Primary school application angst - support thread?

(127 Posts)
Lozario Tue 01-Jan-13 21:40:59

So I'm lying here attempting to have an early night as can hardly sleep for worrying about our primary school application for DS1. But of course I can't sleep. Again sad

We live in a borough of south London where small children seem to outnumber adults about 20 to 1. Found out last year that we might no longer live close enough to our closest primary school - a 3 form entry approx 580 metres away. All other schools are a drive away. It's going on our list as number 1 but looking unlikely.

DH is one of those lucky people who can tell himself "you have no control over this, worrying won't achieve anything, so don't worry and see what happens". I am not one of those people; am self-confessed control freak and struggling with the basic concept of my PFB starting school in Sept at all, let alone which school it might be!

April seems a long way away, especially if I don't sleep between now and then, and so I wondered if there are any other insomniac mums out there with kids (supposedly) starting primary in Sept 2013 who might like to join me in a virtual wine or brew ??? DH is sick of my constant anxiety!!!

fairydustallover Wed 02-Jan-13 20:27:07

Martha, no, other side in Saddleworth

Lozario Wed 02-Jan-13 21:38:38

Is anyone thinking of any alternatives just in case? Home schooling/ private? We're considering both if we don't get any schools on our list, although we'd struggle to afford private and it would definitely call time on our potential plan to have a third baby. So I should probably stop watching One Born Every Minute. hmm

fufulina Wed 02-Jan-13 21:47:05

Ridiculous question, but do preferences even count? We're in north london and preference is the fifth criteria, with distance the fourth. So, if I put down the really popular school, which we absolutely won't get into, what would happen with the school at the end of the road that we should get into based on distance? Presumably, they allocate on distance first, then preference, so it makes no odds which you put first?

Genuine question, I genuinely don't understand!

greensnail Wed 02-Jan-13 22:11:53

They take the preference into account if you are able to be allocated more than one place based on the other criteria. So if you are eligible for a place at both your first and second choice schools then they'll offer you a place at your first preference school.

tethersjinglebellend Wed 02-Jan-13 22:15:56

Can I join?

I live in Tower Hamlets which has just introduced catchment areas, putting me out of catchment for my two nearest schools. Have put down the in catchment school which DD currently attends (nursery) but have no way of knowing if we'll get a place as the tie-breaker is now 'nearest alternative school' hmm

Ah well confused

Can someone in London tell me about the online application? I have filled it all in and done everything, but is there a 'submit' option, or does it just process the information you have entered without you having to finalise it?

tethersjinglebellend Wed 02-Jan-13 22:19:15

Schools are not told where they rank in your choices- they allocate places according to the admissions criteria (usually SEN/Looked After Children/Siblings/Distance), and they alter accordingly when the LEA sorts the places in preference order IYSWIM.

This is to prevent them from allocating places to those who have put the school as a first preference.

lalalonglegs Wed 02-Jan-13 22:49:46

My oldest child is in Y4 at a great school but we live in a very fertile south London borough and, when it came to getting a school place in reception, we didn't get a single offer (despite living about 500m away from the nearest primary). The reason I am telling you this is not to scare you all but to say that things do work out.

We had a very stressful couple of months trying to find her a school within the borough (with very little support from the LA) and, shortly before the reception year started, she was offered a place at the nearest (not very good) school that we had put on the application form. The upshot was that we were very unhappy with the quality of teaching there and the general set up but, after a couple of years, a place came up at the brilliant school she now attends and which she is very, very happy at. The school is extremely over-subscribed but not only were we offered a place there but also at a neighbouring equally popular school a couple of days later. We live about 1000-1200m from both so miles away in terms of their reception intake.

I'm not saying that those first two years weren't difficult but, especially in London at multiple-form entry schools, places do come up, it is worth just taking some deep breaths and the long view. I will never forget the misery of receiving the LA email saying that she hadn't got into any school - not helped by the fact I was 8.5 months pregnant sad - but we managed to get her in somewhere and going there (a) has not adversely effected her at all (b) has made me think very carefully about what to look for in secondary schools/spot things that I feel aren't up to scratch in other schools.

So please don't lose sleep about these things. Even if you don't get the school of your choice, things can work out long term and, as the OP's husband pointed out, there's not a lot you can do in the meantime. Good luck with your applications.

prh47bridge Thu 03-Jan-13 00:25:52

fufulina - Preference is not an admission criteria. There are no circumstances in which you get priority for a school because you named it as a higher preference than someone else.

As greensnail says, preferences come into play if your child gets a place at more than one of your preferred schools. If that happens you will be offered the highest preference with a place available.

fufulina Thu 03-Jan-13 08:55:30

Thanks for the replies. So why would people apply to heavily oversubscribed schools when they know they're not in cathchment? And if, for instance, I put down my third nearest school, which is very popular, would it affect my chances of getting a place at the nearest school?

MarthasHarbour Thu 03-Jan-13 09:28:05

We have just changed ours, decided to go for the safe bet catchment as choice 1. It is a really good school and-i would like some sleep over the next three months!

It has a 90 intake. I think i would prefer him to be in a bigger school so he can make more friends. I also heard from two people this morning that the school we were going to go for as choice 1 has an excellent G&T record but they are a bit meh about anyone falling outside of G&T. Also our 'new' choice 1 have adopted some farm animals and visit our local allotment! All of this is sooo up DS's street grin

There i feel all relaxed now - although i still may go for an early wine

lalalonglegs that is a really interesting story, so glad it all worked out for you. i had concerns if we had to move DS school but DH said he did it and it was fine, and it has worked to your benefit too smile

lozario we could probably afford the local independent school if DS doesnt get into any of the five schools. We may consider it if he doesnt get into choices 1 or 2 hmm although like you that would shelve our plans for potential DC2 (which hasnt happened over the last two years anyway!)

oo fairydust i dont know that area too well, but my colleague is a born and bred Saddleworth gal and is one of the loveliest most intelligent peeps i know so she must have done well wherever she went!! smile

prh47bridge Thu 03-Jan-13 09:56:03

fufulina - People apply to such schools because it is their ideal school. They may strike it lucky and get a place. Their list of preferences should, however, include at least one school where they have a good chance of getting a place.

Putting other schools ahead of your local school on your list of preferences will not damage your chances of getting a place there, although you will only be offered that place if none of your higher preferences come up. However, if you don't name your local school at all you are taking a risk as anyone who has named the school as a preference will be ahead of you in the queue.

You should use all your preferences, name schools in your genuine order of preference and include at least one school where you are almost certain to get a place.

fufulina Thu 03-Jan-13 10:19:35

Thank you prh47 that is very helpful!

FrankWippery Thu 03-Jan-13 10:41:42

Lala, I seriously think you're in the same borough as me and suspect I know which school you're talking about too. If so, my three (now late teens) big ones went there, DD2 starting mid way through Easter term and other two following in the September.

I've got both those schools down for DD3 at 2nd and 3rd choices, though tbh like you say, I'm not that fussed about skipping to a new school mid term if a place comes up.

Tethers, on our online forms there's a submit button at the end of the completed form. Also we can change options as many times as wanted before the deadline.

OP - yes I've got her on waiting lists for BH (Garrard's) and Thomas's as well. Also on the waiting waiting list for Hornsby. But I would be staggered if I don't get one of my 6 choices, and will be happy with any really.

lalalonglegs Thu 03-Jan-13 11:11:03

Frank - I've just re-read your post. Yep, same schools - although the catchment area is greater than 200m, I think it is about 400m at the one my children attend (B). I got nobbled into showing parents around for the open days this year and felt a total fraud as I took them into the IT suite, art room, blethered on about the marvellous PE teaching and wonderful range of after-school clubs which will never be available to the vast majority of their children sad (at least not for a couple of years if they are prepared to wait it out.

FrankWippery Thu 03-Jan-13 12:06:34

Lala - I thought so! I was stabbing in the dark somewhat with my 200m, though I knew it had shrunk considerably since my three were at H. B is my second choice actually, I know a fair few people there and I prefer that they wear uniform too.

I've not been to any open days as I know the schools well and enough to know they haven't actually changed all that dramatically since mine were at primary in the late 90s/early 00s. I'd be interested to know, if you're happy to say, which school your DD was at first. Just seen she's Year 4 now, so pretty sure you'll know chums of mine! Small old world.

Lozario Thu 03-Jan-13 13:16:42

Frank Actually I think we're in adjacent boroughs - both must have new all-through schools. We are east of you smile

Lala I love your name - it's what we call DD!! (Not her actual name, just similar!) Good to hear your story too. I know DH is right in that we can't achieve anything by panicking at this point but I do feel he hasn't got a handle on the reality of the situation - we seriously might not get anywhere in April (or at least nowhere we'd be happy with) and I don't want him to be in a state of shock! It's worth reminding myself though that kids are adaptable aren't they, if he changes schools in the first year it wouldn't potentially be a disaster.

My OH was chatting to our doctor who said he'd heard from another parent advice from a teacher at the really over-subscribed school near us: "Rent a house nearer to the school". hmm A TEACHER said that??!! I'm sure it happens too, we've heard anecdotes of families renting for a year and then moving back to the family home once they have a place where they want. angry

Lozario Thu 03-Jan-13 13:18:16

OH yes and DH says we should give up the booze for January!!! shock How will I cope with the school stress?! I think I'll have to have a secret guzzle whilst the kids eat tea before he gets home!! wink

GateGipsy Thu 03-Jan-13 14:36:11

Lozario I am fairly sure that wouldn't entirely work - or wouldn't be legal. You could lose your place. Maybe it varies from LA to LA, but I did think it was across England that you have to apply to the school from the postcode of the property you own if it is considered a main residence. So if the property you own is the same size or of similar proportions or bigger to the one you rent, they will consider the property you own as your main residence.

Admissions or PH47bridge can better clarify on that. I don't think it is as easy to 'rent' in the area as people seem to think.

admission Thu 03-Jan-13 14:55:42

Probably the worse people to get advice from on admissions are the school staff and the head teacher. They seem to work on the basis of their best guess rather than working from facts.
Giving that kind of advice can have serious consequences because of various bits in the admission code (plus a good few legal cases) which can give rise to unintended consequences. So if an individual member of staff effectively says to a parent they will be offered a place at the school then at appeal and assuming that the parent can prove it was said (get it in writing!) then the likelyhood is that they will get a place on appeal. This is definitely a problem with both head teachers and with people in the school office.
The other thing they should not be doing is offering advice or support to individual parents as this would be construed as being seen to favour that family over other families. So letters written by head teachers in support of a pupil are definitely frowned upon. You can imagine how popular the head teacher is within the Local Authority when the Local Authority come to appeal to say that the school is full and cannot possibly take any more pupils because ....... and then find out the parent has a letter from the head teacher saying they support their appeal for a place!
There are quite a few strings of messages about renting for the sole purpose of getting a school place. The best advice is do not do it because LAs are now very wise to people doing this and most of the time they will be found out and lose the school place. And this can happen after the pupil has started at the school. That is not to say that anybody who is genuinely renting accommodation as their primary residence should have anything to fear, it is those who have a primary residence and are renting to gain an advantage who will sufer the consequences of the deception.

leeloo1 Thu 03-Jan-13 15:51:09

I'm another stressed-out mum applying in a North London borough. Many of the schools near us are very poor, so the better ones are oversubscribed. sad

I think I understand the application process, but would be grateful if anyone could confirm its as I think (as DH disagreed with me). We have 3 schools to apply to:
A - fab but we're unlikely to get in,
B - less good than A or C but is a primary - we're unlikely to get in but we're closer than we are to A, so are more likely to get in on a waiting list,
C - fab, possibly better than A, and we'll probably (hopefully and crossing fingers etc) get in, but its only an infants and there's no attached juniors, so we'd have to go through this again in 3 years...

I want to apply:

but... are we less likely to get C than if we'd put it as our 1st preference school?

(I think it doesn't make a difference, DH thinks we're less likely to get C than if we put it as 1st choice.)

If it makes any difference, A and C are in the adjacent borough and B is in our home borough.

leeloo1 Thu 03-Jan-13 15:55:18

I should have said - the reason for putting A and B higher than C is so that we'd stay on their waiting lists, so if a place came up before Y2 we could move...

... although I am worried about the long term traumatising effects of moving DC mid-year.

lalalonglegs Thu 03-Jan-13 16:02:24

My understanding is that you would only NOT get into C if there were spaces available at A or B. If there aren't but there is a place for your child at C using the school's usual admissions criteria, you will be offered a place there. If you are offered a place at any of the schools, you can go on the waiting list for others regardless of whether you applied for the.In the first place. So if you get into C but stay on waiting list for A, B and D, E, F... you may have a place sorted out before junior school starts.

prh47bridge Thu 03-Jan-13 16:36:36

leeloo1 - Putting C as your third preference does not damage your chances of getting into that school. It simply means that if there is a place for your child at, say, A and C you will be offered the place at A. If you put C as your first choice you will only be offered a place at A or B if there are is no place available for your child at C.

tablefor4 Thu 03-Jan-13 17:34:59

Another stressed one here too!

prh47 - hello! I remember you from similar threads last year. Thank you so much for coming on to explain this stuff to us newbies.

Right, my questions:

1. We have lots of CofE church schools near us and have applied to some on the back of attending another not-CofE church. Those schools have their admissions criteria and you have to fill in separate additional forms. How do those schools select who they take? Do they provide a list of those children who have filled in those forms, and where they fall in the admissions criteria? Or does the borough give the school a list of names which the school then cross-checks who they want to accept?

2. We have an option to explain why we've chosen each of the schools on our form. Who reads that? The admissions staff? The school?

3. Finally, will the admissions staff be based in the borough or do some boroughs outsource this work?

Thanks and thanks

[feels a bit like being on a web chat!]

leeloo1 Thu 03-Jan-13 18:21:54

Ah perfect, thank goodness for that. Thanks so much for your help lala and prh47. smile

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