National Offers Day – are you a winner or a loser?

Today more than 500,000 children (and their anxious parents) will find out which secondary school they have been allocated a place at for September.

There will be winners and losers with up to 1 in 6 families reportedly missing out on getting their first preference school. The situation isn’t going to get any better, either as the Local Government Association is also predicting that there will be a 20% increase in secondary school pupils by 2024 (when children born in Sept 2012-Aug 2013 will move up to senior school). In real terms this represents a need for 547,000 additional places when 1 in 6 secondary schools is already at or over capacity.

But back to today and current Year 6s. There are several scenarios that will be playing out across the land, although depending on where you live, some are more likely than others:

  1. You get one of your preferred schools. Phew, relief which quickly turns to hooray, parents break out bubbly and children plot with friends also celebrating.
  2. You get an OK offer but perhaps not your first choice grammar or oversubscribed secondary so you are now seriously considering the independent school offer you have been sitting on for the last 2 weeks.
  3. You don’t get any of your preferences.

If you have offers from both state and independent schools what are the key things to think about before you make your decision:

  • Can you afford the fees, now and in the future? If you can’t then think about the impact of possibly having to remove your child after friendships have been formed as well as not necessarily being able to secure a place back in the state sector in a school close to you.
  • If you can afford it, then think about the benefits – smaller classes, more time/facilities for co-curricular activities, better results for all (not just the brightest).
  • But are there any drawbacks? Longer journey to/from school and friendships developing over a wider geographic area.

If you aren’t happy with the state school you have been offered, what can you do?

  • Appeal. Read the information you will have been sent about appealing but be warned, successful appeals are hard to come by, you really need to demonstrate either that a mistake has been made in the process and you should have been offered a place or that your child has a real need (backed up by independent evidence) to go to that school.
  • Visit or revisit all the schools that do have places, not just the one you have been offered. Some might have improved since you first considered them. Ask to talk to current parents at these schools as they may well be able to allay any fears you have.
  • If you can afford to go private, call around and see where there are places. They probably won’t be able to tell you for sure until next week once their deadlines have passed. It is unlikely you will secure any form of financial assistance at this stage as all bursary and scholarships funds will have been offered already. Very popular private schools will most likely be full and others may still require your child to sit assessments.

It’s hard and I feel for anyone who doesn’t get the news they want today. Calling it “National Offers Day” actually makes it worse, as it sounds like a competition or lucky draw. Surely all our children deserve a place at a good school, close to home? Sadly, at the moment this is not always that case and so for the moment school admissions is still a game where there are clear winners and losers.