Big School 2018-2019's Articles offer timeless advice for parents and students who are about to start secondary school.

  • 18/09/2018 0 Comments
    What to do if you don’t get your first choice

    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 be 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.

    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.


    THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING POSITIVE


    It’s obviously easier said than done but it’s 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 you come to realise it was the best fit for them after all.

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  • 18/09/2018 0 Comments
    Help your child make the move to secondary school

    Moving to ‘big school’ is probably the biggest change your child will have ever known.

    They will go from being among the oldest in their primary school to being the youngest and being surrounded by much bigger children and teenagers.

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

    It can be an overwhelming experience for many youngsters especially as 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 off 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 make sure that they also have somewhere safe to keep it and stress that it’s only to be used in an emergency situation.

    Buy a key ring with stretchy chain to attach to their bag to avoid lost locker or door keys.

    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 hobby.

    This 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.


    HANDY TIPS FOR NEW YEAR 7S

    • Make sure you have a strong bag–you will need to carry all of your books and stationery.
    • Make sure it offers enough support for your back and shoulders.
    • Practise tying your tie – you will need to do it every day and be able to re-tie it after PE lessons.
    • When you receive your timetable, make at least three copies–one for your bag, one for your locker and a spare for home.


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  • 18/09/2018 0 Comments
    Getting to grips with the Year 7 workload

    The amount of homework your child has to do will almost certainly increase significantly when they start Year 7.

    It’s a daily part of secondary school life and your child will be expected to complete it all and meet any deadlines they are set.

    Homework helps to build on what your child is learning at school so plays an important role in their education.

    It’s of course only natural that they may struggle to adjust to this increased workload at first.

    But there are plenty of ways you can help them settle into this new routine.

    Encourage them to be organised by helping them to get used to checking their timetables and packing their bags the night before.

    It may help to draw up a list of items needed for each subject together so that they always have that to refer to.

    As well as books and equipment, make sure they know when they will need their sports kit, whether for lessons or after-school activities.

    This will lead to less panicking and reduce the chances of anything being forgotten in the mornings – well, in theory anyway!

    Children are usually given a planner to help them manage their homework.

    They’ll be expected to use it every lesson to write down the details of their homework.

    You will probably be asked to sign their planner every week to confirm that they’ve completed their homework.

    Take time to talk to your child about each day’s homework assignments and make sure that they are keeping their planner up to date with what is required and when.

    You may wish to provide them with wall space to hang a planner at home, such as a whiteboard, to also write their assignments on too.

    While you don’t want to nag them, you don’t want them falling behind either. 

    Teach them to prioritise their work so that they are doing the tasks in the correct order according to the deadlines they have been set by their teachers.

    Ensure that they have somewhere quiet to complete their work without any tempting distractions like the television or their tablet.

    Encourage them to speak up if they are struggling, and if you have real concerns that they are finding it difficult to cope persuade them to speak to their form or subject tutor.

    If they are worried or unwilling then you may want to do it yourself.

    If you think they are taking longer to complete an assignment than they should, then wait to see if it’s just a one-off–it may be that it’s one particular topic or task they’ve found more challenging.

    But if it becomes a regular occurrence you may wish to raise it with the school.

    Schools will have different policies concerning what happens if homework isn’t handed in, but it’s usual for pupils to have to complete the work in detention.

    Reminding your child of this may be useful if they are showing signs of wanting to ignore an assignment, or put it off for another day.

    But once they get into a routine, they should find is easier to cope with what is being asked of them.


    HOW TO TACKLE EXAM REVISION

    • Make a revision timetable – you can see what needs to be done and plan your time correctly.
    • Split your revision into small chunks – you can’t expect to concentrate for hours and take everything in.
    • Review and summarise your notes. Pick out the key points and write them down again. One of the best ways ways to memorise information is by making notes over and over again.

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  • 18/09/2018 0 Comments
    What next? GCSEs, A-levels and apprenticeships

    There has been an overhaul of GCSE and A-level qualifications during the past couple of years in a bid to ensure pupils leave school better prepared for work or further study.

    By the time your child is ready to be considering his options, teachers will have had more experience of the new system.

    Last summer students received their grades for most subjects in the usual A*-G format but for mathematics, English language and English literature they were graded on a scale between 9 and 1 instead.

    These were followed by a further 20 this summer including history, geography, double science, PE and art and design with the remaining subjects getting the new grades in 2019.

    A9is the top grade, while one is the lowest pass possible, with an outright fail still graded as a U. 

    The top two marks of A* and A are broadly equivalent to a new grade of 7, 8 or 9, while pass marks of B and C have been replaced by grades 4, 5 and 6. 

    At the lower end of the scale, grades D, E, F and G will be graded 1, 2 or 3.

    The Department for Education (DfE) says its new GCSEs are designed to match the standards set by the strongest performing education systems in the world.

    While exam regulator Ofqual says the 1 to 9 scale will help them to better differentiate between the highest performing pupils and distinguish clearly between the new and old exams.

    It also says there is new, more demanding content.

    Courses are designed for two years of study – they are no longer be divided into different modules and students will take all their exams at the end of their course.

    Exams can only be split into ‘foundation tier’ and ‘higher tier’ if one exam paper does not give all students the opportunity to show their knowledge and abilities. 

    Mathematics is one of few subjects that remain tiered. 

    The regulator says this is because manageable assessments cannot be designed that would both allow students at the lower end of the ability range to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding, and that would stretch the most able students.

    The two tiers are focused on grades 1-5 and 4-9.

    There are now fewer course options in the new science GCSEs – most students will take the new combined science course, which is worth two GCSEs, or three separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics.

    Resit opportunities will only be available each November in English language and mathematics.

    Meanwhile changes have also been introduced to the A-level system.

    The reforms have seen a switch to assessment being mainly by exam and have also led to some subjects such as applied science and creative writing being scrapped.

    New style study programmes were introduced for some subjects in 2015 and from last summer all courses follow the same system.

    Courses are no longer be divided into modules and all exams take place in the summer.

    The changes also mean that students have less coursework and fewer practical assessments.

    AS and A-levels have been decoupled so that AS levels become stand-alone qualifications and no longer count towards an A-level, in the way they have previously done.

    They have also been designed by exam boards to be taught alongside the first year of A-levels.

    Most pupils take four subjects in Year 12. 

    After AS level exams they drop one subject, and continue the other three through Year 13 to complete A-levels – although this can vary depending on the pupil and school policy.

    The content for the new A-levels has been reviewed and updated, with universities playing a much greater role in this for the new qualifications than they did previously.

    It is hoped that this will make A-levels better preparation for university study.

    The move has been welcomed by higher education institutions.

    As a result of both reforms, some subjects could disappear forever because at the moment updated courses are not being developed for them.

    These include leisure studies, catering, computing and environmental and land based science at GCSE and performance studies and international development at A-level.

    Exams regulating body, Ofqual, decides to stop a course if it believes the subject is too similar to others, or could be easily enveloped as part of others in the future.

    But many students are looking for an alternative that prepares them better for the world of work.

    Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to A-levels, with students looking to combine real work with academic study.

    It is also is an opportunity for 16-year olds to earn and learn at the same time as getting a foot in the door of their chosen industry.

    Apprentices split their time between the workplace and a training centre or college.

    They are expected to work for at least 30 hours a week and are treated like a permanent employee, receiving a salary, holidays and other benefits.

    Some programmes are structured so that an apprentice will spend four days in a week at work, and one day at college.

    Other employers will retain an apprentice for weeks or months at a time, and then send them to college for an extended study period.

    Anyone interested in an intermediate, or level 2, apprenticeship will usually require at least five GCSE passes.

    But there are different entry requirements depending on the sector and job.

    At any one time there are up to 28,000 apprenticeship vacancies available online in a variety of careers and industries across England – from accounting and animal care to plumbing and printing.


    NEW TECHNICAL QUALIFICATIONS OFFER STUDENTS MORE CHOICE


    New T-level exam courses, dubbed the greatest shake-up of technical education for 70 years, are also being rolled out.

    The T-levels are technical qualifications at A-level standard. 

    The course content will be created by panels of employers with a three month compulsory industry placements.

    The T-levels, which are technical Qualifications at A-level standard, will be taught at Dudley College of Technology, Sandwell Academy, Walsall College and Walsall Studio School.

    They are among just 10 further education providers across the Midlands chosen to taken part in the scheme. 

    Across the country, 52 schools and colleges have been named as the First T-level providers.

    The First three subjects will be construction, digital, and education and childcare, which will be taught from September 2020.

    A further 22 courses being rolled out in stages from 2021, with courses covering sectors such as Finance and accounting, engineering and manufacturing, and creative and design.

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  • 18/09/2018 0 Comments
    What is Ofsted and how does it inspect schools?

    Most parents will no doubt already be familiar with Ofsted and it’s bound to be a name that you will keep hearing throughout your child’s secondary school education.

    When you start looking at different schools, it’s worth bearing in mind the work they do as you will want to read the most recent inspection report.

    Every week the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) carries out hundreds of inspections and regulatory visits at schools throughout England and publishes the results online.

    They are public documents so anyone can read them and it can be a useful insight into a school – as long as the inspection was recent as improvements may well have been made in the meantime if it was a less than positive verdict.

    All schools are required by law to be inspected but how it is visited will depend on how it has previously been judged.

    For example – after a school is rated as outstanding it will then be exempt from routine inspections.

    But a school placed in special measures due to concerns about standards, will be monitored and inspected more frequently.

    A full inspection normally takes two days. 

    When they arrive the inspectors will look at the school’s self-evaluation and analyse the pupils’ progress and attainment. 

    They talk to the headteacher, governors, staff, and pupils, and consider your views as a parent.

    Inspectors spend most of their time observing lessons and looking at the quality of teaching in the school, and its impact on learning and progress.

    They also look at the personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils, the promotion of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development; and how well the school is led and managed.

    Parents are given the option of providing their views. 

    After the visit, the lead inspector reports her or his judgement to the headteacher and governors.

    The inspectors’ findings are published in a report for the school, parents and wider community.

    This provides information about the effectiveness of the school’s work and contains recommendations about what it should do to improve.

    If Ofsted judges a school to be ‘inadequate’, it will be placed in one of the following two categories – special measures or serious weaknesses.

    The former means the school is failing to provide pupils with an acceptable standard of education, and is not showing the capacity to make the improvements needed.

    Inspectors will visit the school regularly to check progress, until it can be removed from the category. 

    It will then be inspected after about two years.

    The latter category means one or more of the key areas of the school’s performance require significant improvement, but managers have demonstrated the capacity to improve.

    Inspectors will visit the school regularly until it can be removed from the category.

    It will be inspected again within 18 months of its last inspection.

    If a good rating is given, the school will receive a one-day inspection around every three years.


    UNDERSTANDING OFSTED REPORTS


    Schools will be graded as one of the below:

    Outstanding

    Good

    Requires improvement

    Inadequate


    • Reports are published on the website reports.ofsted.gov.uk and can be found by searching under the name of the school 
    • Ofsted reports directly to Parliament and is independent and impartial
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  • 18/09/2018 0 Comments
    Do some homework before making your decisions

    When it comes to comparing schools, it always helps to do your homework.

    When you start looking at the different options, consider what type of education you want your child to receive and ask your son or daughter for their views too.

    You will already be familiar with some of the schools in the area but it’s worth checking to make sure you haven’t missed any and remember they can be outside of your borough, city or county too.

    Do some research online where there are a number of tools to help you compare different schools and their performance.

    The Government-run website – www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk – has data available, which includes progress made between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 and the percentage of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades at GCSE.

    Highly acclaimed website www.schoolguide.co.uk also offers key statistics, catchment area information and parent views. 

    It enables you to search by location, school or postcode.

    As well as performance data, it looks at other factors such as the pupil to teacher ratio, persistent absence rate and school meal uptake. 

    Once you have got a list of options together then attend open days at the schools you are interested in with your child.

    Visiting in person is the most important thing you and your child can do.

    Attending an open day is the best way to let your son or daughter get a feel for a place. 

    These usually happen in September and October.

    During an open day prospective parents and pupils can visit the school during a working day or after the day’s lessons.

    You’ll be able to visit classrooms, and often pupils will show you round and talk to you about their school.

    Parents will probably be invited to hear a talk by the headteacher, the head of admissions or the head of the relevant section of the school.

    Looking around the school will also enable you both to discover more than you would if just read the prospectus.

    It’s an opportunity for you to speak to the staff, pupils, and the headteacher.

    Feel free to ask questions if you want to, particularly of pupils – what do they think of the teaching – do they enjoy life at the school?

    Look at the work on display.

    Does it represent a broad range of ability?

    A school should value every child.

    Does the school offer extra-curricular activities – such as sports and clubs – so your child can develop their interests? 

    This also shows that the teachers are motivated and enthusiastic. 

    It will help you to really get a sense of what it is like and how it operates on a daily basis.

    Make sure you have a few key questions to ask in order to get the most out of the visit – you might want to find out how many children are in a class, or how the school deals with bullying.

    Often current pupils will be drafted in to show prospective students around their classrooms and this will give a good insight into what life is like at the school.

    If they are enthusiastic and motivated then this a good sign that they are happy.

    Make sure to ask them questions away from staff if you get chance as they are more likely to give honest answers.

    The events will also showcase what extra-curricular activities, such as sports and clubs, are on offer.

    Remember to ask about transport – will your child have to make their own way there, or are there buses?

    Find out about the lunch arrangements – are there healthy school meals available and what do they cost?

    What are the other options such as taking a packed lunch?

    Think about whether you find the open day chaotic, friendly, efficient or improvised?

    The organisation of the day’s events can give many clues to the general running of a school.

    Pay attention to the pupils themselves – do they seem happy and motivated?

    Do they speak positively about their teachers and school-life?

    Pupils are the best ambassadors for any school.

    It’s also important to find out how the school seeks to work with parents.

    Ask how parents are kept informed on activities and achievements in school. 

    Is there a newsletter?

    If you think it’s important to you to get involved with your child’s school then this is a good opportunity to discover if this will be possible.

    Is there a PTA group at the school?

    Charity Parent kind, which encourages the fullest cooperation between home and school, recommends making a bee-line for the parent volunteers on hand at school open events to find out more about how parents are engaged in social events, learning, and school improvement or consulted on policies and fundraising.

    Make notes and watch your child’s reactions and ask them what they thought.

    Above all, listen to your gut instinct.


    WHAT TO ASK AT OPEN DAYS


    QUESTIONS TO ASK TEACHERS


    Do new pupils have a buddy or mentor allocated to them?

    Would you send your child to this school?

    How does the school cater for gifted and talented children?

    What extra curricular activities does the school offer?

    How does the school cater for children with learning difficulties?

    What would you do if I complained that my child was being bullied?

    How many staff are trained to administer First aid?


    QUESTIONS TO ASK PUPILS


    How much homework do you get each day?

    Is there a good choice on the lunch menu and are the queues reasonable?

    Are the library and computer rooms open during break time, lunch and after school?

    How easy is it to Find a member of staff if you have a problem?

    Are anti-bullying measures effective?

    What do you think of your headteacher?

    Are you happy at the school, and do you have fun here?

    Would you be happy for your little brother or sister to follow you to the school?

    What are the best things about lessons and what are the worst?

    What is your favourite subject and why?

    What is your most difficult subject and why?

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  • 18/09/2018 0 Comments
    Preparing your children for secondary school

    Moving up to big school

    This September our family will be in an interesting position.

    It will be my first day as Head of School at the new Q3 Academy Tipton, and it will also be my daughter’s first day at the same school.

    She will be one of over 200 new Year 7 students we welcome; every single one of them will be both nervous and excited.

    But how can we as parents prepare children for secondary school?

    It can feel like an awfully large jump from being the eldest most experienced pupils in the school to being the youngest and newest.

    Our children have been safe and happy in one environment for possibly seven or eight years – 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, even if they have older siblings or lots of their friends are moving up with them, will be nervous.

    It is positive for parents to accept this nervousness, not dismiss it, but also don’t dwell on it.

    A quick, “Yes, it will be a bit scary but let’s list some exciting things too…” is a good way to change the tone of a potentially negative conversation.

    In addition, children pick up on their own parents’ nerves – so try not to discuss any fears you have yourself when your children are around.

    They may look like they’re playing a game on their phone but little ears love to waggle.

    Be prepared

    As a mum who has previously been horrified to discover that all school skirts have sold out by the last weekend in August, make sure you’re stocking up on the necessities throughout the summer.

    Secondary schools do expect students to bring the essentials to school themselves every day and a well stocked pencil case is important.

    Don’t be the one without.

    Secondary schools tend to be far stricter on uniform than primary schools and having a disagreement about school shoes or haircuts is not the best way to start the new term.

    Check what the school has asked for and my advice is to play it very safe.

    If your child is trying to convince you that those lovely hundred pound black trainers really are allowed as shoes, I’d be sceptical. 

    This also applies to fashionable haircuts, colours and facial piercings.

    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. 

    It is a strong and positive relationship. 

    This is about to change. 

    Your child is likely to have several teachers as well as a form tutor. 

    Teachers are not usually available for quick chats at the end of the day unless an appointment has been made.

    Don’t panic – 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.

    Email is a particularly useful means of communication (check the school’s website for links) and many schools use websites such as Insight, ClassCharts, Frog, FireFly or ShowMeMyHomework to help you keep track of your youngsters.

    Indeed, many schools will have their own app to help you stay up to date – far easier than looking for 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 will settle in.

    That doesn’t mean it will be a smooth ride – we all take time to adjust to new people and environments.

    However, should there be something you are unhappy with, ensure you contact the school straight away.

    Schools will make mistakes but are always happy to rectify matters as soon as they can.

    Keep smiling, stay positive, work in partnership and in no time at all your little one will be taking GCSEs and taking his or her next step.

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  • 18/09/2018 0 Comments
    Get the right start for your child’s journey in 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 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 will soon begin holding open days giving you the chance to have a proper look around and allow your child to get a 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 YOU CAN EXPECT FROM BIG SCHOOL


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

    It will explain Ofsted reports to help you make an informed decision and provide answers to some of your questions to help you through the whole process.

    There is also advice on how to help your child settle in after they make the move to big school – as well as looking ahead to later stages in their education.

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