Thursday, 25 September 2014

Tips for applying for primary school

After my considerable mess up with getting Squiggle into a primary school, I thought I would share my experience and give other parents tips to help them stand a better chance of getting into a school of their choice.

By law, children must be in school from the first term after their fifth birthday, but the majority of schools take children who turn five in the school year to start in September when they are still four.
Different counties may open their applications on different days, so check your local council website for information, but for all primary school applications the closing date is 15 th January.

The admission criteria for each school is different but some schools give preference to those;
  • who have a brother or sister at the school already
  • who live close to the school
  • from a particular religion (for faith schools)
  • who do well in an entrance exam (for selective schools, eg grammar schools or stage schools)
  • in care or being looked after (all schools must have this as a top priority)
So my words of wisdom are:

Apply on time, I cannot stress the importance of this. Many schools will not consider late applications at all. So check your local county government website for application dates. Some councils advertise in the local press or at libraries,  and good nurseries may give you the information, I missed the deadline because I was in hospital at the time, and even this couldn't be taken into consideration.

If you wish for your child to attend a faith school, such as Church of England or Roman Catholic, you must make sure you attend church on a regular basis, most will accept a minimum attendance of once a month. It is the parents who have to attend, not the child. Also Roman Catholic schools give preference to Catholic baptised children over Church of England christened children.

Put your child's name down on the waiting list, this doesn't mean they will be given any preference over any other child, but it shows that you are interested in your child attending that school. If any children decline their places then the schools will use the waiting list to offer out spare places. This is what finally got my son a place at the school we wanted.

If you don't get the place you initially wanted then you can always appeal. An independent panel will hear your case and decide if there are grounds for appeal such as a incorrect procedure being followed and make a decision for you.

Try not to despair, remember there are 20 weeks between receiving your place offer and the first day of school. Things can change during that time and even for a short time afterwards. The schools waiting lists don't tend to get disbanded until the Christmas holidays so there is always a chance that pupils will leave school and move around as their parents do.

I am happy to report that despite my cock up, Squiggle did eventually get into a different school of choice, and is currently loving every minute of it.