What to do if you missed out on your first-choice school

Almost 600,000 children across England have just received their secondary school allocations. But what are your options if your child hasn’t gained a place at their school of choice? here are some thoughts from Janette Wallis, editor of the Good Schools Guide. This is from the Telegraph…

Hundreds of thousands of parents will learn over the coming days which secondary school their child has been allocated. Huge felicitations to those of you who have got your first – or an acceptable – choice. Commiserations, and a hug, to the roughly one-sixth of parents who have not.

If you are disappointed by tomorrow’s post, do take comfort in a cup of tea – or something stronger. Then it’s time to decide what to do. Here are your options.

Firstly, have you ever actually been to the school you have been allocated? An obvious point, but it’s worth arranging to visit – you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Don’t write off a school on the basis of a local reputation which may be out of date or unjustly earned. And if you choose to appeal, they’ll want to know that you’ve at least considered the school you were allocated.

If you are not charmed by what you see, then phone the schools you would like your child to attend and make sure you are on their waiting lists. You can joining as many waiting lists as you like. This includes the schools you originally applied to, as you won’t automatically be on their lists.

But the big decision to make is whether you wish to appeal. The odds of success vary year by year and between areas, but it may be worth doing if you have the sangfroid to go through with it. Many will find the process extremely stressful.

If you do decide to appeal, you should find information on how to appeal in the letter you receive from your local admissions authority. If the information isn’t there you must contact them immediately as time is of the essence (and by not including this information they are potentially risking ‘maladministration’).

In most cases you will appeal to the authority, but with some voluntary aided schools or academies you will be appealing directly to the school’s governing board.

What grounds might you have for an appeal? You can win an appeal in one of two ways: by showing that the school or local council published incorrect admissions rules (e.g. not making clear how to demonstrate religious adherence, for a faith school) or by demonstrating that the “problems caused to the child by not being admitted would be greater than the problems caused to the school by admitting them”.

Study your favoured school’s admissions criteria with a magnifying glass. Does the school have features or strengths which will be particularly useful for your child? Be truthful, but make sure every strand of argument you can think of is in your appeal.

Does your child have a talent that the school can cater for via a specialism such as drama, IT, sport, languages or art? A key after-school club? Does he or she have learning needs which the school could address better than other schools?

At the Good Schools Guide, we’ve seen a parent win an appeal on the basis that the clearer air of a rural school was better for their child’s type of asthma than the traffic-laden roads of the blackboard jungle. Keep in mind though that social and medical needs will only give a child priority for admission when you can show that your favoured school will be better able to meet those needs than any other school. And you will need confirmation by a professional (doctor, counsellor, speech therapist, etc).

While you’re at it, take care not to criticise the allocated school – it won’t help…

More at:  What to do if you missed out on your first-choice school

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Categories: Parenting and Secondary.

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