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Is it okay to only list your 1st preference in the secondary school application form?

(111 Posts)
spanna786 Sun 23-Oct-16 13:58:29

Hello! It would be great to hear your views on this- I've been totally bewildered by the whole process with all the conflicting information out there. The deadline for submitting the secondary school application is drawing ever closer - and I'm still unsure of what I should be doing.

The headmaster at the my 1st choice school for my 10 year old advised me to only put their school down on the application form. He said that if I put down other options (and the form states putting down 6 choices in all) that I might get the 6th choice, in which case appealing that decision becomes much more difficult as I've would have effectively been given on of my choices.

The school is actually close to me - we just fall into their catchment area, but not other criteria apply to my child (e.g. SEN, or the sibling rule).

Should I do as suggested as only put down the one school? The application form, the council and all the guidance I've read so far suggest putting down 6 choices in order of preference otherwise you might get allocate a really rubbish school that is miles away.

Parents I've spoken to suggest being strategic about what you 2nd-6th choices are - but again that seems a little risky as you might get one of those choices.

Would be grateful if anyone had any advice on this?


Sofabitch Sun 23-Oct-16 14:00:41

If you fail your appeal you could be left with a terrible school miles away. I would not risk it.

megletthesecond Sun 23-Oct-16 14:04:40


Use all your choices. The last one should be a school you're not necessarily keen on but is almost a dead cert catchment and better than a crap school 10 miles away.

OlennasWimple Sun 23-Oct-16 14:04:45

Noooo! That's not how it works!

There was a great thread on here recently about admissions myths and processes - mostly focused on primary schools, as that's usually the first time that parents have had to negotiate the system, but the principles still apply for secondary.

Basically, you don't have to be given any of your choices (they are preferences more than absolute choices); you will get the first school on the list where your child meets the admission criteria before the cohort for that year is full; and appeals are limited essentially to a mistake by the admission authority, not because you don't like the outcome.

Please ignore the head, and read the admissions information for your area very carefully indeed

BabyGanoush Sun 23-Oct-16 14:05:08

You have been badly advised.

I know someone who did this, she put an out of catchment school at number 1, and nothing at 2-5

No. She did not get the out of catchment school, and as she had not put the "good "catchment school on the list she didnot get that either. She ended up with a poor catchment school.

People treat this process like done psychological chess game, thinking: "if I only put 1 school down, they'll have to give me that one'". Well no.

You'll get given a school, but you'll most likely get the least popular one.

PolterGoose Sun 23-Oct-16 14:05:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Emochild Sun 23-Oct-16 14:07:31

It's a bloody stupid idea and you've been very badly advised

Use all of your preferences

TheWoollybacksWife Sun 23-Oct-16 14:11:41

If you only put one choice down and you don't get in then the LA will allocate you the nearest school that has places. This may be one that you would never have considered and is likely to some distance from where you live. This assumes that you live somewhere that still has schools with places when the allocations are made.

Use all your choices. Put your preferred school first and then rank the others into the next school you are happy to take and so on until you fill in the form.

If you meet the admissions criteria in more than one school you will be allocated a place at the one you placed highest on your form. This may be your first choice or it may be your sixth. The important thing is that it is a school you have chosen, rather than one that has been forced on you.

daisiesinherfootsteps Sun 23-Oct-16 14:12:07

No! And appalling that a HT is saying that to parents.

Read the old threads here.

In short you would be mad not to just list all your choices in genuine preference order and always have a banker - a school you are very likely to get into (usually the closest). Even if you don't like it, better to be at a bad school that's easy to get to than the bad one miles and miles from home that you may get if you fail to get any of your prefs.

Whether you list this secondary school, first or last it will not affect your position on it's list based on admission criteria. The only thing that would stop you getting it would be if you got a place at a school you listed as a higher pref.

alltouchedout Sun 23-Oct-16 14:15:19

That is a terrible idea. If you don't get a place at your preferred school and haven't identified second, third etc choices, your dc will be allocated any old place and it may well be in a school they'd hate in an area that's really tricky to get to and from. We've filled ds1's form up to avoid the chance of that happening.

BackforGood Sun 23-Oct-16 14:16:09

No - that advice is appalling. Shocking that a HT is saying that shock

You MUST put down all the schools you "wouldn't mind them going to" after you've listed the ones you want.
That MUST include one that you know you would get in to, otherwise, if you don't get your first choice, you will be allocated a school that no-one else wants to go to AND is miles and miles away from you.

SingaSong12 Sun 23-Oct-16 14:26:09

Read the admission booklet for your local authority. If you are in England use all your choices or you risk getting allocated a school you reall stop want. Look carefully at the admission criteria and how places were allocated last year but remember it might be different this year. The areas that I know:
1. You submit your form
2. The LA tells all the admission authorities (could be LA or the school itself). The school doesn't know what other schools you listed.
3. School/LA look at all the applications and work out who could be offered a place and tell the LA
4. If only one on your list can offer a place you get offered that one. If two schools or more could offer a place you are offered the one you ranked higher
5. If no school you apply for can offer a place allocation to schools that have places available. So if you only put down one and don't get a place your child gets offered what is left over.
6. Remember to accept the offer in the way specified by the date or it will be offered to someone else (eg people might decide that they'd now prefer to go private or home school then take the school offered

Eg see page 9 of Bradford's booklet but they are different in different places, in particular in places with grammar schools.

JoJoSM2 Sun 23-Oct-16 14:38:39

Like everyone says - if you don't get that school, the LA will offer you a school that they think suitable which could be a school you don't like + is far away. To hedge your bets, you need to put down whichever other schools you'd be happy with further down the list.

PotteringAlong Sun 23-Oct-16 14:45:42

No no no no no! Don't do that!

spanna786 Sun 23-Oct-16 14:49:57

Wow! I'm so glad a I posted this and thanks so much for responding promptly!

I am really disappointed that the HT suggested only putting my first choice down on the application now (It sounded like a good idea at the time he said it). The deputy is an Ofsted inspector, so I totally believed both of them! Silly me sad

I'm now going to compile a list of 6 schools.

The one that is closest to me is actually a really great school by reputation and results. However when I visited there I really didn't get a great feeling about it. Sort of like buying a house, you visit lots of houses, and they have great facilities and tick all the boxes but they just don't feel quite right. Then you visit the the house you eventually buy - and you know after a few minutes of walking through the door that this is the right home for you.

That school is much more oversubscribed than my first choice school is. If I put that down as my 2nd choice, will that be okay? Or is that like a wasted choice?


redskytonight Sun 23-Oct-16 14:53:04

I've only put down one choice.
but's that because DD is guaranteed to get in *

In your case it doesn't sounds like a good idea

* barring an extremely unlikely combination of events which are realistically will only occur as a theoretical exercise.

PotteringAlong Sun 23-Oct-16 14:53:58

That's fine. Put down 6 choices in the honest order you want them.

JosephineMaynard Sun 23-Oct-16 14:55:55

Aside from the risk that your DC will be allocated a place at a truly terrible school miles and miles from home....

I'm pretty sure that being allocated a 2nd choice school rather than whatever the LA have left over won't affect appeals for the 1st choice school one bit.

As I understand it, you're appealing for a place at the desired school, rather than against a place at a school you don't want.

Paperplanesover Sun 23-Oct-16 14:58:34

My mate has just done this with a very popular school miles out of her catchment.

She's going to be gutted come march.

spanna786 Sun 23-Oct-16 15:09:52

JosephineMaynard said "As I understand it, you're appealing for a place at the desired school, rather than against a place at a school you don't want."

I didn't realise that - I got the impression that appeals for not being given your 1st preference were unlikely to be successful if you got 1 of your 6 choices.

This isn't the only reason but is wanting your child to go to a single-sex school a good enough reason to appeal - if you don't get your first choice?

Thanks for your help!

mummytime Sun 23-Oct-16 17:09:35

Heads and other senior teachers sometimes have no idea how admissions work. I have struggled in the past not to contradict what they have told parents.

In your case: you like school A, school B is your catchment one but you're not so keen, however if there is school C which you don't like as much as A but prefer to B even though you don't live as close; then put the order ACB. If you qualify for B as long as it's on your list you will be offered it if it's the highest choice you do qualify for, even in sixth place.
To judge how good a choice you have with B you need to read the admissions criteria and judge where you come. Eg. For my DCs school I qualified under criteria 3 (siblings) for the younger two, so it was a risk for the older one but then a dead cert (they could have 50% siblings).

Ofsted have nothing to do with admissions either.

tiggytape Sun 23-Oct-16 17:12:25

The short answer is that the Head Master in question is either an idiot or has purposefully given you misleading advice that could leave you with a school in special measures 7 miles away.

The long answer is:

* He said that if I put down other options (and the form states putting down 6 choices in all) that I might get the 6th choice*
Yes that is true, If you don't meet the criteria for school number 1,2,3,4 or 5 but yo do meet the criteria for school number 6 then you will get school number 6.
However, if you only list school number 1 and don't meet the criteria (eg live too far away for this year's intake) then you won't get school number 1. You will get a council allocated school (one that has spare spaces and is less popular - often because it is a poor school or the journey is complicated).
Listing just one school will not give you any priority for a place.

in which case appealing that decision becomes much more difficult as I've would have effectively been given on of my choices.
Appealing is not difficult if you get your 6th preference school. The council knows that everyone applying wants their first choice school the most and might or might not be happy with numbers 2,3,4 or even 5. They know most people definitely do not want school number 6 else it wouldn't be bottom of their list. School number 6 is your "least worst" one. Any appeal panel will base an appeal on why your child's best interests are met by being allowed to attend your appeal school. They know perfectly well that a system of choosing 6 schools forces parents to list ones they don't want just in case and this isn't held against them. If anything, they are more likely to question you if you didn't list 6 schools as it looks like you're trying to hold the council to ransom to get your own way and that you haven't been logical in thinking through what's best overall and the relative merits of other schools

The school is actually close to me - we just fall into their catchment area, but not other criteria apply to my child (e.g. SEN, or the sibling rule).
That's good. If distance is a top criteria for admissions then you stand a good chance of getting a place. Whether you list another 5 schools or not won't make any difference to your chances of getting in though.
The things that affect your chances (based on what you've mentioned as the criteria) are: how many children in care or adopted from care apply, how many siblings apply, how many children with additional needs who prove they need a place apply and how many people who live slightly closer than you do apply. In other words, all that matters is how many people who want a place beat you on the criteria.

Should I do as suggested as only put down the one school?
No definitely not. Not unless this is the only school you would ever accept and you have a firm private school place arranged or are able to home school if you don't get it. If you need a state school in September, list 6 in your true order of preference, see which you get offered (qualify for) and then go on the waiting lists or appeal if you are unhappy.

Parents I've spoken to suggest being strategic about what you 2nd-6th choices are - but again that seems a little risky as you might get one of those choices.
Yes you might. If you don't meet the criteria for school number 1 they won't offer you a place there whether you list it as your only choice or not. And therefore you stand a good chance of getting one of the others instead. This is a good thing. If you can't have school number 1, do you really want whatever school has a spare place after everyone else has been allocated choices at the better or most local schools?

FruitCider Sun 23-Oct-16 17:13:40

My friend tried this. She assumed her 6th child would get in to the school as all her over children went there. She was wrong, ended up with an offer 16 miles away at a failing school.

In short - you need to put down 6 choices.

tiggytape Sun 23-Oct-16 17:17:48

Sorry that was very long. In short:
There is nothing - absolutely nothing - strategic that any parent can do regarding the preference system to get their child into a school that they do not qualify for.
You can write the same school down 6 times
You can list only one school
But, if you don't live close enough this year to qualify, you absolutely won't get in.

TheSecondOfHerName Sun 23-Oct-16 17:18:41

The head teacher is either lying to you, or woefully ignorant about how the allocation process works.

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