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What to do if you don't get your first choice of secondary school

1st March is National Offers Day for secondary schools in England and Wales, when thousands of parents eagerly await an email from the local authority telling them where their Year 6 child will go to school from September.

The morning news is often full of stories speculating on the number of children that won’t get a place at their first or second choice school, so if your local authority doesn’t send that all important email until late afternoon, it can be an anxious wait.

What happens if you’re not offered your first choice of secondary school?

Sadly not everyone will get their first choice or second choice of secondary school. If you find yourself in this situation, these are our top tips for managing the disappointment:

Don’t panic! Keep upbeat and positive for your child even if you are disappointed. What’s clear from what you have told us is that things work out positively in the end for the vast majority of families. The bulk of our secondary schools are rated highly by Ofsted and will offer a fantastic educational experience for your child.

Keep an open mind. When you are ready, it may be worth getting to know the school and other families who attend it better to help your decision-making. Knowing how adaptable children can be (and with you supporting them) is there any reason why your child won’t do well at this school?

Take things step-by-step. If you are unhappy with the school you have been offered, you have the right to appeal and your local authority will set out the procedure for you.

Accept the place you have been offered (even if you intend to appeal) and get on the waiting lists for your desired schools. There is a lot of movement on waiting lists between now and September so you may get to the top with patience.

Get involved in your child’s new school. This will undoubtedly help you and your child get to know the school environment, families and staff and feel more confident about the future. As well as finding out more about the PTA and what activities it does, there are lots of other ways you can get involved and make a positive difference.

Start getting prepared. We’ve got lots of advice to help parents support their kids as they make this important transition and you may also enjoy this blog by our acting CEO, Michelle on her experiences.

Reviewed: March 2019

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