Like many others up and down the country, today is the first day back to school for my daughter. The school years just roll by too fast and she's already entering her last year in her lower school - it only seems like 5 minutes ago she was starting reception!
After 4 years at our local school, I feel I know it really well. I'm active on the PTA, I go in and assist in class and her dad is Chair of the Governors so I feel we're in a great place to understand the workings of the school and the teaching staff.
However, to my horror, last week a post popped up on Facebook from our local council saying it was time to apply for the next school starting academic year 2017. I'm not emotionally prepared for this, and am definitely not equipped with the knowledge to make those choices. Information tends to come from speaking to parents with older children and visits to the school, and hours and hours searching the internet.
We live in, I think, the only county in England still to retain the three-tier school system of Lower, Middle and Upper school so it means changing schools even more often.
Thankfully, this task has just got a whole lot easier with the launch of School Reviewer, a website which brings together all the useful information into one place. You can search for catchment areas - great if you're planning a house move, and it will be really useful to see where all our new housing developments fall for school places - then delve down deeper for each individual school and research their Ofsted inspections, academic attainments and read reviews and comments from other parents.
The site is still new and growing but as it begins to get more populated I can really see the benefit in the reviews and also the school forums where you can chat to other parents about school specific issues. There's also a great feature of a buying and selling section where you can sell on old uniform, kit and equipment (just think of all those play costumes that only ever get worn once then confined to the dressing up box never to be seen again!) This facility is free of charge with no commission and knowing you're selling to local parents, it will be easy to arrange drop off and collection of goods, again keeping the costs down. You can communicate securely via their communication hub and liaise with your buyer or seller.
But School Reviewer does so much more too. There's a section where you'll be able to search for qualified tutors if you're looking for extra tuition. If you're a private tutor do register as it is a great way to get more visibility. The service is free to both provider and user and parents can rest assured that those registered have provided their full credentials and DBS certification.
Thinking ahead to SATS and exams, there are example test papers available online, written by teachers who have experience in both setting and marking the questions. The SATS tests available are currently free so they are a great walk-through preparation for your child, allowing them to practice at home. There are also GSCE papers available to try out at £4.99 each which I think is a small price to pay for the experience and peace of mind they will give.
There's also a really informative blog section giving lots of topical tips and ideas like preparing for the first day at school.
I think this website has huge potential, but like anything of this kind it's only as good as the people who populate it. So get on there, start using it and maybe leave a helpful review for a fellow parent who's considering your school. Start listing all that uniform you've just discovered no longer fits, or take the bold step to post the first question in the parent's forum for your child's school - who knows where it will lead!
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.