So You Didn’t Get Your First Choice School Place

"School Written In Kids Letters" by Stuart Miles

169 families applying for primary school places in September 2014 did not get any of their choices for their school place in Brighton & Hove.  17.5% of parents didn’t get their first choice. This morning some parents are no doubt reeling from the hand they’ve been dealt. So what do you do next?

"School Written In Kids Letters" by Stuart Miles
“School Written In Kids Letters” by Stuart Miles

I spoke to Sophie, local mum and artist, who last year, was one of the parents whose world was sent into bedlam because they didn’t get any of their school choices. Despite living near several primary schools, they were typically stuck in a void for places, where other families simply lived nearer than they did. So they were offered the 13th nearest school to their home, as there simply were the spaces in any of the schools nearby and they fell way down the pecking order for all of them.

“The council are well aware of the birth trends in the city, so have 5 years to figure out how to ensure there are school places for them,” Sophie tells me.

It’s important to mention, school places have increased in Brighton & Hove this year but so have the number of applications. Which essentially means the council are struggling to keep up with the growing population. And although monitoring nursery places and birth rates could help, it would not always account for people moving into the area.

Although there are variables associated with birth data, there is surely a way of tracking children through nursery and forecasting school applications. Compared to the national average, on paper, most of our city’s primary schools are a good standard and could provide a great education for our kids. But with many families moving house to be near to a school to guarantee a place, it can only make it more difficult for council officers to manage this.  Surely this should be nipped in the bud before property and rentals near school become only affordable to an elite few?

Sophie’s top tips for parents dealing with school place woes are as follows:

  1. Don’t panic. Remember your child can stay at their nursery until the term of their 5th birthday. This is not widely advertised but it’s true. This would also give you time to see where you are on waiting lists for your preferred choices. There is always the possibility you’ll move up to the list, as some families’ circumstances change allowing others a place.
  2. Remember it’s simply where you live at the time that is the reason you haven’t got in. You can always move/rent elsewhere to get up the waiting list. Although not at all ideal, it presents a dilemma as everyone is at it!
  3. Appeals rarely work unless you have a very serious medical issue. She does have an underlying medical problem and it didn’t make a jot of difference. Sophie said she would not put herself and the family through the appeals process again, it was awful.
  4. Phone schools admissions every week to see where you are on the waiting list. Be a bother, it gives you a purpose!

There’s also the option to home school. Brighton is lucky to have a network of well organised home schoolers providing the social environment they would typically enjoy at school. Of course this can only work if one or both parents can devote the time to it. With many couples on the city needing to work to bring in a dual income, home education is not always a viable option.

Whatever situation you find yourselves in today, take a deep breath and remember there may still be avenues and options. Reach out to your network, write your ideas down and figure out a plan of action. After all, it’s what parents do best!


Image “School Written In Kids Letters” courtesy of Stuart Miles /

About Claire Jones-Hughes

Founder and co-editor of, Claire has been blogging since 2009. She has posted on a variety of sites including The Argus, The Huffington Post and The Guardian's Comment Is Free. Known as The Contented Mummy on social media, she is dedicated to honest, unsponsored blogging so that parents can benefit from shared experience. Can also be found at - sharing her journey to health & wellness.

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