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Secondary Schools – Top Tips for Parents when Applying


Secondary Schools Top Tips for Parents when Applying - image 2Moving from primary to secondary school is a key time that shapes your child's education and future options. For parents, applying to secondary schools is exciting but also stressful. There are many schools, different application rules, and higher academic demands. How do you ensure your child gets into a school you both like?

This detailed guide is designed to help parents. It covers important steps and useful tips to make applying to secondary schools easier and more successful. It includes understanding admission rules, putting together a strong application, and dealing with the tough process of school appeals. This guide will give you the tools you need to support your child's education.

Understanding school admissions

Starting with knowledge is key. Get to know the admission rules of your local area and the specific secondary schools you're interested in. Here are a few things to review.

Research schools in your area

Start by exploring schools in your area well in advance of the application deadlines. Check their Ofsted ratings, exam results, extracurricular activities, and any special programs they offer. It’s also a good idea to attend open days or reach out to the schools directly. This will give you a better sense of their values and teaching methods.

Using a school search tool can also be very helpful to find schools by location. This makes it easier to compare and decide which schools might be the best fit for your child based on your specific preferences and their needs.

Researching entry requirements

Begin by finding out what each school requires for admission. Do they need certain grades or behaviour standards? Knowing these requirements will help you better prepare your child.

Deadlines and important dates

Every school and local authority has its own application deadlines. If you miss these, your child could be left out of the selection process. Every school and local authority has its own application deadlines. If you miss these, your child could be left out of the selection process. Make a calendar to track all important dates, such as school open days and when to apply.

Important Admission Dates to Remember:

These dates are approximate, so you must confirm with each school you apply to. Here’s a general timeline to help you plan:Secondary Schools Top Tips for Parents when Applying - image 3

Open Days: September/October  

This is when you can visit schools to get a feel for the environment and meet the staff.

Application Deadline: October/November  

Some places encourage submitting applications earlier than the deadline, so it's good to check each school's preference.

Assessments/Entrance Exams: October/November  

These are usually scheduled around the same time as the application deadlines.

Offers for Places Made: February/March  

This is when schools send out their acceptance letters.

Offers from Waiting Lists: March-August  

If your child is on a waiting list, offers can be made anytime during these months.

Appeals Heard: May/June  

If you need to appeal a school's decision, this is generally when hearings are held.

Always double-check these dates with the schools to ensure you're on track with their specific timelines.

Admission criteria according to school type

Different schools have different priorities for admitting students. For example, grammar schools might focus on high entrance exam scores, while comprehensive schools might consider various factors. Knowing this helps you focus your efforts where they matter most. Review these criteria thoroughly to match your application to the school’s expectations.

Catchment areas

Many schools prioritise children living nearby, in a catchment area. Living inside this area might increase your chances of getting a place at the school. Check if there are any geographical limits for your preferred schools.

Making a strong application

Creating a strong application is vital as it's the first impression the school will have of your child. Here's how to make sure your application stands out:

Highlighting strengths

In the application, emphasise your child's strengths and achievements. This includes their academic successes, extracurricular activities, and community involvement. Consider including a well-crafted personal statement or additional documents that highlight their abilities.

Addressing any areas of concern

If there are aspects of your child's past that might concern the school, such as absenteeism due to illness or a challenging period at primary school, openly address these. Explain how your child has overcome these issues and is prepared to succeed in a new setting.

Securing strong references

References from primary school teachers who can vouch for your child's character and potential are invaluable. These references should highlight your child’s readiness and suitability for secondary school.

Completing the application form

Take the time to complete the application form thoroughly. Ensure no sections are left blank and all the information provided is correct. Pay special attention to any required essays or statements, ensuring they truly represent your child’s personality and goals.

If your child is not offered a place

It can be tough to hear that your child has not been offered a place at your preferred school, but there are steps you can take:

Understanding the decision

Ask the school for feedback on why your child wasn’t accepted. This can help you see where the application might have been lacking and what you can improve for future applications or an appeal.

Initiating an appeal

If you think a mistake was made or that the decision was unfair, you have the right to appeal. Make sure you understand the appeal process for the school and prepare to present your case clearly.

Putting together a strong appeal case

For your appeal, clearly explain why your child would be a good fit for the school. You might need to provide new evidence or documents that weren’t in the original application. Consider getting help from legal experts or advocates.

Exploring other options

If your appeal doesn’t work out, or if you can’t get a spot at your preferred school, look into other schools. Consider ones that have waiting lists or those that would still meet your child's needs well.


Applying for secondary school is a major event for both you and your child. By knowing the rules, preparing a solid application, and understanding what to do if things don’t work out as hoped, you’ll be well-equipped to support your child during this important transition.

Remember to approach the process one step at a time, and don’t hesitate to ask for help from teachers, local authorities, educational consultants, or other parents who have been through it before. With your commitment and these tips, you're setting your child up for a successful and fulfilling experience in secondary school.

Author: MyEdSpace
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