Not got your primary school place? Keep calm and carry on….

Today or tomorrow thousands of parents all over the country find out where their children will be starting primary school in September. Media reports over the weekend suggested as many as 1 in 7 won’t get one of their preferred schools, rising to 1 in 5 in some parts of London.

parents preferred schoolsFor those who have been offered a place at one of their preferred schools – phew, sit back and relax now until September. For those that didn’t, here are some thoughts on how to process the news and get the most positive outcome for you, but most importantly your child.

  1. Appeals are rarely successful ( you can check figures for recent years on council websites) BUT if you think you have a  good case (it’s your nearest school, you would have got in in previous years), go for it and consider getting professional help from a solicitor or school appeals specialist to ensure you present your argument in the best way. It will cost you but it will be worth it.
  2. If you think an appeal is unlikely to be successful but you are really unhappy with your allocation, call your Local Authority/Council and see which other schools have vacancies – you might have to travel some distance and it will be up to you to make the journey to and from school every day so you need to factor this in with your work and also bear in mind the social implications of opting for a school 5-10 miles from home for after school activities, play dates, parties etc.
  3. Go and visit the school you have been offered a place at  – especially if you have not been before. You may be surprised. Go armed with a list of questions based on any reservations you have with Ofsted or KS2 results. Ask about how the school caters for gifted/talented/SEN depending on your own circumstances. Ask to speak to current parents to get an idea of satisfaction levels. Look at results for improvement. Meet the Head. Schools can go from unsatisfactory to outstanding in a matter of years so you sometimes need to look beyond the stats. You may find you are reassured by what you see/hear.
  4. Parent interest and involvement in their child’s education is recognised to be of huge importance in a child’s educational experience and achievement. Reading and writing with your child, taking them to museums and other places of educational interest can really help supplement the education they get at school. If you have more time available, why not get involved with your child’s allocated school. Become a parent governor, offer to go in and help with reading or other activities and contribute towards the ongoing development of the school.
  5. Remember – 30 years or so ago when those of us who are now parents started school, there was no Ofsted, no league tables and no “making preferences”.  The majority of children went to their nearest school and were happy there.

It would be great to hear from parents who were offered a place at a school they hadn’t wanted but have had a positive experience nonetheless, and those who have fought for and won the place they wanted.

And for those who might think it is easy for me to say keep calm and carry on, I have made a note in my calendar to read my own advice  this time next year when we will find out where our son will go to primary school.

Navigating the educational maze

In 15 years of talking to parents about schools, the educational landscape has continued to evolve and change. But there is one thing that has stayed the same: every parent wants their child to go to a school where he or she will be happy and thrive.

Successive governments have sought to give parents more choice in where their child goes to school but in reality you can do no more than make preferences on which state primary or secondary school they will attend and for many it is a nail-biting and nervy wait to find out whether they have been successful in securing a place at a preferred school.

Around 7% of children go to private school although this figure varies widely depending on where you live (in Surrey it is closer to 20% and in some London boroughs over 30%), age of child and whether there are selective state/grammar schools in your area. School fees are pricey and although many children win scholarships or are awarded means-tested bursaries, in reality only a fraction of parents who “would” actually “do”.

In this blog I hope to highlight some of the major choices and issues facing parents as they navigate the educational maze and help families find the right the school for their child(ren).