Welcome to

big school logo

Your Free Expert Guide To Choosing The Right Secondary School

Welcome to Big School 2020-2021

children in classroom

Hello, and welcome to Big School, your essential guide to the secondary school options
available in your area. 

When it comes to making one of the most important decisions in your child’s life, it is vital you consider all your options.  

It needs to be a decision both you and your child are happy with, after all, they will be spending at least the next five years there! 

Moving from primary to secondary education is a huge milestone – a step towards independence, growing up and leaving childhood behind. 

Starting ‘Big School’ can be overwhelming for some children and parents alike and the transition to the right school is key. 

Your child will flourish in an environment where they feel safe and supported allowing them to explore, develop and grow into strong, confident individuals. 

Inside this edition of Big School you will find a wealth of advice and the chance to discover what some of the region’s schools have to offer.

Download our E-Magazine

Our E-Magazine is bursting with a range of secondary schools available to you. 


Read Our Articles

  • 04/11/2020 0 Comments
    What to do if you don’t get your first choice of school

    It’s inevitable that not everyone will get their first choice of secondary school. And while you will be keeping your fingers crossed that your child gets a spot, you should be prepared in case your wish doesn’t come true. 

    Popular schools will be oversubscribed meaning some applicants will miss out so it’s important to remain realistic when waiting to hear if you’ve been successful. 

    Also, it’s vital to spend some time preparing yourself in case you want to appeal a council’s decision. It may well be that you are happy to accept a place at a school further down on your list if you believe it is still a good option for your child. But if you feel the decision made is not reasonable or the procedure has not been followed correctly then you are within your rights to appeal. Your case will be heard by an independent appeals panel and the system allows you to argue that there are extra reasons why your child deserves a place at your top choice. 

    For anyone considering appealing the decision, here is some more information on the process:

    What are the first steps? 

    Parents are advised to accept the place you have been allocated regardless of whether you want it – this is a safety net to ensure you have a place for September if the appeal is unsuccessful.

    It can always be rejected at a later date if a space becomes available, or if the appeal is upheld. Then you should contact your preferred school to be put on a waiting list should the school have one. 

    This may happen automatically but it is always worth checking that it has been done. This could remove the need for an appeal hearing if a place is freed up by other means, such as a change in circumstances for another pupil. How is an appeal lodged? 

    Parents should lodge their intention to appeal with either the local authority or, if it’s a free school or academy, the governing body. 

    Details of who to contact, instructions for beginning the appeal process and the deadline will normally be provided with the place offer letter sent to you by the council. If more than one school declines to admit your child, you are allowed to make separate appeals. 

    What happens next? 

    If you think there are good reasons why your child should go to your preferred school then you can present your case to an independent appeal panel. You should provide a list of reasons why your child needs to go to that school. Focus on positive reasons why your child needs to attend that school as opposed to the allocated one. 

    Don’t just state why your child should not go to the allocated school. 

    This might include the pupil’s specific talents if the chosen school has specialist science or language facilities. It is recommended that parents take along evidence such as school reports to back up your argument.

    Read More
  • 04/11/2020 0 Comments
    What type of school is right for your child?

    Nowadays there is a multitude of different types of school that your child could attend. 

    Gone are the days of it being a simple choice between a grammar school and a comprehensive. Now there are many types of school run and funded in different ways. 

    • State schools, also known as community schools, are managed and funded by the council. The local authority employs all of the staff, owns the land and buildings, and sets entrance criteria. Pupils follow the National Curriculum and the council provides support services What type of school is right for your child? Education | WHICH SCHOOL? that may be required for students, such as psychological and special educational needs. Students tend to be from a range of different backgrounds and have a mixture of abilities.
    • Almost two thirds of the country’s secondary schools are academies. They are run by a governing body and are independent from the local council, with funding coming from central government.Academies control their own admissions and have more freedom in the classroom as they can opt out of the National Curriculum. They also have more power over pay, length of the school day and term times. But this freedom means there is normally no management or oversight from the local authority. 
    • Free schools are funded by central government but can be set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, universities, trusts, and religious or voluntary groups. They were introduced as a way to drive up standards through increased competition and hand power to parents and teachers to be able to create a new school if they were unhappy with the state ones in their area. They are exempt from teaching the National Curriculum. To receive funding they must teach English, mathematics and science and ‘make provision for the teaching of religious education’. They are still subject to inspections by Ofsted. If you’re involved with founding a free school, your children are guaranteed places. More than 300 free schools have opened since 2010, teaching more than 150,000 pupils across the country. 
    • Private schools, also known as independent schools, charge annual fees instead of being funded by the Government. Many offer scholarships or bursaries based on assessment tests so it’s worth looking into whether this is an option.They can be offered to academically bright children or youngsters with a special talent, such as music or art. These schools are free to set their own curriculum but must be registered with the Government and are inspected regularly. 
    • A boarding school provides education for pupils who live on the premises, as opposed to a day school. There are approximately 500 boarding schools across the UK. Children benefit from small classes and heightened interaction between students and their teachers as well as a broader range of extra-curricular activities. Grammar schools have been around since the 16th century but the modern model was created as a result of the Education Act 1944. It was all decided by an entrance exam – the 11-plus – which is still around today. Pupils who passed went to grammar school, those who didn’t went to secondary modern. Today, there are still around 160 grammar schools across England. A ban preventing new grammars from opening has been in place since 1998. These schools tend to have a strong focus on academic achievement and select pupils on the basis of ability through an entrance exam taken at the start of year 6. 
    • Faith schools can be different kinds of schools, such as community, free schools or academies, but are associated with a particular religion. They have to follow the National Curriculum except for religious studies, where they are free to only teach about their own religion. Anyone can apply for a place. 
    • At Foundation schools, the land and buildings are owned by a governing body, who are also responsible for running the school, employing staff and providing support services. Pupils have to follow the National Curriculum. 
    • Voluntary-aided schools tend be mostly religious or faith schools. Just like foundation schools, the governing body employs staff and sets entrance criteria. This means it has a substantial influence on how the school is run. School buildings and land are usually owned by a charity, often a church. They follow the National Curriculum but may teach religious education according to their own faith.
    • Voluntary-controlled schools are a cross between community and voluntaryaided schools.  The council employs staff and sets entrance criteria. The difference is that school land and buildings are owned by a charity, often a church, which also appoints some members of the governing body. Voluntary-controlled schools are also required to follow the National Curriculum. 
    • Co-operative trust schools are becoming more popular. Although funded by the council, they are supported by a charitable foundation, which means they can set their own admission

    UTCS Helping to Plug the Skills Gap in your Area

    University Technical Colleges (UTCs) offer a curriculum that usually includes one or two technical or scientific specialisms, which are linked to the skills gaps in their region. 

    Although your child is a little too young for a UTC at the moment, it’s still worth bearing them in mind for the future. 

    There are almost 50 of these government-funded schools that specialise in teaching 14 to 19-year-olds technical and scientific subjects in the UK. 

    They work closely with universities and employers to ensure the curriculum covers the necessary skills to prepare them for higher education and industry. 

    Among the benefits they offer are teaching and mentoring from specialists who work in industry and higher education. 

    UTCs tend to have a longer school day to more closely align with a normal business working day. They are smaller than traditional secondary schools, are not academically selective and do not charge any fees. They specialise in subjects where there is a shortage of skills, including engineering, manufacturing, health sciences, product design, digital technologies and the built environment.

    Read More
  • 04/11/2020 0 Comments
    The application process explained

    Applying to secondary school for the first time can be an anxious time for families. 

    But if you always keep in mind how your application will be considered and the deadline you are working to, there is no reason at all why it can’t be a smooth process. 

    It will begin with letters sent out by councils detailing the steps you need to take with the relevant information. They always encourage parents to apply online, but paper applications will be available if you prefer. Each council co-ordinates admissions for all maintained schools in its area and will make the offer of places. Up to six choices can be stated on the admissions application, depending on where you live, in order of preference and they can include schools outside the area. 

    Places are not allocated on a first come, first-served basis. All schools will consider applicants on an equal basis and parents are advised to put forward more than one choice. Also, all applications will be considered against the admissions policy of the school concerned, regardless of which borough or county the child resides in. 

    The entrance criteria will depend on how the school is run – whether it’s the council, governing body or a trust. 

    Faith schools are, as with other maintained schools, required to offer every child who applies, whether of the faith, another faith or no faith, a place at the school if there are places available. But where the school is oversubscribed, these schools allocate places by reference to faith based on their admissions criteria. If a child meets the criteria for two or more schools included on the application form, they will be allocated a place at the school that the parent ranked highest. For community or state schools, first priority is given to children in public care, have been adopted or become subject to a child arrangement order or special guardianship order. 

    Second priority will consider children with a ‘serious ongoing medical condition’ and third priority is given to children who have a sibling or half-sibling or stepbrother/ step sister, living at the same address and who will still be attending the preferred school in September 2021. Any places that remain available once the above applicants have been admitted, will be filled according to those children who live closest, determined by a straight-line measurement in metres, from the home address to the entrance of the school.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Will my child automatically transfer from primary into secondary school? 

    No, this is not the case. All applications have to be considered in line with the admissions criteria only. There is normally no priority given to children attending primary schools associated with particular secondary schools. 

    What is the deadline for applications to be submitted? 

    Applications can be done by post or online. The closing date for secondary school applications is statutory and is October 31. Offer letters, or emails, will be sent out on March 1, 2021. 

    What happens if I submit my application after the deadline? 

    Unless there were special circumstances, which stopped you from applying before the closing date, then your application will only be considered after those that were received before the deadline. If there were special circumstances then supportive evidence must be provided at the time of your application. 

    What happens if I don’t complete and return an application form? 

    Your child may not be allocated a school place until all those who did have been offered places. It is then possible that your preferred schools will be too full to admit your child.

    Read More