It’s national offer day and your child hasn’t been offered their first-choice primary school. Perhaps they’ve been offered their second-choice. Perhaps they haven’t been offered any of the schools on the list at all.
Firstly, don’t panic. Repeat, DO NOT PANIC. Here are your options:
1/ Accept the place and embrace the school you’ve been offered
You may not have got the primary school you wanted, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad school. It might be a fabulous school where your child will have many happy years and make friends for life. We know of many families who didn’t get their first-choice but whose children are extremely happy in their school regardless.
Try to find out a bit more about the school. Go and see it if you haven’t done so already. Look at the transport options and work out how you’ll be able to get there every day. Try to find some other families who have also been offered the school and arrange a play date. If you and your child start making new friends, you’ll feel a lot more positive.
2/ Appeal the decision
If you haven’t been offered your first-choice primary school you have a right to appeal the decision.
You should accept the place you’ve been offered even if you plan to appeal. It won’t affect the appeal decision in the slightest and it means that you have a back-up plan if your appeal isn’t successful.
Be aware that the majority of people don’t win their appeals. Local authorities have a duty to provide a place for your child at a school, not one of your choice. Reception class sizes can’t exceed 30 so if there are no places, they can’t squeeze your child in the corner and hope no one notices. Also, you can only appeal on certain grounds. Find out more about primary school appeals.
3/ Stick it out on the waiting list
Your child will be put on to the waiting lists for any of the primary schools listed higher in your order of preference. There can be a lot of movement on the waiting lists between April and September – and even beyond as families move house.
However, waiting lists are unreliable and shouldn’t be counted on. Your child can move down as well as up. You should accept the place at the school you’ve been offered anyway. This doesn’t affect your position on the waiting lists or your chances of getting offered a higher-choice school. And it means that you have a back-up plan.
Find out more about how primary school waiting lists work.
4/ Make an in-year application
If you’re really unhappy with the school you’ve been allocated, have a look at other schools in the area that still have places available or short waiting lists. This information should be available on the local authority website.
A school that you may not have considered before may suddenly seem a better option, especially if the school you’ve been allocated is much further away and is quite frankly going to be a pain in the backside to get to every day.
If you want to apply for a school that you didn’t originally list, you can make an in-year application. If the school has places available or a very short waiting list, you’re likely to get offered a place within a few weeks.
5/ Apply for private school
This isn’t an option for a lot of parents, but if it is for you, you’ll find that many private schools are poised for an influx of enquiries from families after national offer day.
The really popular private schools will already be full after starting their own admissions process many months before but other, less renowned, private schools may have places.
6/ Move house
This is not for the faint-hearted. It involves upheaving your entire family for the sake of getting them into the school you like. Also, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get in, as your child will simply go on to the waiting list, which may or may not move.
Don’t fixate on Ofsted reports and school performance – there is more to a primary school than that. Read more about choosing a primary school here. And yes, while there are schools out there that are significantly underperforming and need help, most schools provide children with a first-class education.
So while you may not get the news you’d hoped for on national offer day, the likelihood is that your child will still be going to a great school where they’ll thrive.