Are you in a school daze

6 March 2008

This week thousands of parents and children faced the elation or the despair of receiving their secondary school allocations.

Well done if your children or grandchildren got the school you wanted for them, but many of you will be extremely unhappy with the local education authority's decision and will be considering your next step. Appeal, settle, or find the money to send your son or daughter into private education.

Let me say I sympathise with you. My son has luckily been allocated his first choice, but it was a very different story two years ago with his sister. The education authority ignored all three of our chosen options and placed her in the nearest school to us. A school which had a dreadful reputation for educational standards and behaviour of the pupils.

We embarked down the road of appeal, encouraged by the fact that our next door neighbour's daughter had got into our first choice school on appeal the year before. Her parents lent us all the research they had compiled to fight their case and we added to it with our own evidence and felt certain of success.

We lost.

We did manage a partial victory a little later and got our daughter transfered to a better school although not our ideal choice.

Would I recommend appealing? Well that's a difficult one. It is immensely stressful and your chances of suceeding are slim. To stand any chance you have to examine carefully the full reasons why the education authority have assigned your child to the school you didn't request. You can get the full reasoning by writing to the authority at the address on the letter they sent you with the placement. Only if you can prove they are wrong in any of the reasons they give, do you have any chance in suceeding.

Outside of appealing you may consider a private school. The downsides of this are the obvious high cost and the possibility that unless you choose very carefully, you may pick an establishment that is no better than the state school you're trying to escape.

Accepting the state school you have been given doesn't always mean you have to accept a poor education for your child. Get involved. Most schools have a parents and teachers association and all schools have positions for parents on the board of school governors. You can help the school improve. Far too may parents believe that their child's education is the sole responsibility of the teachers, but the best schools work in partnership with the parents and children themselves.

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