Things can work out well even if you didn't get into first choice of school

This week thousands of parents have received emails informing them which Sheffield school their children will go to in September. National Offer Day is a big deal across the country; there will be families celebrating getting their first-choice school and there'll be an upset minority who haven't got the placement they hoped for.

Thursday, 19th April 2018, 09:05 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th April 2018, 18:06 pm
Primary Schools league table picture.

There is, of course, no guarantee that everybody can get into their chosen school. Those which have been branded outstanding by OFSTED tend to have more demand, particularly if a school nearby requires improvement.

The system prioritises places for certain families depending on a number of different factors, notably whether they live nearby, if there are any siblings already in the school and whether special needs can be catered for. Getting children into the preferred school is an issue that provokes parents to be passionate, even though we all realise not every child is going to attend a school that is better than average – it’s a mathematical impossibility.

During my time teaching at schools in South Yorkshire, I have come across several extreme methods employed by desperate parents wanting to get their kids into schools in neighbouring catchments.

There was a family who lived a few miles away and literally moved out of their house to rent a home in the catchment. They could then put this new address on the application form. When they had their application accepted, they moved back to their previous dwelling.

The additional rent they paid must have topped £6000. But it worked. They got into an outstanding school and it worked out cheaper than private school.

I’ve known another family rent a flat above a shop to get an address within the catchment area. And there’s also the classic approach to try and con the system – using the address of family members or friends.

In the news this week, a study discovered that this kind of deception when applying for schools is on the increase and some couples will even fake a divorce to show they have one address inside the catchment.

It’s desperate stuff in a lot of cases, but who knows what lengths we’d go to for our own children if we were set on getting them into a school that was better for them?

There will be many disappointed families in Sheffield this week who got the news on National Offer Day and felt their heart sink when their second-choice school was offered. It can mean longer journeys to school and splitting up friendship groups, so is often just as traumatic for the kids as it appears to be for the parents.

But there’s no need to give up hope just yet.

You have the right to appeal the decision and this means you can challenge the school you have been offered.

If you feel that another school would meet the needs of your child more than the one you are lined up for, get online and learn how to kick off your appeal.

Don’t presume the school will always win the appeal because this is not the case – but do make sure you have good grounds.

Parents should get on with the appeal now, though, if they are planning to contest decisions they disagree with. The process can take a long time and the last thing we want to see is disagreements dragging on until September – providing a barrier to a nice, fresh start to the academic year.

But no matter how much you try and encourage parents to appeal or at least try out the new school, come September there will always be some parents across the country keeping their kids out of lessons in protest or going down the home schooling route. Some parents who home school do a splendid job, but it’s not an easy option and it’s not something that should be done at the drop of a hat.

If your reaction now is that you’re just not going to send your child to the allocated school then you need to have a good, long think about that decision.

You may not have been allocated the school you want, but things can work out well if you go into the new relationship with an open mind.