High School Drama

Back in October, which seems forever ago now, we had to choose which three high schools we wanted to put down on Ella’s application for placement this coming September.  Firstly, I still can’t quite believe that my baby, the one who made me a mother, is going to high school in less than six months time.  I think I’m in a little bit a lot of denial.  And secondly, it was a pretty eventful time for us to be making big choices like that.

There are six high schools in our town (plus a few fee-paying ones which we don’t want her to go to – I am absolutely against the ridiculous amount of pressure that gets put on pupils to achieve) and the open evenings for them all spanned the short space of a couple of weeks.  It just so happens that those couple of weeks were right in between me getting back from my solo trip to Colorado (and being seriously jet-lagged) and us preparing for our trip of a lifetime to Florida (think manically working to hit job deadlines, packing, organising homework from school to take with us, trying to keep super-excited children at least a little bit calm plus everything else that goes into the last few days before a holiday).  Throw into the mix the fact that we also had family staying from overseas, after school clubs and sporting events to attend, the husband’s irregular work shifts and the logistics of it all ended up being a bit of a nightmare.

Still, we made it to the four out of the six high schools that we were most interested in, had the tours, met the teachers, asked the questions and, the day before we flew to Florida, we put in the online application.

After a little discussion Ella and I had no trouble agreeing on which three high schools she wanted to put down on her application, though we disagreed on the order of the second and third choice.  However, I firmly believe that it needed to be her final decision and I knew that she had her reasons, which were important to her, for wanting to put them in that order.  And so I bit my lip, kept quiet and let her choose.  We knew that we had virtually no chance of getting into her first choice – we live too far from the catchment area and it’s always oversubscribed – but we thought it was worth putting down just in case as we’d both really liked the school.  She crossed her fingers for her second choice, and I crossed my fingers for her third choice (even though I knew she would almost certainly be given the second choice high school as it’s where most of the children from her current primary school end up going.)

Fast forward through our holiday, various birthdays, Christmas and the start of a new term all the way to February, and Ella started counting down the days to 1st March, the day she would find out which high school she had been offered a place at.  The day arrived, I opened the email and saw that she had been offered her third choice of school.  Inwardly I felt relieved, and let out the breath that I felt I’d been holding since October, as it was the school that I genuinely felt she would be happiest at.  But when I told her the news and watched her face fall, disappointment etched across her expression, I knew that we’d need to see what options we had.

I have to admit, being offered her third choice was a shock.  Historically, everyone from her current school ends up going to her second choice high school.  When I spoke to her teachers about it they said it was unheard of – there had been really high levels of refusals and only a few who applied for it from their school had got in.  They put it down to three large, brand new housing estates that had been built, plus an influx of army families who had been placed at the nearby base meaning that the demand for a place at the school far outweighed the spaces actually available.

We absorbed the news and tried to come up with a plan as to what to do next.  Ella wanted to be at high school with her friends, some of whom had got into the school she wanted to, plus it offered a particular subject that she really wants to study at GCSE.  On the downside, there was no library and it’s an absolutely vast high school (as in, just her year group would be the same size as the entire school that she is currently at).  Whereas the place she’d been offered, at the school I liked more, she wouldn’t know very many people and they didn’t offer the subject she wanted, though there was a lovely library, the school is about half the size of the other one and it just had a really good feeling about it.

In the end we decided that the best course of action was to make an appointment to re-visit each school, without the chaos of an open evening, to be shown around on a more personal basis and take advantage of the opportunity to ask as many questions as we wanted, all whilst seeing the school actually in action as it would be if she attended.  We figured it would enable Ella to decide once and for all whether she would be happy sticking with the high school she’d been allocated or whether she wanted to appeal and risk trying to secure a place at her second choice high school.

Satisfied with our plan, it was a surprise to receive a phone call from the admissions team the very next morning.  “There’s been a mistake,” they apologised.  It turns out that there were actually eighteen extra spaces available at the second choice high school and Ella had been allocated one, meaning that we were in the lucky position of being able to choose between two good schools for her final placement.  She did a happy dance and I quietly fretted about what to do, eventually deciding to stick with the original plan of going to re-look at both schools and then let her decide.

I’m so glad we did.  I still loved high school number three – it just had a good vibe about it – and Ella still wanted to go to high school number two.  She drew up a list of pros and cons for each high school and after sleeping on it, made the choice to accept the new offer of high school number two.

I have to admit, I’ve found it really quite tricky to let her make the final decision.  I’ve learnt to trust my instincts implicitly since I became a mother and my gut is telling me that school number two is not the right choice for her, that she would be happier at school number three.  It’s not about getting good grades or the OFSTED rating of the school at all – it’s 100% about where she’ll be happiest and able to be most herself.  But, I also know that she’s maturing, I understand the reasons behind her desire to go to high school number two, and I have to let her make choices for herself – I wouldn’t be doing my job as her mama very well if I decided everything for her.  I have to allow her to grow so that she learns how to navigate this complicated world.  And so I let go of the urge to try and convince her otherwise, let go of the control, let go of my own childhood experiences of high school as best as I could and encouraged her as much as possible to follow HER gut instinct.

She starts in less than six months, a tiny fish in a (very) big pond: making new friends; finding her way around; creating a space for herself and learning a whole heap of new stuff.  And whilst there are two whole seasons to pass before that first day comes around I know that this next stage is about preparing her – getting uniform, practising the bus route home and giving her the space to talk about her excitement, her expectations, her worries and anything else that she might be feeling.  I really want her to go into this next stage with a positive attitude and looking forward to the next five years of her life rather than dreading it.  It’s a big transition and an important one that we’re all going to need to adjust to as a family. It’s a little daunting* (*exciting/terrifying) doing it for the first time and I’m trying to remember that nothing is forever, that it’s important to keep moving, to keep evolving so that our littles can grow fully into the ace humans that they’re becoming.

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  • Reply March 22, 2018

    Jo - Not A Frumpy Mum

    Wow, what a roller coaster of emotions, and all credit to you for allowing your daughter the final choice. We’re still a few years away from choosing a secondary school and whilst there is one obvious choice for my son the teacher in me isn’t bowled over by it and I think knowing too much about the educate system is going to cause me no end of worry when the time comes. I hope your daughter settles quickly in September, it is such a big change but the majority of Year 7’s adapt quickly to their new school. xx
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    • Reply March 24, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Yes I Think sometimes having too much knowledge can be just as tricky as not quite knowing enough. It is going to be a big change for all of us but hopefully we’ll be able to work together to make it as smooth and positive as possible for everyone. Then we get to do it all over again next year when my middle daughter starts high school!

  • Reply March 22, 2018


    I’m so happy that it’s all worked out in the end and that Ella is happy with her school place. We’ve got all this to come next year. My eldest has her heart set on one particularly school and I’m so nervous she won’t get her place! I can’t really believe where the time is going! xx

    • Reply March 24, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Thanks Morgana. Ella had her heart set on the school she has eventually ended up going to but she did really like the other schools too. It’s definitely worth looking around them all in your area when the time comes as your eldest might be surprised at how much she likes the others and then you have back up if she doesn’t get the one she wants.

  • Reply March 22, 2018


    Oh it’s so crazy how to get into schools in the uk I will never understand it and all the stress. We just got to the school closest to our house depending on where we live. But it’s not the case with some many house estates here I suppose. I have this to come. I am lucky my two are still in the grade school when baby needs to apply to get it with a sibling on the list always easier. So glad she got her second and you didn’t have to appeal. #wrc
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    • Reply March 24, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Thanks Jenny. I have to admit I was dreading the appeal process so I’m very glad it all worked out and we don’t have to go through it. Having a sibling on the list definitely makes the whole process easier, so hopefully her two sisters will get in without any issues (as long as that’s where they want to go of course)

  • Reply March 23, 2018

    Jess Soothill

    Ahh I am sure it is the right decision and well done you 🙂 I am sure she will do great! I am not looking forward to high school and want to keep mine little forever! Lovely post xx
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    • Reply March 24, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Thanks Jess. I know, I really can’t get my head around her being off to high school soon. I really hope she’s made the right decision – I’m doing my best to trust that it’s all going to work out for the best in the way it’s meant to.

  • Phew!!! Goodness me you guys really went through it, didn’t you? That really was a drama. However, it had a happy ending which is the best thing!!! Now you have to get ready for having a daughter in high school!!! ; )
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    • Reply April 1, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      I know – I can’t believe she’s going to be in high school! She’s happy with the outcome and that’s all that really matters, so fingers crossed it’s a smooth transition when September rolls around.

  • Reply March 27, 2018


    We’re just waiting on the decision for junior school for George. I’m so glad you are happy with how it was resolved in the end. They look so grown up lately x
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    • Reply April 1, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Oh do you have an infants and juniors system where you are? My girls have just been at the same school since Reception which has been so much easier. I hope George gets the decision you’re all hoping for.

  • Reply March 28, 2018


    I think I commented on your Instagram post the other week but what a long process for you all! It’s so hard choosing the right school isn’t it? But for what it’s worth and despite your mothering instincts, I think you’ve done the right thing in letting your daughter make her own choice here. I actually found it so much harder because my eldest just didn’t have an opinion at all! I hope it all works out well for her, having friends at secondary school is so important. xx

    • Reply April 1, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Thanks for your thoughts Suzanne, and also for our conversation on Instagram – it really helped. Whatever happens I think it’s a case of remembering that no decision is forever. If she gets there and loves it, great! If she gets there and it’s not quite what she thought, we can look into switching to a different school. Going with the flow is key.

  • Reply June 11, 2018

    Erika Ann

    Oh wow, what a post. I felt your emotions as a mother reading this post of yours. My baby is far from entering school but I’m getting anxious thinking about him leaving for school every day without me by his side. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with your daughter. I hope she do well in school!

    • Reply June 21, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Thanks Erika! I think it’s like everything in parenting – we have to be willing to let go a little bit more at each new stage.

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