Getting Your Kids into Your Preferred School: the Complete Guide

15 Jun 2016 Posted by: Stuart Willis

Starting a new school, primary or secondary, is difficult for children and their parents. The first day of school is nerve-wracking, but the journey to get there can be even more difficult. Parents naturally worry about the quality of their child's education. We all know that some schools are better than others, and some parents may prefer one or two schools over others. 

You might feel that the standard of education isn't up to scratch. Or you could be unsure that your child will get the support they need. There are other issues you might be concerned about too, they could include your child making and keeping friends. If you want to maximise your chance of getting your child into a good school, try using some of the tips below. 


  • Find a School Best Suited for Your Child 

If you want the best school for your child, you need to know which school that is. You might already have a good idea of which are the better Ofsted-rated schools in the area. However, the best-rated school isn't necessarily the right one for your child. Every child has different needs, and each school has its strengths. For example, your child might have special educational needs and require a strong support team to help them. Perhaps your child is involved in an activity, such as a sport or music, and can attend a school with a focus in that area. You might also want to consider schools with different teaching philosophies. 

Doing your research is essential to find out all about the different schools in your area. Look at a variety of factors, from the Ofsted reports to exam results and parent satisfaction. You can read Ofsted reports at If you know parents with children already at one of the schools, talk to them about their experiences. There are several things you might want to consider. Does your child need help with their English skills? How does the school handle bullying and encourage tolerance? What sort of after-school activities are available?


  • Consider Private Options 

Not every parent is able to consider private schooling for their children. In fact, very few can, especially if they have multiple kids. However, if you can afford it, don't rule out the possibility straight away. You could find a private school that aligns with your views. You might find it easier to choose one that delivers the education you want your child to have. If you're thinking about private schools, you could consider both day and boarding schools. Many parents don't want their younger children to board, but they see it as a great opportunity for their older children. They can live in a supportive environment that fosters their education and come home at the weekends and during the holidays. Considering boarding schools as well gives you a much greater choice of schools. However, it can be very expensive. 


  • Move into the Right Area 

Where you live makes a difference to the school your child attends. There are a few factors that might be considered when you're choosing a school. They can include your address and whether your child already has siblings at the school. The catchment area is an important factor, so moving house could be on the cards. If you decide the issue is important enough to move, it's time to look for a new home. If you've chosen a school you like, you can find out the catchment area and search for a home by postcode. It's easy to find listings online from and other sites. Some websites allow you to see which schools are near to a property. 


  • Get More Involved in Your Faith 

You have probably heard stories about parents pretending to be religious for schools. Faith schools often perform better than others in the area, so it's understandable that parents want to benefit from them. While it's not recommended to fake being religious, it can be a good idea to get back in touch with your faith. If you have faith but haven't been an active part of a community, perhaps it's time to get involved. You can join a church, mosque, temple, synagogue, etc. to get to know people. Attend religious services and perhaps join in with community activities. Demonstrating that you're involved with your faith will help to show you're serious and not just pretending for school.


  • Prepare Your Child for Entrance Exams 

A number of schools can involve taking entrance exams. Both private schools and grammar schools could have academic requirements for getting in. They will look at your child's Sats results, but they often have a separate entrance exam too. The eleven plus is the standard test for getting into a grammar school. Although Sats can already be stressful, this extra exam is important for some schools. Hiring private tutors can help your kids to handle the workload and learn all they need to know to pass the exam. However, this is something you need to address long before the end of primary school. You should see if your child is up to speed at least a year or two before they finish. Keep in mind that some kids are naturally academic, and others aren't. Some can do well with a little help, but not everyone is destined for grammar school. 


  • Understand the Appeals Process 

Not everyone manages to get their first choice of school right away. If this happens to you and your child, you have the right to appeal the decision. If you decide it's something you want to do, it's important to understand how the process works. You need to put together a strong case for why your child needs to attend that particular school. You should explain why the other available schools aren't suitable for them. If you ask to appeal, you will be told how to by the school or by your local authority. There will be deadline for appealing, so take action as soon as you can. You can also get expert advice to help you, both from literature and from academic advisors. 


  • Get on a Waiting List 

If you can't get your child into the school you want, the next best thing is to have them on a waiting list. It could mean they don't get a place at the school for a couple of years, but it provides you with options. If, after a year or two, your child isn't doing well, you might have the opportunity to move them. Of course, if your child is ever offered a place, they might be reluctant to move by that point - they are likely to have made friends and settled in, so changing schools might not appeal to them, or be the best course of action.


  • What Happens When Siblings Get Different School Places?

Sometimes, things can go wrong when you apply for schools. Most parents hope that their children will all go to the same school. It makes everything much more convenient. For one thing, it removes the need for more than one drop-off and pick-up. However, it isn't always possible to send siblings to the same school. Some areas of London no longer use siblings currently at the school to give someone their preferred place. So you could end up with your kids all at different schools if places in the area are oversubscribed. When this happens, the best thing you can do is try the appeals process. You can explain the difficulty of having your children attending different schools. It can be especially hard if you have three or more children, all going to different schools.


  • What If You Can't Find a Place?

Sometimes, you might struggle to find a place for your child at all. There are several reasons it might happen. One is that you move home and have to find a school for your child in the middle of the year. You might also need to find them a place in the middle of their education, i.e. in any year except reception or year seven. It can also become a problem if schools have trouble providing for your child. This might be due to special educational needs or perhaps behavioural issues. It can be difficult to find a school who will accept a child with particular needs.

If you're struggling to find a place for your child, the essential thing to remember is that your local authority legally needs to find them a school. Your child has a right to education and the LEA needs to find them somewhere they can be educated. Use the appeals process to ensure that you can get them a place. If you're still met with resistance, it might be worth seeking legal help.

Finding the best school for your child can be more difficult than you might want it to be. However, if you prepare yourself and your child, you can get through it and increase your chances of getting the place you want.


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This blog was submitted by a guest blogger.
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