Earlier in the week, I received an email notifying me that our son had gotten a place at our first choice school. Actually, that isn’t very correct- I was so anxious I couldn’t wait for the email to arrive- the instructions said it would arrive sometime in the evening however, I was online on the admissions portal since 3pm on the day refreshing the portal intermittently. My husband was very convinced he would get an offer on our first choice but I still had some doubts. It wasn’t until 5:05pm when I saw the link to ‘Check offer’. I was so happy our son got our first school choice. The email and text message from the local authority admissions team only arrived later at 6:15pm 🙂
From September to December last year, my hubby and I just went through the daunting admission process into the state schools in the UK for our older son into the primary school Reception classes. We did our research thoroughly and it paid off in the end so its safe to say we are now experts on this process. The decision to pick a particular school was a tough and stressful one so we hope and pray we made the right choice and that our son would be happy in the offered school. Here are some tips and advice based on my experiences.
#1 Buy a house near a chosen school
When we bought a house and moved to the Bexley borough of London over 5 years ago, one of the catch for us was that there was a primary school rated “Outstanding” by ofsted just 5 minutes walk away. The area also boosted a few good grammar schools. A close friend of mine had to buy another house in another area just be near the catchment area for a good school. My advice for newly weds with the hopes of raising a family is good schools should be a top consideration in deciding where to live or buy a house. Another thing to note is that the school ratings can change very quickly so I wouldn’t get too stuck on ofsted ratings. A mum on our local mum’s group chose a school which was rated ‘good’ as their second choice, got accepted into the school however the school’s rating dropped in January from ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’.
#2 Focus on schools closest to your house
Schools generally select pupils according to distance, so concentrate on schools reasonably near your home unless you’re applying under any other criteria such as faith, health or social needs. If you apply for a faith school, on top of the supplementary form which has to be completed and sign by a priest, it must be your first choice to be considered at all- we were told this fact during the open days by the head teachers for the Catholic and Church of England school. Church schools will usually give priority to those that demonstrate practice of the respective faith.
#3 Do your research
Make sure you study the admission criteria to find out if your could is likely to be offered a place and look at the previous year’s intakes. Speak to parents of children already attending the schools you’re interested in as they may offer a different perspective to Ofsted. Ask advice from families in the area. I spoke to my neighbours for advice and tips to find out first hand their experiences and feedback about the local schools. I asked parents with older children and siblings in my son’s nursery for feedback and tips.
#4 Attend the open days for the schools being considered
Read the Ofsted reports and information on the school websites, and arrange a visit. We both attended 7 open days for the 7 schools we considered infact my husband had to attend one of the open days by himself as I couldn’t attend because of work commitments. The open days offers you a real feel of the school environment, facilities, the mix of children, how the classes are setup etc. Its so funny how something as little as the bathroom layout can put you off choosing a school 🙂
#5 Be Realistic
The local authorities do not have to give you a place in a school on your list. You are allowed to express preference for up to 6 schools but you do not get a choice hence gauge your chances of getting a place according to the admissions criteria, choose one school as a backup- make sure it is a school that you are actually likely to get a place at. Always choose 6 schools- this is even more important for first children as children that have siblings in a school usually get preferences. If you don’t do this and your other choices are over subscribed, the local education authority may offer you a school which you like less. Also, don’t choose only one school because if that school does not admit your child under their admissions criteria, you won’t get a place and will be allocated a ‘leftover’ place which is usually the school that most people didn’t want.
Here are some useful websites I used to research school performances and Ofsted reports etc.
Do you have children starting primary school in September or have children that gone through the admission process? Do share any useful tips and experiences below.