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Monday, March 02, 2009

Surrey School Primary School Selection Process

I have just gone through the horrific process of applying for a school place for my first child. While I am happy with the outcome. I realise from talking to many of my parent friends that the application procedure is completely flawed. In fact, I would go further and say that the advice given to parents is utterly misleading. The result being a lot of unhappy parents.

It works like this. You have a form with 3 boxes. In them you write your first, second and third choice school.

Apparently THIS YEAR, the preference i.e. the 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice rankings, are ignored by the school you are applying to. Each of your choices will say yes or no irrespective of the preference you give. Purely based on your circumstances, i.e. distance from school, siblings, other special conditions. So a central body then get 3 responses back and your HIGHEST preference that said YES will be granted to you. They might ALL be YES, but the highest will count.

So you would be tempted to put a really top school that is miles away from your area and totally oversubscribed as your first choice right?

We are very lucky. Our closest school was, in our opinion having visited them all, the best in the area. So we popped the form in to them. We didn't have to worry too much about deciding how to play the game.

Here are the two ways people have played it, Person X is following the advice and taking a chance. Person Y is playing it safe.

Person X puts school c, b, a in that order. (putting "c" which is the best school but oversubscribed, "b" a school miles away that got good reviews and "a" the local good school). Person X is taking the advice that the preference is actually ignored and trying to get the best school. She knows that c will say yes because it is the local school, so why not have a go at trying to get in the other school?

Person Y puts school a, b & c in that order. (c is a great school but over subscribed, a is a good school and more local). Person Y is playing it safe.

It seems that Person Y will almost certainly get accepted into School A. Whereas Person X may be rejected from all 3 and dumped somewhere they don't want to be, perhaps MILES away from their area. This suggests that the local authority may have changed the preference system to be 3 equal choices, but nobody told the schools.

Here is another important paradoxical bit of advice. Once you have decided the order, you can either hand the form to your first choice school or submit it online. Hand in to your first choice school??? That doesn't sound like a process that would ignores preference?! So in respect to this, it seems that if you submit online you are unlikely to get your first or even your second choice, in fact you might be unlucky and get none of your choices. But if you hand it in you get a much higher chance. But this seems logical right? Why have the option of handing it in to the first choice school. Obviously the first choice school will give preference to the applications it has in hand. Because the first choice school KNOWS that it is first choice and doesn't want to say yes to a bunch or second or third choices which ultimately will result in more administration as they have to reprocess other applications when they say no.

Confused. Welcome to world of Parents in Surrey. Playing this stupid bureaucratic game, jumping though hoops and having to gamble and guess in order to get a better education for our children. Thanks for the added stress!

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