Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Secondary school “choices” – Hobson’s Choice, more like

with 6 comments

When I first became a mum, I knew the small print said something about “always worrying” about your offspring.
I try to tell myself that I shouldn’t worry about things – especially if things are out of my control – but I’m not terribly good at taking my own advice.

I worried about which nursery my children should go to; I tossed and turned at night when I sent off the application forms for primary school.

Six years on from the infant school concern, I am now vexed with another BIG WORRY: it is selection time for secondary school.

Now, the authority area in which I live is not exactly blessed with schools that are knocking on The Times Top 100 league table’s door for entry.

There are some schools – as there are in every authority – that I would only allow my daughter to attend “over my dead body”.

There is a grammar school, for which an entrance exam has to be taken. This is fine. It is a gamble because there are more than 800 children sitting the exam for 96 places.

Our nearest school is an Academy, which has a good reputation. Children must sit an exam, but the selection procedure – something to do with banding, catchments, non-catchments and the alignment of Pisces with Jupiter – is so complicated that no-one actually understands it (including the local authority).

My daughter’s primary school is a feeder school for a secondary that also has a fairly good reputation. This pleased me and my friends greatly when we discovered this new relationship – at least we had a chance of getting our children into a half-decent school.

Not so.

For, we learned, there are ten primary schools in the “feeder umbrella” and ours is the furthest away of all of them. If every Year 6 child from those feeder schools applied, there wouldn’t be enough places to accommodate them all. Once distance is taken into consideration, 90 per cent of us at our primary school would be out of the running.

Five schools have to be chosen and they must be put in order of preference. There are not five schools in my borough that I could, hand on heart, say I would be happy to let my child attend.

The grammar, which she says she would like to try for, must come first on the list. But if there is no place available, we have our “fall-back” Academy. But – even if she meets the criteria – putting that school second jeopardises our chances of a place because most of the places are taken up by those who have placed it first on their preference form.

The alleged feeder school has already said that if you put it below second you have very little chance of getting in because it is over-subscribed.

The whole thing is overwhelming. It is frightening. I don’t like it.

The forms have to be submitted by October 23. We find out where she will go on March 1. That’s four months of no sleep. OK – that’s also in the small print…


Written by CommonPeople

September 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Great post, Jayne.

    Someone wise once old me that you never stop feeling guilty as a parent.

    Somebody else even wiser told me you never stop being a Mum/Dad.

    Once upon a time chosing a nursery was as big a barrier as navigating a treacherous a mountain range. Looking back they were only foothills. It’s that that gives me confidence to soldier on with crampons in hand.

    Dan Slee

    September 16, 2009 at 10:37 pm

  2. Thanks for your comment, Dan.

    It is something I have been worrying about since she was in Y3! But – as every journalist knows – it’s the ultimate deadline that really focuses us!


    September 16, 2009 at 10:42 pm

  3. Jayne, thanks for posting this, it really is food for thought.

    I can give you all the usual excuses, but that’s not good enough is it? Walsall has surplus places so it shouldn’t be like this when it comes to making choices.

    But there’s a NW/SE split in attainment in general across Walsall which makes the decision you are facing so difficult, it’s a Post Code lottery, but you knew that anyway didn’t you?

    These comments aren’t going to make you feel any better but it’s given me something to think about. Must turn thoughts into deeds

    Ian Shires

    September 17, 2009 at 1:31 pm

  4. Really appreciate your comments, Ian.


    September 17, 2009 at 2:03 pm

  5. this is a useful thing 4 sure Here’s some pass forward: Thought for the day? : If at first you don’t succeed, look in the trash for the instructions.

    Hillary Feroz

    September 8, 2011 at 12:53 am

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    September 19, 2011 at 12:26 am

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