The Ongoing School Debacle

For the past 15 months we’ve been mulling over a problem in our family. A dilemma about what we should do. It’s something that has been gnawing away at us for so long that it’s had a fairly toxic affect on all of us.

Primary School Results

The Initial Saga

15 months ago we were completely shocked and distressed not to get any of our 4 choices of primary school for our eldest daughter. The local school, less than 10 minutes away, which we’d naively assumed we would get into was hugely oversubscribed, to the extent it has never been seen before.  Despite going through an appeal and being on the waiting list, nothing changed. Alice started at our allocated primary school in September. It took her a long time to settle in, but she now seems happy and to be enjoying school for which we are truly grateful.

You might say, well good for you that’s that then. But then came:

The Latest Saga

A few weeks ago, I found out that our local secondary school which is perhaps a 15 minute walk away from our house, has just THIS YEAR decided to change their policy to only admit children from local “feeder”primary schools. Our local primary school counts as a “feeder” school, but our allocated school where Alice now attends is not.

To add insult to injury the secondary school near to where Alice now goes to school confirmed that their policy is to only take children who live in the nearby catchment area (which we are not).

WHAT THE ?!!!  

I mean really?! How is this fair that schools all have a different set of rules?

This leaves us once again falling down the gap not fitting into any one particular set of rules or meeting any particular criteria. It means in 5 years’ time as it stands, we will be shunted to a random secondary school miles away.

Whilst it might sound a bit neurotic to be thinking 5 years ahead, I can’t help feeling upset and cross that after all the trouble we experienced last year, we are potentially going to face all again in 5 years’ time.

Alice on her first day of school Sept 15

The Options

1) We looked at moving house. Drastic? Yes. But needing to take the control of the situation rather than let fate decide where our kids should be educated, we started exploring other areas. I’m not convinced this is the right thing to do. Why should I have to leave my friends and family and start again? And there’s no guarantees that we can move somewhere and get both our children into a school.

2) Move to another feeder school. I’ve given up phoning the local school down the road to find out where we are on the waiting list. It was literally driving me mental to find out that I had on several occasions moved DOWN the list. By chance, I discovered that one of the lovely little village schools on our original list was expanding their school and could take on an extra 10 places per year group. We applied and found out we’d got a place! Woo-Hoo! We were all set to move Alice until I read the admissions policy and found out that they (unlike most primary schools) do not give priority to siblings.

What The ?!!!! 

I mean really?! How is this fair that schools all have a different set of rules?

And so because we are out of catchment for this village school and the council have confirmed exactly how many children live in catchment for when our youngest daughter starts school next year, it looks like we are going to have to turn the place down.

We have stressed ourselves out over this for 15 months now. I have been upset and depressed about the situation as well as feeling  bitter and resentful about the neighbours and community all being able to go to the local school except for us. It particularly hurt when our next door neighbour managed to get a place for their little boy this year at the local school because the sibling and birth rate this year is much lower than last year. We’ve really felt like upsticks and leaving. But every alternative seemingly has more problems to bear.

I’ve written to the local MP, the local authority and the department of education as well as the schools themselves to complain about the situation and the lack of consistency in the admissions criteria. But no one wants to know. Everyone has passed the buck and I’m utterly exhausted and fed up with thinking about and fighting it.

Alice with Eva in their matching uniform

Trying to Retain some Positivity

About a week ago, I felt a shift in my mood. I don’t know whether it was because we have been fighting and stressing about it all for so long and the fight has now gone out of me. I’ve grown tired of being negative and bitter about our situation. It’s not had a good affect on any of us and I’m particularly aware that our stress could well have been taking its toll on our children.

Or I don’t know whether my mood has changed because I’m aware of just how happy Alice seems at her current school and even better, excited to be going into Year 1 in September, her confidence seems to have come on in abundance since last year.

Whilst I’m still UPSET about the initial and latest saga. Whilst I still WISH we could walk to our local school. Whilst I’m still willing to EXPLORE other possibilities that come up, and whilst I’m still SCARED about what will happen to us in 5 years’ time – being shunted to a random secondary school, I’ve decided to focus on what is important:

That Alice is in a good school

That she is thriving both in terms of her learning and education as well as her confidence and friendships.

I’m sorry for the huge rant! I realise that this post is quite selfish in that it’s cathartic; I’ve totally offloaded but I do feel strangely better for it.

If anyone has any thought or advice, I’d love to hear from you!



Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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0 thoughts on “The Ongoing School Debacle

  1. It is ridiculous how school places are allocated and how daft the systems are! I knew a local mum and they were moving to another area. They told the council of this as her eldest was in year 6 but still had to accept a school place even though she wouldn’t be going to it and therefore someone lost out on a place and then she had to wait till they moved and try and get a place. Eh?! #kcacols

  2. The primary school situation in this country is getting beyond ridiculous. I’m sorry you’ve had this saga! I imaging you would be in with a good chance of persuading the high school if you explain the situation now though, I would hope they would be reasonable in some circumstances?? #KCACOLS

    1. I’ve emailed them and they responded by saying they had to change the rules in order to accommodate the growing population and new houses. They’re sympathetic but say their hands are tied!! Infuriating!! X

  3. In our area they change the admission policy each year depending on demand, so might your secondary school change the goal posts again by the time you need to apply? Just a thought… #KCACOLS

    1. I emailed them to explain the situation and they said they had to change the rules in order to cope with excessive demand. My only hope is that they may change the rules again within 5 years…..

    1. That’s what I’m hoping! They were very sympathetic when I emailed them about our situation and said that things could change again in 5 years. I think I may periodically write to them in the hope they might change the rules! X

  4. What a messy situation. Who knows where you’ll be in 5 years? Maybe you’ll move by then or something else will come up to make things a bit easier for your family. #KCACOLS

  5. Oh dear! What a conundrum! It does seem so bizarre at the lack of organisation between schools. It seems there is something fundamentally wrong with the system and to find everyone passing the buck must make it even more frustrating!
    At least Alice is happy now, as you say. Plus, a lot can change in 5 years so fingers crossed, the solution may find you. Good luck!

    1. I think the lack of consistency in rules and criteria across the board has been the most frustrating thing! With the growing population I can only see this problem getting worse and an overhaul of the system is surely needed. Yes, the most important thing is that Alice is happy and thriving. Thank you. Xx

  6. I simply cannot imagine how stressed you must have been, we have a similar situation here with my eldest boy already at school, a huge amount of new houses being built, no extra school places and no guarantee that the smallest one will get a place next year. It’s barmy.

  7. The system is SO UNFAIR!
    our daughters look about the same age, and I can’t imagine having this stress on top of trying to keep upbeat about them going to school each day and progressing. It’s bad enough when you get your first choice to stay upbeat!
    Are you on the waiting list for one of the feeder schools? Perhaps someone else will move away and make room for your daughter? I know that’s just then replying on someone else to up and leave though..
    best of luck, and don’t give up. Although so much of how a child turns out and what they learn all stems from home, so maybe just focus on getting that as ab fab as you can and leave the system to its sill self.
    big love xxx

    1. Thank you, it has been an unbelievably stressful 15 months, and as you say hard enough trying to stay happy and upbeat enough just waving them off to start school. Yes we are on the waiting lists for the feeder schools but I’ve moved down the list as well as up!! I like your last sentence, that’s what I’m trying my best to do now! Thanks for reading. Xx

  8. This sounds AWFUL!! I’m not surprised you’ve been so upset and traumatised by this. No-one can explain the sheer stress of anything school related. Can you apply to the secondary school near you under exceptional circumstances? Maybe they will build a new school by the time you get to that point? To take some of the pressure off the others? Sorry this has marred what should have been a wonderful time.xx Thanks for joining us at the #bigpinklink

    1. Thank you, yes all in all what should have been a fairly exciting time starting school turned out to be the biggest stress ever!! I will keep writing to the local secondary school in the hope that they will change the rules back again and hope that another school will be built in 5 years’ time. Thanks for hosting. Xx

  9. I have just moved into a new area and because it’s a new estate with 1000 new homes being built the local school are all already full. I should find out by the end of this week if my girl has a place. I too worry about secondary school and my daughter is only 6 I think as parents we have to think ahead. Good idea to focus on the current positives. #KCACOLS

  10. Wow, that sounds absolutely ridiculous! Here in America, kids are sent to public schools by location, so this post was a little confusing to me at first. After doing a little reading (thanks, Google!) about how schools work in the UK, I’m so curious why they do things that way. I’m so sorry you’ve had such a tough time with your daughter’s schools, and I definitely think it’s smart to be looking well into the future. Sending your kids off to school for the first time should be a fun, exciting new milestone. I’m sorry that politics seemed to have ruined that for you. #KCACOLS

    1. Thanks Savannah. It always used to be that way here too – everyone used to go to their local school, but the increase in new housing has meant school places have become far more competitive. It’s been a stressful 15 months, but we are now focusing on the fact that Alice is happy and thriving where she is. X

  11. That sucks the secondary has changed their admission criteria. I expect you already have, but have you been on to your local councillor about the secondary school? I doubt they could do anything much at primary level because of the pressure on spaces, but they could certainly try and lobby the governors (crossover of councillors and governors being what it is!) to install a clause about those on in the catchment area and on the waiting list for the feeder schools next time they review the admission policy.

    I would say if you’re thinking of moving, make sure there are no questions of closures or mergers over the school. We’ve had quite a lot of people burned over primary admissions this year; they moved to be in the catchment area of a primaries which are now merging, with priority going to the kids already there and siblings. x #KCACOLS

  12. These type of posts fascinate me. Here in the States you simply are placed in the school that serves your geographic location. There is no choice unless you want to pay out the rear for a private school #KCACOLS

    1. That’s how it used to be over here too Jeremy. It was certainly the case when I went to school. But the increase in new housing has put pressure on local infrastructure and school places are now very competitive. Private school not an option for us!!

  13. I haven’t reached the school stage yet. I have to admit that my attitude (& I am the child of teachers/directors of education) has always been that I don’t really get why people get quite so worked up about where kids go to primary school. I can understand it a bit more for secondary. But I actually think that the conclusion you have reached in the end is right for primary – if the school treats the kids well & the kids are happy there, it is probably not worth getting yourself upset over. That said, I can understand it being annoying if you can’t get into a geographically convenient school or can’t get siblings into same school, as that is just impractical then. I also suspect that my laid back attitude will go completely out the window when we reach the school stage!

    I do think that the feeder schools/catchment area & differing policies re secondary schools is often quite unfortunate, particularly where it results in kids not getting to go to the school all their friends go to after primary. I had that, actually, as we moved house while I was in junior school. I stayed at the school I was already in, but of course was no longer actually in that catchment area. Indeed, due to the funny county lines around where I lived, I was in a different county & LEA altogether! The junior school was a feeder school to the secondary in the same village, and they had other feeder schools that were actually further away than I lived, so catchment wasn’t really a valid argument against me. But I lived in another county so they would not accept me. Had I lived in the half of my village that was still in the same county, instead of just over the line, I would have been accepted. I was in the catchment of another school, but none of my friends would go there as they were all feeding to the secondary for our juniors. I did, however, go to the secondary my juniors fed into eventually, because my dad fought it & would not back down. Other kids in the same position did not get to go though.

    It’s all so complicated, isn’t it?

    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    1. It’s very complicated now!!! Whatever happened to just going to your local school?! Whilst my daughter is now happy and we appreciate that, I was upset about not being able to walk five minutes down the road to go to the local school along with everyone in my community. As it stands right now, Alice won’t get into the local secondary school or the secondary school which all her primary school friends will go to. It’s incredibly frustrating. Thanks for hosting. X

  14. I remember reading a previous post of your about this and was totally gobsmacked at how this happened but I am glad she likes her school and is thriving. I am lucky I live within a 5 minute walk from my daughter school and the local secondary school we will be looking at next year (eek) is a 15 minute walk away and she is a shoo in as we are in the catchment area.

    I understand how frustrating it is for you to fall short and be lost in the middle of so many different rules for the schools it is really ridiculous that this can happen. Hopefully things will change and become more structured before you reach secondary school time xx #bigpinklink

    1. Thanks Tracey it has been incredibly frustrating to keep falling between all the different criteria. After all the heartache last year, I just hope we end up ok for secondary school. Glad your daughter will be ok for your local school. X

  15. Goodness what a nightmare this is. I am so worried about the same happening to us. Our local school is in the back garden! Literally our house backs onto the playground and the gates are about 50 steps from our house! The worry that Zach won’t get in there though is huge. We have to put his name down at the end of the year and go through the whole process. I don’t want him to go to another school, it’s not that this one is outstanding or anything but it’s at the end of the road and just looks lovely. I am glad that you are feeling better about the situation and that your daughter is thriving – I hope that in 5 years time things have changed with the admissions process and you don’t have this stress again. Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

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