Secondary 1 Posting: What if You Don’t Get Your Preferred School?

We know that for some families, the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) has been an emotional experience, marked by disappointment and worry. After receiving the results, you may have felt that your child’s secondary school choices were limited, and there is still one more hurdle to cross — school allocation. 

In 2023, the Secondary 1 Posting Results will be released on December 20. If you have provided your mobile number during the school selection process, you will receive a text message on your phone. If not, you can get information from the Secondary 1 Posting website, or give your child’s primary school a call. 

What can you do to prepare your child (and yourself) for the outcome? We hope that our simple guide can help you to navigate this process with clarity and calm, preparing both you and your child to embrace the next stage of the education journey, regardless of the allocated school.

Understand the School Allocation Process

Do let your child know that the PSLE score range for 2022 is only a guide for this year’s students. It’s not uncommon for a school’s cut-off score to increase or decrease by one point, but we’ve also seen fluctuations of two, or even three points. (Get an overview of past-year entry scores here.)

If you had selected at least one ‘safety’ school where your child’s score was much better than the reference cut-off point — for instance, your child scored 17 and the cut-off for the school is 22 — minimally, your child should have a high chance of securing a spot in the safety school. 

However, if your child scored 18 points, and you had selected only schools with 18 points as their cut-off, you must be prepared that you may not get any of these choices, even if the cut-off remains at 18. The reason is that if there are two or more students with the same PSLE score vying for the last places, their posting will be determined according to tie-breakers, which are: citizenship status, choice order of schools, and computerised balloting.

Does your child have a keen interest in how this works? If you can code, consider creating a project using an accessible programming language like Python to simulate our school allocation process with dummy data. This approach is a great way to engage your child’s curiosity in both coding and the real-world application of algorithms.

But if you or your child finds it daunting to overthink this, then it is enough to reassure yourself that you have made the best decision, based on the available information. 

Manage Your Expectations

It would be ideal if all children could secure a spot at their first-choice schools, but sadly, that won’t happen. In order to be mentally prepared for all possibilities, here’s what you can do before the posting results are released:

Set Realistic Expectations: Begin by having discussions with your child about the nature of school allocations, emphasising that while we hope for the best, it’s important to be prepared for various outcomes. In particular, if your child has scored over 15 points, make sure they are aware that they may get their second to sixth choice, or they may even be posted to the nearest school with vacancies.

Don’t Fixate on One School: Research and discuss the strengths of other schools on your child’s list, not just the first choice. If possible, visit all the schools on your list, to let your child gain some familiarity with each school. This also helps your whole family to appreciate what each school has to offer, and reduces the emphasis on only one ideal option.

Prepare for Announcement Day: Decide on how you intend to respond to the outcome — does your child prefer to accept any allocated school, or appeal for the preferred school? As a family, discuss what’s involved in making an appeal, setting clear expectations about the process and potential outcomes. 

Deal with the Results

The Ministry of Education (MOE) recommends that parents do their best to settle their child into their posted school, so that they can begin their secondary education on a positive note. 

However, if you wish to make an appeal, here’s what you need to know:

Meet the Cut-off Point (COP): This is now non-negotiable — your child’s PSLE score must meet the school’s COP for the current posting year, and you can call the school to check the COP on the day that posting results are released. Meeting the COP is essential, as it ensures that the school posting process remains objective and transparent. Admitting students who do not meet the school’s COP would not be fair to other students who obtained a similar or even better PSLE score, but had failed to obtain a place in the school through the computerised posting process. 

You Can Appeal for Health Reasons: If you know that your child’s posted secondary school is unable to accommodate their physical health, you can appeal based on medical reasons. But in general, accommodations are made only for children with serious health issues such as heart conditions, or severe physical limitations, such as children who need to use a wheelchair. 

If you are seeking to transfer your child into a school that you feel is highly suitable for him or her, you should check with the school about their appeals process. The school may have their own admission criteria, and success is also dependent on the number of available vacancies. 

Because all schools will need to facilitate the registration of incoming Secondary 1 students, it may take some time to process your child’s appeal, and schools will reach out to you when they are ready. This could be anytime from mid-January, so the MOE’s advice is for your child to still attend the posted school, to avoid disruptions to learning.

To read more about school appeals, visit the Secondary 1 Posting website, or check the MOE’s FAQs page.

Ultimately, a parent’s attitude can greatly influence how a child feels about their allocated secondary school. If you say to your child, “I’ll do everything I can to get you out of this,” it will be harder for your child to accept their school posting. As it’s not easy to secure a transfer, we would advise you not to get your child’s hopes up.

Instead, why not focus on fostering a positive outlook towards the allocated school? Emphasise the new opportunities and experiences awaiting your child there. Encourage them to be open-minded and to make the best of the situation. By adopting a supportive attitude, you can help your child build resilience and adaptability, qualities that will be beneficial throughout their education journey and beyond. Remember: there is value in every opportunity, and your child can grow from every experience.

Need more tips on dealing with school allocation concerns? Read our interview with a parent, or seek advice on our 2023 PSLE Discussions and Strategies thread.