How to get that school place you long for

Posted Friday 22nd March 2013   By Ericka Waller

So school places (in decent schools) are like gold dust. I know all about this. My village goes mad each time admissions forms need to be sent in.

There are two desirable schools in our village. A Catholic school and a C of E school.  Around this time of year, the parent-inhabitants of Rottingdean (and other surrounding areas) start to get very religious. They begin to appear at Church on Sundays. They lurk at the back (hoping Father Martin will sing one they know), wearing a gold cross dug out from a long-forgotten jewellery box.

Under packets of crisps (to keep the children quiet) and a Kindle (for the boring bits) the school form claiming they have been attending the church at least once a month for 18 months prior to applying for a place burns a hole in their handbags.

As soon as it’s signed, they will never be seen again.

Two years ago, one poor mum did not manage to get her daughter into the C of E school her siblings attended, EVEN though she actually went to church (and knew all the songs) AND had her form signed. It was all anyone talked about for weeks. Although the general vibe was one of pity, more than one person whispered “She does live in Saltdean though, which is outside the boundary.” The woman was so broken and ashamed, she ended up moving away. Once someone applied for the school when they lived six miles away in Peacehaven. It almost turned into a witch-hunt.

They know about the boundaries because they photocopy old maps of the village from the library, then they can work out exactly how many centimetres away from the school they live. They also know exactly how many centimetres away all the other hopefuls live.  I swear I saw someone go past my house with a trundle wheel last week.

Sayings such as “As the crow flies” start getting bandied about. You’d think the criteria list had been written by Schindler himself. It’s all anyone talks about “What number are you on the list?” Some people panic and move closer to the school the year before admissions, just to move up from a ‘three’ to a ‘two’.

In a desperate, last ditch attempt, some turn to the ‘any other information’ section on the admissions form. One of my friends wrote an essay. Another mum wrote a poem. One did an oil-painting of Father Martin. Some people got their kids to draw pictures of Jesus, crying.

Of course, I am writing all this smugly because I got Thing-One in no problem. I have to apply for Thing-two next year. It may all change then….But then I DO live in within the boundary, and I am at the top of the criteria list. The girl’s Christening was quite timely too, and I’ve heard Father Martin is partial to the odd tipple.

Did your child get into your first choice of school?

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