Admissions Y1 -Amazed and a little despairing

(88 Posts)
rushingrachel Fri 03-Jan-14 18:54:37

This is a bit of a long one! After nearly 10 years abroad I have recently been offered a job in the UK. It seemed perfect, near to the area in which I was brought up (Suffolk/Essex border) very rural. Although the salary is not great, and my DH would need to continue to split his time between Brussels and London, we thought we'd find a property in a village near to a good village school (such as the one I went to) and we would find a good balance. The property we found was lovely and four doors up from the local village school. So we rang to check. Year 1 full. Then we spread the net to 5 other schools trying to find a place. Nothing. It has made making a decision about the move virtually impossible. To apply you need an address, but to commit to an address you need to know your children will be placed, and in my case in a school with extended school cover. The fact is only awful schools, which were awful when I was around and still seem to be, can commit to having a Yr 1 place and then if the place is miles from where you live, and you work, how can you organise to collect them?

I wonder if the government ever thinks about people like me. They say they want to attract skilled expats to return to the UK and yet how can we with this uncertainty? My DH and I are both solicitors, we should be able to contribute to tax and community. But if we can't even be allowed to understand where a place might arise before we commit to a rental we might as well give up.

Something has gone wrong here. We have a lovely, clever, well educated son and the UK has nothing but the worst to offer him in terms of state provision.

I really, really, wanted to come home and build a home for my family and I feel very let down.

itsahen Sat 15-Feb-14 08:50:08

Ultimately the lack of school places in huge parts of the country is the issue. There needs to be more parent pressure to make government change this. I am from a family who moved abroad and back as do thousands each year.... Would be a compete nightmare now. I am surrounded by parents desperately worried about getting into a decent school. Are people writing to MPs etc ?

SimLondon Fri 14-Feb-14 18:50:48

Bit late to this thread but I also live a couple of miles away from there and i wondered if you knew that there's a good chance of a new montessori free school (state funded) opening in North Colchester in Sept 2015.

rushingrachel Mon 13-Jan-14 10:53:20

Thekingfisher I will pm you. Thanks so much.

I had lovely meetings with 3 head teachers on Friday. I see hope. And the kindness and understanding of all 3 was exceptional.

thekingfisher Fri 10-Jan-14 17:18:50

Without outing myself I live only a couple of miles from the school you mentioned so would be really happy to answer any questions you may have . A lot of my fiends dc go to the local schools around here incl Bures, SbN etc

prh47bridge Fri 10-Jan-14 17:04:33

Is the children's current school more than 6 miles away? Are there 3 or more schools nearer home with places? If the answer to both of those questions is no you may have a case to take to the LGO. See here for more information.

TallulahMcFey Fri 10-Jan-14 16:44:27

Would it be possible to move in with your mum for a short while and apply from her address?

CouthyMow Fri 10-Jan-14 16:18:06

PRIH I appealed on the basis of being on income support and they refused still.

prh47bridge Fri 10-Jan-14 15:59:43

Suffolk MUST have an exception for Crown servants whatever they say.

marmalademomo Fri 10-Jan-14 14:41:55

There are quite a few places dotted about the country, Wandsworth in South London, being one, who do allow you to apply for places as long as you have an address, regardless of whether you were in the country at the time of application. I know this as I have been very thorough in my research - we used to live in Wandsworth and I grew up in Suffolk which is why they were on our radar for where to move back to. Though these other places could have also now changed. SCC said there were no exceptions to their new ruling for anyone. However, no point on dwelling on this as it's feather spitting stuff. We are thinking about changing our moving date, but this is tricky as we feel they need to complete the school year here as a good sense of closure - sorry horrible phrase. I do think it' a lot harder viewing it from abroad as you can't get in the thick of it, talk to more parents around the schools on your list, revisit the schools or call the council without getting up at dawn/kids bed time. Plus you have life going on as normal to cope with. Hurrah for supportive Mumset community.

BranchingOut Fri 10-Jan-14 13:08:26

I hope it all works out for you OP and for Couthy too.

There is that horrible moment when it finally dawns on you that it is just not that simple.

prh47bridge Fri 10-Jan-14 12:17:33

Essex now only pays transport for children who are over 3 miles away from their secondary school and are attending the closest school regardless of whether that school has spaces or not

If that is true they are breaking the law. They must provide free transport unless they can arrange for the children to attend a school nearer home. So if the nearer schools don't have places they must provide free transport. However, if there are nearer schools with places available they are entitled to refuse to provide free transport to your older children's current school.

If you are a single parent on income support it sounds to me like you qualify for consideration as a low income family. That means you are also entitled to free transport to any one of your nearest 3 schools with a place available provided it is at least 2 miles and not more than 6 miles away. You may therefore be entitled to free transport to the current school provided it is no more than 6 miles away and provided there are no more than 2 nearer schools with places available.

CouthyMow Fri 10-Jan-14 10:21:17

After I moved house it took me three months to get a local school place for my 10-year-old. I had to wait in the waiting list for it and I had to bus him right across Colchester to his old school.

CouthyMow Fri 10-Jan-14 10:18:32

I'm dreading school applications in October, as there is only one school I can PHYSICALLY get DS3 to, and it is an outstanding, oversubscribed school. And Essex no longer takes the Parent's disabilities into account when they are placing a child. I already have no nails left.

I'm already paying transport out of my income support for my two eldest children because I had to move to an adapted (for disabilities) house and the local Secondary schools near my new house had no spaces for my 15-year-old and my 11-year-old so they had to stay in the old secondary school right across the town. Essex now only pays transport for children who are over 3 miles away from their secondary school and are attending the closest school regardless of whether that school has spaces or not! So I am paying £30 a week to transport my eldest two children to school. Having to pay for my two year old when he starts school will just break me financially, as by that point I will probably be paying for my 10 year old to attend that secondary school too, as well as transport for my eldest child to get to college.

It's also complicated by the fact that my two year old's statementing process will not be finished before I have to apply for primary school, meaning I will have to apply in the normal way rather than be given the school that I require for him. Did end up being taken by taxi to Clacton every day.

I have no nails left. it's an awful situation for school places in Colchester.

Please excuse my lack of punctuation Siri doesn't seem to add it, and doesn't like my accent! I can't type too much at the moment.

tiggytape Fri 10-Jan-14 09:14:21

And it does mean unless you can hold a job offer to move during the holidays you are obliged to take a child who is of compulsory school age out of education. Which is also illegal no? Also shoddy.

As prh says only certain professions can apply for a school place whilst still living overseas and if any council ever extended that to other workers then they weren't acting legally. It seems Suffolk are now rectifying this to make sure they comply with the rules. I have never heard of another council who ever allowed it in the first place.

Yes a child must be in education but the council is allowed a reasonable amount of time to ensure that happens - a few weeks at most. It is guaranteed that once you move to the UK and apply for a school, you will get an offer of a school fairly soon. It may not be a local school or a desirable one, but you will get an offer.

Obviously with many regions short of places for people living very close to existing schools, they cannot start allocating places to people living abroad as well and that is why the law is written that way. They do however make exceptions for Crown Servants who are forced to move often because otherwise their children would always be in the position of being alocated the worst school in the most difficult areas for their entire school lives and that wasn't seen as fair. Most workers moving to the UK only do it once or twice so have to take the hit in terms of the initial scuffle for a place.

rushingrachel Fri 10-Jan-14 08:38:46

Colchester nearest big town but if we live where we plan to live hopeful DS2 would get into the village school near the house. No telling on that one but as we would be resident and very close we would be more hopeful. No certainty on any of this.

When I was ringing around it is certainly so that in Essex schools the waiting lists were much longer than for the Suffolk schools. One guy I was on the phone to for ages whilst he was telling me how much he hated turning people away and it shouldn't be like it is. Really nice fella. But 11 on his year 1 waiting list already.

A tricky area so it seems. Hard to believe when you drive through small sleepy villages in the country.

CouthyMow Fri 10-Jan-14 07:54:22

Suffolk only allows you to be on 3 waiting lists, so my cousin tells me (she lives with her garden backing onto the school field of the school she wanted her DS to attend, got one 20 mins away instead).

Essex allows you to go on 5 waiting lists.

Unfortunately, if you are where I suspect you are, Colchester is probably your nearest town in Essex, and we are a whole
Primary school short here, which means that some pupils are sent out yo village schools as there aren't even enough places in the town.

And in your 2.5yo's year (I have a DC the same age), Colchester is going to be 157 places SHORT and will be ferrying 4yo DC's by taxi to schools up to 30 miles away...THAT is their plan for covering the shortfall, as even the new Primary school will only be able to take 60 of those 157 pupils.

Bad area to pick, if that's where you are looking!

rushingrachel Fri 10-Jan-14 07:05:04

Well that was the rule. And the previous guidance is still there on their website for all to see with a note about the change from 1 January. And that was the basis on which we were working and nobody mentioned the change to me at SCC when I spoke to them on 27th December or 3 January immediately before and after this change. So, frankly, stuff what the motivation is, for those of us unlucky enough to be planning a move, it's shoddy.

And it does mean unless you can hold a job offer to move during the holidays you are obliged to take a child who is of compulsory school age out of education. Which is also illegal no? Also shoddy.

prh47bridge Thu 09-Jan-14 23:53:14

It is normal to say that people from overseas cannot apply until they have actually moved to the UK. The only exception to this is where the parents are on Crown service (not just armed forces). If Suffolk have previously allocated places to children who were still living overseas they may have been acting illegally.

There is no change to the rules for people moving mid-year within the UK. You need an address and you cannot normally apply more than one term before you want your child to start at the school.

marmalademomo Thu 09-Jan-14 20:52:41

SCC changing the rules might bring them in line with everyone else, but to do it mid school year is throwing people under the bus who are having to move mid year. Their criteria was you need an address to be able to apply for schools and if it's mid year you apply the term before you are coming. This all has to be arranged well in advance so to then abruptly change this ( none of the admission staff new til 1st jan) and with no explanation is terrible. I don't understand why this is a good policy and it includes military families too. V low of them. If you are moving to Essex check with them as it may be different. I talked through all the permeations of getting around this new rule with a very nice person in the admissions place, who was baffled as to why it's in place. Places take 10 (school) days to allocate and if you need to appeal you have to give it 6 weeks. I was trying to return at the end of USA school year, beginning of June and then on advice from the head of the UK school one of my DD would go to , shove them all into UK school for the last few weeks of term to aclimatise, make friends and thus not stress over the summer holidays about what school will be like. The primary we like is over subscribed but we could appeal, but now that we have to physically be in the UK we have to work out which school has space or do we cut short USA school year come back in May with time to appeal before the school year finishes. Suspect teeth, hair and sense of humour will have fallen out by then and will be dribbling quietly in a corner.

pyrrah Thu 09-Jan-14 20:17:27

I accepted a waiting list place in reception in September last year for my DD - 3 weeks into term.

I got the call on the Wednesday evening, had to sign all the paperwork on the Friday and they wanted her to start by the Monday morning!

Good luck with the move.

Is your DH going to come round to the move and embrace it? It's just that a bit like having another baby when one party isn't on board, making a major move can put huge additional stress on.

Having moved back to the UK myself after 8 years overseas, I know how many things were stressful, different and niggled. I was on my own, but a reluctant partner would have made things much worse.

I would be tempted to insist that he decide that he is going to participate 100% in the change before going ahead. Not fair to you that he is already wanting to put the blame for any failings at your door IMO.

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Thu 09-Jan-14 19:52:18

If you've got a signed tenancy and you are yourself physically in the UK then they have no way of knowing that the child isn't resident right now, provided that you don't tell them. They will expect you to take up the place more-or-less immediately, though.

duchesse Thu 09-Jan-14 18:59:34

I agree with the OP- I think it bloody ridiculous that LEAs seem unable to offer places in the nearest school to where people even when the birthrate has gone up. This information is available- they need to access NHS figures on births each year and factor in an extra few % to account for migrants. To say they are taken by surprise by the projected intake every single year for several years is absurd.

And if some schools are not so popular with parents, maybe they need to work out WHY and address that...

rushingrachel Thu 09-Jan-14 18:47:59

All we were expecting on this principle was to be able to commit to the move and apply for a place so that we would know where we were sending our child, before hauling him out of good education with nothing to go to.

rushingrachel Thu 09-Jan-14 18:41:24

That's not right. You had to have an address, not actually to have brought the child to live, uneducated, at the address.

EdithWeston Thu 09-Jan-14 18:28:29

I thought that the only people who had the right to apply from abroad are Forces families about to return from an official posting (there's a separate procedure for them to apply for schools on strength of posting order), and that in practice this was often extended to other government employees.

No-one else has ever been able to, so if SCC have changed a guideline, it's to correct an error.

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