School postings results are usually around the third week of December. It's a very straightforward process these days. No need to go down to school to find out which school your child has been posted to, you will receive the results via sms.
From what I know, this is where the buzz starts. Usually, you'll get many students and parents who are unhappy with the school they've been posted to and want to appeal to another school. What do you do then?
First, your child will still need to register with the school he's been posted to. Have your child report to the posted school the following day at 8.30am, wearing his school uniform. There, he will register with the school and confirm his place.
Then, if you wish to appeal to another school, go down to that secondary school and fill in an appeal form (usually, the forms are made available from the day of school posting results). I recommend you call the school to find out what attachments you need to bring, so you can submit the form on the spot and not have to make another trip down. Some schools make available the appeal forms even before school posting results, so call them and check.
Many common questions I encounter about appeals:
1) How many schools can I appeal to?
You can appeal to as many schools as you want, it's just a matter of legwork and form filling. You don't need to inform the school you've been posted to, until you've been successful in your appeal. Check the deadline for appeals with the school you're interested in.
2) What do the schools look for in appeals?
I once met a mother who lamented to me that her son couldn't get in via appeal to a secondary school even though his brother was there. My first thought was, "err... you thought that was a valid reason?" I think when appealing, parents need to understand that the principal's main consideration will be, which student can best contribute to the school.
Therefore, the students who stand the best chances of appeals are those who:
a) have a talent in an area that the school needs, typically a CCA (especially niche area). Do note however, that the child will stand a better chance if he has either a record of achievement in that area or has already undergone a trial or audition at the school. In such cases, the school might accept the student even if the t-score is quite a bit lower than the school's Cut-Off Point (COP). It's important to know that if you are successful for an appeal via CCA, you are expected to commit significantly to that CCA.
b) have a t-score that is very close to the school's COP. Arbitrarily, I would say it needs to be 2 or less. For top schools, you might need to have exactly the same t-score as the COP. For this batch, you are banking on the fact that when the school has taken in all those they need stated in a), they will just take in appeals to fill vacancies based on those closest to their COP.
c) have put the school high on the priority on the School Option form. This one really depends on the school. Some schools don't care if you've even indicated interest in them initially, some do. But generally, I would say that even if this plays a part, it tends to be a secondary consideration. Criteria a) and b) are still more important.
Here's my personal advice on what reasons generally don't work for appeals:
- My brother/sister/cousin/neighbour studied at your school.
- I live within walking distance of your school.
- My t-score is 10 points lower than your COP but I really really really really really like your school.
3) How many vacancies do the schools have for appeals?
The appeal process is essentially a nation-wide game of musical chairs. The initial school posting is done by MOE purely based on t-score, ie all the students are all ranked based on t-score and given their choices accordingly until all the vacancies in each school are filled up.
This means that after the school posting exercise, most schools start off with no vacancies and have to wait till students successfully appeal out before they can take in their own appeal students. As you can imagine, this is a massive logistics exercise of epic luan-ness and the schools have all of two weeks to complete it. This is why some schools, up to the second week of January, are still confirming appeal cases.
From what I've seen, a huge number of students appeal. The 250 scorers want to appeal to the 260 schools, the 240 scorers appeal to the 250 schools, and so on. Common sense then dictates that much of the process is first determined by the top schools and how many appeals they can accept, before domino-ing to the rest of the schools. As you would expect, the top schools tend to have extremely limited vacancies for appeals.
4) What should I expect after submitting the form and when will I know the results?
Many schools will tell you that they will inform only successful applicants. So if you want to know the results in the meantime, you'll need to call the school yourself for an update. Some schools require shortlisted students to go for interviews or trials so my advice is, don't plan any overseas vacations during this period.
Most schools inform the successful applicants by end December but as explained in 3), sometimes vacancies don't open up until early January so you'll need to be mentally prepared for such a scenario, if you're really keen on the school.
If you have been successful in your appeal, you'll be given a letter of offer which you should then bring to your original posted school to complete the transfer.
My personal take on appeals is, do consider carefully what is your reason for wanting to appeal and your chances of success. Often, I find that the reason for appeal is simply that the parent wants the child to go to a better school, with "better" being narrowly defined by the COP.
I once met a mother who told me she wanted to transfer her son from School A to School B because the badminton training sessions at School A took up a lot of time and were affecting his studies. I was puzzled as School B is a badminton niche school with an even more intensive training schedule than School A. When I told her about it, she replied, "Oh, but School B's O level results are better."
I find it baffling how some parents believe if they thrust their academically weak child into an academically strong environment, the child will magically blossom and churn out straight As along with everyone else. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Incidentally, I always look at a school's value-add score more so than their academic scores as that tells you how much impact the school had on the student.
Anecdotally, I've found that once parents and students report to the posted school, they find that it's not too bad afterall. It's just the initial shock or disappointment at not being given their first choice school. But sometimes, coming to terms with the school and making your child feel comfortable with it is the best thing you can do for him, to help make the transition to secondary school a smooth one. Consider too that the first two weeks in a secondary school is usually the orientation period where kids make friends and adjust to a new environment. Transferring him out to a another school after that can be very unsettling and make him feel out of place.
I find that many neighbourhood schools in Singapore these days have fantastic facilities and a very dedicated teaching staff. It's about finding an environment where your child can thrive in and you don't necessarily find that in a branded school. In fact, many neighbourhood schools look after the kids much more so than in top schools which expect their students to be independent and perform from the onset.
While the PSLE t-score is not a perfect indicator of ability, it does offer a rough gauge. I would hesitate to put my child in a school which has a COP significantly higher than his t-score. I've heard anecdotal accounts where kids enter a school via DSA or appeals with t-scores some 30 or 40 points lower than the school's COP. More often than not, the mismatch in ability ends up with the kids struggling for four years to keep up.
With this in mind, I would urge parents to take a longer term perspective - getting a foot into a choice school is merely the first move on a board game. Getting to the end having had an enriching experience is the real objective. Like with anything in life, you increase your odds of success if you operate with the end in mind.
Here's wishing all readers a very blessed Christmas!