If you have a child who is, or will be, 4 by September 2017, now is the time for you to start thinking about applying to Primary Schools. It probably feels like it has come around far too fast (especially if your little one is still 3 and isn’t due to be 4 until the Summer) but in most counties the applications open around Sept/Oct and close at the beginning of January. It can feel like a huge decision especially if there are a number of primary schools in your area, or it can feel very simple if you have a school very close by, but there are a number of tips to take into consideration when you apply!
The first thing to be aware of is that there are some strict admissions rules that each schools follow. Many schools follow the same rules which are applied in the order they are written. They roughly look like this:
Rule 1: Children who are Looked After or who have been adopted.
Rule 2: Medical or Social reasons why your child has to attend this particular school.
Rule 3: Linked schools (this applies to Infant to Junior schools, not Nursery to Infant schools)
Rule 4: The Sibling Rule
Rule 5: Nearest School
Rule 6: Children living closest to school (based on distance)
No matter how convinced you are that you will get your first choice – make sure you use up all your choices!
You will have the opportunity to make several choices of the school you want and it can be tempting, especially if you want your nearest school, to think that you can just put that one and be done with it. However, it is important to remember that the Admission Rules are applied in the order they are written. So if there are 30 spaces, and 25 siblings apply then that will only leave 5 spaces! This can leave you without a school placement of your choice and you may find you are allocated a school some distance from your house!
Go to as many Open Days as you can. Meet the Headteacher, get a feel for the school and listen to your gut instinct.
Never assume that, because one of your friends sends their child to a school, that it will be right for yours. Always go and visit as many local schools as you can – you’ll be surprised at how different they are. Some Primary Schools have compulsory extended hours for Junior children; some have no after school clubs; some have both Breakfast and After School childcare; some have no outdoor areas whilst some will have a Forest School several times a week. One of the schools will suit you more than others, and it may not always be the closest, so it’s worth getting a feel for the school if at all possible.
Don’t spend too much time worrying about Ofsted Reports or SATS results.
Ofsted reports can be a good indication about what the school needs to be working on, and SATs results (apart from this year which is full of confusion due to the Governmental changes!) again can give you some indication about how the school is doing, but please don’t think that this is the be all! Sometimes a school which has been given a Requires Improvement Grade, can be working much much harder to make improvements than a Good school. As for SATs results, they really only tell you about the results of that cohort. There could have been a large percentage of children with special needs, or children who have only just started learning English. My tip is, look for how often the Headteacher changes, or how often teachers come and go, as this may give you a good idea about how stable the school is!
Always put your nearest school, even if you don’t particularly want it!
You may have looked around all the local primary schools and chosen a few that you like and know that your child would thrive in. You may have looked at your nearest school and decided that it isn’t for you. However, do put it as one of your options, even if it’s the last one! If you don’t put it as an option, you run the risk to be left with either a school not on your list that may be several miles away, or to be left with no school at all. Rule 5 above is related to this and if you don’t put your nearest school then, regardless, you won’t be considered for Rule 5, and the spaces may be filled up before the school needs to use Rule 6!
What if you don’t get the school you want?
Firstly, don’t panic. You can register yourself under Continuing Interest via your county. This basically puts you on a waiting list for the school you want. After the offer letters are sent out, there will be quite a bit of movement with some parents pulling out, some being given places at their original choices, or some parents moving out of the area, which frees up spaces in the schools. The spaces are then allocated via the Continuing Interest list, and this list can continue well into September. So make sure you are on Continuing Interest for the school you want, and be prepared to wait it out!
One word of warning!
Some Primary Schools have already become Academies and, as such, are allowed to create their own admission rules which can be different to the County Admissions Rules. It’s always worth checking what their admissions rules are before you apply so that you know what you need to satisfy to get your child into the school!
Good luck with your admissions for Primary School!