So, National Offer Day came around and sadly, your little one didn’t get their first choice of school. What are your next steps? You may have decided against going through the appeal process or may have been unsuccessful but it does not mean that your options stop there. In my previous post, How to win a School Appeal, I looked at tips for making the most of the appeals process. Hopefully the appeal decision has gone your way, but this post talks about what you can do after an unsuccessful appeal.
Most of these tips apply to considering both secondary and primary school places.
You may have a conversation with your child and decide to go with the alternative school that you have been offered. This is exactly the situation we are currently in with our youngest daughter. We were offered her second choice of school and she is happy with that (She would have also been happy to have been offered her first choice – We are very fortunate that she is easy going like that). Her second choice of school is fine too for us – its round the corner and her friends will be going. The one thing to remember is that nothing has to be permanent – Our eldest moved secondary schools at the end of Year 9 and it was the best decision we ever made.
The Waiting List
You can find out where your child stands on the waiting list at the school of your choice by ringing the local authority that you applied to in your original application. The admissions team may be able to give you some advice on what your chances of actually getting a place at that school are. They will be able to tell you if it was a particularly high birth rate year and whether other local schools are full aswell. There will be a LOT of movement in waiting lists before the beginning of the new school year. TIP: If you do want to remain on the waiting list at the start of the new academic year, check back with the admissions authority (or school) to make sure that they do not restart the waiting list from scratch in September. It does happen.
Have Your Circumstances Changed?
If you child has gone through a significant change since your original application, it may be worth submitting a late application to be considered. This would only happen in exceptional circumstances such as a new diagnosis of special educational needs or a significant change in family circumstances (i.e., a safeguarding issue that may have resulted in you having to move location) that would make a new application have to be considered. This new information should be shared at the first possible opportunity – You may be asked to get a letter of recommendation from a medical or legal professional to support your new application. This would be different to the usual school admissions appeals code.
Other Local Schools
Get on the phone. Speak to the other schools in the area or the local admission authorities and find out if they have any places available. Sorry About The Mess shares her tips on choosing a primary school. You would be surprised how often the schools with the best reputation and the best results have places available. TIP: You do not have to stick to schools in the same local authority that you are already in. ANOTHER TIP: Often schools based in rural areas have spaces as even though they are often smaller, they may have less families in their catchment area due to the countryside. Each school’s case will be different but you will never know if you don’t ask.
No matter whether your child gets an offer of a place at your preferred school or another, talking about the school positively and helping your child to feel excited about starting a new school is so important. The next section of this post is going to look at how to manage this situation as positively as possible. (I recognise that there will be situations that you simply cannot deal with positively and that there will be no chance of your child attending that particular school).
Visit the School
School are very open to allowing families to visit. The school office will be happy to arrange a time for a tour. They want children and families to be happy and will be keen to show why their school is a good option. With COVID restrictions easing, school visits are much easier to arrange. Seeing the school during the working day, seeing the children having fun, meeting the Head of Year or reception class teacher can really help to make a child feel good about their future school.
Most secondary schools hold a week or two camp during the summer school holidays – The feeder primary schools usually identify children they think would benefit from this if they are particularly quiet, anxious or are not starting with the majority of their year group, but you can also request your child’s name be put down for these camps too. Feedback tends to be really positive about how they help children feel comfortable about starting the school and have met a friend or two before the start of term.
Just 2 days after allocation day, I heard of 2 families that had both been offered a school place that neither of them had chosen as an option. The other family had originally requested that school as their first choice. Seems utterly crazy how the local board of education had come to that decision but both families decided to tackle the admission authority’s decision and ask for a direct swap. Worth a try – I’m still waiting to hear the result of this one!
Arrange Play Dates
If you hear of other children (perhaps friends of friends) that will be starting the same school as your child, be pro-active. Arrange to meet up perhaps in a local play area or cafe. Encouraging new friendship may not be easy but it may just work and give your children a chance to ask the other child what they are looking forward to or feeling anxious about. Often, just even knowing that someone else has similar concerns makes them seem so much less worrying.
I’m not trying to be flippant. This feels like a huge deal at the time but none of this needs to be solved overnight. As I said at the start of this post, nothing needs to be permanent. We have moved 2 children from their schools – One in Primary and One in Secondary and both times it turned out to be exactly the right decision. Our eldest actually has a theory that it is better to move when school has already started as you will be the new person and get attention and everyone will want to be your friend. I hope it never gets to that and you and your child are completely happy with your offered school but if this post helps just one family, then my job is done.
You may find these posts from We’re Going On An Adventure useful when preparing your child for secondary school or preparing your child for primary school. Sorry About the Mess has also written about How to Choose a Primary School.