Parents getting set for school place race

Touring schools can be an overwhelming experience for parents

Touring schools can be an overwhelming experience for parents - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s that time of the year again, as schools across Hertfordshire invite potential parents in to take a look at what they have to offer.

Then, once the headteachers have said their bit and the Ofsted reports have been pored over, many of these parents will have two big decisions to make: which school do we like most, and is it worth moving house for.

According to one survey, one in four UK families have moved house or changed address to secure a school place – and one in six admit to buying or renting a second property specifically with this goal in mind.

Some people get in early, moving into the catchment of a particular school based on reputation alone. Surely Ofsted and all those local Facbook Mums’ group members can’t be wrong?

A friend’s eldest is in year four, with two more years to go before the secondary school admissions process begins. She and her husband have already viewed four local schools, and, once they’ve decided which one they like best, they intend to buy as close to it as they can. The stats show they’re far from alone.

My eldest is in year three now, and happily settled at a great local primary. Yes, yes – they’re all great local primaries. Of course. I always knew this. Yet something about the whole admissions malarkey can turn the most level-headed of people into Psycho Mum (or Dad).

Amid the hubbub of other parents enquiring about the school’s gifted and talented policy, and the general mutterings of hearsay from friends (and complete strangers), everything goes a bit mad. One friend was put right off a school because ‘stationery’ was spelt wrongly on a classroom drawer. Another disliked a primary because the hand dryers were too noisy. Personally, I failed to warm to a local infants’ school because the head seemed like she was just going through the motions and didn’t appear terribly interested in showing us around.

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Many families move out of London especially to take advantage of Hertfordshire’s great state schools, so it’s not surprising that those who are already here are prepared to do all they can to secure a specific spot for their child. We’ll have to wait and see if Theresa May gets her way, and her grammar school dream becomes a reality. Until then, catchment is key – challenging times for parents, but great news for estate agents.