High school enrollment 101 …. you are going to need to grab a glass of wine for this … and maybe a suppository

high school search

I seldom have advise to give regarding parenting.

Let me put that in context “advise I would suggest you follow”.

In the eternal hunt for schools for your children, I am a veritable Oracle in this regard.

I am going to dish out a bit of tips/guidelines you should consider regarding high schools and when the time comes to enrolling your child.

I am sorry if that made  you throw up a little bit.  The reality is that if your child is at school, there is a fairly good chance they will be leaving Grade 7 at some point and you will need to start this stupid “find my child a school” again so they have somewhere to go when Grade 8 starts.

It actually never stops.  I am permanently in a state of “finding a school for one of my children….”

This advise has very little to do with private schools.

Private schools are a law to themselves and the key is that you have the money, your child will have a place in the school. In some instances there might be some other issues.  All in all private schools work with a simple philosophy of “you give us the money, we give your child a place” – it’s sort of easy like that.

I am talking about the horror show that is getting your child into a good government school.

Don’t snort, there are several very good government schools around – usually the trick is that they have an active Governing Body made up of brilliant, active and involved parents.

I am not one of those parents.  I am however  grateful that there are parents who are brilliant, active and involved parents at the government schools my children are in, which makes them such good schools.

It is great for us less than sterling parents who can barely make it through the day.

Back to my original story.

High schools – and the tips for getting your child in to one.

First understand how “the process” operates.

There are schools that have huge HUGE … LIKE FUCKING HUGE waiting lists.

Government schools technically cannot keep a waiting list.  They open their applications on a particular day when your child is in Grade 7, and the application period closes usually two months later.  You need to make sure you are on top of when the applications open.

Normally you have to go to the school and collect an application form.

You will need an ID photographs for your child – most schools ask you to attach this to the application form.

You will also need an unabridged birth certificate for your child – get this now – because it can take several weeks, and you should have one anyway.  You can apply with an abridged version, but they are going to be looking for the unabridged version come actual enrollment.

You will usually need proof of address.

You need to find out if you live in a catchment area of a school.  Do not assume!!   Totally newbie error there.

Take your “proof of residence” to the school who you think has to accept your child, ask to speak to the Applications Secretary/Officer and make sure.

Because you live there – does not always mean that the school will have space when you apply.

Our nearest school is 2.4km away – I was 100% sure they had to accept us, there is no other school closer – by a long shot.

With the application I printed a google map direction thing, showing my house in relation to the school. I thought “we are in the catchment area, they HAVE to accept us” – I was wrong, they told me they were full and could not take my child.  Er, what??

I started preparing for this process when Connor was in Grade 5.  I started by chatting to parents and finding out where they were thinking of sending their kids.  {Actually I already started doing that when they were in Grade R/Grade 1}

I then made a list of 6 – 8 schools who potentially we could apply to.

I contacted each school to find out when their open day is.  I started attending open days when Connor was in Grade 5.  I then saw a few more when he was in Grade 6.

Do not START going to open days when your child is in Grade 7 – there is not enough time, and you will basically end up only being able to view 1 or 2 – it will be chaotic and odds are you will miss out on applying to some schools, because some schools open their applications really early and close really early, so by the time you call them at the end of January, they are pretty much two weeks from closing all applications.

And at this point – you run around like a banshee screaming hysterically.

Start early, you get time to walk around the school, listen to why it is so lovely and wonderful, and more importantly you get to hear how many applicants they get versus how many places they have.

This is a CRITICAL point.  The rest is just fluff — you need to get an idea how many applications they get, versus how many they can accept. That dear reader is the “magic number” of desperation.

I cannot speak with any certainty on how the application process works at schools, but (and this is totally my own creation of facts or fantasy here) each school has it’s own application open and applications close days.

Make sure you know these dates.  Write them in your diary in BIG. INK. RED. LETTERS.  Use a tampon if you have to, this is pretty important stuff —- and should not be overlooked no matter how busy you are.

I cannot say if a school only starts the “reviewing of applications” process when the applications closing date starts, or whether this process starts earlier.

I have a suspicion that it starts earlier – so do not leave your form submissions until the last date – don’t think they are all going to sit there in a pile unattended until the closing date and then the school will review.

No.  No.  No.

There is the school of thought not to apply too early, as your child might join some sports teams or have some achievements which you want to include in the application form, and that might not be available in January or February.

I strongly suggest you do not cut this too close and weigh up an early admission with what your child could get involved in later in the term.

If your child is involved in extra murals, see about getting letters of recommendations to support your application.

Your child might volunteer somewhere or be involved in Scouts or Girl Guides and a letter from someone of that nature is not going to hurt your application.  I have no idea how much “weight” it adds, but my theory is anything to add value even in the slightest is a good idea.

Your existing school is not going to write a letter of motivation for your child.  Don’t ask.

The only time they will is if the “school you have applied to” faxes a form to the school your child is in, then the school fills it in and returns it directly to the school, you never see it.

Start thinking of your child’s CV in Grade 5 – think of how you are going to build his or her involvement in academic, sport and cultural areas.  Most schools want to see a well balanced child who is involved in several things.

There are some schools that are clearly aimed at a particular area i.e. rugby, and though they may say they do consider other areas important too, being the captain of the A team at the primary school you are in, does sort of make that application process go smoother.

Accept that you are going to need to apply to 4 – 6 high schools.

I know you want to scream WHAT THE FUCK!  Or are already mouthing WHAT THE FUCK because you are in the middle of a meeting, but this blog is so eye opening, that you have not been able to click away.

But you will need to just accept this nugget and get with the programme.

You see each school has different dates for applications to open, and applications closing.  Then they usually do their first intake in June of the year.

What this means is they shortlist applicants and send them a letter saying something to the theme of “Congratulations you get to come to ACME High School.  Please acknowledge receipt of this letter with a deposit of R500.00 and sign this letter and return it to the school secretary by 30 August.”

Here is the rub – because everyone has to apply to multiple schools, this inflates their application process, and this in turn creates what can only be described as the “wait of death.”

After the school sends out the “confirmation of acceptance” letter they allow 2 months (or what ever the window is) for parents to reply and accept the confirmation.

Only then does the school move to the second tier of acceptance.  Depending on how many spaces are remaining, they look to the waiting list and contact those kids and then there is another 1 – 2 month wait.

The problem is there is absolutely no guarantee of acceptance, no matter how hard you beg and cry — I have done both.  I was happy to do both.

In the end I got one rejection, and two schools accepted Connor, I did not hear from the other two.

{Side bar note: The school that rejected Connor called an hour ago to say that a space had opened and would we like to enroll him}

The one school I applied to was in Paarl. I practically prepared a project on what a fine boy he was.  I may or may not have included a pop up collage of his last three years at school.

I arrived to personally hand in the application, way before the “applications closed” date had come around.

I was faced with the most exhausted and “I have already given up on the will to live” applications officer I have yet to meet.

Her desk was piled 30 – 40cm high of applications.  I looked at the numbers – the applications are usually numbered, and the numbers were far far far higher than the size of the entire school, let alone the number of Grade 8’s they had space for.

She looked at my little eager face, and my keen little smile.  I don’t think she actually said “Well fuck you and your stupid application” but I definitely got the sense of that as she sort of dropped it in a passive aggressive manner combined with a “fuck my life right now” attitude into the growing pile of applications.

I looked at her with my beaming moon of happiness face and said “So what are my chances?”

She did not answer me with words, but I got the entire feeling conveyed right there in her face, and her slow long blink, and the breath she sort of held for just that moment too long that basically we had no fucking chance of ever getting into this school unless possibly my husband was Schalk Burger and my son took after his father in all things Rugby.  Maybe, and not even then.

Never heard from that school – unless we are in the second tier short list and will be notified in the next few weeks of a space.

This school application thing becomes a job.  It really does.  Each school’s application process is different, and you need to stay on top of this stuff.

About a month ago I gave a friend of Connor’s a lift, and I asked him which high school he was going to.  He said “my mom is thinking about applying to…..” and I looked in my rear view mirror in horror.

Shit son, if you haven’t already applied it is well, Jesus born in a barn miracle time to get into a school.  And they are no longer accepting the virgin birth idea as a miracle.

 

1.  Do not start this process when your child is in Grade 6 – nope that is for people who are clearly short sighted and want to be disappointed.

I suggest, that you start “thinking” about this when your child is in Grade 4 or 5.

Thinking involves investigating the schools which you think your child would like to apply to, and which you can afford and which may take your child.

 

 

2.  Chat to moms whose kids are in your child’s school – you may find out about schools you had not even thought about.   There will always be that one mom is a guru on this shit, find her, follow her, bake her muffins, facebook poke her if you have to.

 

3.  Accept that you will need to do Open Days – some schools only hand out application forms on the Open Day.  Open Days also are good to give you a sense of the school, and whether your kid is likely to fit in.

 

4.  English and Afrikaans.  Make sure you understand each school’s policy.  Several of the schools I enquired about taught a lesson to both English and Afrikaans speaking children in one class.  So the lesson was partly in English and partly in Afrikaans.  They need did not repeat the information in one language and then the others.  If your kid does not do Afrikaans, then you are probably not going to be able to send your child to this sort of school.  Find out before hand what the school’s policy is on English and Afrikaans.

 

5.  Your child will want to have an opinion, unfortunately in most cases this will depend on where his friends are going.  You may want to weigh that up or disregard it – if his friends are going to a kak school (in your eyes) then you are unlikely to send your son there.

 

6.  There is normally at least one publication a year – if not more – than focuses on schools and how good some schools are.  Buy that, it’s a great resource.

 

Okay I am pretty much out of advise on this subject.  If you take nothing away from this other than white noise, then please repeat “START EARLY” as your mantra.

 

Happy High School hunting.  It all sucks hippopotamus balls, but is is rather necessary ….. I guess like hippopotamus balls.

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9 Comments

  1. Great advice….just have one left still to get to High School but having had 2 others at the school does also make application easier…if they recognise the family it helps.
    We too have only had great experiences at our fantastic government schools in Durbanville we are spoilt.

    Reply
  2. Brilliant! I’ve posted it on Joburg Expat https://www.facebook.com/JoburgExpat. I’ve written a lot about getting your kid into a PRIVATE school in South Africa, as that is the number one concern for expats moving in, but never about Government Schools, for obvious reasons. But this is great information, and so entertaining to read (must-haves for any blog IMO). You know, having a son starting college (university aka varsity) in the US this Saturday, I must say that the process you describe is not so very different from getting into a good university here. I call it the Rat Race. Love your blog!

    Reply
  3. So glad we had a hassle free experience with the school of our choice! We were accepted in April and paid the deposits (our daughter is going to board in another province) in May. Now it all begins again for our three boys…

    Reply
  4. Alexandra

     /  August 14, 2015

    Very relieved my children are at a private school (that continues through to Grade 12) but even so getting them in was a bit hair-raising at the time.

    Reply
  5. Reblogged this on The Stiletto Mum and commented:
    The never ending search for your children’s education as only Reluctant mom can do it… Read it and weep or get drunk

    Here is my comment on her post: OMG my blood has just run cold… I just finished the oh my fuck Lorelai did not get into Grade R at the primary school her sister attends, ran around like a crazy person trying to find another school… found one at more than double the price, enrolled her, they accepted her, paid the fee – only to get a letter from school one to say congratulations! For fuck sakes, paid another fee then only to be told no place in afternoon care for her – decided to say fuck it and make that next years problem (Bad mother I know). got a email 2 nights ago that there is now space for her at after school. Point is I just finished this process of hell and I am that parent who is on ever board, who runs around like a headless chicken for the school all the teachers, secretaries and even some of the cleaning staff knows who I am and my child was still put on a waiting list!

    YOU are telling me that I have to start with High School application for Amandalynn next year?! Fuck girl I don’t drink anymore, but I think starting January I will start again… will this never end?

    Reply
  6. Karen

     /  August 14, 2015

    I actually dropped of my daughter’s application forms and asked the receptionist where would she like the cooler box. She looked at me very strangely when I replied “the one with my kidney as I really want my daughter to get accepted. Just say what else you need I will have it harvested next week”. Okay, then she laughed. Please please please may she get in! I am the eternal optimist.

    Reply
  7. OMG my blood has just run cold… I just finished the oh my fuck Lorelai did not get into Grade R at the primary school her sister attends, ran around like a crazy person trying to find another school… found one at more than double the price, enrolled her, they accepted her, paid the fee – only to get a letter from school one to say congratulations! For fuck sakes, paid another fee then only to be told no place in afternoon care for her – decided to say fuck it and make that next years problem (Bad mother I know). got a email 2 nights ago that there is now space for her at after school. Point is I just finished this process of hell and I am that parent who is on ever board, who runs around like a headless chicken for the school all the teachers, secretaries and even some of the cleaning staff knows who I am and my child was still put on a waiting list!

    YOU are telling me that I have to start with High School application for Amandalynn next year?! Fuck girl I don’t drink anymore, but I think starting January I will start again… will this never end?

    Reply
  8. All sounded not entirely impossible until you said “chat to moms whose kids are in your child’s school” – then my blood ran cold.
    On a side note, I would like to add that if your child’s father is a dick and refuses to sign the application form for the school you (the one who has been to every school meeting/concert/sports event/ speaker talk alone for the past 5 years) have decided you would like your child to attend, because he wants him to go to the really cheap school that no-one has heard of except when it once had a penis piercing scandal (true story), then phone them and tell them! I thought I would surely be killing all hopes of my child being accepted by revealing the clusterfuck that is my relationship with my tight-fisted ex. I could’ve kissed the applications officer who said, “my dear, this is 2015, I can think of about 7 even more ‘complicated scenario’ applicants just off the top of my head – just get me the forms with as much information as you can and lets take it from there.” Acceptance pending, but still.

    Reply
  1. I have no more babies… and I love it | The Stiletto Mum

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