As secondary school places are offered across the country, a record number of children won't be accepted into their preferred school of choice, figures suggest.
Up to 115,000 youngsters across England are expected to not be offered their first choice and a record number won't be offered a place at any of the schools on their preferred list, according to the Good Schools Guide - but parents, don't panic.
There are several things you can do to mitigate your disappointment if you didn't get the news you wanted, and the Good Schools Guide say keep a clear head and follow their advice:
- Don't let your child see your stress
This could be the most important piece of advice you'll receive around secondary school places and not following it could have ramifications for years to come.
Of course you only want the very best for your child, which is why you're stressed, but don't let them know you are. If you worry, so will your child.
Settling into a new school can be difficult for any child and you could make your job a lot harder if you allow your son or daughter to share in your disappointment.
Just remember, try not to talk the school down in front of your child and instead encourage them to be excited about it.
- Research the school you've been offered, you may be surprised
Schools are rated through Ofsted reports, which are not necessarily the best indicator of the best place to send your child.
Reports can range from being a couple of years out of date to over a decade out of date, depending on their last rating.
For example, any school that was rated Outstanding from 2011 became exempt from inspections unless a concern was raised to Ofsted.
That means any school with the higher rating where no issues have been flagged won't have been inspected for eight years and a lot can change in eight years.
Also, Ofsted inspectors may only spend two days in a school and sometimes only one. Clearly it's very difficult to properly inspect a school in a couple of days.
If the school you've been offered isn't your preferred choice, the Good Schools Guide say you should try checking out last year’s public exam results.
You could even speak to parents at the school gate - you may be surprised.
- Accept the offer and get on a waiting list
If, after doing some further research, you're still dissatisfied with the offer you've received, options are still available.
It may go against instinct, but your best move is to accept the school you've been offered, because if you don't, you could run the risk of your child having no where to go in September.
Once you've accepted the offer, you can try to get onto waiting lists for the other schools on your list - you could even get in the queue at schools not previously on your radar.
There is a lot of time between now and September and circumstances can easily change which may result in spaces being freed up at your school of choice.
- Lodge an appeal
You have a legal right to appeal to any school on your original application.
This may come as a relief to any disappointed parents but unfortunately it's not guaranteed your appeal will succeed - it's not even guaranteed you have ground to make an appeal.
Grounds for an appeal stand in two circumstances:
If the school's admissions procedures have been applied incorrectly, (a very rare occurrence) or if harm caused to your child will be greater than the effect caused to others due to over crowding.
You're legally entitled to make an appeal to all of the schools on your preference list and it won't harm to appeal to all of them.
If you think you've grounds to appeal you should start right away because the process can take months.
The offer paperwork you've received will have details around how to lodge your appeal but help is also available from the Good Schools Guide, should you need it.
You can contact their educational consultancy service on +44 203 286 6824 or email email@example.com.
- Any school is better than no school
Just remember that local authorities are not obliged to give you another school place if you reject what they offer you.
If you reject your offer, lose your appeals and your waiting list hopes are diminished, you're child could end up school-less.