If you're beginning discussions on which school your child should attend and you have an interest in one or more in your area, here's some valuable, low cost advice: attend an open day.
School open days are beneficial experiences for both parents/carers and children because they are a simple way to get a feel for the school: it's environment, culture, facilities, opportunities (academic, sporting and cultural) and how it is run.
Is it welcoming and student-focused, are staff happy to answer your questions, do those attending seem to have a sense of pride in their school?
Now, you won't be able to sum up a school with one visit, but it should give you a starting point for determining whether it will be a good fit for your child.
Other ways to develop a deeper understanding of a school is attend events such as school art shows, fetes and school productions.
Call the school and ask when the open day is and what events it will involve. If unable to attend, make an appointment to have your own tour of the facility.