School Lottery?

I still can’t believe that my little pink bundle starts school in September. I remember looking at nurseries towards the end of my maternity leave, seeing the signs outside which said ‘3 months to 5 years’ and thinking how far away into the future that sounded, yet all of a sudden I’m midway through my tour of the local primaries, and feeling this overwhelming sense of anxiety about the whole ordeal.

We’re only in catchment for one school. An outstanding school which looks and feels superb on the outside and in. We went to an open evening there a couple of weeks ago. As a teacher, I knew what I was looking for, and would love my children to go there. My husband was so excited about some of their ideas he’s even brought them into the school we work at (he’s the deputy head, he’s allowed to)! So what’s the problem?

  • We know they’re already 60% subscribed for September from siblings entering Reception
  • Last year they turned 28 students away who were in catchment
  • Catchment children within a 0.3 mile radius were the only ones who got in last year. We live 0.6 miles away
  • There are 1000 more children than there are places available across the County

Very kindly, we are given the opportunity to put three choices down on our form, however 5 schools distance-wise from our house are Church schools. Despite getting our children Christened as babies because we wanted to, we do not satisfy the criteria, and wouldn’t stand a chance getting in to any of them, even if we put them down as first choice. One other is a possibility. It is ‘satisfactory’ at infant level, but not at junior level. After that, the options are all in the wrong direction, I would have to give up my own job as a teacher in order to be able to get her there even some of the time!

So this means that our second choice school will have to be the one that is ‘ok.’ If any of the students in my class hand me a piece of work that is ‘ok’ for them, I deem it unsatisfactory, because it shows they have the potential to produce something of a higher standard, and if I’m not prepared to settle for ‘ok’ when dealing with other people’s children, why should I accept it with my own?

We all want what is best for our children, of course we do, and I know that wherever we end up sending ours to school, they will have a supportive family environment, and we can help them develop, I’m just finding it really difficult to accept that we probably won’t have a place at our closest and best school.

I’ve always grown up to understand that if we work hard we will have more opportunities than if we don’t, however, there’s nothing I can do to boost my chances with this. I won’t be more likely to get a place if I work harder, or say ‘pretty please,’ and it’s just this complete powerlessness over the whole process that gets me.

So am I overegging the whole situation or am I just normal feeling this, when it’s the future of my children at stake? I guess I’ll  just have to do as much as I can even though it’s nowhere near enough and cross my fingers like I do every Saturday night when they release the balls!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kate
    Nov 23, 2010 @ 20:44:53

    One thing is for sure – it is pretty stressful for all parents. Even when I applied for Missy Woo as a younger sibling this last year, I was still a bit bothered that she wouldn’t get in as we are 1.5 miles from school.

    I’m sorry your options are limited. Here, we have no hope of fulfilling top criteria in any of the church schools. There is a school .25 miles away that was so oversubscribed the year before we applied for Monkey that I decided there was no point applying to. It was better but still borderline whether we would have got in and I don’t do the “going to church to jump the queue” thing.

    Luckily, the community schools here are good too with one exception. We got Monkey into the one we liked best, which had previously been undersubscribed, but last year, was bang on for applications so I’m expecting that to be over this year. Still, the one we chose is beyond walking distance for small children (mind you, so was the other one) and it does annoy me we have a perfectly good school in walking distance that you had to plan to get into. They are building an extra school in the area that is helping with capacity in places.

    It’s a horrible position. On the positive side, things *might* not be so bad at the school for the year in which you are applying. Who knows? At least you got 3 choices – we only got one and then the council gave you the nearest school with available places. And of course, they have now reverted to the 3 choice rule.

    Am so glad that most schools in Lancashire don’t have catchment areas – although they sort of do by making the tie break distance from school.

    I don’t think there is anything else I can say to make your situation better, except that we all go through it. It was nothing like this when most of us were kids. The problem is that giving parents choice has limited it for some. It is, in fact, the illusion of choice. Clever smoke and mirrors stuff.

    Good luck.


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