Parents are 'spreading their bets' and applying for up to nine schools
By Leah White
15 Mar

Applying for senior schools is an understandably testing time for parents and children, with the applications, interviews and entrance exams resulting in a stressful period of family life. With such fierce competition to secure the limited places at these schools against other extremely prepared pupils, it's little surprise that parents are trying to secure their child a spot at any price necessary. A recent article from TES reports that some families have been applying to as many as nine schools, ‘paying often non-refundable deposits of up to £1,600 for each place their child may never take up’, and sitting numerous entrance exams.

This practice has been frustrating other parents who don’t have the means to apply to so many schools, and has led to ‘playground arguments between some competing adults’. There have been accusations of parents ‘holding on to offers that they have no intention of accepting, thereby preventing others from taking up a waiting place’ according to David Goodhew, headteacher at Latymer Upper School.

This practice of applying to so many schools is also causing disruption to schools, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to organise offers. Goodhew states that they could easily have a year where many offers are accepted and they end up with a bulge of pupils, or a year where many are rejected, resulting in a financially tight year with too few pupils paying fees.

Whilst the practice of applying to a number of schools is not anything new, it does appear to have become ‘more acute this year’, and may be down to the narrowing of catchment areas for schools. Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council states that the problem can be tackled by ensuring that ‘prep school heads … have a good and trusting relationship with both pupils’ parents and senior schools’ to help decide which school would be best for the pupil. Some schools have taken more drastic action, and ‘have begun including terms and conditions to the effect that parents who pay a deposit when accepting a place become liable to also pay the first term fees’, even if they decided not to take the place.

According to the article, it appears the issue now spreading to prep schools, with Latymer Upper School having approximately 10 applications for each place at 11+. If schools want to maintain a level playing field, it seems pivotal that they unify and find a way to ensure that all applicants have an equal shot at applying for the schools of their choice.
You can read the article from TES here (please sign in for the full article) -

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