Big School 2020-2021's Articles offer timeless advice for parents and students who are about to start secondary school.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 04/11/2020 0 Comments
    School a beacon of hope in challenging times

    After what has been the strangest academic year of any of our lives, it can be tempting to focus on the negative effects that five months of lockdown might have had on young people.

    The media is full of talk of months of ‘lost learning’ and with dire predictions about what this might mean for the generation affected by the pandemic. We believe the most powerful ingredient in a fantastic education is hope. As educators, we continue to hope for the best for the young people already in our care, and for those who will be joining us as they take their first steps into Big School. But this is not simply a blind hope – it is hope based on all of the positive things that we have seen come out of the challenging times of the last few months. 

    Sometimes these moments of hope have come from the most unlikely of places. The student who sometimes seemed disinterested at school, but attended every live lesson that we taught online. The student who posted a kind comment about a peer, even as they were stuck in their houses miles away from one another. And the smiles on the faces of so many students who have begun to return as we re-open school safely for a new school year. 

    There are so many signs of hope, even in these darker times, that we cannot help but be optimistic. Our message to our returning students is uplifting and positive, as well as reassuring that we will simply not allow them to be a generation defined by a once-in-a-lifetime lockdown. Perhaps it is more helpful to begin to think of what has come out of the closure of schools that might make this generation the most resilient of all to life’s challenges. During the past few months, schools have begun to innovate like never before, making the best use of technology possible, discovering new ways for students to interact and work together, and making school more efficient in supporting students in their learning. Teachers have upskilled themselves in developing digital lessons, in opening up the curriculum, and in building relationships with students even when they have not been in the same building. 

    This generation of students, too, will be tougher than ever due to what they have been through. In years to come, when they face the pressures of exams or the uncertainty of the job market, they will be able to draw on the reserves of resilience that they have built up in these challenging times. Any other obstacle that they face will pale in comparison to the difficulties of continuing their education with such barriers placed before them – yet so many young people have continued to thrive despite them. In difficult times, we have so much that has made us proud of our schools, but even more importantly of our students.

    For the group of students about to move from primary school to Big School, the daunting jump to a new building, new teachers, new routines and new friends can be tough enough. Adding the missing months of school for so many students could make things feel overwhelming. But as you speak to your children about this incredible point of change in their lives, we would urge you to think about the strange year that 2020 has been with hope. We understand that the lockdown has been difficult, and as headteachers we would like to express thanks for the important role that you have played in making students’ lives easier as they make the move to Big School. 

    Our children are stronger that we know, have limitless capacity to succeed, and with the right mixture of high expectations and compassion, they will make us proud, and make this a year to remember for all of the right reasons.

    Principal’s tips for starting Big School

    • Rachael Sandham, principal of The Hart School in Rugeley, offers her advice. 
    • Settle nerves by – being organised, being on time and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s natural to be nervous about new things, but it always helps if you get organised. Get things ready for the first day – like uniform and equipment. It will really help your confidence if you know you’re ready for anything. 
    • Never be afraid to ask for help – If you don’t have the confidence to speak to new people don’t worry, we’ve all been there. All teaching staff want is for students to feel comfortable as quickly as possible – so there is never any reason to fear approaching them. 
    • Getting to school on time from the very first day is vital. This will help you to get your bearings in good time and will help to prevent any added feelings of nervousness. n Set achievable goals – These can be easy goals to start with – such as knowing all your teachers by the end of the first week, to making sure you don’t miss any homework during your first half term. When you beat these goals, it helps to build up your confidence. But when you don’t meet goals, it’s important not to beat yourself up over them. Instead, learn what went wrong. 
    • Embrace new opportunities – Get involved with as many activities as possible. This is a great way of meeting new people. 
    • Hit the ground running – At the end of the day, it’s still school. Teachers, lessons, the building, may all be different, but the learning never changes. It doesn’t take long for things to feel normal and then you’ll be well on the way to making progress.
    • Make the most of every moment – you only get to experience school for a short part of your life and it’s there to offer you as many opportunities and chances to develop skills as possible.

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  • 04/11/2020 0 Comments
    Your child’s next step in the world of education

    It will soon be time to embark on the next big stage of your child’s life: secondary school.

    Choosing the perfect place for your child to start Year 7 can be 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.
    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 the 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 Your child’s next step in the world of education Education | THE BIG STEP 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. Schools have been holding virtual open days giving you the chance to have a look around and allow your child to get a ‘virtual’ feel for the place. 

    Now they are older, they 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 in to 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 it’s essential to research your options well – so if you miss out on your preferred choice you will be well - informed on the others.

    What to Expect from Big School

    This guide will give you information on the different types of schools as well as the application and appeals process.

    It will explain Ofsted reports to help you make an informed decision and provide answers to some of your questions to guide you when considering the next stage of your child’s education. There is also advice on how to help your son or daughter settle in after they make the move to big school – as well as looking ahead to the future.

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