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.
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.
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.