So I’ve just gone through the secondary application process……and My God, is it a stressful minefield of information and literally cramming talks, tours and schools into 2 months of chaotic normal life! To say I was absolutely relieved when I actually submitted the online application is an understatement. But at the same time I felt so nervous. That nervous feeling at the pit of my stomach is still there every time I think about it, and I don’t think I can confidently say it’ll leave me until we find out those results of the school allocations on 1st March next year.
Image: ICAN Moving On Cover
I guess it was completely different when I went to secondary school in the 90s. I don’t remember my parents ever stressing as much as I just did. Much less me having to go and sit a load of tests along with hundreds of other kids, just for a handful of spaces! All it was back then was that there were a couple of feeder schools that were linked to my primary school, and people just went to those. But time’s have changed so much now. There is more demand for places at certain schools with limited places available. It’s not just a case of assuming that your child will get into the feeder school to their primary school either. It’s all about catchments, distances, siblings, criteria and a whole array of other factors that come into play when your child is being offered a school place. Having just experienced the application process here are my 6 things that I think every parent can do to make the application experience a little less stressful.
1. Visit Schools In Year 5
I only visited one school when my daughter was in Year 5, but I would really recommend doing this as it will give you a good feel for that particular secondary school. You won’t have the added pressure of cramming the open evening into the short space of a few weeks during the Autumn term when your child is in Year 6. By all means visit again in Year 6 to see the school again, but visiting in Year 5 will take some of the strain off.
2. List The Schools You Are Considering And Get Organised
Make a list of the schools you are possibly considering sending your child to, and read all the OFSTED reports and criteria for the schools. If there is any supplementary information print the forms off, and find all the necessary documents e.g. Proof of address, baptism certificate, and keep them in a separate folder. If there are any tests for the schools, and you would like your child to sit them, make sure you print off the forms and submit them to the school before the deadline!
3. Go To The Open Evenings
Every school with hold an open evening. This is the pupils and teacher’s opportunity to show off the school, and gives prospective parents and pupils the chance to see the school. I found the open evenings quite stressful as they can finish quite late and they can get really packed. But it was interesting to hear what each head teacher had to say about the school, and get an overall picture. At the open evenings you do receive packs with any supplementary froms and a prospectus on the school.
4. Arrange Daytime Tours
Not all, but some schools do organise daytime tours but unlike the open evenings, you have to phone up to book onto them. If you look on the school’s websites they sometimes list when tours are being held, or you can just phone up admissions to find out. Make sure you do this at least at the beginning of the Autumn Term of when your child is in Year 6, or even when they’re in Year 5. There are usually only limited spaces available as the tours are during the school day. I would highly recommend doing a daytime tour of your prospective schools, as it is completely different seeing the school fully operational on a daily basis as opposed to an open evening. You get a feel for the school, and are exposed to how things will be when your child goes there.
5. Ask Questions
Ask as many questions as possbile. Whether it’s other parents who have already been through the smae process, family members, school admissions, your local authority, ask all the questions that spring to mind no matter how silly they might seem. However, I found that the best people to ask questions were the current pupils who we met on the Open Evenings and Daytime tours. They are the ones living in the life of the school as it is now, and can give you the best picture of their first hand experiences there.
6. Talk To Your Child
The whole business of choosing a secondary school is scary for any parent, but just imagine how your child feels? Although we have our own opinions and ideas about what we want for our children, bring them to every open evening, or daytime tour and listen to how they feel about the schools. Encourage them to ask questions, to take part in activities on show at the open evenings, and if they do have to sit any tests, don’t put too much pressure on them. Just tell them that the most important thing is for them to do their best!!
Well I’ll sigh a relief for now. I hope this helps anyone going forward who will have to go through the secondary application process. Good luck to anyone, like me, who has just applied. Additionally, if you’ve already gone through it and have any other tips you can add to mine, I’d love to hear your comments!!!
Until the next time…..