Primary Education – Schools application time is approaching!

*I should warn that if you’re not currently going through the process of applying for schools there is a high chance you will find this post incredibly dull. God knows I thought talking about schools was the most boring thing ever too…until now, when it’s me about to click ‘submit’ on that application*

All across the UK parents of preschoolers are currently facing a deadline: primary school applications need to be in by midnight on the 15th January. Now I might be changing my application at 11:59pm on the 15th as I find it really hard to make the final decision. In fact, not listing my preferences at all might be easier than being given the option to choose four and having to rank them in order of preference.

It all feels strangely reminiscent of writing a birth plan. Write down want you’d like in an ideal world but be prepared that it might be squished into a ball and thrown in the bin the second you go into labour.

Let’s get this straight. In my area anyway, I get to list four schools in order of preference, but the reality is that my preferences really count for jack all. If I don’t live on the doorstep of the schools I prefer, Sun isn’t getting a place.

I’ve tortured myself this week by looking around the schools I will put on my list, knowing we have little chance of him attending. I had to look though in case we do, or in case I hated the school. I was secretly hoping I might find something to dislike about my preferred school so I could write it off. Nope, but now I know what we’ll be missing out on if we don’t get our 1st, 2nd or 3rd preference.

Preferences! Ha! I think preferences make me more disappointed than if I had no choice in the matter at all.

Let’s play a game. Rank these fruits in order of preference: bananas, pears, apples & grapes. You just went through the process of deciding which you prefer, thinking about them all, visualising them and imagining the taste and smell of each. Now let’s say you favor bananas but would put grapes as your least favourite, you are going to be disappointed if you get given a plate of grapes. I’m guessing more disappointed than if you hadn’t been asked to rank them at all and had just been given a plate of pears to munch on. You’d just be happy for the pears.

boys scooting next to school fence

Anyway, I’ve done my homework. I’ve visited the schools and been charmed by 6th graders and beautiful wall art and swimming pools and French lessons. I’ve read Ofsted reports and tried to be open-minded about the school that has been recently inspected and told:

This is a school that requires improvement. It is not good because:
– pupils’ progress is sometimes limited particularly in the early years and Year 1 because of a lack of clarity in learning outcomes and too few opportunities for pupils to review their learning or understand how to improve.
– teaching does not always stretch some of the higher attaining pupils sufficiently or make sufficiently strong links to promote writing and mathematics skills in other subjects.

I know Ofsted reports are not the only thing to consider when choosing a school but why couldn’t it have been reprimanded for not having a first aid record rather than for not providing opportunities for children to learn.

It makes it really hard to feel positive about this school and hard for me to not be too upset and accept that it is most likely the school Sun will be offered a place, because it is our closest school and if I don’t list in on my application I could run the very real risk of not getting a place at any of the schools I list.

I’m rambling, I know, I’m just trying to make sense of it all really and find a way to prepare myself for what’s to come. I’ve always believed that a ‘good’ school can have ‘bad’ teachers and a supposed ‘bad’ school can have brilliant teachers, and a school that is fantastic for one child can be awful for another. I just have to keep this in mind now, add my four choices and wait. Now I know why parents pay ridiculous amounts to live in a particular school catchment area, and why they spend time thinking about this when their children are but a sparkle in their eyes.

I should take heart I guess from what the woman at the local council said when I asked her why I should bother putting my choices down at all when really my choice counts for nothing. She said, ‘because you just never know, you might get lucky.’

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