Anxious Wait On School Places Finally Over

17th April 2023

The long wait for anxious parents facing the first significant milestone of their child’s education is finally over.

Today is the day parents of three and four-year-olds found out which primary school had offered their child a Reception place, starting in September. Parents who have children in infant schools that end at Year 2 will also have been eagerly waiting to hear about their junior school of choice and a place for their child starting Year 3.

And while the vast majority of families will have got their preferred primary school place – the figure was 92% in 2022, according to Government statistics – some won’t.

So, faced with that undoubtedly disappointing scenario, what should you do?

According to Sophie Baber, Head of Pre-prep at Highfield and Brookham Schools in Liphook, there are four options available to parents: accept the alternative offer of a school that has enough space, put their child on the waiting list of their preferred schools, appeal the decision, or consider an independent school.

“Once you have processed the offer and collected your thoughts, it’s time to accept the school place you have been offered,” said Mrs Baber, who has been in her role at the highly-respected independent school on the border of Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex for seven years.

“While this may seem counter-intuitive, it’s important that your child has a school to go to in September. If you don’t the chances are that you could lose your place and be offered an even less desirable option.”

Mrs Baber stressed that such a move would not affect any right of appeal to the local authority’s initial decision.

“Once you have accepted the place on offer, I would advise phoning your preferred school and asking for your child to be added to their waiting list,” continued Mrs Baber, who said that places come up all the time and added that it was not uncommon to be offered a place on the first day of the new term.

In terms of appealing, Mrs Baber said to be successful parents must have a solid case.

“Your reason could relate to a mistake in the admissions arrangements or the suitability of a school to meet your child’s needs, but it’s also worth remembering that each local authority will have a slightly different admissions process so it’s imperative you check the details on their website.”

However, the respected pre-prep head, who has just welcomed a bright, new extension to the already strong nursery provision at Highfield and Brookham, cautioned that appealing was “extremely stressful” and that the chances of success were “limited”.

Private education could prove to be a very useful option for some families in order to help parents avoid such an emotional minefield. 

“There are some truly outstanding independent schools around,” said Mrs Baber.

“With nurturing, smaller class sizes and an enviable breadth of curriculum delivered by specialist teachers, this is a brilliant back-up plan. If you are in the fortunate position of being able to afford this option, you will find that many independent schools will be open for admissions all year round. If financially this seems impossible, it’s worth picking up the phone and asking about the funded bursaries on offer.”

To discuss Reception and Year 3 places at Highfield and Brookham Schools, email Charlotte Cottrell at or call 01428 722005.