Choosing a primary school is such a nerve wracking time. Waiting for months to find out if your little one has been offered your first choice school is an anxious time – for most parents things go smoothly, from application to being offered their first choice school, however for some, things don’t go to plan.

I’m one of those people – it went wrong, really wrong! Let me tell you a little about my situation and how it unfolded.

I have a 5 year old son and a very nearly 4 year old daughter (going on 14) – when applying for a primary school for my son,  I automatically applied for the school where he already attended nursery, even though he wasn’t catholic (which the school was), I naively assumed that because he had attended the school nursery he would be offered a place.  Oh how wrong was I?  I woke up on school offer day and anxiously checked my email, he’d been offered another school – one I hadn’t even been to look at as I was so confident he’d be offered a place at my first choice school!

So now I had a dilemma, do I let him go to the school he’d been offered even though I knew very little about it – or do I appeal for him to go to my first choice school?  Never one to make things simple for myself, I decided to go all the way back to the drawing board – I rang every school in my area and a few further afield and booked to look around and have a chat with the head – so off I went, visiting each school, casting my critical eyes all over the place!

After doing this, I’d completely changed my mind about what school I wanted him to go to, in hindsight I wished I’d done this waaaaay before now, but you live and you learn, right?

So, I’d chosen my school and contacted school admissions to let them know I wanted to change my school preferences – I put my chosen school and two new ones for the second and third options and waited, waited, waited some more – to find out in the second round of admissions he once again hadn’t been offered my first choice school!!

So, I decided to appeal this decision as their reasoning for not offering him a place was that someone else lived closer – but when I looked into it, my son’s Dad actually lived closer and he often travels to school from his house as well as mine so armed with this information I really got stuck in, ask me anything – I’ll likely know it when it comes to school appeals!  Haha!

I gave my notice of appeal to the local authority and waited for what felt like years, it was about six weeks for my hearing date, and off I went armed with everything I had researched in regards to the distance, his younger sister had been offered a place at the nursery, there had been a miscommunication of emails between myself and the school admissions officer that could have hindered my appeal – I literally picked the appeal to its bones, I was determined.

On the day, I waited nervously for the appeal before mine to finish, and in I went when it was my turn, there were three people on the panel, a legal representative from the city council and the school admissions officer – they started off the hearing by stating why my son had not been accepted into the school, and then the panel questioned me as to why I thought I could appeal this decision – confident but friendly I put my case across, I’d found out the teacher to student ratio, class sizes (literally the measurements of the classroom as per government guidelines), distance from school, sibling link amongst other things – I had a whole file prepared with all the email/letter correspondence, aa route maps of his homes to school, a copy of the school ofsted report and admission policy – I left no stone unturned and I left feeling very confident I’d done my absolute best – now just to wait some more, they’d write to me within 5 days of the hearing.

Days passed and I literally pulled the post through the letterbox out of the postman’s hand I was so eager to know the outcome, day four, nothing, no news is good news I thought, then day five and there it was on the doormat – I picked it up and put it in my bag, I didn’t look as it again for the rest of the morning, I was so nervous, finally after much goading from my sister, I opened it – without reading it I scanned the first few lines, as soon as I seen the word unfortunately, I knew it has been unsuccessful – I was literally heartbroken, felt like I’d failed my son by not being better prepared and putting this school as my first choice, the first time around 🙁

So there I was, left with knowing my child had to go to a school I was okay with, but not happy with, he was left on the waiting list for my first choice school should a place become available, but there was three people in front of him, and should anyone with SEN, a sibling or a child who lived closer than us apply, then he would move further down the list – I wasn’t hopeful.

The first day of school came around, and I dressed him in his brand new uniform, school shoes that would never again be so clean and scuff-free, and off we went, got to my second choice school and waited patiently in reception, the headteacher came to greet us and delivered another blow – their reception class was full, so he’d have to go into a year one class and “see how he does” I was understandably worried and upset – yes, I cried real tears when I got back in the car, how would my little babe manage in an older class, but I assured myself he’d be fine and on with my day I went – then around 11:30am I get a call – from my first choice school – HE’D BEEN OFFERED A PLACE!!

Really? Seriously? He’s got a place?? YES!!! He’ll start tomorrow! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I was SO HAPPY!! (caps lock needed to relay this happiness!!)

So, thankfully, this literally was a happy ending, my son and daughter both at the same school, mad dash for a whole new uniform, but I couldn’t be happier – and I was so right about the school, both of my kids love it and they’ve settled so well, now lets keep our fingers crossed that my daughter gets into reception because of her big brother being a sibling link!! Haha!

Some practical tips (in my experience) for school admissions/appeals:

  1. Research and visit all of the schools you put down for your three choices – I’m so surprised at how many parents I’ve spoken to that didn’t do this, me included!
  2. Thoroughly read the school admissions process, so you know where you stand should you not be offered a place at your first choice school.
  3. Make sure you keep all of the letters/emails during the admissions process should you need them at a later date.
  4. If you don’t get your first choice school, try to hold off buying uniform so soon – so you don’t have to buy it twice should your child change school soon after starting like mine!
  5. Try and be realistic about your second and third choice, put down schools you would be happy for your child to attend.
  6. Research online, there’s a whole host of information available, or read Ben Rooney: How To Win Your School Appeal, it’s jam packed with useful information!

Best of luck with your admissions process! If you have any tips or advice, please feel free to leave in the comments!