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Your Free Expert Guide To Choosing The Right Secondary School

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Welcome to Big School 2020-2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • 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.


    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.


    • 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.


    • 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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