Primary School League Tables: Parent Choice

How four mums and dads in the public eye pick a primary school
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The Independent Online
Charlie Higson,

Comedian and writer

Father of two

I think the most important thing a kid can learn at primary level is that going to school is a positive thing and it is not something to be dreaded. They should enjoy being there, make a lot of friends and never feel threatened or insecure. To this end, working them too hard, cramming them full of facts and worrying about their academic progress seems counter- productive. The school my two boys go to seems to have a perfect balance. The learning process is a mystery to me, anyway - one day your child can't read a word, and the next they're reading every billboard you speed past in the car. I really don't know how this leap happens.

David Blunkett,

Secretary of State for Education Father of three

I get an instinctive feeling about primary schools when I visit them. Many are vibrant places where children love learning; sadly in others progress is more laboured.

I would expect a good primary to be lead by a headteacher with a vision of how education can offer all of our children a better future and a sound grasp of management. This tends to be the case in the successful primary schools I visit.

Focusing on literacy and numeracy does not mean abandoning other subjects like music. Schools should find time for a range of other subjects with the flexibility they have been given in primary curriculum. The emphasis on literacy and numeracy is about preparing children for later in life. I particularly enjoy hearing children read in school, even though I am the first to admit they are normally less interested in me than in my dog, Lucy.

Nick Tate,

Chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

Father of three

Absolutely essential requirements, in no particular order, include: regular spelling and multiplication tests, annual carol concerts, rote learning of poems with bouncy rhythms, history with facts and dates, geography with capes and bays, daily hymns, out-of-school team games for all (not just the few), choral singing for all (not just the few), rigid rules about keeping desks and exercise books tidy, pictures by Picasso and Cezanne on the walls. I want a headteacher who is a perfectionist and knows what is going on in every classroom.

I want teachers who are lively and educated, enjoy learning and are still excited about what they are teaching. I want a broad curriculum but a firm foundation in the basics.

Susan Bassnett

Pro-vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick

Mother of four

What I look for are small class sizes, an intelligent broad curriculum that isn't tied to dogma, teachers who seek to stimulate children to learn, a lot of extra-curricular activities, and a strong link to the community. What counts are the people who teach. There should be space to encourage bright children. A warm, friendly library helps the children; a decently- equipped staff-room helps the teachers. A government that fostered respect for teachers would help everybody.

PRIMARY

POINTERS

Are the children happy at school? Do they want to go in the morning? How secure do they feel, particularly at playtime?

Do the children show interest in their work? Are they challenged by it and do they get individual help when the going gets tough?

As they get older can the children take the initiative? Are they encouraged to have ideas and get organised to work them out?

Do the children spend a lot of time listening or are they busy trying to learn for themselves?

Can the children be creative at school? Are there opportunities to be imaginative and expressive or are art, drama and music allowed only after the real work is done?

Do quicker and slower learners have separate lessons? This has dangers for children who find learning difficult. After a while they and their teachers no longer have positive expectations of what they can achieve.

Is the building clean and well maintained? Is there an absence of litter and graffiti?

Are parents made welcome?

Is homework interesting or just a chore? Does it link with the everyday work of the class?

Does the headteacher talk about MY school or OUR school?

Provided by the National Association for Primary Education

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