For parents of three and four-year olds across England and Wales, Primary Offers Day is the day they find out which primary school their child will be going to from September.
Lots of parents feel the stakes are high, and so it could be a day of relief, but it may also be a day of questions, concerns and uncertainty should they not be given their first choice.
Whilst we know that schools can, and do, turn things around with the right support, we also know that the disappointment of not getting your preferred school is difficult to ignore.
So for any of you going through this, we have prepared some top tips and things you can do:
Get to know the school better – find out the good for yourself
First off, don’t just settle for what you’ve heard through the grapevine – and that includes any grumblings you’ve come across on social media. With the right leadership, teachers and support we’ve seen schools turn around in the space of a year. So before you believe the first thing you read, book to go in and see the school for yourself. Arrange a tour, get to know the teachers and start a conversation so you can openly discuss any questions you may have. Schools are open to conversations with parents, and actively want you to be involved in your child’s education – so don’t be afraid to ask for their time.
Consider whether your judgement could be based on out-of-date information. If it’s based on an Ofsted report – check to see how long ago it was put together and whether things have improved since then. Set a good example for your child by doing your homework.
Get to know the other parents at the school
If you’ve not got your preferred primary school and feel concerned - chances are, there are other parents who feel exactly the same.
See if you can find out ways to get to know other parents. Have a look at any parent community groups you can join via social media, or any socials that the school itself has planned. Being in contact with other parents and sharing experiences will give you more information, more support and a sounding board for you concerns. It’ll be a good chance for both you and your child to make new friends in the school community too – knowing other parents is great for encouraging your child to socialise in their new school environment too.
Get involved in the school – be the change you want to see
There are events throughout the year where you’ll have contact with your child’s teachers 0 Parents’ evenings are always an excellent way of finding out how your child is getting on. But many schools also offer Parent Teacher Associations, as well as the opportunity to apply to be a governor. Both of these options offer some really valuable ways to get behind-the-scenes and influence some of the big decisions of the school. You could even put those taekwondo or Spanish classes to use, by teaching an after-school club of your own. Look on your school’s website or get in touch with the school to what opportunities they might have for you to get involved.
Back up the school – support your child’s education at home
From taking your child to the library, reading books with them, getting them involved in extra-curricular activities, or just speaking about their day – there are a variety of ways that you can help to keep your child on track. We know that when a parent reinforces a strong work ethic and finds opportunities for out of school learning, this can make a huge difference to a child’s development, especially at primary school age where lots of habits are forming.
Even simply reading to your child will make a marked difference. A number of studies have shown that regular reading results in significant improvements to maths, vocabulary, and spelling later in a child’s education.
If you’re thinking of appealing – know your reasons
As we’ve seen time and time again, every school can be great with the right support. You do have the right to appeal the primary school offer to an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP). But at the same time it’s vital that your appeal is based on solid research - including an understanding of the preferred school's admissions criteria. For example, if you’re outside the school’s catchment area in the first place, it’s extremely unlikely your appeal will be successful.
It’s important to remember that this route can prove challenging with limited success. So for that reason, we’d say that the first and most important thing you should do is get to know the school your child has been allocated, and take it from there.
As the UK’s leading education charity focused on ensuring all children have a brilliant education, our mission is to make it so there are no schools you wouldn’t want your child to be allocated to. And we believe change starts with brilliant teachers.