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‘A creative, nurturing school is much more important to me as a parent than any Ofsted judgement’

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What exactly do parents look for when choosing a primary school? In my case, the most important question was whether it was nurturing or driven purely by academic performance.

For me it was simply a case of finding a school that worked alongside my parenting style, one that enhanced and reinforced my job as a parent.

There needs to be trust between parent and school, built on shared values, that enables the child to become the best they can be in all areas. For me, emotional support and freedom of expression are extremely important.

The idea of putting my child into a milieu driven by statistics and box-ticking is anathema to me. My child has many facets, she is not one-dimensional; academia is only one element of her learning journey.  

When deciding on a school, it was important for me to gain a real insight into how it operated on a day-to-day basis and not just by reading the statistics. I chose to forgo the usual open days and arranged visits during a normal working school day. The idea was to gain a feel for the school. Most importantly however, I wanted to see my daughter in her prospective environment and to see how the pupils interacted with the staff and how the teachers interacted with the children.

Each of the schools I visited in this way was accommodating and friendly.  However one school stood out. It was not just the interaction between teachers and pupils that was inspiring but also the communication between them and myself – what I consider to be the necessary bridging between child and parent.

Of course, much of this is subjective. Some children learn better and feel more secure in a structured environment, whereas other children learn better in a creative environment, where freedom of expression is paramount. It is also dependent on what expectations parents have for their children and their children’s school.

One of the most important components for me was emotional nurturing, and I believe this is something that needs to be managed in a spirit of cooperation between teachers and parents. In my experience, this is something only we as parents can assess by visiting schools and exploring how they operate on a daily basis.

This cooperation and communication is priceless for me as mother. Transparency and clearer communication are vital. I would like to know how my children are expressing themselves creatively and how they are performing academically but I would also like to know how they are encouraged in times of vulnerability.

Who is going to give them a cuddle when they fall and hurt themselves and who do they turn to when they need support and nurturing? This matters to me as much as an outstanding grade from Ofsted.

Lisa Booker is a parent and a mature student at Plymouth University

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