Admissions Y1 -Amazed and a little despairing(88 Posts)
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.
It depends on where you live I suppose and there is an element of luck.
I've just come back to the UK too and there is space in the 'outstanding' primary school I went to as a child for both of my dc, and I wouldn't have been able to get them in for reception as it is massively oversubscribed and I wouldn't have been close enough. There is also space for them both at the school opposite my mums house.
Now if I can just get my dh of 13 years into the country I'd be sorted!
Have you had the opportunity to visit any of the schools with spaces ? You may yet be surprised and can always go on waiting lists otherwise. Before and after school provision isn't a given anywhere and you may have to accept using an off site club or childminder instead . You do need a confirmed address to apply from and iirc that is the same in many countries.
Yes but that means taking a total punt. You rent a house, no school within 15 miles wants your kids, you can't get back from work to the school 15 miles in the wrong direction to move them from school to after school club. What do you do? I will land up declining my job offer I think because above all I have to be certain my kids have continuity and I can't.
Even if resident in UK, you can only apply from the address you are actually living at.
We have local ASC which collect. You would probably have more flexibility living in a town than choosing a more rural location and if you are renting can bide your time to find something which works better for all of you. You could call schools direct asking about vacancies and appeal for a place if not but classes in infants are limited to 30. Would private be an option initially ?
Yes I am not claiming it's any harder coming from overseas than moving within the UK. It's just frustrating how you can't get information definitively about where you would get sent if you signed a tenancy in a particular place. Really frustrating. And the lack of joined up ness of after school care here seems to me to militate against both parents working in decent jobs.
You are asking for the most popular schools to keep places empty on the off chance that someone in your circumstances might turn up and want one. It isn't going to happen. The most popular schools already have waiting lists. The fact that your son is lovely, clever and well educated does not give him any priority over any other child, The situation is further compounded by your wanting to live in a rural area where the schools' PAN are small.
I can understand your frustration, but you would be better off working from the basis of which schools currently have Y1 vacancies (with after school provision as an ideal) and planning your housing and travel to work around that.
Since 2006-2008, the UK has experienced an unexpected and huge rise in the birth rate. Very few councils saw this coming and very few made any extra provisions even when they knew what was about to hit the school system.
As a result, schools in many areas are so full that they cannot offer places to all of those who have lived nearby for years and who applied on time let alone people who move to the area and apply later.
The schools you like will have already turned away dozens of people who live locally and applied to them 2 years ago. They cannot cope with on time applications let alone save places for latecomers.
It is very frustrating but the law also means that Year 1 class sizes are capped so they don't even have to option to squeeze extra pupils in.
It's just frustrating how you can't get information definitively about where you would get sent if you signed a tenancy in a particular place.
Most schools don't have endless spaces left in Year 1. Therefore the council cannot possibly tell you that if you move to a certain area in 2 weeks or 2 months time that space will still be available. They have no idea if another Year 1 child will move to their area tomorrow and apply for a place. If so, they aren't allowed to save it for you.
The best bet is perhaps not to target an area with just 1 school but to look for an area with several decent sized schools and apply to all of them plus go on all of the waiting lists. If you apply to schools with 90 children per year rather than 30, you have more chance of a place either immediately or from the waiting list whereas in an isolated area with 30 children in a school year, there's a chance none of them will ever leave.
Just to add a couple of points to Tiggytape's comments...
Once you have a confirmed address in the UK and have applied for a school place you are entitled to appeal for your preferred school(s). If they have 30 per class in Y1 your chances of success are low but if they have smaller classes than that you have a reasonable chance of getting a place. Also, if there are no places within a reasonable distance from your new home the LA must find a place for you under their Fair Access Protocol. It won't necessarily be at a school you want and may be some distance from home but you are at least guaranteed to get a place somewhere.
It's not an area with one school. There are 5 I could manage to drop to and get to work on time. Nothing in any of them. And then you say I should find school places and then find a house, but that's exactly the problem. No address no school place.
I am not suggesting we have a god given right to a good school place. Just that the system makes about everything to do with trying to organise and commit to and cost a move very difficult in an age when the job market is supposed to be ever more flexible and mobile. And that goes for those who have to move within the UK as much as for those who come in from overseas.
And fundamentally actually I was just surprised and very very sad that a job move I have worked very hard to engineer will seemingly fail on this hurdle.
It is very frustrating but the law also means that Year 1 class sizes are capped so they don't even have to option to squeeze extra pupils in
In our area, our small village primary with one form entry per year has been exceeding this for years now. We have written to the LEA many times and took it quite a long way up the food chain. They claim that appeals are all being accepted by the panels on fair grounds but the reality is that they are building hundreds of new houses and have to put children somewhere. There isn't a non-oversubscribed school for miles around here. And we are nowhere near London.
We have had 32 to 35 children in each KS1 class for years now and as soon as one leaves another appears straightaway.
The LEA can force a school to go over numbers if there are no places whatsoever within a reasonable distance or for other genuine FAP reason. and children admitted by appeal can also legally take take the numbers up, as can pupils with a new statement.
But they cannot go over numbers otherwise, nor can they admit from the regular waiting list (even if previously coping with a higher number) until numbers drop below the limit.
But the LEA must find a place somewhere, and if over 2 miles must provide transport.
Could you run to a private school? They are more likely to have built in wrap around care.
FAP is an emergency measure that can enable a council to force schools to take more than 30 pupils in a Year 1 (or any) class. It only comes into force though is no school within a reasonable radius of the child's home has a place for them.
The definition of reasonable though is still several miles (with free transport provided if the child has to travel more than 2 miles)
A council could quite legitimately issue a school place 3 or 4 miles away and this would be deemed reasonable even though it is often a struggle for parents to cope with this.
rushingrachel - I wasn't suggesting you had limited yourself by focusing on just 1 school, more suggesting that you focus on areas with lots of schools of a decent size to optimise your chances of getting an offer as close to your new home as possible. Don't forget, waiting lists operate too and even if you get a disappointing allocation initially, you can ask to wait for better or closer schools too. I know it isn’t idea but schools are under enormous pressure for places. They cannot save places and they cannot promise anything in advance since places can be snapped up overnight if a new family moves to the area suddenly. All you can do is pick the best location possible (for work and to be within range of several schools), apply, accept what you’re offered (with free transport if it is over 2 miles from home) and wait on the lists for something better to come up. There isn’t any way around it for anyone and even people living in that area for years will have been turned down for the exact same schools you’d like. It isn’t just newcomers – often there isn’t enough room for on-time people to have a real choice either.
As prh says, you won't end up with no place at all but you may not initially get a school of choice.
I agree with tiggytape and prh47bridge.
Very few schools now are so under-subscribed that they have spare capacity. While it is true that you cannot apply for a place until you have an address, the LEA should be able to tell you which schools have current vacancies.
As recent threads here will testify, moving mid-school year can create all sorts of difficulties with finding school places. You may need to think creatively about how to use childminders and before- and after-school provision to make an initial placement work, while you wait for a place to become available through the waiting list and/or appeal for places at your preferred schools.
When we returned over ten years ago the LA would not even consider our application until we were back resident at the house even though we owned it, could prove we were returning and our tenants leaving. When we tried to fix tours of schools on a return visit in February (we were a 13 hour flight away) the local state schools either refused or showed us around with barely disguised disinterest / resentment clearly perceieving we were wasting their time. It meant we missed out on the secondary school admissions process and returned as late applicants and got offered a school that was several bus rides away, but then we did get offered a place at the local school three weeks into term, because a child had drooped out and no one further up the waiting list (including us) wanted to shift an 11 year old at that stage.
Admissions in this area are cut throat. Many parents spend years planning their strategies for getting into a good school, moving, making sacrifices so they can pay, tutoring for selectives, and those children whose parents are not equipped with the necessary knowledge and money already lose out. So I do not in any way think that being a returning expat with amazing, obviously , children does actually trump their needs and a process that attempts to be fair.
However I do also think it betrays an insularity. The response to our expressions of interest in private schools could not have been more different. They were keen to have the benefit of what one Head described as my DD's "amazing experiences and knowledge of other cultures", and the more selective the school, the more interest they showed. It meant my DD who initially wanted to be in a inclusive socially and academically mixed school ended up feeling it wasn't an environment she felt comfortable in, that her experiences would make her not valued and "weird".
I am afraid that returning expats either have to plan on going private or just live with the fact it is a gamble and they take luck of the draw along with everyone else.
Thanks. I really appreciate the pragmatic advice. It has helped me refocus expectation and I am coming to terms with this all. I simply didn't know the system was as stretched as this in the relative middle of nowhere.
I went to one of the five schools within manageable distance of the job, and my mum lives up the road so I am actually local to the area and know it well (I am, in a real sense, trying to move home). When I went to school there were biggish classes in my school (above 30 if I recall) but if you moved to the village you went to the school and that was the end of it. Now there are people arriving in big cars outside the village school to avoid the town schools, and we could move to the village and not be able to go. All seems in such a muddle. Oh well.
I do absolutely understand why the system is as it is, given the stress on places. There are just people like me and mid year movers who will always have a problem.
But even if it isn't relevant to the "system" that my child is mostly pleasant (except when he's a monster) and well educated and clever, it is highly personally relevant to me and I will not send my DS to a bad school where I have a sense he will be unhappy given I have a choice not to do it. The casualty is me and my professional ambitions and my desire to come home but I find I am often the casualty as a parent!
I don't think we could afford private (UK salary loads lower than here). The other problem is that we have DS2 who is 2.5 so has started school where we are which is free. So in costing the move we have to take into account paying monstrous amounts for nursery which we are not paying at the moment and that would probably financially tip the balance.
Figure it could be I just have to throw in the towel and stay stuck as a depressed homesick expat. I've obviously just gone about this the wrong way around. But there wouldn't have been a right way. Unless I got a job there wouldn't have been any options to consider anyway.
Thanks to all again for practical tips.
OP has described an (extremely common) position - she has discovered (from LEA or schools themselves) that, in her target area the only schools with vacancies now are ones she does not like the look of, and some of which are an inconvenient journey from the areas where she most wants to live.
FAP will not be activated as there are vacancies in e general area, so the only way into preferred schools in KS1 is via waiting list (and of course that brings uncertainties of whether a place will ever come up, if you would be at top of the list, and when a vacancy might occur).
Aside from that, you could look to the private sector (if there is an affordable school nearby), expand the radius of where you hope to live to see if that brings any additional schools into the frame, or resign yourself to a school you don't like that much at present (though do look out for things like new HTs etc, which can change the actuality, though not the reputation, of a school surprisingly quickly).
Sorry OP - my post crossed with your last one (slow typing).
Not at all, every little nugget of thought is helpful!
OP, you will become entitled to 15 hours per week of government funding for nursery provision for your 2.5 year old once he/she turns 3, if that makes any difference to your family finances? Though it is always worth checking that any nursery you have identified accepts the funding (most but not all do, particularly the incredibly expensive ones).
Good luck with whatever you decide. It is a complete nightmare trying to get a place in a decent state primary school place in huge swathes of the country now, so you are not alone.
Does anyone want to send their child to a bad school? We're all in the same boat really, and it's sad, but I'm afraid unrealistic, to want to move here from abroad and expect to sail into an outstanding school just like that. There's a long queue, unfortunately, and it's growing longer by the day.
I am sorry Clam, I didn't say anyone wanted to send their child to a bad school. Just that, at my personal expense, I won't do it to my children. And for the record I am sorry anyone has to. Hostility is unnecessary. I really actually do appreciate the practical advice one gets from mumsnet which is helping my thinking.
I am not an unrealistic person, or expecting to queue jump or anything else. I just want to come home. And I want the best for my kids. And I was unprepared for those aspirations being incompatible.
Having lived in the UK, the US and and in several countries on the continent, I would never swap an average state school on the continent for an average UK state school (unless a grammar or a comp like DAO, but how many are there and it's so much more tricky to get into those select few).
You can of course move right next to the preferred school, your 2.5yr old will get in and then the elder sibling would be top of waiting list. But then you have secondaries to consider which are much more important than primaries. And there again, continent state provision (in general) wins easily when compared to the UK.
Having said that, I totally understand your frustration re lack of places for local children when you move into the area. Where I lived in the US in Connecticut, the local state school HAD to provide a place as long as you are in the catchment. I don't know if it's universal in the States, but it makes total sense to me. Also, in many places in Australia it works like that.
I saw a threat on this forum, where a family were agonizing over a 1 year work transfer abroad because they couldn't be sure the school would have places for their kids when they'd come back to their house in a year's time. That effectively puts a total stop to any kind of mobility - classic island mentality.
RE: the US system (which may vary from state to state), it sounds good in theory, that your child goes to the catchment school regardless (assuming you're happy with that school), but friends of mine in NC were in an area where there was so much expansion with new housing going up, that every now and again they operated 're-assignment.' Basically, they re-organised all the schools' catchment areas and many children were ousted from their school and sent to another one, no argument. No one's mad keen on that either.
There is no single "UK" system; in Scotland you are guaranteed a place at your catchment school.
It doesn't work like that in E/W because of the areas of incredible population density, and because of successive Government's policies of fostering (at least the illusion of) parental choice.
Maybe you need to extend your search to other parts of Suffolk as great swathes of schools are regularly under-subscribed (and not just the rubbish ones) due to local demographics.
Have you seen this document? www.suffolk.gov.uk/assets/suffolk.gov.uk/Education%20and%20Careers/Children%20and%20Young%20People/Schools%20&%20Support%20in%20Education/Admissions/2013-08-15%20Schools%20Directory%20Primary%20Schools%202014-2015%20hyperlinks.pdf
This would give an indication of all the schools in Suffolk which admitted at less than PAN last year so would be a help to identifying ones with places in year 1. Don't just focus on Ofsted outstanding (as there are not many of those in Suffolk) but many with "Good" rating are actually really good. If you name some schools we could offer advice. I really only know Ipswich schools but there are enough Suffolk folk on the boards.
I love mumsnet. Thank you so much justicewoman. Seems like I was roughly unlucky and there are a couple of potential options here.
2 of the 5 closest were actually Essex schools. Do you know if we can apply for Essex and Suffolk schools in parallel. And be on waiting lists for both?
We looked at a Little Garth, which is lovely, but paying would stretch us to the limit.
Or you could get a childminder to take your DC to school and pick up and that way you can get to work on time.
In the short term, why not get a good au pair / live in help. That way you can go on waiting lists and have someone at home with your children who can "home educate" until a place comes up.
op, would you really refuse your dream job offer on the grounds you can't get the school you wanted?? There are always ways round logistic problems, and people will help. Child minders will drive kids to and from school and you have a parent near by - could your mum help at all?
When we were considering an area move, I phoned up the new LEA and they told me which schools would likely have places available. Then we couldn't decide on moving to the area local to the likely schools, or moving to the area we wanted and going on a waiting list. SO we never moved in the end. But I believe that is the most usual way to move area(?).
The working parents issues of course are never ending. School holidays? Inset days? 9-3pm hours? Most people round here use child minders before and after school. My friend is a single mum lawyer and her kids travel 15min drive to school. She has a part time nanny share with another mum. Basically, the nanny does before and after school care for 4 kids.
At least the dc are young enough to adapt to moving schools at this age. It would be worse if they were year 6, or 7 to doing exams. Just go for it I say. Nothing is forever.
Yes you can apply for schools in both Essex and Suffolk. You apply to your home LA for schools in both LAs - you don't apply separately to each LA. And yes, you can be on waiting lists in both counties.
I will do more ringing on Monday!
If I can find any, or even better more than one, ok schools with places, we could commit to rental and I could start thinking about childminding and after school care solutions which you have all made me more cautiously optimistic about. I have got spoiled here and not had to think about building childcare solutions. All schools here have after school garderie, it's kind of cultural, so that's another thing this has set me straight on.
And yes, I would give up job if I couldn't get ducks in a row. Really I have been very tenacious already. My DH loves expat life and so luring him away has always been difficult. I finally came to the conclusion that to move him I needed to come up with a concrete proposal (work is x, kids go to y, housing is z) and force him to consider it. All of which was working until the 5 schools said no to DS1!
It may still have viability. Fingers crossed. I really want to do it, professionally and personally, it's just all tricky to line up.
To give you some optimistic thoughts on the childcare front - school-based before /after school care may not be the best solution fior a working parent in any case, simply because it doesn't supply what you may find most difficult - cover for the holidays / INSET days / half terms etc.
I have used a childminder for many years - often in combination with school based after school care / free local pre-school priovision for 15 hours per week - and it might well give you a flexible option for both your children. So, for example, your 2.5 year old could go to the childminder all day initially, but from 3 could be dropped off by the childminder at a local community-run pre-school for 15 hours, which would be free. The same childminder might well do school runs to one or a number of schools. There are databases of childminders online, but tbh if you identify a school with a place for your older child, it might be easiest to ask the school if they know of childminders who serve that school. All the schools I know of would be able to give you that list ... often with an unofficial 'commentary... 'Oooh, yes, X is the childminder I would want for my children' was the golden nugget that fell from the lips of the normally wholly discreet school secretary when I made a similar enquiry!
That effectively puts a total stop to any kind of mobility - classic island mentality.
The system in England isn't borne out of any ideological mentality.
The reason we don't have a catchment system with guaranteed school places for all those living close to each school is population density.
In London, population density is about 5000 people per km compared to 65 per km in Scotland. There is no way schools could talk all children who live closest to them - for some schools this represents many hundreds of children
Added to that, land values and lack of undeveloped space means most schools in English cities physically have no room to expand to take more pupils.
It is extremely frustrating.
Our house search some years ago was not based on "do I like this house?" but "does the school have a place?" It was particularly exasperating when I found one house for sale next to the village school but the school secretary told me haughtily that I'd have to drive to a school five miles away because they were full.
Someone I know was top of the waiting list for primary school in same road and then to her horror a house came up for sale two doors nearer the school and her worst nightmare was realised when a rival for a year one place bought it. First world middle class problem, of course, but still gutting.
To the council, the fact that you don't fancy Bash Street Primary which ha plenty of spare places is immaterial.
My granny used to move every year, just because she fancied it. My mother said she and her sister were just sent off to the nearest school the day after the move and announced they were new. [No wonder my mum had ishoos...]
I have had a giggle about haughty school secretary. Got exactly that kind of response from the school 3 doors up from the house we planned to rent. "Come here? Of course not!" She was kind of pleased to be able to say no. Whereas the lady at the LEA who wasn't able to help me much was at least very pleasant and sympathetic.
It is frustrating. Even though I now realise I should have anticipated the problem, and it's not uncommon, I find it very frustrating. We are not helped by me needing to go to work in one direction and my DH needing to get to the train station in the other direction. The only doable solution is to live somewhere in the middle, which seems to make school places, child minders and ASC provision generally pretty hard to find.
Yes, you can apply to schools in both counties, and you can put yourself on the waiting list for as many schools as you like.
If you want this job and to move to the location, I would do it, and then immediately put yourself down for places. In 5 schools, more across the border in Essex, a place will come up.
And as someone said if you move very close to a school you like and your younger child gets a place, your older one will shoot to the top of the list as a sibling. Conversely, you will be able to opt for a sibling place at a school your first child is at if you like that too!
It is a tricky and frustrating situation but it's hard to see how places could be kept 'just in case', or overseas workers or expat returners given any kind of favourable treatment over flexibility. Your OP was sounding a bit like an entitled tantrum! Lots of MN-ers ask about in-year admissions - everyone gets a place in the end, I imagine.
It could be a tough commute for one of you, but the alternative could be close to one place of work, and the schools, and the other parent doing the commute? It would depend on the distances however.
Sorry if it sounded like an entitled strop. I am actually not at all a stroppy person. I really didn't expect places to be kept open just for me and my ilk. More just shocked by the stretch on school places in a very rural area and depressed by how very difficult it is to get certainty on what you can expect especially when trying to sort all this out from a distance. I do see why this is so but it doesn't make it any less disappointing.
I also happily concede this is a problem manufactured by my move overseas in 2004 (incidentally that was only supposed to be for 2 years at the time and I was 26. I never contemplated all of this.). Make your bed and lie in it. I see that too.
The expat angle was at the forefront of my mind as before Christmas I went to a chat about how the government really wanted to stem the flow of brain drain and British expats should realise GB has lots for us and we have lots for it. From which I went away glowing about how nice it would be to give my kids a country upbringing back home like I had.
But I am now fully realistic about what I can expect. And much helped by the advice here.
Just a quick point on the 'living somewhere in the middle'.
We did this for several years - DH commuting off in one direction, me in the other, children remained at school n the middle.
Which is fine, until someone is ill. When you get the 'your child is ill, come at once', and BOTH of you are 45 minutes' commute away, it is hideous (not to mention lots of other slightly lower adrenalin situations like needing to get back for parents' evemnings, maybe moving a child to an out of school activity etc).
I now work very close to my children's schools. My DH does the long commute BUT it in fact works out much better than a 'fair' half and half commute split. I do all the child-wrangling, and that's easy for me because it is close. DH does the long commute, knowing that he will almost never have to drop everything and run - and in fact, because he does it by train, he gets a seat and a decent wodge of time to work on the train each way. The average stress level of the household is MUCH lower.
Where would you need to live if you were really close to one job or the other? How bad would it make the other commute? Would it help the school situation at all? Would it reduce any other household expenditure at all (we use less out-of-school childcare, and only own 1 car - which easily offsetas the marginal cost of extra miles on the train for DH)
you can put yourself on the waiting list for as many schools as you like
No you cannot - at least, not unless your home LA allows it. The Schools Adjudicator has ruled on this. You apply to your home LA even if you are applying for schools in a neighbouring LA. Your home LA is entitled to limit the number of waiting lists you are on. Some LAs only allow you to be on 3 waiting lists.
Rachel I must admit as an ex expat I do find your desperation to get back here in spite of all the stress it will put your family under hard to understand. Has it occurred to you that when you get your children back from the lives they are used to, growing up between cultures with all the benefits that is now known to give them, third country kids, universities love them etc. etc. and put them in a country school they might find it a bit narrow minded and dull? That what seems so idyllic a life through the rose tinted specs of your nostalgia might be a little different in reality when it is a freezing cold winter, the nearest supermarket is 8 miles and you haven't a moment spare between all the haring about you need to do to balance work and children and house. And inevitably in relation to the latter you will end up buying/renting some "project" that consumes time, money and sanity. I have known so many expats end up miserable as a result of the contrast between the dream and the reality.......................
I know it wouldn't be perfect, and I also know that a big move would put my family under stress, which is exactly why I am trying to plan it sensibly and not just say "sod it, I'll go and sort it out later". My family has already been under tremendous stress and my desire to go back is rooted in certain things that have happened in the past few years and the lack of career opportunity for me here.
To explain. I moved here because, on a whim, I applied for and got a very senior position in a company. I just hit it off with the CFO and he hired me on the spot. I was at least 5 years underqualified and ambitious. It was a fantastic job, but long hours, lots of travel, lots of stress to get things right. I met and married DH who had, and has, a pretty cool job with a lot of travel. So we decided we'd try for a baby and that we would fit it around our work (how naive many of us are before kids actually arrive). With military precision I lined up creches and mothers helps and agreed I would leave the office at 19h for 2 hours and be back online for 9. You get 4 months maternity leave here so I went back to the dream job when DS1 was just 4 months. At 5 months he became chronically sick. After 2 months in hospital he was diagnosed with a rare and potentially fatal immunity problem. So for months DH and I had to juggle sleeping on hospital camp beds by our son and trying to get up and press on with work. When finally after 3 months he was discharged he couldn't go into creche so we got a nanny, but the nanny wouldn't work the hours that I did so we had to have 2 mothers helps to cover the nanny. And we were hostages to them all as we have no family here to cover. My boss up to this point was pretty understanding.
So for a few months we tottered on then I got pregnant again, only to have a miscarriage at 14 weeks.
Then my mum, to whom I am very close, was diagnosed with cancer. I wanted time off to be with her during her surgery but of course couldn't even ask after all of the above.
During my pregnancy with DS2 I knew my boss had absolutely got sick of me. I was trying very hard to keep all the wheels on but I was always stressed and drained, and planning how I could get out to relieve the nanny or the babysitter. He let me know when I was on maternity leave that he had hired "another senior counsel" and then when I got back told me that of course he didn't have the budget for 2 of us so he'd have to let me go. Of course this was illegal, but being a lawyer I know very well that you can't in most circumstances stop people doing what they want, you can only make it more expensive for them. So I negotiated a good settlement and a reference and left that chapter behind. Also I did understand. Ex colleagues tell me the new guy is always there, has a wife that doesn't work, and wears smart looking suits. And is good at the job. Who wouldn't want that guy rather than wait around for me to put my life back together!! Again!!
When I look back over the near fatal illness, miscarriage, mum's cancer and my redundancy (which I don't too often as going through it was bad enough), it has really made me hate being far from family. And made me reassess what kind of job is actually possible when your partner has a very hours and travel intensive role, but you still want to have some form of career and have worked hard for it over the years.
Of course there are things we would miss here. Our life is set up very comfortably especially as I am now around to do much more for the kids. But I have a crap admin role which requires only that you can speak English, whereas I have been offered a good job in the UK, doesn't pay as well as the dream job, but it is 3 full days and 2 half days which gives some balance. Here we have our elder son in British school (he hated the local school) but the younger one in local school because we couldn't pay a second set of school fees. We'd like them in the same place ... I feel very strongly we shouldn't offer an opportunity to one we can't offer to the other.
I guess the bottom line is I'd like a new start and to re-start my career, so the move is actually about me rather than the kids. But I won't do it if it's going to be really crap for them. But it's not driven by the fact I have a rose tinted view of how life would be although I probably sound that way (and I do occasionally dream about waitrose). After all life has thrown at me in the last few years I don't have the capacity for forward planning, I take everything a little at a time and very cautiously. Really big crap things make you wiser, but much older.
You have had a tough time and I know law can be one of the last bastions of neanderthal behaviour towards women, as is I now find the academic world All my lawyer friends (city firms) in the end have given up the big jobs in favour of tribunal or freelance work etc. anything with flexibility. I gather country practise is another option if a bit soul destroying if you are used to the adrenaline of big deals, though presumably a lot less soul destroying than admin work. Sadly even as a senior manager in a more accommodating business, a combination of Cancer and the demands of having older children meant I also lost my big job, hence the return to academia (though I did get a deal on the grounds of constructive dismissal, it was before Cancer was classed as a disability) Actually there is only one of my peers, we all are at the stage of having teenage children, who has stuck with a big job and she is the breadwinner. It isn't easy even if you are settled geographically.
However being a returning expat does have it's own challenges. I don't think anywhere is truly home again after you have lived abroad, in the sense it is before. You are always torn between the advantages and disadvantages of home and away, and if you feel negative there is a risk of the grass always being greener. I have just known so many expats be miserable between the new demands of UK life with children, even if you get them into the same primary / prep there will be the point at which the older goes to secondary, and that will be a whole other challenge to find a place at a good school, buying the dream house in the country, often complete with years of renovation, cowboy builders, expense etc., the sheer misery and negativity of UK society, and the bloody weather, especially if the partner is still travelling /working overseas. Having said that returning from Europe, especially Switzerland seems to be the least painful transition.
I wish you luck but just wanted to highlight the risks.
I am sure there are challenges to returning as an expat. I just want to have a chance to give it, and my career, a go.
And there is hope. I have found 1 school that can have my DS. And it's a good one! Last challenge is finally to get my DH, who has started mumbling about costings, AGAIN, after months of planning, to sign the tenancy agreement so we can apply to the LEA to get this place.
Schools in Essex were more proportionately oversubscribed I found. Waiting lists of 1 or 2 at most Suffolk schools. Upwards of 10 in several of the Essex ones.
I am really pleased that you seem to have found something suitable for your DS.
Justicewoman the only school I found was Stoke by Nayland. When I was at school that was posh. By dint of the golf club! The Ofsted report looks good. Not sure how I would sort out after school care but one thing at a time. And my DH is first. He's getting a royal sitting down and costing of everything in sight and a few peripherals he hasn't thought of. Into the night if necessary!
Meant to post yesterday and I now see you have found a school you're happy with - that's great. I wanted to say though - don't write off schools as 'awful' even if on paper their ofsted isn't great. These days schools are not allowed to remain 'awful' for long. I'm a governor at a school that was Satisfactory at the last inspection, and we are due another any day. So much has changed since that inspection - the whole of the management team, most of the staff, the entire curriculum - and we are expecting to get Good this time - the LEA has told us it's realistic. We are undersubscribed and it breaks my heart that people will read the last Ofsted and say 'no way', without even visiting and giving us a chance.
Thank you UC. It's not done and dusted. I have an appointment to see the school on Friday which is as soon as so can get there and have signed papers for the rental. So have to pray no usurper comes up in the period it takes us to get our ducks in a row. What a house of cards!
This school is not Ofsted outstanding nor do I set so much store by that. My mum was a teacher, a really inspirational one, in a hard area. At one point her school even failed an Ofsted. But she was an amazing person in front of kids. And inspired me and my sister from a dodgy comp to Oxbridge. I have quite simply been constrained by the very small number of schools with a place.
It speaks volumes for your commitment as a governor that you bother to keep posting to the unknowledgeable like me.
And in general the kindness of strangers for pointing me in the right direction, hauling my expectations back in line and putting all the pros and cons before me is much appreciated.
Hi RR, Stoke by Nayland is a lovely village (though I'm biased as we got engaged on our way to a restaurant there in the 1990s called Martha's Vineyard). I am sure the school will be fine. My son's primary school was Ofsted "Good" and I felt that they had a wider educational agenda than just SATS and Ofsted. The Suffolk border villages are very handy educationally as you can easily choose secondary from either county. My son got a place at CRGS but turned it down due to the more than 1 hour's journey each way.
That's really nice to know. And your son must be great to have got into CRGS. I knew loads of people who went for the exam even in my day but never knew anyone who actually got in. Brilliant achievement even if you did decide to turn it down.
rushingrachel, I know that when you're at the KS1 stage, secondary schools aren't even on your mind. But I think that, in general, you can make good on any primary school problem - so it doesn't matter if the primary school isn't really very good. In your position, I'd be looking to get a house that will have good secondary options.
I wouldn't worry about secondary yet, Rachel. As you are renting at the moment you can easily move before secondary stage if need be to get into required catchment
You have plenty of time for that, just get yourselves settled with the immediate primary options. Schools can change so quickly no point looking at secondary just yet.
No point I our case really worrying about secondary when totally constrained anyway in choice of primary by finding a place. Even the nearest independent school is full. You can't pay to buy peace of mind even if you wanted to.
We have a meeting with the head of the only available school on Friday and have papers ready to go to LEA immediately after that and tenancy signed. Means we have to pay to rent 2 months before we need the house but then means we have time to get an appeal in if there are further hitches on the school place problem.
House of cards so trying not to get over excited that my long hoped for move could actually work this time.
I'm pleased to hear things are moving forward for you. We moved (200 miles within the UK) in 2008 when my DD was at the end of Reception Year. Trying to find a Reception place was very difficult and we also had to find schools with available places first and then find a house to rent as close as possible.
We ended up being 3 miles away from the school and it was difficult to integrate with the other parents. The school was in a very insular area. We decided we did not want to buy a house nearer to my DD's school so when it came time to apply for a school place for DD2, we checked the most local school again, and they had a place in Y2 for my DD1. I dreaded moving her from a school (again) where she seemed happy. But we did move her and she thrived in the local school - which is actually a very large primary school, a school I'd never have chosen for my sensitive DD1 her when she was 4.
My point is that children can be more resilient than we imagine and it is sometimes difficult to see which schools will be a good fit for our children when they are so little.
We found it much more stressful moving to a new area than we had imagined. Small things got to us like knowing where the nearest X was or building up known walks or knowing where to go to eat on a precious night out. At least you have some familiarity with the area you are moving to.
I'd think most carefully about where you live in terms of work commute, distance to school, finding like-minded people, living close to activities you enjoy. And yes, do think about secondary school. It comes around faster than you think.
Bryte thank you for sharing your experience.
I confess as the whole thing takes shape I am getting nervous as hell. Sleeping badly. Having mini attacks of panic. My DH has pretty much made me insist on this move. If it goes wrong he will squarely be able to lay it at my door. The idea of taking apart a perfectly settled, well arranged life with kids happy in good schools for something partially unknown in an area where I have no friends even though I do have family is very scary indeed. Could be a mistake. What I would give for a crystal ball.
Hi! I'm in exactly the same position, moving back to Suffolk this summer 2014 from 8 years in Texas. I'm skimming through your post and can totally relate to what you're going through. I agree with the person who said don't write off schools with bad ofsteads, ideally you need to visit them ( not easy from 5,500 miles) or at least call and chat to them I have found people to be incredibly helpful. One primary school i am considering has a shocking ofstead but turns out the head was having an affair with a teacher and thus neglected the school. Now it's pulling out the stops to recover so consequently bears no relation to the ofstead. A word of warning. As of 1st Jan, without any warning, Suffolk County Council has changed the goal posts and you can no longer apply for school places until the relevant children are resident in the UK. This is a total nightmare and I'm contesting it. We dashed back from US last summer to look at schools and buy a house to have an address to apply for schools, I've had regular contact with all the relevant schools and the Council admissions department ( none of whom knew this change was coming) and now I can't submit our applications and reassure our children where they will be at school. Moving is stressful and I am happy to share what I've learnt so far if you need it! I too feel homesick, want roots, don't want to live the rest of my life in the US ( yes I know the benefits but there are also huge draw backs). Focus on your progress and make sure your DH knows what a mammoth job you are doing researching and organizing all this.
Hello!! So nice to hear from someone in a parallel position.
Re SCC WHAT??!!! Nobody told me that!!! And it must be wrong, it means that the county council are obliging children to go without education despite education being compulsory? Although I can see how it isn't actually discriminatory, it is just a pain in the arse.
Obviously in the current climate I see what they are trying to deal with but still. We are hopping along as fast as we can with our tenancy and have found an ok school place but I wasn't prepared to have to whip my son out of school now and leave him uneducated for a month or more while we sort it out.
That is crap.
As you say, all I am looking for is to be able at a certain moment to say to my DS, "I know it will be hard, but we are moving to England, near granny and grandad, and we've found a nice house and you'll be going to x school and I can't wait to show it all to you". Personally I am finding this the roughest aspect as my son LOVES his current school and will definitely be gutted to leave.
I see this is on the feckin website now. Hell. So what are we to do. Move my son out of school mid January, have him sit in an unfurnished house and not put him in school until March? Arrrrrrrrrrrgh.
That's a standard policy - am surprised Suffolk didn't insist on child being in situ before! I'm not sure it'll really cause a problem though - you couldn't have applied for a place anyway unless you were resident as the place has to be accepted and the child started within a week or two anyway. You couldn't secure a place then wait half a term before taking the place. Or if you did you'd risk losing it if someone else applied and started before you.
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.
That's not right. You had to have an address, not actually to have brought the child to live, uneducated, at the address.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Suffolk MUST have an exception for Crown servants whatever they say.
PRIH I appealed on the basis of being on income support and they refused still.
Would it be possible to move in with your mum for a short while and apply from her address?
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.
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
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.
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.
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 ?
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