League tables show the type - community, foundation etc. - of a school, its age range, pupil numbers, number and percentage of pupils with statements of special educational needs (SEN), supported at 'School Action' or 'School Action Plus'. As children who stammer may be placed on 'School Action' you should take note of that figure, as a positive use of 'School Action' could be beneficial for your child.

A quick calculation will tell you whether the Year 6 number of pupils is roughly equal to the total number of pupils divided by the number of years. If not, check out if it is either getting more or less popular over the years.

Next come a couple of columns that enable you to assess if any 'value' is added - there may be a listing for English as an additional language or for special needs pupils. These factors may help you to see what the school makes of the 'raw materials' it starts with.

The crucial columns show the results at Key Stages 1 and 2 for English, Maths and Science - particularly at Stage 2 - currently around 68% of all Year 6 pupils achieve Level 4 or above (the level expected of an average pupil), so use this figure as a rough benchmark.

'It has a uniform so the discipline must be good.' Uniforms and discipline don't always go together. Remember 'good discipline' means different things to different people.

'It is brand new and has lovely grounds.' Worn but well-loved older buildings can be just as welcoming. It's important to check if the building is well cared for, whatever its age.

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