Big School 2021-2022's Articles offer timeless advice for parents and students who are about to start secondary school.

  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    A healthy meal can help them to stay focused

    The choice between school meals or packed lunches can be on a lot of parents’ minds as the new school term rolls around.


    With so much focus on what children eat at school in recent years, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. 


    Do you trust your child to choose a nutritional meal? Or do you send them to school each day with a lunch from home?


    For some of you the decision may be influenced by whether your child is entitled to free school meals. This is normally the case if you are in receipt of benefits such as Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit. The local council can tell you if your child is able to get free school meals.


    In recent years, schools have put a lot of effort into revamping their dinners, especially after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver highlighted the issue in 2005. He started his Feed Me Better campaign because he was appalled by the junk food being served at many schools in England. It led to new guidelines for school dinners and the Government investing £280 million on improving menus for youngsters. Now all schools have healthy eating policies, which are reflected in the menus on offer for pupils. They also cater for different diets and  allergies as well as for different religious faiths and beliefs. 


    At some institutions, improving the range of healthier options has led to increased take-up of school meals. It has also been argued that school meals provide an opportunity to encourage pupils to eat more fruit and vegetables, and to develop a taste for food that is low in salt, sugar and fat. 


    Some have cashless systems where children use a card or even their fingerprint to buy their food each day after parents have paid money into their account at the start of term. The benefits of this are that it means children do not have to carry cash on them each day. It also allows parents to monitor what their child is eating at school because they will know what  has been purchased on their account.


    Some schools have set prices for meals, while others will charge for items individually, allowing pupils to build their own meal. Many parents still choose to send their children to school with a packed lunch, especially if they prefer to eat a hot meal together as a family in the evening. Those who prefer their children to have a hot lunch and a cold meal at tea-time may prefer them to buy food while they are at school. 


    Some opt for packed lunches because it means they know exactly what their child is eating each day and they don’t have to leave it up to them to make healthy choices. 


    There are plenty of ideas online if you’re not sure what to give your child for lunch and suggestions to shake things up if they get tired of sandwiches each day.


    Some schools also offer breakfast clubs to ensure pupils start the day well and have the energy they need for their lessons.

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    Consider your travel options

    Once you know where your child will be studying next September, you will need to consider how they are going to get to school.


    Will they walk, catch a bus or travel by car? If their new secondary is just around the corner then it should be within easy walking distance of your home. But if its further away it may mean your child will be catching the bus for the first time by themselves. Or, you might find it’s easier for you to drop them off in the car on the way to work.


    If your child will be walking to their new school, you will need to think about whether they will go alone, with friends, or whether someone will walk them. 


    As the nights start drawing in, make sure they can be clearly seen when they’re walking to and from school. It’s worth buying reflective high-visibility stickers to put on their school bags. It may be that you want to accompany your child at the start until they are used to the route and you are happy to let them go by themselves, or with their friends. 


    If the school is further away, your child may be automatically entitled to free transport up to the age of 16.


    To qualify they need to attend the nearest suitable school, which must be further away than statutory walking distance of three miles for pupils aged eight or more. Statutory walking distance is measured by the shortest route a child, accompanied if necessary, can walk with reasonable safety. 


    If there is no such route, the local authority must provide free transport no matter what distance you live from the school. The local education authority or governing body will either provide its own transport, hire coaches, or provide free bus or train passes for use on public transport. 


    In some cases, a travelling allowance may be paid to pupils who provide their own transport, for example, a cycle allowance. 


    Pupils who do not qualify for free transport may be allowed to travel on spare seats on school buses for a fee.


    Your local council will be able to tell you about what transport options are available in your area and what support is on offer. 


    If your child will be taking public transport, it may help to calm any nerves by practising their route before the start of term. This will help them to get used to getting out of the door and to the bus stop on time. Whether it’s public transport or a bus provided by the council or school, its worth having a Plan B in case your child misses their lift. 


    Make sure they know what they need to do if this happens, whether they should call you or another relative, or get a taxi. 


    If it’s the latter, make sure that they have ‘emergency money’ to pay for it and that they know what it’s for and that it should be kept it in a secure place in their bag.


    GET ON YOUR BIKE AND KEEP FIT AND HEALTHY


    Another option worth exploring when considering transport to school is cycling. According to Cycling UK, cycling to school helps pupils keep healthy and fit. It also has the capacity to boost their confidence, independence and sense of self-worth, plus their navigational and   road-craft skills.


    The charity also believes cycling is a skill for life and that by encouraging as many children as possible to see it as viable transport it will help to ward off car dependency in adulthood,  and contributes to reducing the volume of motor traffic in the future. 


    If your child would like to cycle to school, it’s a good idea to consider a course like Bikeability, which teaches valuable skills, such as good road positioning, signalling and visibility and can help parents and children feel at ease on busy streets.


    See www.cyclinguk.org for more information

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    Kitting out your child for their big adventure

    From uniforms to PE kits, the cost of preparing a child for their first year of secondary school can be more than a little daunting for parents. 


    But from swapping with other parents to buying second hand, there are ways to keep the bill down. It’s been estimated that parents spend upwards of £200 ahead of the new academic year on everything from trousers, skirts and shirts to PE kits.


    Supermarkets have become a lifesaver for parents seeking to save on school uniforms with Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Marks & Spencer all offering a range of deals on basics.


    While primary schools tend to be more flexible, secondary schools will sometimes require more items such as blazers and jumpers to be purchased from specified suppliers.


    To make sure you are not caught off-guard, it’s always best to check what the school’s uniform policy requires beforehand. It can normally be found on their website along with  details of where you can buy items from. Many will have embroidered logos on the items making it hard for them to be purchased elsewhere. Also pay attention to the fine details such as the minimum length and permitted types of skirts and the styles of trousers that are allowed.


    Shoes are a regular issue for parents as schools are very specific on what is required and students will be sent home for wearing the wrong footwear. It’s better to be absolutely sure that the shoes you are looking at will be allowed before you spend the money.


    Spreading the cost throughout the year can help reduce the bill – just buy the essentials now and then top it up with other items as they are needed later in the year. Make the most of the end of season sales, consider buying your child a winter coat as the weather becomes milder so they have it ready for the autumn. You can buy it in a bigger size which gives them room to grow.


    If your child has friends attending the same school consider buying some items in bulk to bring the cost down. Take advantage of three for two offers which you can share the cost of between you to make it cheaper.


    Check Facebook to see if parents are selling any nearly new items as often children will outgrow clothing that still has plenty of wear left in it. 


    If you are still struggling to cover the cost then some councils run grant schemes with cash available as long as certain conditions are met.


    Bear in mind that your child may get involved in extra-curricular activities and there could be additional fees involved such as equipment, musical instruments and art supplies. 


    Some schools or councils will subsidise activities like music lessons to help bring down the cost for parents as they want to make them accessible to all. It helps to find out early what these may be so you can budget for them.


    School trips, while certainly educational and fun for your child, can be another strain on your finances and something worth planning ahead for. Although trips are optional, peer pressure can mean you feel you are left with little choice but to find the money. And the older your child gets, the more opportunities there will be for foreign trips which can be more costly. 


    TOP TIPS TO KEEP COSTS DOWN


    Shop during the summer: take advantage of ‘back to school’ offers during the six-week holiday as costs often rise when pupils are back at school 


    Don’t leave it to the last minute: Shopping too close to the start of term could mean you miss out as some shops will have run out of stock or have less options in popular sizes


    Cut the cost by swapping: Take to social media sites such as Facebook to see if parents are selling secondhand uniform or if you’re lucky they might even be giving away clothing that hasn’t been worn very often for free.

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    Take chance to sample secondary school life

    The transition from Year 6 to Year 7 can be a little daunting for students and parents. When Year 6 children say goodbye to primary school, it marks the end of an era in their educational journey.


    As it’s such a big change for them, pupils are often given the opportunity to sample secondary school life before they begin Year 7.


    Once you’ve accepted your child’s place, the headteacher will often invite your son or daughter to one or more taster days, normally before the end of the current school year. This day will give your child the chance to experience a normal day at the school as a way of breaking them in and relieving anxiety over the summer holidays. 


    They may also get the chance to meet other children from different primary schools so they can start getting to know their new classmates.


    It will also give them the opportunity to find out where their form room, canteen, lockers and toilets are located as it’s likely they will not remember this from when they attended the open day.


    This will make their first day easier as they will already have a rough idea of the layout of the  school.


    The main aim of the taster day is to help make the transition from primary school to secondary school as smooth as possible.


    During the summer holidays, their new school may give them tasks to complete before the new term begins. Some also provide activity ideas such as recipes to try that will be similar to what pupils will be learning in food technology or simple science experiments they can do at home to give them a taster of what their lessons will be like in Year 7.


    Many parents also choose to set their children learning tasks to keep their brains ticking over during the break from school and avoid what has become known as the ‘summer slide’. This might be activities such as taking part in the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge, maths quizzes or fun games like Boggle that help to build language skills. Some schools  may also offer a summer school with sessions aimed at giving teachers the opportunity to learn  about your child, what their strengths are and what support, if any, they might need.


    Every school will operate differently so it’s worth asking what they offer when you attend an open day or look for any information in their prospectus. 

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    Helping your child to take the next big steps

    Starting ‘big school’ will more than likely be the biggest change your child will have ever known. 


    As a Year 7 pupil, they will go from being among the oldest in the school to being the youngest and being surrounded by much bigger children and teenagers. 


    At the same time, instead of having all of their lessons in the same classroom, they will be expected to find their way around their new school.


    There will be new teachers to meet, new subjects to learn and new friends to make. They will also have more responsibility for ensuring they have what they need for their classes each day and, of course, ensuring they are on time. 


    Most schools will have held a taster day in the summer term so your child will at least have a basic knowledge of the layout of the school.


    It can be a little bit scary at first, which is only to be expected, but there are ways you can make the transition to big school easier for them.


    Firstly, make sure they are prepared by shopping for uniform and equipment in good time so they have everything they need for their first day.


    If your child has to get up earlier to leave for school then have a trial run before the end of the summer holidays. This should hopefully reduce the chances of them oversleeping and starting the day on the wrong foot.


    If they need to catch a bus to school then again it can be beneficial to practise a couple of times before September rolls around.


    Also encourage them to chat to older friends or siblings about what to expect on the bus.


    It might be a good idea to arrange for them to make their way to school with friends if you are unsure about them travelling alone for the first time. If they have a phone, you could ask them to text you as they arrive at school safely, if possible. Make sure they have emergency phone numbers in their bag should they need to contact you.


    You might also want to consider giving them spare change for the bus in case they lose their pass, or cash for a taxi if there is no other option. But if you are giving them cash, make sure that they also have somewhere safe to keep it and stress that it’s only to be used in an emergency situation.


    Encourage your child to join after school clubs – whether it’s sports, arts or music. This can be a great way for them to develop a new or existing hobby and can also be a good way for them to make friends with pupils in other forms and year groups. 


    Finally, make sure your child knows you are always there to listen to any concerns they might have. 


    Make time to ask them how they are coping so they know that they can turn to you if they feel a need to. 


    This will help them to feel supported and more confident. Also, encourage them to speak to their form tutor if they are struggling, as they will be able to advise them on the best steps to take.

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    What to do if you don’t get your first choice school

    Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for everyone to get their first choice of secondary school and some families will be left disappointed.


    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 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 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 the argument.


    What happens at the hearing?


    Appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for making an appeal. Either the school or council will give you at least 10 school days’ notice of the hearing. The panel is usually made up of three to five members of the public – both with and without experience of the education system. Local authorities recommend that you provide evidence of why your child should attend your first choice and why it would be bad for them to go to another school. 


    The school will also present its case for why it cannot take extra children and why it would be bad for the school if they had to. You will be able to pose questions to their representatives so think about what you may want to ask in advance.


    Members will listen to both cases and ask questions. During the hearing, the panel will also check that the school’s admission arrangements comply with the Schools Admissions Code. 


    If the admissions criteria are legal and were properly followed, the panel must decide if they were followed fairly and thoroughly. If the criteria weren’t properly followed or are illegal, your appeal must be upheld. If your appeal has not already been upheld, the panel will decide if your reasons for your child to be admitted outweigh the school’s reasons for not admitting another child. The result is sent by post within seven days and the decision is legally binding – it can only be overturned by a court. If successful, your child will be allocated a place at their preferred school regardless of the class size.


    What happens if I lose the appeal? 


    If the appeal is unsuccessful you can still put your child’s  name on the waiting list in the hope of a place becoming available. There is plenty of time for circumstances to change by September as families may move out of the area meaning spaces can free up. But understand that you can move both up and down a waiting list. If a family was to move into the area and be closer to the school, they could go above you. If you’re unhappy about the way the appeal process was carried out, you can complain to your Local Government Ombudsman. They can recommend a new appeal, but they can’t review or overturn the appeal panel’s decision.


    IT’S IMPORTANT THAT YOU KEEP AN OPEN MIND 


    It’s easier said than done but its worth remembering to keep an open mind throughout the application process.


    If it doesn’t all go to plan then you will need to remain positive about the school your child has been allocated because that will make it easier for them. Children pick up on your mood and if they know you’re unhappy with their school it could affect how they settle in. 


    Concentrate on all of its positive attributes. If you are still feeling uncertain contact the school to arrange a visit and speak to staff to allay any fears. Touring the site for the first time or second, if you attended an open day, may help you see it in a new light. 


    Also, remember that your opinions and priorities may well change and the reasons why you ruled the school out may not matter so much in the future. You may be worried about how you are going to manage with your child attending a school further away but then find it easier than you were expecting. 


    Maybe you are concerned about previous performance figures but then see test and exam results start to improve. It’s also very likely that after your son or daughter starts at the school you will come to realise that it was the best fit for them after all.

     

     

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    It is a big adventure for children and parents too!

    Matt Panter gives a parent’s view on the move to big school

     

    There’s something comforting about primary school life, like being wrapped in a cosy blanket with a mug of hot chocolate. 


    Even now, I reflect on my time at Sundridge Primary in Birmingham, in the late 70s and early 80s, with great affection.


    Teachers were warm, friendly and  inspirational, lessons gave you the chance to develop your creative side and playground life, playing conkers and football, while pretending to be Luke Skywalker, was even greater fun. 


    And, so, when my daughter Eleanor, now nine, took her first steps from nursery to school, I kept my emotions in check. I knew, if she was anything like me, she’d have the time of her life. That has been the case but now, as the years seem to pass by with increasing speed, and the time is nearing to start considering secondary school, I’m feeling very differently.


    Nervous, anxious, worried, scared – I’m full of angst when thinking about her future. Making  the transition to secondary school feels like someone is ripping that comfort blanket from your grasp and taking a swig of your hot chocolate.


    Eleanor is surrounded by a fantastic group of friends and caring teachers right now and I head off to work safe in the knowledge she’ll be fine. But ‘big school’ feels like a different proposition. Towering buildings, huge, long corridors, more (and bigger) children, timetables with multiple lessons and dreaded exams. 


    It feels terrifying but does the transition have to be that way? 


    Lisa Lockley, assistant headteacher at John Willmott School and a transition lead for the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, says not. 


    “If I am being honest, the worries of parents far outweigh the students,” Lisa said. “They can project their fears of the big wide world onto the children.


    “It would be safer and easier for us to keep our children in their bubble. A primary school is a ready-made community and the children have been together all the way through, all of that time and they have one teacher a year.


    “A primary school has become safe to them and us, as parents, so the move to secondary school is a big step.” 


    A big, daunting step, certainly, but the key, Lisa says, when preparing your child is to make it a positive, exciting one. She says, as parents, we need to become cheerleaders rather than problem solvers. 


    “It might feel scary, as a parent, because you are handing over your most precious thing to these people you don’t know,” she says. “And from a child’s point of view, they are leaving many of their friends behind and will not just have one teacher but several. 


    “So, as parents, you need to enthuse your child. You have to encourage them to step out of  their comfort zone and belong to a new community. There are so many opportunities out there for our students when they come to ‘big school’. 


    “Of course, they could dwell on negatives such as ‘I won’t be with my friends’. As parents we should say ‘just think of all the new friends you are going to make that you can tell your other friends about’.


    “Your child might say ‘I’m not sure about these new lessons, Spanish, drama and all’ but you can say ‘Isn’t it exciting, your trying new things?’ 


    “Life is going to change but it is going to do so in a precious way. They will be asked to do things they have not done before but what a great opportunity that is. 


    Your child will be doing new subjects they might find they are super talented at. “I think we can under-estimate how resilient students are and you would be surprised at how they thrive and blossom. It’s a time for them to mature and experience. It’s the next stage now of their development when they develop their own initiative. There will be bumps along the way but it will be a new life adventure.”

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    Help with meeting costs of private school education

    Many parents will rule out fee-paying schools for their children because of the costs involved. 


    But most independent schools, often known as private schools, will offer financial assistance in the form of scholarships or bursaries for pupils. 


    Fee-paying schools tend to have small class sizes, excellent exam results and a good record of entry to top universities. Many devote a significant amount of time to cultural activities, like art, drama and music, and most offer a wide variety of sporting opportunities.


    They also offer more teachers per 100 pupils, pastoral care and provision for special needs. 


    Scholarship and bursary applicants will usually need to prove that they are very able and demonstrate the need for monetary support.


    It is estimated that almost a third of pupils educated in the private sector receive some form of financial assistance in the form of a scholarship or bursary. 


    Not only do schools want to attract most talented students, but many are also realising that  having a broad social mix which reflects our society is incredibly important. This is why many have funding available for pupils whose families are on lower incomes.


    According to the Independent Schools Council, the total value of means-tested bursaries and scholarships provided by schools has increased by over £195m since 2011, and currently stands at £455m per year.


    Scholarships are not usually meanstested but instead based on the child’s abilities in a particular area. 


    They are usually available to pupils who are very strong either academically, or in music, sport or art. 


    HOW TO APPLY


    The Indepenent Schools Council website allows you to search by school fee assistance and other requirements too such as location, age range, day and boarding. 


    Once you have  located a school, contact the admissions office to find out what financial support is available n If you child will be applying for a bursary, it’s worth checking what information such as financial records you will need to provide. 


    Some scholarships offer other benefits such as extra coaching or tuition, additional trips, tours and mentoring for the duration of the pupil’s time at the school. Bursaries are means-assessed on a financial basis and will require a parent or guardian to complete a declaration to establish whether the student meets the necessary criteria.


    This is usually re-assessed each year that the bursary is required. The school looks at what it is reasonable for you to afford and sets a fee accordingly.


    Some schools are able to offer greater bursary provision than others and they can cover up  to 100 per cent of fees.


    They can also help with costs which are not included in the normal school fee, such as uniform and school trips. 


    There are also charitable grant-making trusts which can help offer financial support to those who need it.


    They include The Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation which provides bursaries to help disadvantaged children attend state or independent boarding schools.


    Both scholarships and bursaries can be awarded to children at the same time. 


    For more information about the different types of support available, visit www.isc.co.uk

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    What type of school is right for your child?

    Nowadays there are 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 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 process 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 support, 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. They tend to offer high-quality facilities and class sizes are likely to be smaller. 


    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 voluntary-aided 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 arrangements.


    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, its 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.

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  • 06/10/2021 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 firstcome,  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 2022. 


    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, 2022. 


    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.

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    What parents can do to help their child settle in

    Manny Kelay, Principal of Thorns Collegiate Academy, offers tips for parents preparing children for secondary school


    The last academic year was an interesting one for me as both my daughters were in secondary school, in year 9 and 11.


    It feels as though it was only yesterday my wife, and I had to help prepare our daughters for secondary school. I remember supporting them with those first secondary school nerves, and how anxious and excited they were about joining a much larger year group. 


    How can we therefore as parents prepare for secondary school? It can feel like an awfully large jump from being the eldest, most experienced pupil in the school, to being the youngest and newest. Having felt safe and happy in one environment for many years, now moving on to a much larger school, where they will not know many people, is more terrifying for us as protective parents than for the children themselves. 


    Nerves are natural 


    Every child will be nervous, even if they took part in induction days and have older siblings or friends moving up with them. While this is perfectly normal and something we need to accept, it is important as parents not to dwell on it or transmit our nerves to our children. A quick “yes, it will be scary, but let’s list some exciting things too” is a good way to change the tone of a potentially negative conversation.


    Also, make sure any talk of your nerves with others takes place out of sight and hearing, as children are excellent eavesdroppers.


    Be prepared


    As an Academy Principal, I have often had complaints, when blazers, skirts or trousers in the right size or in a preferred style have sold out by the last weekend in August. My advice  would be to make sure you purchase your uniform in good time and to stock up on the other essentials throughout the summer. 


    Secondary schools expect students to bring equipment to school every day and so a well-stocked pencil case is important. Schools should provide an equipment list so don’t let your child be the one without.


    Also, having a disagreement about school shoes or haircuts is not the best way to start the new term so check what the school has asked for in their induction pack or on the school website.


    My advice here is to play it very safe and if your child is trying to convince you that those lovely hundred pound black trainers are allowed as shoes, I’d be sceptical. 


    It’s going to be different 

    As a primary school parent, you are used to walking your child to school and collecting from the classroom door. You see your child’s sole teacher every day and have the opportunity to speak to him/ her as matters arise. This is about to change. Your child is likely to have several teachers as well as a form tutor and they will usually be unavailable for quick chats at the end of the day unless an appointment has been made. However, don’t panic as there are still plenty of ways to keep in contact and most schools will run a new students parents meeting early in the school year to see how children have settled in.


    Email is a particularly useful form of communication, and many schools use online platforms to help you keep track of your child’s progress. Many schools will also have helpful communication applications to help you stay up-to-date – so no more looking at crumpled up letters at the bottom of school bags.


    Stay positive 


    The more positive you can be about your child’s new secondary school the better they are likely to settle in. That does not mean it will be a smooth ride, but learning to adjust to new people and environments is an important part of any young person’s development and preparation for the world later on. 


    However, should there be something you are unhappy with, ensure you contact the school straight away. Schools will occasionally make mistakes, but are always happy to help to rectify matters as soon as they can.


    Keep smiling, stay positive, keep concerns to yourself while working in partnership with the school and your child should succeed and be happy. 


    In no time at all your little one will be taking GCSEs and taking his or her next step.

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  • 06/10/2021 0 Comments
    Taking the next big step in your child’s education

    It probably seems like it was only yesterday that your child started school but now it’s time to think about the next step. 


    Choosing the perfect secondary school for your child can feel daunting as it’s one of the most difficult decisions that you ever take as a parent.


    It is important to thoroughly research all of the options available to you so you find the best fit  for your son or daughter when they start Year 7.


    You will want a school where they are encouraged to achieve and reach their full potential. 


    Councils allow parents to make up to six preferences of schools, depending on where you live, with the final decision made according to the criteria set by the local authority, or 

    individual schools.


    Although this can feel like a lot of pressure, how you end up choosing your secondary school preferences will probably be very similar to how you found your child’s first school – with some of the same factors influencing your decision. 


    And remember – getting this next step right can help them on their way later in life and in their future careers.


    You might be wondering whether you want a community school or an academy? Do you want to pay for a private education or send your child to a grammar school? During this important decision process you will be looking at schools to see what teaching and sports facilities they offer pupils.


    You will no doubt also be examining the results they go on to achieve, as well as the support offered inside and outside of the classroom.


    Now they are older, your child will probably have views on where they want to go, which you  will no doubt want to take into consideration.


    You might want to consider whether the school caters for the things your child is interested in and what opportunities there will be for them to develop these interests further. 


    Think about the ethos of the school – does it match your own culture and values?


    More than likely they will want to go where their friends are going. While this probably shouldn’t be the sole reason for choosing a school, if your child struggles to make friends and you think they will find it difficult going alone then it can be a worthy consideration.


    Above all, you will want to be able to ‘see’ your child fitting in there. Proximity will always come into play as nearly all schools will use this as one of the main criteria when considering applications. So you might have a certain school as number one on your preference list but it will depend on how many other parents have applied and how close they are to its gates. 


    Having siblings at the school already will also give applications extra weight. This means its essential to research your options well – so if you miss out on your preferred choice you will be well informed on the others.

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