Can I really choose a school for my child?

When we decided to start a family, my husband and I were living in his flat. We loved it there, it was a great area and convenient for nights out and for commuting to work.

It would also have been fine to stay there when the girls came along. Fine, but not perfect. There wasn’t that much space and there were only two bedrooms. There was no garden and we had no family in the village.

So we knew it was sensible to move, and the perfect home was staring us in the face – because I’d already owned it for nearly ten years. I had a relatively large detached house with a garden and three bedrooms that was located close to my family. So of course, we moved back in.

It wasn’t long after I’d had Libby that I started to realise that school was going to be an issue. The estate we live in is brilliant. It’s one of the most sought after areas of our town.

The neighbours are all wonderful, we’ve never had a problem. And yet, the local school is just not where we want to send our daughter.

The OFSTED reports are dreadful. We have heard from two different sets of parents that their children have been physically beaten and the school didn’t even notice.

The number of pupils per member of staff is high. And OFSTED say that the children are underperforming because staff have “low expectations” of what they can achieve.

Children that need extra support are reported to be let down because there just aren’t the staff to give them the help they need.

And here’s the thing, Libby might need some help. Not necessarily academically, she seems to be picking up letters and numbers quite well, she’s a bright little girl.

But she can’t see in three dimentions. She had a squint in both eyes that was corrected aesthetically when she was two years old but it was too late to save her depth perception. She still can’t catch a ball.

She also has sight problems that have led to her wearing glasses at all times. We don’t yet know how any of these issues will affect her as she gets older.

With or without the issues Libby has, I want the right to choose a school for my child. We live just over the hill from the school I went to and loved, and there are other fabulous schools in and around the area.

And I genuinely believed that in the UK, we had the right to choose where our children go to school – or at least where they don’t go.

As the time drew nearer, I realised that we were likely to have a battle on our hands. We tried to move house but it was all a bit of a rush and we hadn’t managed to get the house to the standard we wanted it at for sale. And besides, we love it here.

We’ve considered all the options. We could home educate and I know there are numerous advantages to doing so. But Libby is desperate to go to school. And I don’t want to deprive her of that right.

We have considered putting her into private education. If I knuckled down and worked my socks off, we could probably afford to do this for a couple of years.

But when it came to having two children in private education, we just wouldn’t be able to do it. So do we put her in private education while we get the house ready to move?

I don’t know where we’d get the time or the money to do up our house whilst I was working all hours under the sun to pay for private education. So in two years time, we’d find ourselves in the same position again but with two children to place in school.

So, we’re in the process of filling in the relevant forms online. We’ve put down our three choices, our local school is not one of those choices.

I am willing to drive Libby an almost unlimited distance to school if it means that her school life will be pleasant and she will be happy.

I’m not one of these parents that is seeking out the best school academically and pushing my child to be a high achiever. But I do want her to enjoy her school years. And I want to know that when I drop her off each day, she will receive the help she needs and she will be safe.

Everyone tells me that the likelihood is, we will only be offered our local school. So where do we go from there? I don’t know.

And what of the right to choose a school for my child? It seems to me that I don’t have that right at all.

23 thoughts on “Can I really choose a school for my child?

  1. Notmyyearoff

    Bets of luck, I hope you get the school of your choice. Z started this year and its such a hard choice to make as it is, we didn’t choose our local school either and I was so worried that the distance to the next on might mean we wouldn’t get in. He did thankfully but the wait to April feels long! Good luck yours 🙂 xx

  2. Christine

    I work in a school office. First thing to check is the admissions policy for the local schools – it will be on their website. Whilst most maintained schools still admit children based on distance some faith schools or academies (lots of primaries now) have different admission criteria. Secondly is to check admission numbers for schools and whether they were over subscribed last year. Our local council provides this info online but you could always ask the school during a visit. Lastly make sure you visit all of the schools – Ofsted aren’t always focused on the same things a parent is and staff often change. All of this info will at least give you more of a background when it comes to choosing your schools.

    1. monsteridNatalie Ray Post author

      Thank you Christina, that’s so helpful. We have done exactly that in terms of the school admissions which is reassuring, and we have applied for three local schools that were under-subscribed last year and that we loved when we visited. Fingers crossed.x

  3. Georgina

    I can totally sympathise with you! Choosing schools is the most agonising decision for parents, but Im sure that if you get given the school you really dont want for your daughter, you have a while to appeal their decision and bring all the evidence forward about their low offsted rating and how you truly don’t believe your daughter will thrive there! You know her better than anyone at the end of the day and i’m sure that they will see another, better school will your suit your daughter ALOT more xxx
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  4. Alice

    It’s such a tough decision it’s worried me for ages and I won’t be applying for Amelia until next year. I really hope you get a school that suits your little girl helps her and allows her to enjoy it at the same time! X
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  5. marianne hopwood

    I totally understand your dilemma, but don’t rule out home ed as an interim measure until you move, the same as private would be. My friend that we do a lot of HE activities with is on the HE path due to not being offered a school choice she was comfortable with. For us, I had read enough pedagogical research suggesting that starting formal education until 6 or 7 as they do in most of Europe was a better approach for both academic ability and happiness than sending them at 4 as we routinely do here. Our initial plan was to HE Ollie for 2 years until Toby was due to go, then driving them both out to a smaller village school, but it quickly became apparent how happy and well the boys were doing, and that Toby flat out refused nursery and my expectation that he would be desperate to go to school was wrong, so school is no longer on the horizon perhaps until high school. If you don’t get a choice you’re happy with, it’s worth at least thinking about HE for reception year as an option and holding out for the school you want.
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    1. monsteridNatalie Ray Post author

      I’m very in favour of home ed if we don’t get the school we want, but I think hubby would take some persuading. Actually so would Libby, she is just desperate to go to school. Both of these factors lead me to believe that private school will have to be the solution if we don’t get a school we are happy with.x

  6. Izzie Anderton

    Good luck with getting Libby into the school you hope she’ll attend. We moved house when our daughters were 2 to make sure they’d go to a good school and have never regretted this decision. How long until you hear about Libby’s school place?
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  7. Sarah Graham

    Thanks for this Nat. I had no idea that you could request that your child goes to a different school, than the one most local. I assumed you were stuck based on post code. We are looking to move, have found the perfect house but the local primary school is dreadful! There are two others reasonably close, and as you have said, I’ll happily drive miles to get Katie into a school that will provide her with the joyful school experience that I had. It seems for the responses that it is possible to request a different school, even if the chances of this working being slim, it’s worth a go! Keep us posted on how you get on. Xx

  8. Rebecca

    ahh, best of luck…. I do hope you get your school of choice! It’s so hard isn’t it and things are never as straight forward as they seem. I dread the day I have to start searching for schools, my daughter is two and I want nothing more for her than to be happy and safe at school! x
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  9. Jodie

    You can appeal schools that have been offered but the outcome isn’t usually that great unless real special circumstances. So lay it on thick. I had to move my daughter from her school half way through reception as she was having an awful experience. I hope your situation gets resolved in the way you want for your children. good luck!!

    1. monsteridNatalie Ray Post author

      Thank you Jodie that’s really helpful. I totally sympathise with your experience of having to move your daughter. I will DEFINITELY move my girls if they’re not enjoying school, the idea of them being bullied fills me with horror.xx


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