Offer Day – Part 1: for parents

Monday is the big day! It is the day that children will find out about the secondary school that they have been allocated. Part 1, of this series of 3, is for families and children. How are you all feeling? Today, you find out if all that stress back in October was worth it. For some it may even be a question of whether getting a high enough score on a test was enough to get you into the Grammar school you were hoping for.

The email is opened, you find out, you have been allocated a place at school X. How do you feel, Excited? Scared? Everything in between? Don’t worry, you are not alone, I promise you that. In my experience children/parents feel one of 3 ways when they find out which secondary school they have been offered a place at. 1) Thrilled – you have got where you wanted. 2) Disappointed- its not the school you wanted. 3) Beyond disappointed! – Not only have you not been offered a place at school you wanted but you have been offered one that you really didn’t want.

Here are some of my top tips if you fall into one of these situations: Starting with being happy with your new school. You might think there is nothing you can do now, that’s not the case! You can do your homework! The easiest way of doing this is to have a good look at the schools website:

  • What are all of the uniform requirements? Might I need to start putting some money aside each month (if that’s even possible) to ensure that I get all of the correct uniform. Secondary schools are far less forgiving about incorrect uniform! Do you need separate PE or Performing Arts kit? I have known many a parent be caught out by the ‘extra’ bits of kit needed. Check exactly what type of shoes will/won’t be allowed! Another BIG difference between the two phases.
  • What are the times of the school day? This might sound silly but not all schools run the same times. In the area I live and work almost all of the schools have different start and finish times. Even 5 minutes can make a difference if you need to rely on public transport! Planning your journey to and from school is really important. Parents, please remember – they won’t always want the lift from you! There needs to be another option!
  • What will you do with your belongings all day? All schools will tell you in their information pack about what items you will need with you each day. You can be better prepared if you know what you will be doing with these things! In an earlier post I mentioned lockers and if they were available, optional or compulsory! This could affect your choice of bag!

What if you are disappointed with the school you have been offered? Here are some suggestions of what you can do now. Obviously you can and should do all of the above! Is there anything else you can do you though?

  • Work out why you are disappointed.
    • Is it because of who else in you school has/hasn’t been offered a place? Let me tell you a secret, you will make new friends, and better still you can keep your old friends! Now surely that is a win win for all! If you want to avoid some old ‘friends’, trust me that is so much easier at secondary school due to its size!
    • Is it because you ‘don’t like’ the school? What don’t you like? Is your opinion based on rumours or your own experience? Remember, whatever someone else went through in a school, does not mean the same will happen to you. Even of that someone else is a brother or sister! We are all individuals and have very different experiences.
    • Is it because of what the Ofsted rating is? I take you back to the previous point! The inspectors had a very different agenda to you! Read the report and see how much of it you think will actually affect you. Remember it was a snapshot in time – you will be with this school for a lot longer and will have a much more personal connection with them.
  • Give the school a call. Even after considering all of the above, give the school a call. Ask to speak to whoever deals with transition and tell them your concerns. All teachers want to make sure that the children who join them in September are happy with the school. Let them put your mind at rest.

Now the biggest issue of all, you are so disappointed with the school you are thinking about turning it down and appealing. Please, before doing anything else complete all the above steps! If you are still not happy then when call to speak to someone, go that one step further and ask for a visit. Here are some things to make sure you do on this visit:

  • Be honest. Tell the school exactly why are you concerned about your children attending the school. You must give them to opportunity to answer your concerns. Worst case scenario your fears are confirmed, but best case is that the school put your mind at ease!
  • Ask for a tour. This isn’t always easy to organise but most schools will find a way of making it possible. Your experience on this visit will give you a realistic vision of what a day in the life will be like for your child – this is very powerful, and in my experience can be a game changer for some parents!
  • Visit the school you are hoping for BEFORE turning down the one you have been offered. Ask the same questions you have done at the one you are currently less happy with. Compare the 2, do you think that your child could, in fact, be happy at the offered school? What is missing from that school? Is there anything that they can provide that you hadn’t realised, maybe even that the school you think you preferred doesn’t? Above all, give the school a chance before turning it down and don’t turn it down until you have another school place. Worst case scenario is that your child ends up without a place in September!

Of course I really hope that you are all happy with the school you are offered a place at. Transition to Big School seems scary and I’m not going to lie, it can be! It doesn’t have to be for long though! Give your self the chance to do your homework as I suggested and if in doubt ask! Ask your current school, your future school, your friends, your parents/carers, anyone who will listen!

Enjoy this time! Its a new beginning!