Moving on to secondary school is a big step for all children and their parents. Even if you already have older children, the transition can be stressful, as every child's needs are different, and the rules about allocation may have changed.
You might know exactly which secondary school your child will be allocated. But many parents will be waiting anxiously by the door for the post, or logging-on to find out the news in their dressing gowns.
Hopefully, your child will be allocated the school they want - and all that's left for you to do is celebrate, accept the place and buy the uniform.
The majority of children are allocated the school of their choice. But, each year up to 100,000 children are not given their first choice of school. That's approximately 1:5 of all applications.
How should you react, what's the best plan of action, and how do you keep your child positive about their new school if it's not your first choice?
• Talk about it. You may already have been preparing your child, but it's a good idea to have a chat about it a week before you find out. It's a long time since you applied in the autumn. On the other hand, their friends could be talking about it and your child could be anxious. Some children do find it hard to say they are worried - they don't want to add to your worries - so give them the chance to talk if they want to.
• Try not to be negative about the school you don't want! Your child may well end up there, so don't talk it down, regardless of how you feel. Try to find something positive to say about it.
• Anticipate that your child may behave differently as the day approaches. Moodiness, irritability, tummy aches and problems with sleep are all possible. They will also pick-up on your mood- so try to keep calm.
• When the day arrives, you will find out either online, or by post, depending on which way you filled in your application. Your child's primary school usually knows the day before you are notified, but it is not their usual policy to tell parents.
• It may be that the letter doesn't come before your child leaves for school, or you may have problems logging on to the website if you opted to apply that way. Your child's school will not tell them the news.
When you know which school, what next?
One of the chief dilemmas is - do you appeal or do you accept the offer? The answer will often depend on how many schools you have to choose from – in London it can be up to six, but some parents have only two.
• If you are not happy with the decision, you have options: accept the decision, make a last-minute application to another school such as an independent school, or appeal.
• Do consider carefully which route you want to take. If you appeal, your child will not know the outcome until early summer, which can be very stressful.
• Think about how likely it is that you will be successful if you appeal. If you live well outside the catchment area then it may not be worth putting yourselves under a lot of stress.
• What if your child has no preference for either school? If one is much better than the other, you may feel you have to pursue the appeal. However, if the choice is between schools which are, for example, the same academically, but one has better buildings or facilities, ask yourself if it is worth appealing. Your child may be happy at either, or prefer the one their friends are attending.
• Places can become available if a parent does not accept a place (some parents also apply to independent schools then withdraw from the state school), or if a family moves house.
• Appeals are a process and each stage has a deadline. Normally, you are given two weeks to accept or refuse the place, and you do this by returning the form which comes with the letter offering you the place. If you have any queries, consult one of the organisations – such as the extremely helpful ACE - which offer free advice on their telephone helplines.
• Once you have decided to appeal, follow the deadlines explained in the paperwork.
Whichever school you are allocated, your child will respond better if you are positive and enthusiastic . So now you can start tackling the uniform list!
Other sources of information include:
ACE Centre for Education: www.ace-ed.org.uk (0808 800 5793)
Children's Legal Centre: www.childrenslegalcentre.com
School Appeal: www.schoolappeals.org.uk
More on Parentdish:
Secondary school applications
How to prepare your child for secondary school