in catchment for worst state primary in the area - WWYD??

(91 Posts)
elephantsdung Thu 03-Jan-13 16:40:35

I haven't started a topic on here before so here goes (pls be gentle):

We live in a nice'ish house but have an estate behind us which also has the local primary school in the middle of it. This is obviously our closest primary school but also has the worst reputation and OFSTED report in the area. It has an above average no. of children who have free school meals and, 'whilst the majority are White British there are a large number of Travellers from Irish heritage' (Quoted from OFSTED report). Whilst I really don't want to offend anyone I am looking for some advice:
DS is nearly 3 so will be starting primary school in 2014, so I will need to apply this time next year. Originally I was set on moving but, having estimated moving costs this will cost us around £18-£20K to move to a similar house to the one we have now. We have also considered private school but this would make it really tight for us (and we have no.2 on the way)
This school has been closed down a few years ago and started again as it got so bad, the thing is all the other schools in the area are really good but I know there is a real push to send people to this school (as no-one wants to go?) so there's no guarantee we could get him into another school.
So my dilemma is - should we
a) stay where we are and fork out for private school (although we probably wouldn't be able to afford it for no.2 as well)
b) stay where we are and apply for all other schools except for this one and just keep fingers crossed
c) Fork out the money to move so we are close to a good school
WWYD??

tiggytape Tue 08-Jan-13 14:50:52

Blu - you are right. Luckily though most councils are now cracking down on this. Some rented addresses used multiple times in the past are black listed, routine checks of council tax history are made (especially on applicants to popular schools where places are in high demand) and anybody who moves very close to the applications date might be subject to extra checks to make sure they don't own a home elsewhere and are living at the address properly as a permanent home not as a temp measure just to get a place.

Of course, people probably do slip through the net and not all councils are as as hot on this as others but it is something that has improved in the last 2 or 3 years.

Blu Tue 08-Jan-13 13:26:17

It's wholly possible that people rented an address! When poeple do this they then move miles away and get all the siblings in, and the rented address gets used by another family who get child number ne in and then move away while all the siblings get in...it hugely increases the number of siblings.

But I think that is quite differrent to suggesting that the LA deliberately and fraudulently kept local people out of a popular school in order to divert them into a less popular school, which is what I thought you were saying.

tiggytape Tue 08-Jan-13 12:46:24

It is possible Wheresmycaffeine that a genuine mistake occurred eg someone at the council inputted your address as 21 Station Close instead of 21 Station Way or got one letter of your postcode wrong. It is very rare especially now that they double check address evidence so carefully but it does happen and in those cases going to appeal sorts it out - you would win and get your place. More usually mistakes happen when the council used shortest walking route and doesn’t know about a particular road as it is unregistered on their system. Again, if you show at appeal a mistake was made that cost you a place then you would win.

Or (more likely) it can happen that you were unlucky with a high sibling year group
So lots of children already at the school had siblings applying in the same year as you who got priority plus people living slightly closer to the school than you applying for twins (some reception years can have 2 or 3 sets of twins!). Or a bulge class further up the school suddenly creates far more siblings applying than ever before.
If that happens it leads to a ‘blip year’ i.e. you would have got a place the year before and every subsequent year after but just for one year you were unlucky and more people applied who qualified for a place more highly than you did.

If you were the victim of an error it is a shame that you didn’t appeal as it would have been uncovered and remedied (some people win appeals because of mistakes they don’t even know happened until the appeal day). It is more likely though you were the victim of a blip year when for some reason far more people than normal applied who qualified more highly than you did eg a huge sibling year.

And all the schools I applied for were schools that had in previous years taken children in from
Distances greater than ours.

Ok I admit that. But still didn't stop things that came out afterwards from sounding a little odd. Especially as there hasn't been the same problem before or since. Perhaps I just was unlucky. Even the head master said they never usually turn people away and that we shouldn't have a problem.

tiggytape Tue 08-Jan-13 10:42:48

Also to add - the LA have nothing to hide. There is no big mystery about allocations are made for anyone who wants to find out.

Every LA will tell parents (sometimes you have to ask, sometimes its on the website): what the admission criteria for every school is (i.e. will faith or siblings or distance be the key factor) and the last distance offered to a person in your category last year. So for example they will tell you that all siblings got a place plus everyone without a sibling who lived less than 500m away. This information is available in advance of applications being made.

So, just as the OP has done, you can look online and see that, whilst there is a fantastic school say 725m from your front door, for the last 3 years nobody without a sibling living further than 231m away got a place there. Basically you would know staright away that you have no hope of a place there.

And you can do this for every school. If it turns out that you wouldn't have qualified in previous years for a single school you like the look of, you can (if you find out in time and can afford it) move house as the OP is considering or you can accept that the result of this will be waiting list stress and probably being offered the unpopular school with free spaces.

tiggytape Tue 08-Jan-13 10:32:27

a process that's meant to Be fair but at times so clearly isn't

You admit yourself you have no evidence that this is the case.
Yes it is true that some people end up at schools they don't want.
In most cases the allocation laws are followed 100% but you will always get a lot of people who end up being sent to a poor school or left in 'shitty situations'

The reason for this is that there are a limited number of places at the 'good' schools that virtually everyone wants to go to.
There has to be a way of choosing who won't get a place near their home or at a good school. As long as that system is 100% in accordance with admission laws and is applied to every single applicant then that is as 'fair' as it can be.

It may not be morally fair that some kids are allocated poor schools tor schools 4 miles from home but, as long as more people want good schools than there are places to take them, there has to be a legally fair system for choosing who gets what.

I take your point that it is morally unfair but nothing you have said indicates it was legally unfair.

Well if it all worked out for you then that's great unfortunately some people are left in shitty situations through a process that's meant to
Be fair but at times so clearly isn't. People pull fast ones all the time and places have been withdrawn unfairly it happens. Unless you are clued up enough or have inside information then there's not alot you can do. if I lost out honestly then fair enough but only the LEA know what went on. Surely you can at least sympathize with how stressful it is and how hard it can be to leave your child's future in
The hands of complete strangers. Everyone just wants the best for their children. And whether it's fair or not when you are left with one of the worst schools in the county then it's hard not to feel screwed over no matter how fair it was done.

seeker Tue 08-Jan-13 10:04:05

So maybe not a good idea to make baseless allegations, then?

I started appeal process but due to dd being in and out of hospital and the fact that we were allocated a school we were happy with before appeal date came through we dropped it. Given the fact I had no evidence aside from what I'd been told and couldn't back it up and others lost their appeals it seemed pointless to continue. I also wouldn't have felt right winning and leaving a class over legal numbers which in itself could be detrimental to both my child and the others in the class.

seeker Tue 08-Jan-13 08:36:50

Wheresmecaffeinedrip- what happened when you challenged the LEA on this one? Presumably you went down the Judicial Review path because the LEA was so obviously not following guidelines?

gazzalw Tue 08-Jan-13 07:58:38

Poltergoose I did not mean to cause offence. I am merely considering the school in my own locality and what I've been told about it.

tiggytape Mon 07-Jan-13 22:43:20

Well that bit makes sense. If a child doesn't qualify for a place at any of the schools their parents have listed on their preference form then the LA will be desperate to get them into any local school that has places free.
And in many parts of the country, the only schools with places free are poor ones or unpopular ones.

Even in areas where there isn’t an actual shortage of places, there still aren’t enough places in the ‘good’ schools for everyone who wants one and some people have to be offered and coerced into going to the ‘poorer’ school - because there's no alternative if all the others are full.

Places for the next round usually take a longer time to collate because offers go out to all parents on offers day and then they have 2 weeks to reply. This is followed by at least another 2 weeks of chasing up stragglers (and even then they get more final warnings after that) followed by an assessment of who has declined what, followed by a look at how many places this frees up and where, followed by new offers to the people at the top of the waiting list, followed by a reasonable amount of time for them to accept or decline, followed by chasing up the stragglers............. and so it goes on. In some cases it takes the whole Summer or longer for the waiting list movements to stop.

If a desperate parent rings the council the week after offers day demanding a place or an alternative place, all the council can offer is schools with existing vacant places since waiting list places take much longer to be sorted out. It isn’t that the council are pushing parents in to a failing school whilst secretly reserving spaces at much nicer schools. It is simply a case that if you don’t have a school place you are happy with after the first offers are made, all that is usually left is schools that nobody else listed.

I can't prove anythin but it was clear that they were desperate to get people into the failing school. To the point that some were even told on the phone after they turned down the school, that the results weren't through for the next round but they can offer them a place right now at the school they just turned down.

tiggytape Mon 07-Jan-13 22:11:19

It is possible to have a special educational need and / or disability and not be statemented but still require additional help. Equally it is possible to be statemented for a totally invisible condition which would not be at all obvious from observing or conversing with the child briefly.

And again distance is only important if you are sure you are using the same definition as the school. Lots of people get cross when they are refused a school that is down a short alley way from their house or just across the park because as far as they're concerned, the school is very close. But if the council uses approved walking routes, then the council often don't allow shortcuts and use 'proper roads' that might add metres or miles to a journey. You can only decide if you've been unfairly treated if you know for certain that someone further away from you who had no greater priority (faith, sibling, statement, adoption etc) got a place and you didn't. And if you go to appeal and point this out, you will win. There is really no option for schools to secretly select students by ignoring the admission criteria. And if you think the criteria is fixed to deliberately exclude some (eg a catchment area weirdly shaped to miss out the council estate) then you can complain and get that corrected too.

seeker the parents also expressed extreme surprise at getting in as they had heard that alot hadn't and was also worried that they had made a mistake as the school was a long shot, they never expected to get in.

Amongst those turned away were people who lived nearer and two or three who had Sen.

If u are gonna quote me at least include what I go on to say which is that obviously I don't know the child or that i haven't spent time with them and can't judge.

seeker Mon 07-Jan-13 21:18:14

"No idea why kid got in he seemed ok as in didn't appear to have trouble speaking or coordinating himself seemed perfectly happy and healthy"

So OBVIOUSLY no special educational need then.

seeker Mon 07-Jan-13 21:16:10

The op doesn't actually say anything about results- she only talks about FSM and traveller children.

TreadOnTheCracks Mon 07-Jan-13 20:54:11

I wonder if the schools results are bad because traveller children often have low attendance at school, so won't do too well in SATs, hence bad statistics. The school itself could be great. The ofsted report rarely tells the whole story. Visit the school and ask some questions.

Our catchment school was in special measures when I was making my choices. I went in and asked the head to explain, she did, it's a great school.

PolterGoose Argentina Mon 07-Jan-13 20:49:44

gazzalw you say I do think that had he attended the local (failing) school with 35% of children statemented, he probably wouldn't have got in... I have to take issue with this sweeping assertion.

It is highly unlikely that such a high proportion of pupils will actually have a statement hmm, more likely that the figure relates to number of children with SENs. As parent to a child with SENs can I just stress that my child is considered an asset to his class, despite being one of the youngest in year he is academically exceptionally able and contributes greatly to the learning of all the children. I find it deeply offensive for my child (and other with SENs and disabilities) to be considered as something to avoid sad

Stress not areas blush

There is no way that u can get to this area that would be nearer than where we r. Also others living in same area were turned down. No idea why kid got in he seemed ok as in didn't appear to have trouble speaking or coordinating himself seemed perfectly happy and healthy but obviously I'm
Not an expert or haven't spent time with the child so can't judge. It just felt very unfair given the areas me and several families went through to find alternative schools. Everyone previous year got in and everyone since got in.

tiggytape Mon 07-Jan-13 18:42:35

Wheresmycaffeine - it depends how distance is measured (crow flies, shortest approved walking route or pre-defined catchment area). In all cases it is possible that someone who appears to live further away by one measurement actually lives closer by the only measurement that counts i.e. the one the school chooses to use.

It is also possible for people genuinely much further away to get in due to a statement of special needs naming the school. Not all special needs are visible ones - it is perfectly possible you wouldn't know they had a statment.

But if for any reason school places were allocated not in accordance with the admission criteria and this was demonstrated at appeal, the appeal would be won. It isn't the case that schools are picking and choosing who they take but you may feel their chosen method of measuring distance is unfair (eg one school last year deliberately chose one method over another to exclude a council estate from being close enough). If that is the case then the Schools Adjudicator can rule on this and make them change it.

gazzalw Mon 07-Jan-13 18:20:51

Several of these posts make me wonder whether any of you live near us as Happynewmind's post could have been written by us!

Have to say that we were lucky in that DS was school age before the great baby boom which is currently choking primary school provision in a lot of places. We too had OP's dilemma but held out for a good school much further away which he got into. DD got in to the same school through the sibling policy but wouldn't have done (on distance) had she not had an older sibling already at our preferred choice school.

We still consider we made the right decision and the close-by school continues to be at the bottom of Borough league tables. Furthermore we know several families who have taken their children out of the failing school and sent them to the outstanding Ofsted primary nearby....

It's a difficult one....but DS got into grammar school from his primary school (although they did not actively support him doing the selective school exams) and although I know that our parental involvement has helped our DS to achieve his secondary school outcome, I do think that had he attended the local (failing) school with 35% of children statemented, he probably wouldn't have got in...

If you really don't like it or feel positive about it when you visit, try for others and just hope and pray. You can always stay on waiting lists and if you're in London there's a lot of population movement which can free up school places at short-notice....

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