Mar 08 - Admissions Day

Nail-biting wait for anxious parents on ‘Admissions Day’- March 3rd


They’ve taken their first steps, you’ve ‘wept your way’ through their school nativity and mopped their feverish brows as they’ve battled their way through endless bouts of tummy bugs, sore throats and the dreaded chicken-pox!

But new research released today1 reveals that March 3rd is one of the most stressful days in the ‘calendar’ of being a modern parent. March 3rd or ‘Admissions Day’ is the day that mums, dads and of course children are told whether they have been offered a place at the secondary school of their choice.

Overall, more than one-fifth of parents (22%) said they felt the schools admission process was unfair. And, as the new survey highlights, many of these anxious parents will have resorted to a range of ‘tricks’ and loopholes in a bid to guarantee a place for their “eleven-plus” year olds in their preferred local school.

One fifth of parents (20%) questioned said they would be prepared to give a false address on application forms to suggest that the family lives closer to a popular school than their current home address. For those who preferred a more honest – but equally drastic – approach, 40% said they would be prepared to uproot and move house to help ensure a place for their offspring.

But for those parents where catchment area was not the main entry criteria – 42% of parents said they would invest in private tuition to help give their child the best chance of passing the standard entry exam (e.g. the 11+) or a schools individual entrance exam (as in the case with many Grammar schools or over-subscribed schools that pride themselves on their academic standards).

Perhaps not surprisingly, this was highest among parents from the AB bracket (traditionally the most affluent social class in the UK) where 54% of parents said they would pay for extra tuition.

However, it seems that the pressure is felt most in the South East (where Grammar Schools are still popular and ‘nice’ catchment areas highly sought after) where more than half of parents (54%) said they would pay for tuition.

49% of parents from the South East said they found the admissions process stressful – compared to the national average of 38% and just 25% of parents from the South West and Wales.

And, when it comes to finding the perfect secondary school for your child, parents don’t seem to be too worried about their carbon footprint with a third (33%) prepared to drive a 20-mile round trip, twice a day rather than opting for a school based purely on its proximity to home.

Mr Paul Spencer Ellis, Surrey Headmaster and Chairman of the State Boarding Association, comments: “I can fully appreciate the stress and anxiety that many parents feel at this time of the year – after all, we all want the best for our children and finding the right school is a huge and important decision.

“However, I do urge parents not to panic. And above all, not to make your child feel that it is any way their fault. It is a fact of life that many schools, especially in the UK, are over-subscribed and there are several options open to you to ensure that your child is still able to enjoy a positive and high standard of education.”

To help South East parents who might feel disappointed as the admissions letter drops on their doormat on Monday, Mr Spencer Ellis, Headmaster at the Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Reigate has produced a user-friendly guide to steer people through the often confusing decision-making process.

The downloadable guide – which is available free from includes advice such as:

 Where to go for more information
 The appeals process
 Your choices and your rights
 The alternatives: e.g. independent, state boarding

The Royal Alexandra and Albert School is one of just 35 State Boarding Schools in the UK – offering places for both day boarders (where the school day runs from breakfast to tea) and full boarders. Fees are highly competitive as parents pay only for the boarding and ‘wrap around’ care that day boarding provides. This type of ‘affordable boarding’ is therefore becoming increasingly popular with local working parents, keen for their children to enjoy a range of sporting and extra-curricular activities as part of the school day.

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