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.

518A0B16-0D72-4CF6-AE92-F1C6D60F5507
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.

IMG_0521
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
Pink Pear Bear

Mummascribbles

Cuddle Fairy

School, Admissions, Appeal and Upset

IMG_4009

Last week parents across the UK woke up early in a state of nerves and anticipation to find out where their little darlings will be starting primary school in September. At 5.30am, we were among them. I’ll be honest. I was 95% certain that our daughter would be going to the local catchment school 0.3 miles away. But no, we were astounded to discover that we didn’t get any of our 4 choices. I’ve read in the paper today that apparently this only happens to 2.5% of parents, so I guess we are one of the unlucky ones. To say I was shocked was an understatement. It took a while for the complete dismay and disappointment to register before I dissolved into tears. We have been allocated to a school which I’ve barely heard of and never even given a passing thought to which is almost 2 miles away.

I spent the rest of the day in a complete daze. I spoke to some friends, most of whom were pleased with their places, but a few have been left as distraught as me.

How Could This Happen?

A week on from discovering the news and I still can’t understand how this has happened. Apparently this year has had a high sibling rate. The school gives preference to children with older siblings who are already at the school before then taking children on a distance basis using a straight line calculation for how close homes are to school. This bizarre calculation means that children who, on a walking basis, actually live further away from us have managed to secure a place despite the fact they will probably still need to drive to the school gate. A new housing estate has been built last year and yet no provision has been given for accommodating those extra children into already oversubscribed schools.

So when I read in the paper today that the head of “Commissioning Education” at our local County Council is “delighted with the result” and “…how this demonstrates a further investment in creating additional primary school places…” I practically threw the paper across the room. A year ago it would have been inconceivable for someone in walking distance to not get into their local school. Government and local councils need to wake up to the fact that they cannot continue to build new homes at such a speed without building the infrastructure and support that is desperately needed to go with it.

I suppose we are incredibly unlucky, but it doesn’t do anything to make the anger, sadness or stress subside. Since when did the entire process become so difficult and so distressing to parents? In October last year we were told to visit schools and make choices for the following year. But what is the point of that if you don’t get allocated to any of those choices?

Not What We Envisaged

Your child’s start in education is supposed to be exciting, daunting and scary. It’s THE big step and a huge milestone in their life as well as for you as a parent. It’s a vision that I’ve had in my mind for a while; we even bought the house thinking that the local school was on the doorstep. As an August baby, I know my daughter will be emotional, I know she will find the transition hard, but I envisaged being there to support her along with the friends and peers that she knows already. The vision has changed somewhat in my mind already. If we don’t get into our preferred school via the waiting list or appeal, we will have to be excited and jolly for her, but inside I’ll be livid and upset on her behalf that she will be going to a school in a strange place, miles away where she won’t know anyone.

Legal Appeal

Launching a school appeal is tough. I’ve been quoted various statistics but the bottom line is that very few people win. Preparing for the case is in itself like having a full-time job. The amount of research and reading I’ve done in just this past week is unbelievable. It’s completely consuming and I’m only now just managing to control it so that schools, appeals and the admissions process doesn’t dominate my every waking thought. The appeal document has to challenge in a legal way using certain legal criteria set out by the council. Ultimately it can’t just be an emotional heart-felt letter imploring for common sense to prevail. The stress of having to cope with this on our own with no real advice from anyone in authority is incredible. In just this week alone, I can already feel it affecting my health and causing a strain with my husband. All of this with just a 20 day deadline in which to lodge the appeal.

What Next?

Tomorrow will be interesting. We find out where we are on the waiting list for all 4 of our preferred schools. That may give me some hope or it could be just as disappointing as receiving news as last week. It’s almost too much to bear. After that, we continue to build a case for appeal. Continue to read, research and hope to find some loopholes on which to challenge this strange decision.

If I make it to September with a good outcome it will be a miracle.

Have you been affected by the schools application this year? Did you not get into your chosen school or were you, like me one of the 2.5% of parents that didn’t get any of their 4 choices? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.