Before we had children we planned everything carefully, build up our careers, get where we wanted to be, move house to an area with good schools and amenities etc. In 2007 we achieved most of these and moved into a newly built house in a nice area near an outstanding school. Shortly after moving in I found out I was pregnant. We thought we had been very clever.
Roll on three years. We applied for a place at the nursery of said "outstanding" school. Now no longer outstanding but we liked it and it was really close by. We assumed all would be well but were pretty shocked to receive a letter saying they did not have room for our son! They had changed their admissions criteria without informing us and it was no longer on a first come first served basis, it was now down to siblings and distance from school. We live 337 metres from the school, apparently this is not near enough. The rage I felt was difficult to describe, I wrote to everyone, the local councillor, my MP, the school, the local authority (I take no pleasure in telling you that the school secretary refused to deal with me anymore!) and had a heart to heart with the head teacher, nothing worked. At the last minute I managed to get my son in at another school which is a drive away, still it was better than nothing.
Then the stress began of applying for a Reception place. There are 8 more places in the Reception class of the desired school than in the Nursery so that gave me hope. I have also been a bit of a Mummy detective. Every time we go to the park and I see someone with a similar age child, I give them a grilling: "oh, your child is tall, how old are they......really.....have you thought about school places.....HOW CLOSE IS YOUR HOUSE?!" - I admit some people have been scared. I even rang the school and made them check how many people had turned down a place straight away because of private childcare arrangements, there were MORE than 8, the point is that these people will probably want a Reception place, damn it damn it.
Then my friend Emma gave me an idea; rather like a second world war General, she has started placing red and blue pins on a map of the local area on her kitchen walls. She makes a list of all those closer to the school than she is. Good idea.
Then I heard something that made me really scared, people are so desperate to get their child into this school that they are prepared to act fraudulently to get their child in! There was a case a few years ago where a mum claimed she had separated from dad so went to live with her parents near the school thus gaining a place. They were very clever about it and although the L.A *knew* it was fraudulent they couldn't prove it.
Thing is, what really makes one child more entitled than another to a place at the school of choice? Surely there is no fair system at all as someone is always going to miss out?
What really riles me about our situation is that there are children living further away from us who take priority over our son for a place as they live in what is called the *priority area*. These are the existing houses that were here before our estate was built. Now this, I get. These children would have to travel quite a bit further than us to get to the next nearest school. However, it doesn't all make sense as *some* of the houses on our estate by some bizarre mistake or something, are on the priority area map! In fact, the end of the priority area appears to be our garden wall. The family in the house behind us (which I calculated on google earth to be 350 metres from the school) got their child in for Nursery whereas we did not. RANT RANT RANT.
In a weeks time we will find out whether our son got a place at the desired school or not. Thousands of other parents are in the same boat as us where they are not able to choose which school their child attends, the situation is unsustainable. More school places need to become available in over subscribed areas so that children can walk to their nearest school and so children living on the same street are not farmed out far and wide. I can't tell you how much stress this has caused me and is still causing me every time I think about it. I will update you all next week!