At this time of year, there is the usual furore amongst parents of year 6 children who have been upset by the decision of which high school their child has been allocated. The students and their parents have been waiting for SIX whole months for the announcement.
It’s a long, long, nervous wait for most as it’s one of the most important decisions we, as parents, have to make for our child and one that could affect the rest of their lives. We want to get it right.
But for many, the choice is not that simple.
This is because in many areas across England now, good schools are often so oversubscribed that the only way for the council to deal with it is by introducing the dreaded 11+ exam. The schools are then allocated based on different criteria. The main one being results of the exam, with the top scorers receiving the best school offer. Other factors include the sibling rule and catchment, although the latter is becoming increasingly smaller in terms of percentage of children accepted in this way. It’s a shame as many poor students are having to travel far and wide to school these days!
It’s an unfair system that often sees copious amounts of children not gaining their first choice school. Or their second. Or third. Many don’t get any of the selections they made and are simply allocated any school that has places, which are obviously the least desirable. Gone are the days when kids attended their nearest school.
In their desperation to secure a place in some areas, parents are having to tutor their child for months or even years to see that they get the highest marks possible, which for some isn’t feasible financially or their child still won’t reach top marks because they simply aren’t academic enough.
Some areas have brought in the ‘banding’ system, which we think is fairer. With this method, schools take a certain amount of children from each ‘band’ or ‘ability’ groups, with the aim of having a more balanced intake, rather than just taking the brightest. If all schools used this system, they would be more on a equal par with each other and things would be a whole lot easier for parents.
If a child isn’t allocated a school they want, parents are given the option of appealing. This entails putting together a list of reasons why you believe it’s in your childs best interest to attend the school of choice, then presenting your case to an independent panel. They will then make the decision as to whether to uphold your appeal. You can add some clout to your appeal by hiring a solicitor to help you but bear in mind this could be very costly, plus you would need a very strong case in the first place as upwards of 50 families could be appealing!
It’s become such a stressful time.
Here in Hertfordshire we have the 11+ exam and on the school run the morning following the announcements of allocation, I witnessed many an upset Mum who was distraught at the school they had been given. It really is awful.
The thing to remember though at this early stage of the process is that there IS hope. There is usually lots of movement as people accept their childs school place then change their mind, some parents decide to go private, or for whatever reason, places become available again. The most important thing is to stay on the continued interest lists for ALL the schools you’d prefer, then as places become available you could be offered one of them. There is usually movement in this way all the way up to September and beyond so, fingers crossed!
We would love to hear your secondary school allocation stories. Please leave a comment below to share with us your experiences, and whether or not your child was offered their first choice.