Lobbying for bulge class in primary school

(34 Posts)
hailsugar Fri 06-Sep-13 20:36:29

Hello,

I am seeking advice from anyone who may have some experience in lobbying schools to take on an additional class.

We bought a new build in May in the catchment of an outstanding primary in South Oxfordshire (house less than 150 metres from the school) with the hope of getting our 4 year old and 3 year old into it.

We submitted a late application for our daughter to get a place in the reception starting in 2013. Our son has been awarded a place at the preschool, within the school.

Unfortunately our daughter is 4th on the waiting list, despite only living 150 metres from the school, and my concern is she is going to slide down the list as the new housing development completes another 150 houses in the next 6 months.

The school allocated all of it's 30 places in April 2013, 10 places to children out of catchment, despite a total of 275 houses being built around the school at the time!!

My daughter has been given a place at a primary 4 miles away, which is proving to be difficult wrt logistics (2 separate drop offs, trying to organise different afterschool childcare, and get myself to work).

Myself and other parents have appealed with no success. I have met with the head and asked for them to consider taking on an extra class but they are refusing, stating lack of funds and no room. However they have a music and iCT room within the school which are used on an adhoc basis and acres of outdoor space.

I have contacted my MP, local councillor, local newspaper and am still awaiting responses.

Can anyone advise me how to proceed from here as I feel we have a strong case and the school should act to provide places for local children.

Thanks in advance,

H

muminlondon Sat 14-Sep-13 23:15:43

Good luck with it. Staying on the waiting list may still work out for you.

hailsugar Sat 14-Sep-13 21:50:00

uuummmh, many thanks to all those who have contributed and helped to inform/ educate me on the education system!
I will now be applying for mileage, which is something I didn't realise I could.
And i'll be reducing my working hours, as I have now accepted that I will be dropping off and picking up 2 children from different schools over 4 miles apart for some time to come..............and so the fine juggling act continues!
I'll keep you all posted if anything changes.

meditrina Fri 13-Sep-13 21:30:05

I think it will be problematic, because you say that at the time of the normal applications round all catchment pupils secured places at the school, filling only 2/3 of them. The other places were filled by children living at a greater distance, from whom those places cannot of course now be removed. And as there were not enough children in catchment to fill the school at last admissions round, this is unlikely to look urgent to the council, especially as all children, including late arrivals, have been given places within a reasonable distance (reasonable in Admissions Code terms, not any individual family's view).

The LEA is simpy not allowed to hold back places in case there are new arrivals. They might add a bulge class for those applying now(ish) for September 2014 if they find they have surplus of pupils to number of places within reasonable distance/travel time.

teacherwith2kids Fri 13-Sep-13 21:18:08

Our local school - established area, no new houses, 60 intake - had an effective admission distance of 150 metres for allocation day for non-siblings for September last year - and that is on-time applicants, not late ones.

So while YOU think you live close to the school, the fact remains that you don't live as close as many families have to to get into decent local schools, even as on-time applicants. It isn't great, but it is a fact of life in many parts of the country.

eddiemairswife South Korea Fri 13-Sep-13 12:50:13

You'll have to do as Michael Gove suggests. Start your own Free School! Sorry, not very helpful.

The council may pay mileage - better for you, and cheaper for them than a taxi. Worth looking into.

merrymouse Thu 12-Sep-13 21:22:03

I think your big problem is that bulge classes tend to be very unpopular with parents of children already at the school - schools are designed to accommodate a fixed amount of children, and more children means less playground space because of additional building, less space in assembly, and more lunch sittings.

I suspect the existing parents quite like the music room and ICT room, and it's likely that they have raised money to fund the equipment used in them.

Bulge classes tend to be forced on schools as an absolute last resort (e.g. the LA has a substantial number of children who have no school place anywhere). If the school has 7 forms, the parents of at least 210 children are probably quite happy with the status quo.

hailsugar Tue 10-Sep-13 19:28:00

by the walking route

SoupDragon Mon 09-Sep-13 21:53:21

we bought a house that is situated at the bottom of the school field

How is the distance from school measured by the local authority? Is it as the crow flies or by the route you'd have take to get there?

clam Mon 09-Sep-13 21:51:04

The other thing of course is, that even though the school is currently outstanding, rapid expansion might well be detrimental to its success. The schools near us that have been selected for expansion will be doing it very gradually, starting with Reception and adding a reception class each subsequent year. Not sure how that would help the housing estate near you, if families with older children move in.

keepsmiling12345 Mon 09-Sep-13 21:44:47

You really need to take this up with your councillor/the LEA. It is not the school's responsibility if a developer sells a whole load of houses for inflated asking prices to families moving near a good school. I live in SW London and am consistently struck by how many properties for sale are listed as being "in catchment" for certain schools when a/there are no defined catchment areas and b/the furthest distance offered is shrinking and so children from many of these houses would not get places on initial allocation. But it is hardly unusual for estate agents or developers to emphasise the positives even if there is no basis in reality...

clam Mon 09-Sep-13 21:37:56

As muminlondon has re-iterated, it is nothing to do with the school whether it expands or not. Those decisions are made at County level, and if it is considered that there's a need for increased school places within the borough, then they will assess all the local schools to see which are in a position to be able to expand, funding permitting.

And as for the school discouraging parents from appealing; the schools don't run the appeals process. Admissions (and appeals) are administered by the LEA. What they might perhaps have done is to point out that there will be very little chance of success at appeal, as it will be a case of Infant Class Size, whereby the school is not allowed to go above 30 per KS1 class. The only likely chance of winning such an appeal is to prove that County has made an error in allocating places, which doesn't seem to apply to you and your neighbours.

BoundandRebound Mon 09-Sep-13 21:01:57

Even if the head agrees eventually to a bulge it certainly won't be for this academic year, but may benefit your second child. These things take planning, staffing and resources. Sorry it must be an awful position to be in

muminlondon Mon 09-Sep-13 20:49:52

hailsugar it must be so frustrating and a very worrying time, but it is not the school's responsibility to plan, nor its moral/legal duty to accommodate all families in the area. It's the LA's responsibility, but increasingly they have no power. They can't build new schools because they all have to be academies or free schools over which they have no control. And they are getting limited capital funding anyway.

From what you say there may be a case for permanent expansion but it requires consultation and bids for capital investment so usually has a two-year timetable. Bulge classes often precede this but not in half sizes. It would be best to talk to your local councillor.

hailsugar Mon 09-Sep-13 20:19:17

Thanks again for your responses.

Pinkdelight - we had to move suddenly because of my job, hence little choice and had to make decisions very quickly.
When we applied 'late' we didn't expect our daughter to get into the preferred school straight away, but thought she would be 1st or 2nd on wait list and thought she would get a place in the school within 12 months. Hence we registered our DS for the preschool at the preferred school (as he struggles much more than DD with change) with the plan that both would be at the preferred school within 12 months, and we could all walk to and from school each day for the next 7-8 years. What we did not forsee/ expect was that DD would be 4th on the wait list, when we bought a house that is situated at the bottom of the school field.

I found out this week there has been very little movement within the school in the last 3 years (the school never volunteers this info, just tries to reassure upset parents ''everything will sort itself out within 20 months'', and the admissions officer is almost impossible to get hold of). Having lived in Bristol and London previously, most schools I have experienced have relatively transient populations. So I was shocked to discover the lack of movement in this area.

It made me realise, that this situation is not going to 'sort itself out' but will need an action plan to accommodate for the massive and sudden increase in population (we think over 60%) that has occurred. After all, the builder is selling only family homes, within spitting distance of a fantastic school, hence the houses have sold like hot cakes, for premium prices in a time of recession.

I personally feel the school should have a moral duty to accommodate the children within catchment, especially as the school was built purposely for the ' new' community. The school were very aware that 300 houses were popping up on it's doorstep, and I don't think any planning took place for this. Not only that, the school have been actively dissuading parents from appealing, as they re convincing parents it will be unsuccessful!!

Taz1212 Mon 09-Sep-13 14:17:58

I would be very very careful about wanting the extra 10-15 kids solution. My DD's primary school has a maximum capacity of 62 per year. For the last 5 years they have taken 80 per year because of overflow in new build developments. It's been really quite terrible- the school is bursting at the seams and they have not brought in enough additional staff and added respurces to deal with it. It's one of the reasons we've moved DS (and will eventually move DD) to private school.

pinkdelight Mon 09-Sep-13 10:31:05

It sounds like you were aware of the problem of school places from what you'd seen in your previous locations so I don't understand what your plan was by having a late application to a small school with little or no movement. What was your back-up plan? We also had to move at a time that made us a late applicant for DS's primary, but we knew we'd have to have a private back-up in place or else take a state place further away, if no places at the local school became available. In your position, I'd not put the younger DC in the local nursery if that made drop-offs difficult. Can s/he go to a day nursery at a more convenient time/place, to at least take the pressure off the double drop-off?

PatriciaHolm Sat 07-Sep-13 22:36:28

Ultimately, The LEA can impose a bulge, but it will be very reluctant to do so on a school where the head is opposed. Especially as, at present, the demand just isn't there for a full bulge class, and your children do already have places.

Does the LEA have a long term education plan? Most do and ours, for example, is on their website.

clam Sat 07-Sep-13 21:32:43

It staggers me the number of new housing estates that are being built nowadays with no regard by the local council as to where these families are going to send their children to school.
Or they'll close a school, and then build 3 and 4 bed houses on the site. Oh, and what a surprise, families with children move in and there are no local school places left. Crazy.

scaevola Sat 07-Sep-13 21:04:21

The LEA will have to find places for newly arriving children, at the time they arrive.

As the long term local population as recently as Jan/Feb/March meant the school had out-of-catchment pupils, then there was no particular need for a bulge class henchmen. And as offers have been made to all incoming pupils, there is no shortage of places right now. The 4 mile journey might appal you, but in terms of school admissions it is not exceptional at all.

The school might need to expand in future years - especially as you describe a situation in which even newer arrivals will be closer than your 150m from the school. But what year groups might these postuated new need?

Is there a plan for school expansion? Perhaps that is where the local community should be putting their efforts? Even if it does not directly make a difference to one of your DCs year groups, if there is a campaign for the longer-term capacity of the school then I hope they would welcome your involvement.

clam Sat 07-Sep-13 20:57:52

But you've already said that no one ever leaves? So how are 10-15 extra children expected to "naturally reduce" to a class of 30 again.

hailsugar Sat 07-Sep-13 20:54:32

tiggytape,

thanks for the advice but currently do not feel happy to put a 4 yr old into a taxi each day. Maybe I will feel different next term if the juggling of drop offs and pick ups becomes too difficult.

The 2 neighbouring schools are now full (both 4 miles from the preferred school) so I suspect families arriving in the village in the next few months (still 150 family houses to be built before Easter 2014) are going to be very stuck for a school place.

The admissions officer has proposed the school take on additional 10-15 places, with the idea that this reduces naturally to 30 as the class progresses through the school.

However, the head has resisted this. I think this is a fantastic solution, but am confused if the LEA has the authority to make the decisions - can the Head continue to block them?

H

tiggytape Sat 07-Sep-13 19:26:38

hailsugar - you are entitled to transport for the school 4 miles away. This is not something the council can choose to provide, it must provide it. If you had chosen to go to a school miles away in favour of a more local one (some people do) the council wouldn't have to pay but since this is the nearest school with a vacancy, they must pay transport costs

Unfortunately there is no similar obligation about making local schools take more children. If there are places sitting empty 4 miles away, they will want to fill those up before they consider expanding schools which are already full.

hailsugar Sat 07-Sep-13 18:57:28

Many thanks for the advice to all that have responded. Obviously I am very new to the education system so am learning the processes as I go along - a steep learning curve in the last few months!!

My intention was never to get rid of the music room/ ICT room, but I thought it would provide some flexibility and could be accommodated in a portable classroom.

I have lived in densely populated SW London for 15 years, and the last 20 months in the expanding town of Portishead, North Somerset, so have witnessed how schools and councils can react quickly to increasing demand and populations.

When my DS starts school officially next year, my DD will still not be at the top of the waiting list as others on the wait list will also have sibling priority.

I should add as well, that over the last 3 years nobody has left the infant school, hence places have not become available for those on the waiting list. If I was confident my DD would get a place in the next 12 months ish I would happily wait. However, I strongly suspect nobody will be leaving. hence I feel the school should be doing more to accommodate the local population.

As I said previously we will be clocking up an additional 80 miles/ week to get DD to and from school. It's not just the massive inconvenience, it's also a big hit on the budget, and I don't want to be doing that for years to come.............

Thanks again

Ladymuck Sat 07-Sep-13 14:08:15

Presumably your son will get a place in a few months and then your dd will be top of the waiting list? Given both your children will then be at the school for a combined total of 13 years, you may not want to give up the ICT/music facilities too quickly.

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