I’m writing this post, School Applications – National Offer Day because primary school is looming for our four-year-old Fidget. Now the waiting is over, National Offer Day has arrived. It’s the 18th April 2016 and over the last couple of days whilst waiting for the outcome of our school place applications for Fidget, I have written a couple of posts about the school application process we have gone through, from school visits to applying to a couple of local faith schools when Fidget isn’t of that faith. It’s now 24 hours on from my last post and we have received the news that Fidget has been offered a place at one of our top three choices, which we have happily accepted.

But firstly, for those of you who read the previous post about faith school applications, I would like to say that this isn’t an ‘I-told-you-so’ post. Yes, Fidget was offered a place at one of the two faith schools we applied to and we are over the moon, to say the least. Actually, when we received the news we were gobsmacked! We checked and double-checked on the local authority website. We had hoped for a place at one of the two faith schools, but were expecting to miss out because both schools are generally oversubscribed and we did not go down the “pew-jumping” route. We aren’t sure, but I would guess that the offer was due to our location in relation to the school and the number of applications the school received. After all, because Fidget has not been baptised, has no siblings at the school and we are a mixed-denomination family she was automatically relegated to category 7, the lowest category on the application category list. Maybe my little write up in support of the faith school ethos submitted with the application had some bearing, but I shouldn’t think it carried much weight. Although I would advocate using the additional information section on the application. Why not try and strengthen your application? It can’t do your application any harm. In reality, I think we have just been lucky. Any other year and we may not have stood a chance. So, as mentioned above, this is most definitely not an ‘I-told-you-so’ post aimed at those parents who decided to go down the pew-jumping route. We who are not of that faith and still got a place without pew jumping are probably just extremely fortunate. So the point of this post is to summarise the whole stressful process.

And I would say that for all parents across the UK who had one eye on a particular school it was quite a stressful period. With the child population growing and schools stretched to the limit in some areas, parents waited with baited breath to find out if they would get their first choice school. But initial reports show that although a high proportion of children received an offer of a place at one of their top three choice schools other reports highlight wide variations across local areas and regions. A situation that I don’t think that would surprise many parents. Where we are in London it has initially been reported by the BBC that only 83% of children were awarded a place at their first choice school, but the variation across London is also quite distinct. The same report, for instance, stated that less than 69% were offered their first choice school in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. So that’s a lot of parents in West London who will feel let down. Whilst it also looks like there will be disappointment for a lot of families on the same level as last year when 3% of children (approximately 19,000) did not receive an offer from any of their chosen schools. (The Telegraph – 18th April 2016).

This is why I think we were lucky that Fidget received an offer from our third choice school. It was third choice because it was on our wish list but as it’s a faith school we hedged our bets and put a non-faith school as second choice. So in many ways we fit in with the 17% in London who received an offer of a place at a school other than their first choice.

Now that I have read some of the statistics, I can truly understand why parents play the system and pew jump to get into faith schools, or play with post codes and utilise family addresses to get as close to good schools as possible, especially when school catchment areas are shrinking due to pressure from a growing population. After all, we all want the best for our children. So would we have done it any differently had we not been in an area with good schools enough to fill Fidget’s dance card? My principles say no, but … I guess we’ll never know.