Parents whose children miss out on a place at their preferred primary school were today urged to put on a brave face and not cry in front of their children.
Thousands of London parents are expected to be disappointed on Monday when primary school places are allocated. But Elizabeth Coatman, state education consultant for The Good Schools Guide, said parents whose children do not get their favoured primary should pull themselves together for the sake of their offspring and not let on that they hate the allocated school.
Otherwise the children will feel “they’re starting a five-year sentence,” she warned. Last year in London nearly 14,000 children failed to get into their first preference primary school — 14 per cent of applicants - writes standard.co.uk.
This year the number of applicants is believed to have dropped slightly but the pressure of getting into the most popular schools is forecast to be just as high as previous years.
Mrs Coatman said: “Parents set their hearts on a certain school and feel so disappointed if their child doesn’t get in. Try not to let on to your child how much you hate the school where they’ve been given a place. If you’re negative about the school but then fail to find another one, your child may start at the new school feeling they’re starting a five-year sentence.”
Explaining why parents are so anxious about getting a good school for their youngster, she said: “It can be a big wrench letting your child go into the big wide world for the first time. It is one of those big landmark occasions.
“If you have a school you really like and you feel the teachers are lovely and there is a warm atmosphere that’s great. But if you get a school lower on your list, or not on your list at all, the gap between what you hoped for and what you got mixes with anxiety and guilt — well I would be in floods of tears. But you have to step back a bit.”
She added: “Children pick up on far more than you realise. You have to really try to control yourself and find positive things to say about the school. It could be an easier journey, or the playground could have a lovely slide.
“Lots of primary schools are lovely even if they are not high-achieving. I love going into them — they tend to be happy, colourful and cheerful. On the most part children are excited about starting school.”
Parents in London can choose six primary schools and list them in order of preference. Places are allocated by the Pan London Admissions Board.
Last year just seven per cent of appeals in London were successful, while in the North East the success rate was 33 per cent. The length of the school run, having siblings at other schools, super-sized classes and poor Ofsted reports are unlikely to be successful grounds for appeal.
Mrs Coatman advised parents unhappy with the school their child is given to accept the place, in case they end up with no place at all in September. Then she said they can ask to go on the waiting list of their preferred schools, as things can change dramatically between now and the new school term. She added: “It would be a worry to get given a school that is not on your list of preferences, but visit it and see if it is as bad as you fear. Keep positive for your child’s sake. Try and find good reasons to be a bit more cheerful.”
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