Choosing a primary school

When it comes to choosing a primary school there are lots of things to think about and depending on where you live, it may feel like you have quite a few schools to choose from or very few options.

This guide includes the information that every parent needs to know, so you can pick the school that suits your child best.

Not every family will have the same factors or priorities to consider when it comes to choosing schools but there are some universal things that it’s useful to think about when you’re doing your research.

Location and size 

  • Is the school within walking distance, how busy is the route and what is the parking situation? Make sure that you live in the catchment area by checking your local authority’s website
  • Look at the size of the school and its values. Not all schools will suit all children, so think about the kind of environment your child will be happy and thrive in

Inclusivity and diversity 

  • Schools should ensure every child has equal access to learning and the same opportunities to achieve regardless of their situation
  • Check what additional support is offered should your child need it and find out what is done to promote the physical and emotional wellbeing of pupils (also known as pastoral care)


  • The availability of before and after school (wraparound) care can differ widely between different areas
  • If you’ll need to use wraparound care (breakfast club or after school), research what’s on offer either via the school or through local childminders. You might already need to put your child on a waiting list


  • If your child attends preschool or nursery, check with staff which schools children move on to and if there are any they have particularly strong links with
  • Consider if any of your child’s friends are applying to the same school but don’t let this influence you too much as most children make new friends quickly when they start school


  • Look up your local schools on your local authority website or on if you’re in Northern Ireland and compare their exam results and inspection reports. In England, you can also read Ofsted’s Parent View survey, which can be found here. To review schools in Wales, click here
  • Remember that a school’s performance can change quickly though, so don’t base your decision on these alone


  • State schools follow the National Curriculum or Northern Ireland Curriculum, but different schools may teach subjects slightly differently
  • Does the school put an emphasis on music, sport or other subjects, or offer additional learning experiences such as outdoor classrooms or forest school?

Desktop research 

  • Look at any social media accounts the school has, how active are they and what type of content they post
  • Check out the school’s website: how up-to-date is it?
  • Ask questions about the school in local parent groups on Facebook/​Twitter
Top tip!

Not all schools will suit all children, so think about the kind of environment your child will be happy and thrive in.