Friday, 23 November 2012

British School Admissions 101

It doesn't seem like that long ago that I started this blog, when our little Crumpet was still baking away in my oven. Boy, how time flies. This week, I submitted her application for primary school to the local council. Even though she won't start reception, which is the British equivalent of kindergarten, until next autumn, the process starts now. And let me tell you, that process is turning out to be quite the educational experience in itself.

The whole idea of applying for primary school is a bit of a foreign concept to me (no pun intended). As far as I can remember from the three different elementary schools I attended -- all in different parts of the U.S. -- my mom just went to the school that was in our district, filled out some forms, and that was it. There was no choice in the matter, but there was also no competition to see who could get into the "best" schools. Here, it's a whole different ball game. There are several schools within our local "catchment" area, and we have to apply for the ones we want Crumpet to attend, in order of our preference, by mid-January. The council will review the applications and allocate places, and we will find out in April which, if any, of the schools we have applied for Crumpet has been accepted to. Yes, it's possible (unlikely, but still possible) that she might not be accepted to any of them depending on the number of other applicants within the local area. It's also possible she could be offered a place at more than one. Once she has been offered a place, we can choose to accept or decline, and if she hasn't received an offer from our first choice school, we can appeal and get a final decision in July. And let me be clear: these are state schools we're talking about, not posh private schools.

Slightly complicating the process is the fact that our first choice school is our local Church of England school, where The Other Half and his brothers attended many moons ago. It is a very highly-rated school with only a one-form entry, as opposed to three or four forms like the other local schools. Again, it is a state school, but faith schools have their own admissions criteria in addition to those of the local council. And let's just say that the criteria is pretty strict, and our history with the church and school (the fact that my in-laws were married there over forty years ago, The Other Half and his brothers were head choirboys, Crumpet was christened there, etc.) will not guarantee her a place. In fact, the competition for this school is so fierce that some parents have even resorted to downright devious tactics to get the vicar to sign their admissions forms, like printing up their own versions of the forms with a different set of criteria in order to pull one over on him and the local council. It has become an all-out battle for those coveted thirty places.

Luckily, we live in an area with several good schools, and our second choice school isn't necessarily second-rate (it's just much bigger), so I'm pretty sure Crumpet will get in there based on proximity alone. But the whole process is doing my head in, and I feel like Crumpet is applying for a place at Oxbridge with all of the drama involved. And to think that we'll have to go through the same thing in a few more years when she applies to secondary school...

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