What to do if your child doesn’t get accepted into their preferred school
So, you’ve prepared your child, worked with them, got them help, and supported them through their 7 plus (7+) or 11 plus (11+) exams; they’ve been coached, prepped for, and have sat the interviews; you are reasonably hopeful about the outcomes. When the time comes, and the letters are received from the various schools, you open them with your child, but alas – they haven’t got into their preferred school. What do you do?
1.) Firstly, remind your child of their intrinsic worth – that it is more than the grades they have received. Whilst the exams are important, help them to know that this “failure-event”, doesn’t make them a “failed-person”, not by any means. Recognise that in the years to come, long after this stage of their lives has passed, they will have bigger hopes and dreams and aspirations. Therefore, help them to see this occasion as simply a stepping stone in their life’s journey, rather than an obstacle to stop them in their tracks. Do ensure you build up and reinforce their confidence in themselves with encouraging and positive words.
2.) Be aware of what options you have with the school in question. For example, if it was an 11+ exam for a grammar school, and your child was only a few marks short of a pass, you could appeal. As part of the appeals process you could ask your child’s current school to write a letter of recommendation for them, talking about their suitability, achievements, potential, etc. If it’s a state secondary school, you can check with your child’s primary school for appeal options, or make enquiries via the borough that the school is in. You could also investigate the possibility of being put on a waiting list.
3.) Remind your child that the school places are allocated using various means, including distance, catchment, religious commitment (for faith schools), sibling priority and more, not just the exam results. Therefore, a child could have had a good test day, but if other children who did just as well, live closer, and have an older sibling already in the school, those children could be allocated places instead.
4.) You can request for your child to be put on the waiting list for their preferred school. Alternatively, or additionally, you may choose to add other schools to the list of preferred ones, thereby increasing your child’s chances of going to one of their desired schools.
5.) Don’t panic! There are lots of available paths for your young one’s progress. Don’t allow their not-being-accepted to be a reason to negatively judge your parenting or guidance of the child. Also, resist the urge to compare them to their friends or even their siblings. Remember that each child is unique, and they have a great chance of success with the right kind of thinking and support, irrespective of academic achievement.
It is useful to remember that whilst the choice of school is important, it is not the sole determinant of success of a child academically, and later on in life. It is important that the child be helped to see things from a different perspective – one where they don’t compare themselves to their peers, and one where they learn to make the most of every situation. Parents/guardians and children, should appreciate the intrinsic value and worth of the child, outside of test scores and school places. The child should be encouraged to use the resources at their disposal, and apply themselves fully, so that they can excel – whatever school they attend, and whatever occupation they take up in life.