I've been inspired to write about the School Application Process (which was so stress-inducing it merits title caps) after reading Kate C's blog post.
We lived in London when I had my son. I spent a lot of time looking into local schools and nurseries and the lack of choice scared me (we lived in a very large, badly planned, new estate/area). So when my son was nearly 2 we decided to move "a bit further up the A1" to be slightly closer to family in Lancashire and to hopefully have better choice of schools.
I produced a highly annotated OS map with local towns we were interested in, with all local schools marked on and whether they had good Ofsted reports (seriously, I was a bit nuts, although in my defence, I was very early pregnant!).
We eventually bought a house in the town we now live in. It has three lower schools, all with outstanding Ofsted reports. Perfect. So what was so stress-inducing about applying to one of them?
I soon realized that, among the people I was friends with, one particular school was most popular. It was the only Church school in the town, and as a regular Churchgoer (my children also attend the Sunday School) I particularly wanted my son to get in. The problem was I lived outside its catchment area, and religion was not very high on the school's criteria (sad reflection in my opinion).
But all good stories end happily, and I can say that we did get a place at the school. We were really lucky. The year we applied, the school was oversubscribed by 20 places. Nine children were offered a place at a school more than 10 miles away (fancy sending your 4-year-old on a bus up the A1 on their own?). Several children who applied on religious grounds but lived further away from school didn't get in.
The parish council stepped in and helped the school fund nine extra places for the children, and eventually, most families were happy. Sadly, a similar situation arose this year, and history looks certain to be repeated during this coming application process. I was stopped on my way home today by a family looking at homes to rent; the question they asked me: "is this road in the catchment for St X's?". Oh dear.
I only hope that when I come to apply for school for my daughter next year, having a sibling already at the school AND going to church will help our cause.
It's such a shame that applying to school is such a stressful experience for parents. Not only does it affect them, it rubs off on the kids because they can sense mummy or daddy are worried about something.