The Big School Big Decision 11

Last September like lots of parents we made the rounds of the local senior schools with Maxi.  We were and still are in the position of living in a town/village with no Senior school, although it has a three form entry primary school.  Yes, you read that right, there are seventy odd kids in Maxi’s year at the local primary school, but the council knocked down the Senior School and combined it with another in the next village over.

boys back to school

This meant that no matter what Maxi’s choice of Senior school he would have to travel to it on a bus.  So we decided to look at four possibilities.  The three closest and the local Catholic school.

We went to each of the open evenings, talked to current pupils and looked at Ofsted results.  We talked to more pupils and considered lots of things, but in the end, we kept coming back to the fact that Maxi felt most comfortable in the Catholic School.

We made sure that we took Mini along to all the open evenings, as he will be going to Senior school just the year after Maxi, so we wanted the decision to be as right for both of them as we could.


Finally, we picked our top three schools, the Catholic school being our first choice and the one that Maxi really wanted to attend.  The same school my Neice had put as her top choice and also the same school that Miss Frugal attends, in fact, I think that her experience influenced Maxi’s decision making.

I filled out the application form, forwarded his baptism card and filled out an additional application form stating why we had made the choice of a Faith school even though Maxi did not attend a faith school currently.  We submitted the form and then I tried not to think about it.

We were delighted to find out that we have got our first choice.  Maxi was jumping up and down with joy when he got home from school.

Back to school

I think back to the worry and concern I felt making the decision over which primary school he would go to and also how I felt after his first day of school.  He thrived, I survived!  I have agonised over the decisions we have made and I know I will keep agonising over them until he is happily settled in.

I have always said I want to raise happy children.  I want to raise children who are polite, considerate and understanding.  I love that both my boys have an interest in learning and hope that long continues.

I have no idea if we have had the right choice, but I do know we have made an informed decision.  It doesn’t stop me worrying.  it doesn’t stop the anxiousness that I feel inside.

I keep telling myself that he will thrive, just like the last time we made a big decision about school.  I remind myself that we can make a change if need be and that this decision doesn’t have to be for the full five years.

But even through all of this, I just keep thinking “He can not be old enough for this”.

My heart goes out to all the children and parents that haven’t got their first, second or even third choice schools and we are all looking forward to September and the changes that will bring ion our family.

boys back to school facebook

How did you chose which school was right for your child?

11 thoughts on “The Big School Big Decision

  • angela hamilton

    It can be an anxious time when choosing the correct school. Me and my husband went through the report for each primary school before making a choice. Best way I think

  • Coombe Mill - Fiona

    Next year will bring so much change for you and Maxi, Congratulations on getting your first choice I’m sure he will do well where aire there he goes that always nice to know it was your school of choice.

  • Kara

    You must be so relieved getting into your first choice school. I am really lucky that I live at the bottom of the road from ours so there would be something seriously wrong if we didn’t get in

  • Globalmouse

    I think choosing schools is one of the hardest things to do – I have found it so stressful just for primary school and even though it’s still two years away I’m already very worried about secondary school. Great you got your first choice.

  • Susan Mann

    Next year will bring a lot of change for your family and Maxi. But I know he will be great and take it all in his stride. How will Mini be? Congratulations on getting your first choice, we don’t really have this, it sounds so stressful. Good news and he will love it I’m sure. They are all growing so fast. A pause button for a short while would be nice. Hugs my lovely friend xx

  • Sonia

    So pleased that he got his first choice of school!! Oh Jen that photo of them when they were younger… just so adorable!!!

  • Sarah

    I am really pleased to hear that you have with very little trouble got your first choice of school. I find it amazing to hear stories where people responsibly do all the research and actually seem to have some say in the choice of schools.

    Sadly this is not an experience I have had with any of my 3 children. We have NEVER been offered any preferred or even suitable choices EVER. (I am talking from primary school allocation upwards here) For us this has been a trying, stressful and deeply unpleasant experience which didn’t stop with the final allocation of places.

    We are very lucky (certainly for the older two) that they are all NOW settled in good schools and are HAPPY. Happiness at school is by far the most important thing, the academic side of things can always be got round with the dedication/effort of parents and for very little extra cash.

    Our solutions for our children’s education will not be for everyone but at the moment they work. (I know of other parents that have taken the difficult decision to home educate or internet educate their children—our area has a large and thriving community of home educators, (somewhat unusual in the UK) This coupled with the unusually high number of private schools in such a small area highlights how difficult things are in our locality.

    REMEMBER when they quote 80-90% of people get one of their choices of school this means 3-6+ children in EVERY CLASS have not.
    As you HAVE to put your local catchment area school or risk not getting ANY school of your choice, then it can hardly be considered a “free” choice and many parents are scared/relieved to be offered any place at all….

    If you could find away of taking this lack of free choice into account especially in areas where the catchment school is failing…then the figure of 3-6 children per class of 30 would be substantially higher. Classes with significant numbers of children and parents not supportive of the school is not good for anyone.

    I have decided to include our story to highlight how bad things can be for some children. ( I have never told anyone the full story and actually writing it out has been very freeing and cathartic). I did write the whole story but it has too long and too many bad and stressful things happened so have just put a shorter summary of events. –We try to be very positive people and make the best of the situation we are in—this is the way we cope with huge amount of curve balls life keeps throwing at us!


    CHILD No1–
    Due to child’s specific needs had to wait until second round for placement.
    Awarded and accepted 8th choice placement and very happy.
    Had place 6 weeks, done all visits and done placement days at the school when out of blue during the summer holidays the place was taken away and awarded to an out of county, out of LEA jurisdiction, child, under some inter-county inter-LEA, co-operation agreement.
    Appeal by head teacher (this was how it was done under the old system–no need to lawyer up)
    Appeal fail due to unbreakable cap on class numbers.
    Very quickly awarded new place (at better school and number 4 on list).
    Arrive at school.
    Change of head, school declines, toxic environment, militant PTA, deeply unpleasant parochial/xenophobic parents, all but 2 of staff leave, unable to retain new teachers, constant change and uncertainty, further decline, number one bullied, change school.

    CHILD No2–
    Not awarded reception place, (LEA filled all places, created 5 extra classes of 30 and still were 80 places short).
    Told as a summer child no legal obligation to provide a reception place at all.
    Put on waiting lists for local schools, told would be offered place if and when one becomes available.
    Told we would get guaranteed place for year 1 but not likely to be at the same school as the first child and would not know exactly where until the following year.
    As local LEA Nursery School did not offer a repeat year, told to find day care provider that could provide 2.5 hrs free child care a day or home educate, but they did not provide support for home education for children of this age.
    Forced to pay for private education for reception year.
    Awarded place for year 1 at different school from child number 1 (35min drive or 2 buses and a train journey)

    CHILD No3–
    For similar reasons to first again had to wait to second round of allocations.
    Did not get place at any of chosen schools.
    Offered a place at different (and failing) school from either of the older children—(totally unworkable but apparently legal as travelling to and from school is parents responsibility and cost).
    Decline place with reasoned argument.
    Despite accepting our reasons as justifiable declination they went on to offer another place—-even further away at another (failing) school, and even more unworkable. (school offered no wrap around care options and no after school clubs)—well done LEA so glad you were listening….
    Decline place with same reasoned answers.
    Reasons accepted. Put to top of waiting lists for local schools and told if no place is made available before september then we are to repeat year at LEA state Nursery school with 2 other children in the same boat or we can change to the other state LEA run Nursery School with 5 other children in same boat if we thought it would be beneficial to have chance to experience a different curriculum.
    SIDE NOTE –off the record we were told not to panic and that the LEA will in these circumstances find acceptable places for all by 2/3 week of the September term at the latest as they don’t like losing places at the Nursery Schools. As many schools have staggered starts nothing is missed. Out of the 8 only one severely special needs child stayed on (and that was the solution the parents actually wanted from the get go).

    At this point the headmistress of our nursery school stepped in and put us in touch with headmaster of a local independent school.
    Accept FREE place at independent school. (child has some physical problems and sensitivity issues but is very bright.) Child number 3 is doing exceptionally well. Physio and occupational therapists are amazed at the co-operation from the school and how the whole class has benefited from implementation of their recommendations. Seen improvements in academic and physical abilities across the board– with all the students — and changes are very low tech and cheap. More about routine and attitudes. They are now working to get local state schools to come and see the benefits of rolling out these techniques and has had a knock on effect of some fantastic school partnerships being formed….

    What is amazing is that there No legal obligation of LEA to ensure you have a school that you can physically get to or to ensure that siblings are at the same school or at schools that can be reasonably got to before the school day starts. They are supposed to be a Local Education Authority and provide education for local people but they do not recognise the needs of the locals. They do not know what services/wrap around care etc individual schools provide. They do not take into account physical geography of areas. They do not take into account the safety of walk routes, cycle paths or the one way road systems of a locality.

    Having used the old system where you applied to the school directly (with schools having a say on admissions with all their local knowledge) and also the new system where every thing is done and controlled through the LEA I can only say the sooner schools are free of the LEA the better. We may finally get some sensible practical decisions…like siblings being able to attend the same school, schools places awarded on accessibility (are there cycle routes /public transport/oneway traffic systems, bridges etc) not on absolute distance as the crow flies…..

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