12 things that parents applying for school places secretly think and do

Making sure your child gets into a good school that isn’t on the other side of town can be an all-consuming mission. Katy Salter shares your pain, and reveals the things we’ve all been thinking…

The autumn term is in full swing. New shoes are already scuffed, bits of PE kit have gone AWOL, and parents everywhere are emptying out soggy crusts and half-eaten yogurts from their kids’ lunchboxes.

But, no sooner has one batch of nervous parents put their first-day pics on Facebook and settled their 4-year olds into Reception, then it’s time for the next lot to start looking round primary schools and apply for a place for next autumn. Unless you’re lucky enough to live on the doorstep of a great school, this can be a confusing time.

The exact process of applying for a school place varies depending on where you live in the UK. The autumn term the year before your child starts school is usually the time to look around primary schools and do your research. Then you apply by nominating one or more school on the preference form. After that: cross your fingers, toes and everything else, and wait for National Offer Day on 16 April 2019.

We’re currently looking at schools for our son. Which seems crazy, as he only turned three in May. Where we live in Kent, parents can put three choices, in order of preference, on the application form. There are no official catchment areas here (though crafty estate agents might suggest otherwise), but the nearer you are to the school, the better your chance of getting in. Sounds simple, right?

Not if, like us, you’re sort-of-near to lots of decent schools, but not close enough to guarantee getting any of your three picks. Meaning that waiting for that email to come through on National Offer Day is going to be nerve-wracking. Whatever your situation, if you’re applying for primary school places this year, then – be honest – you’ve thought, said or done at least a few of the following…

1. You can’t quite understand how your baby morphed into an opinionated 3 or 4 year old. Weren’t they burbling in front of Night Garden and wearing nappies, like yesterday? How can they be nearly school age already?

2. You alternate between wanting your baby to stay at home forever, and getting excited about them going out into the world and starting to learn. Right now, school sounds exciting. School plays! World Book Day! Class trips! Sure, those things will probably drive you up the wall in time, but for now they sound…fun.

3. You’re going to miss them desperately…but you’re secretly looking forward to all that free childcare. Hello disposable income, my old friend.

4. Wondering if they’ll get into the same place as at least some of their pre-school buddies. Except maybe the one who’s a ‘bit hitty’. It’s definitely okay if they don’t go to the same school as that one.

5. You secretly hate the family who’ve done a ‘tactical rent’ and moved next door to the school you’ve got your heart set on. But you also have to admire their front, and you secretly wish you’d thought of it first.

6. You have a serious conversation with your other half about moving house. There’s still time, right? Right?

7. You spend hours on the Right Move school finder, Google Maps and any other online tool that can help you work out how far your house is from your favourite school ‘as the crow flies’.

8. Speaking of ‘as the crow flies’, it’s just one of many strange phrases that are flying out of your mouth right now. See also: ‘pastoral care’ ‘growth mind-set’ ‘Key Stage’ and ‘OFSTED’.

9. You’re in danger of becoming a school-place bore. You can see your non-parent friends’ eyes glaze over as wine night is taken over with catchment-area chat. And even though you can hear yourself doing it, you can’t stop. When did you become this person?!

10. You strike up conversation with another parent on a school tour, and oh-so casually ask them where they live. Oh bugger, it’s nearer than you. One place down, 59 to go.

11. You spend your evenings binge-reading OFSTED reports instead of scrolling through Instagram. Seriously, what is happening to you?!

12. You can’t quite believe that you’re a proper grown-up with a nearly school-age child. How did this happen? Even though your pre-schooler drives you up the wall sometimes, you vow to make the most of the time before they start school. After all, it seems like about 7 minutes ago you were strapping them into their newborn car seat and carrying them home from the hospital. You give them a big cuddle, and vow to make the most of every minute between now and the first day of school. Until the next time you find them drawing on your bedroom wall with lipstick, that is.