The secondary transfer juggernaut

It is only a few weeks since the new batch of eager (and not so eager) year 7s, my own son included, started at secondary school. Do the schools breathe a sigh of relief and forget all about admissions for a few months? No, they don’t! Because the secondary transfer juggernaut keeps on rolling all year round.

For those of you not familiar with the secondary transfer process, it goes something like this:

  • September/ October – open days
  • September/ October – application to secondary schools
  • March – secondary school offers
  • April – July – reconsiderations and appeals
  • September – start new schools

And the juggernaut sets off again…

Round here, we have the additional pressure of grammar school tests, with tests taking place early in September and results out in early October, in good time to make a sensible application (there’s no point applying for a grammar school place if you haven’t passed the test).

With the deed done and dusted for this year, I’ve been hit by the scary realisation that THE NEXT GRAMMAR SCHOOL TEST WILL BE MY DAUGHTER’S. How is that even possible? Didn’t she only just start school? So, while the comprehensives are holding open days for the current year 6s, the grammar schools are actually holding them for the year 5s. The kids and parents need to have an idea of which grammar schools they would be interested in before they sit the test. And the only way to do that is to to go open days in year 5.

For my daughter, the prize is, of course, a place at my son’s school. There is also a girl’s grammar I like the look of. Well, I think I do. We’ve got to have a look round on the open day.

There’s another girls’  grammar school a bit further away (and crucially without a bus from our area). I’d always said my kids wouldn’t travel that far to school and if they couldn’t get into the grammar schools closer to home they could go to the comprehensive with their brother. I already have way too much pressure in my life – driving my daughter 10 miles or more to school and back every day, whilst also juggling her brothers and work is just too much.

But then my husband threw the ‘what if’ at me. What if she only got allocated a crap comprehensive (ie not her brother’s)? What if she ended up there just because I couldn’t be bothered to drive her to school?

Regular readers will know that I wake up early every day worrying about something. There’s no prizes for guessing what I woke up worrying about that day.

So we WILL be going to the open day for the too-far-away-grammar-school and I will be keeping my fingers firmly crossed that she does well enough in the test to go to one a bit closer to home.

Entrance exam, Son, Secondary school, 365

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. What a nightmare. Never mind my views on grammar schools (which you know well), it sounds like the whole system is completely f*cked. You could seriously end up with all three kids in different schools? Are catchment areas totally meaningless now?

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    • Yep, I could easily end up with three kids in three different schools. Catchment areas still exist for comprehensives, but we’re in the catchment for three, so there’s no guarantee she would get the same school as her brother. As far as grammar schools are concerned, there’s no catchments at all! The only thing holding people back is how far they’re prepared to let their kids travel!

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  2. I know what you mean about the secondary school juggernaut. I thought I would have got away with it this year, but daughter (also year 5) desperately wanted to go to the open evening at the High School where her brother goes. We are 99,9% sure she will be heading to the same state high school as him, and to be honest I wasn’t even going to take her. But as husband said we took son when he was in year 5 so we should do the same for our 2nd born. We don’t have any grammar schools around here so I am guessing that is one less worry. Sending hugs Sarah. Why do kids come with SO many worries xx

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    • Thanks very much! I nearly didn’t take my daughter to her brother’s school the other week. He was helping out at the open evening and I suddenly realised I should be taking her! That started me thinking about all of these other schools.

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  3. Sarah,
    The system is absurd.
    When I was in primary school, back in the days of the supposedly iniquitous eleven-plus, secondary school admissions imposed less stress on kids and parents, and most of that stress was confined to year 6 (as we now call it).

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    • There was no stress in my day, you just automatically went to your one local/ catchment school. It’s amazing how complicated it is these days.

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  4. We just did the 11+ I think. If you passed with a decent grade you got into the local grammar school (I missed out by about 2 points), if you didn’t you went to one of the local comprehensives and I certainly didn’t look around secondary schools in year 5!

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    • In my day, the grammar schools had catchments and I wasn’t in the catchment, so couldn’t even sit the test. Everyone from my school just went to the same comprehensive (the one my eldest is at now) – we didn’t even bother looking round it! This year only around a third of the kids went to that comprehensive!

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  5. Yes, the dreaded “what if” question? I fear your husband was correct to ask it! Obviously I have no experience of the secondary school process, only the primary school one. We got our eldest into a school a few miles away, despite there being a school on our doorstep (literally). The school run is a total, complete and utter pain but Helen’s flourished in this setting. That experience has persuaded me I’d be happy to travel…but then the pressures on every family are different. It may not be right for you. Alas we don’t have grammar schools out here (shame, I’m in favour of the concept). The closest comparison are the faith schools and some of them are superb. Guess what? None of them are on our doorstep but I’d be delighted if my kids had the opportunity to study at one of them.

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    • It sounds like you did the right thing to opt for the primary school further away. We’re lucky that we have an excellent primary school on the doorstep!
      I think we probably will put the ‘further away’ grammar school on our list of preferences, assuming she makes the grade, while firmly keeping our fingers crossed that she can go to one of the more convenient ones!
      (It’s nice to hear that someone is in favour of grammar schools – so many people are against them!)

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  6. Oh my goodness, that has come round quickly. I couldn’t cope with having three children at three different schools which makes me very glad that my kids are all in a good school system here, especially now I am back at work, I couldn’t do it. I am sure that whichever school you choose will be the best one for your daughter, you knew that your son’s school would be right for him and that has worked out, so I think you have a good instinct for these things.

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