Getting a place at an out of catchment school

(31 Posts)
worrierandwine Wed 09-Nov-16 08:46:58

The schools I would be happy with our DD attending are all out of our catchment. The only school within catchment has a terrible reputation and I can't/ won't send her there.
I know it depends on birth rates for that year and siblings. The schools I would like her to attend are all small but lovely, this unfortunately makes it harder to get a place as they are limited due to size. I don't want to lie on my application but are there any reasons I could state to help us get an place? I'm just desperate ( as all parents are) for her to get a place somewhere I think will suit her and she will thrive rather than becoming lost in a huge school with huge class sizes. Any advice greatly appreciated.

Walkinglikeazombie Wed 09-Nov-16 08:51:33

I'm afraid I have no advice, but following with a great interest as we have got a same situation here.
I am planning on asking at the nursery today when I drop my DD off if they could advise me, so if I do hear anything useful I will come back to you.

Ladymuck Wed 09-Nov-16 08:55:55

Well, you can look at what the admissions criteria are for each school which will set out what happens if there are more applicants than places. Whilst distance is often a ket criteria, siblings, faith, lottery may also play a part so you need to see what criteria you would fit in.

Distance - you can of course move closer, which may also improve quality of life for 7 years.

In terms of "huge" schools, bear in mind that the way school funding if going, it will be incredibly difficult for small schools to survive. Schools will also struggle on classes of less than 27/28. So if you do get your wish of a small school, be very aware of the compromises that may being made in order to get the budget to balance.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Wed 09-Nov-16 08:59:17

We are at a small village school and DS is about to move up to high school with one other boy and two girls. There are a lot of pros and cons to size - I've loved it while he's been here but am aware he is absolutely going to struggle transitioning to a big high school (and it's not even that big). I wouldn't go on size alone. Have you visited the catchment school?

DanicaJones Wed 09-Nov-16 09:00:02

What are the class sizes in the catchment and out of catchment schools and how many classes per year? Is it primary or secondary?
Round here the larger schools have better facilities and at secondary they have more subjects on offer.

GiddyOnZackHunt Wed 09-Nov-16 09:08:21

The bit for other information on a L.A. application isn't for writing a plea for what you want. It's about concrete factual information that isn't covered by the form. For example applying for 2 schools that have the ability to cope with hearing impairment or wheelchair accessibility.

meditrina Wed 09-Nov-16 09:14:06

You need to check the criteria.

Just because you live outside the catchment areas does not mean you will not get a place, if they reach the 'out of catchment' criterion and you are closest of families in that category. Has that criterion ever been reached in any of the schools you like in recent years.

Otherwise, the only thing you could do would be to fit a higher entrance criteria. As you cannot magic up an older sibling (usually higher) if exceptional medical/social need (not all schools have this category anyhow); then all you can do us move (genuinely) into the catchment of one of the schools.

But before moving, check the actual intake area. Because living in the catchment may not be sufficient (unless you are in Scotland) if there are more children in the catchment than available places and distance is the tie-breaker.

TeenAndTween Wed 09-Nov-16 09:38:17

Have you actually looked at your local school, or are you going only on hearsay? Sometimes reputations are out of date or unfounded.

You need to put your local school on your list somewhere, even if only at last place. You say you 'can't/won't' send her there. But what if your preferred schools can't offer her a place? If you don't have your catchment school on your list you may be allocated an equally awful school, but 10 miles away.

Unless you can genuinely home-school for as long as it takes (could be years), please put your catchment school somewhere on your list!

I don't know your definition of small / large schools, but note that just because you think your little 4 year old might be lost in a larger school, your big 10yo may feel stifled by a small one. Larger schools can also offer more trips, more facilities, wider range of extra curricular activities. Also wider choice of friends, and possibly more 'challenge' for higher performing children, who can be grouped with others of similar ability.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Wed 09-Nov-16 09:45:21

I have to echo TeenandTween here.

Please please please put your awful catchment on your preferences. They are only preferences, not choices. If you put down 5 schools and you don't meet the criteria you will not necessarily be offered a place in the shit catchment school, you will be offered a place at the closest school with places. It could be equally shit or worse, could take you an hour to get there each morning, could leave your daughter feeling isolated because after school play dates will be nigh on impossible, not able to take part in after school events... etc.

Please understand that it is not a true choice.

catslife Wed 09-Nov-16 10:07:26

You need to check the distance your house is from your preferred schools. Most councils publish the distance away from the school that pupils who were allocated places need to live. For many areas it is possible to obtain a place at an out of catchment school if you live close enough.
Schools can change. In my area some schools that had a poor reputation a few years ago now have a good one. My dd attended a primary school which has 3 classes (90 pupils a year group) and it was fine. Ask how the school integrates reception pupils into the rest of the school - there are ways of doing this to make sure dcs aren't overwhelmed.
What is it about the catchment school that you don't like apart from it's size?

worrierandwine Wed 09-Nov-16 10:40:45

Hi everyone and thanks for your replies. The school is in a bad area that we are on the edge of, it has poor ofsted as well as poor rep. I fully agree about schools deteriorating or improving in relatively short spaces of time as this is what happened at my secondary school. We are in the Derbyshire district, I will look into specific catchment area to check exactly where we are. We have 3 options we can state. To fall into the two schools I would be happy for her to go to we would literally have to move less than a mile up the road. I appreciate where you're coming from but I'm still not sure there's any point putting the "bad" school as I just won't send her there full stop, she will be home schooled or we will move before she goes there. I do know of children who still don't get places at their preferred school even when they live in catchment. I went to a small primary school myself and had the most wonderful experience, I just want the same for her.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Wed 09-Nov-16 10:45:56

If you're happy to home school then you'll be fine.

If you are offered a place and you turn it down the LEA have no obligation to find another place if you change your mind or your circumstances change.

Are you sure it's only 3 preferences? On our forms you could put 3, but on an online application you could have 5.

TeenAndTween Wed 09-Nov-16 11:03:00

If you move after allocations you will have to go on wait lists and you don't know when a space will come up, and you would need to be top of the waiting list.

However as long as you are truly truly happy to home school for 3+ years (until infant class size restrictions don't apply) then fine. Would your DD be happy to be home-schooled, missing out on the play times etc?

Many people say they will home school, but when it comes to it it is harder than they think ...

worrierandwine Wed 09-Nov-16 11:05:40

It's definitely just 3 milk, I just double checked. If we don't get one of the 3 schools we would be happy with there is always appeal, moving house or home schooling. Although as we already said, living in catchment is sometimes not sufficient anyway!

golfbuggy Wed 09-Nov-16 14:59:50

Have you been to see the local school? You may be pleasantly surprised.
Be careful not to fall into the trap of "I went to a small primary school and it was lovely" - your child is not you. My DD goes to a large junior school and the school is inundated with DC moving in from small primary schools - where the child just didn't "fit" or found the school stifling as they grew up. I also think small schools tend to be community based - so how will your DD get on if she does get a place but you're not actually in that community!?

golfbuggy Wed 09-Nov-16 15:01:33

I'd also bear in mind that you will only get your child into Reception class on appeal if a mistake has been made. You can't just appeal because you don't like the allocated school, but you really really like the other one.

golfbuggy Wed 09-Nov-16 15:02:47

... and moving house AFTER allocations will mean that you will be looking for a place in an undersubscribed school - which is unlikely to be one of your preferred ones!

SavoyCabbage Wed 09-Nov-16 15:09:18

We move s to Derbyshire this time last year and there was no primary school place for my dd at all. Anywhere, in the whole of Derbyshire. My dd ended up with no school place at all for over three months. I had to apply to a school, be told there was no place etc for months and eventually got a place in my totally ordinary catchment school on the grounds that she had not been given a school place at all.

catslife Wed 09-Nov-16 15:18:43

It's only 3 preferences in many parts of the UK.
Are you sure it's only 3 preferences? On our forms you could put 3, but on an online application you could have 5.
I don't understand this milk if you apply online (which most people do these days) you should only have the same number of preferences as someone who applies using a paper form.

AwaywiththePixies27 Wed 09-Nov-16 15:20:53

It depends on the class sizes. They legally cant go above 30 in reception and year 1 & 2 classes. But same rules don't apply to years above. Also depends on the schools admission policies and you genuinely have to have VERY good reason to move them. You also have to argue that the prejudice towards DC will be higher than the prejudice against the school if they don't admit them.

My DCs were both refused initially (one with SNs, the other who had been horridly bullied to the point she needed in school counselling) , there are several schools within walking distance from me. None of them had space, and only a few had a good reputations anyway. The school they both go to now is OOC but it was best suited to DSs needs as he's high functioning and it took a further six months of doing two school runs before we won our appeal to get DD in to the same school. Bear in mind it is extremely hard to argue the local authority made a mistake in their admission process, they stick to it rigidly, and the tribunal (I didn't attend as was in hospital at the time) upheld that the school and the LA had followed the law to the letter, but they kind of fell on their own sword when they were saying in their bundle "we just haven't possibly got the room" whilst simultaneously admitting other new pupils on the roll at the same time as an extension was being built. The tribunals reason for allowing the appeal was just the fact that they felt the prejudice weighed more against DD if she wasn't admitted than it did against the school if they had to. But again we also had evidence of the impact the bullying was having on DDs emotional health which I think helped.

There is no harm in asking the school directly and seeing what they say.

A PP is quite right about reputations too. What may not be right for some parents is fine for others. My NDN moved her DCs from one school nearer to here, it's got a god awful reputation locally yet her lovely DCs are thriving there.

AwaywiththePixies27 Wed 09-Nov-16 15:24:52

and you are closest of families in that category

Unfortunately this will differ from area to area. DD's DB was already in the very school they initially refused her a place in. I was told by a very good solicitor it is because a lot of LEAs have taken away the sibling link as a reason for appeal.

worrierandwine Wed 09-Nov-16 17:51:57

Thanks everyone, only time will tell. I'm going to apply for 2 that we're just out of catchment for and 1 that we're in catchment for but is a very busy school. Has good ofsted and an okay reputation. I'm not even putting the "undesirable" school down.

worrierandwine Wed 09-Nov-16 17:52:34

Thanks everyone, only time will tell. I'm going to apply for 2 that we're just out of catchment for and 1 that we're in catchment for but is a very busy school. Has good ofsted and an okay reputation. I'm not even putting the "undesirable" school down.

AwaywiththePixies27 Wed 09-Nov-16 21:25:19

Well like we said, be careful with the Ofsted ratings.

I know you're only thinking primary school at the minute, but the 'outstanding' secondary school near us is rife with problems. If doesn't guarantee 100% no problems. The 'good' school we went to visit for DDs SS next year admitted to us personally that they too have their own problems. When you say undesirable, do you mean just public opinion or what is their Ofsted rating. If poor, this can sometimes be a good thing as it means they get extra help and manage to turn themselves around quite quickly with the right input from outside teachers etc.

Like I said. Mine was simply because DSs current school couldn't / wouldn't fulfill his needs, and my DD was being bullied horrifically (threafs of violence and being scared out of her wits when they tell her they're going to lock her in a dungeon overnight on a camp trip and no one will ever find her - these were the nicer incidents!). Not meaning to be trite, just straight, but if you do appeal you'll need a lot more reason than the nearest school simply being undesirable. I am still convinced the only reason we won is because the counsellor weighed in as to how it was affecting her and I also had a bloody good education solicitor.

Also try and think practically, do you drive? I don't and often have to get a taxi to the school and back when walking isn't possible (I have a smashed kneecap). The journey is just under two miles so we wouldn't qualify for travel costs either. But the help and support both my children now get is more than worth it for the hell they went through.

In reference to the home schooling, I had a friend who did just this and the council are quite hot on checking up you are teaching them right now I was led to believe. (she was basically told she wasn't doing enough and had to put them back in education- I'm not sure how common this is though).

Let us know how you get on brew

worrierandwine Thu 10-Nov-16 00:24:34

Thanks awaywiththepixies, every single person rolls their eyes and makes an "uuuuh" sound at the mention of the bad catchment school and I've been told I WOULD be better home schooling than sending her there by several. The other "busy" school (in catchment) offered us a nursery place and I was going to send her until I went to fetch an application form and the sheer volume of kids put me off, having just read the ofsted though the nursery and reception are apparently "excellent". I went to a secondary school which had good ofsted at the time and by the time I got to year 9 was in special measures (change of headteacher) so I know how quickly these things change. DD is not shy but she is sensitive (like her mum) and I don't want her to be overwhelmed or pushed around. I think/ worry about it everyday. We had a bad experience with her 1st nursery and the confusion and sadness on her little face and the way it distressed her will haunt me and her dad forever.

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