The Waiting Game

You know the expression, “You learn something new every day”? It becomes more and more real for me all the time.

Since being involved in a school in the UK and engaging with local education communities, the surprises about the school system have decreased dramatically. However, today I learnt something new.

This past weekend, children in Year 6 have found out their fates for next year. The move to secondary school is scary for 90% of children, and I can only imagine how much harder it is when you don’t know what school you will be going to. For me, it was scary because of the change and the expectations, but I knew that I was staying at the same school with the same children. Sure, we were in different buildings and had new teachers and the year group doubled in size but most things were relatively constant, and I knew about the changes from the get-go.

Here it works a little differently, children apply to their top choices through the local borough. The borough then sorts through the overwhelming number of applications and assigns each child a school based on a variety of criteria including ability of the child, home borough, work borough and, for many of the children at my school, church involvement and references. Schools have to take a certain number of lower, middle and higher ability children and have obligations to meet in terms of accepting children within a certain distance of the school.

As you can imagine, the result is a bit of a free-for-all… Children are haphazardly assigned schools, sometimes their first choice and sometimes their 6th. Some schools are oversubscribed and have waiting lists hundreds of names long. More children meet the criteria then there are places and some children are not accepted at any of their elected schools. In this instance they start the process all over again, re-reading through all the school prospectuses they and their parents already discarded trying to find a suitable second crop of schools to apply for without trying to get too disheartened as to why the available schools have so many places still available. And even if you did get a place at a school, perhaps it was at the school at the very bottom of your list, so you sulk and complain whilst your frazzled parents try to find out just how far down the waiting list you are at your top choice.

It’s tough at this point; there’s only one more term until Summer and then you’re off to Secondary school but you’re sitting with fingers and toes and all other possible limbs crossed hoping to get an offer at a school higher up your list or hoping to get an offer at a school at all! Forget being worried about a couple of new teachers and imagine not even knowing what colour your uniform will be, if you’ll know anyone in your class, and which bus route will become your new daily routing. From here until after SATS, families in Year 6 are just playing the waiting game…

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