Between them, my two daughters have been to a total of five primary schools. On the brink of a house move, I'm now in the process of choosing a sixth, and have been struck by just how little things like league tables and Ofsted reports come into the equation.
Personally, I believe your choice of primary schools often comes down to instinct, and I'm not convinced you can predict how happy or stimulated your child will be in any particular school based purely on what percentage of kids get level five science – it's just not helpful information. It's much more about the general ethos of the school, the welcome you receive and the cheerful babble coming from the classrooms.
There are though a few other factors to consider, which you may not have thought of. They are important, so pay attention:
This is crucial. Your really don't want to commit to a daily car commute for the next seven years, even if it does mean you can keep your slippers on. There's the environmental impact to consider of course, but essentially it's just a pain to have to drive every day, especially when you get in the car at five to nine and remember your petrol light came on 20 miles ago.
More importantly, once your child is capable of pressing the button and waiting for the green man, you really want to be close enough that they can walk by themselves. That way you needn't get dressed at all.
Quality of teaching staff
I'm not talking here about the enthusiasm with which they embrace the national curriculum, I'm talking general hotness. You may be wondering exactly how this impacts on your child's education, but let me assure you that it does. Never underestimate the capacity of an attractive teacher to improve your attendance at parents' evening, school plays and other wholesome, educational activities.
"For us," explains Hollie Smith, "it was mainly to do with the personality of the head, and the strength of his handshake. Not that he was hot. Although, I do often tell the tale of how I went to a parent helper social event once, got very, very drunk, and confessed about the slightly rude dream I'd had about said head. Of course, the erotic dream business was several years after we had actually made our decision about the school." Sure, we believe you Hollie.
The quality of the other parents
Whilst you want a good selection of hot teachers, you definitely don't want too much competition from other parents. It would be fair to say I don't always look my best before 9am, and I don't want this highlighted by having to stand in a playground full of beautifully coiffed yummy mummies in perfectly pressed Boden, who have clearly had to get up at dawn to have time to fix their make up and French plait all their kids' hair.
This is a tricky one to judge though, and may require some suspicious looking loitering around the school early in the morning. Try to look casual. Being caught watching the playground with binoculars is not the way to make a good impression.
In my current hunt for the perfect school, I have found one that is very nearly perfect. It's away from busy roads, has a young, dynamic staff, an impressive 50% of whom are men, and the parents have a distinct bohemian quality, meaning I can definitely get away without brushing my hair in the morning. The one thing that lets it down is the fact that it doesn't have a school uniform.
Now I can see why you might think this would be a plus point for me, but actually I rather like uniforms. A school uniform is so easy – you wash it all at the weekend ready for Monday and then you're done for the week. Without a uniform, you have a daily decision to make, and the fact that you haven't bought your eight-year-old any new clothes since they were 'age 5/6' will be clearly highlighted by the inch wide gap between their trousers and socks.
Of course even if the school does have a uniform, you still have to be careful with the colour scheme. Not every child can pull off bright yellow after all. "The blue of our uniform is perfect for my boys!" says Natalie Trice. "Red would have been out, as would brown. I just couldn't do that to my children!" Too right.
Got all that? Excellent, you are now equipped to choose the perfect school for your child. Move to the top of the class.
Do you have any top tips for picking a school your child will flourish in (and you might make some mates from)?