How could people be made more aware of reception admissions?

(147 Posts)
Pyrrah Tue 07-May-13 17:14:31

Judging by the number of people on MN who turn up having made a balls up of the application process (which will be a fraction of those who have) surely there must be a way of alerting parents and of warning them of the possible issues.

Could the BBC do a party political broadcast type thing once a week from when applications open?

Could CBeebies do a basic guide?

I can see why sending letters out everywhere isn't practical, but it must cost a fortune for councils to sort out the mess each year.

Many people don't send their child to nursery, don't visit libraries etc and so really have no idea of when to apply or how it works - or more importantly the consequences of rejecting an offer or of only listing options they don't stand a hope of getting.

BeehavingBaby Tue 07-May-13 21:25:41

Poppy, if you'd like a pre-school/nursery place, you'll have to apply to each but it doesn't need to be at birth smile. Depending on intakes DC may get offered a place in a January or Easter intake after their 3rd birthday so you'd have to have their name down before to benefit from that.

PoppyT Tue 07-May-13 21:25:48

No they're all talking about local primary schools & adamant they got in using the school waiting list. One is CofE school so maybe that's partly true.

PoppyT Tue 07-May-13 21:27:20

My DD goes to private nursery so won't go to school till she starts reception. I'm going to look at all schools in area then see if they have the supplementary form too but obviously no rush.

tiggytape Tue 07-May-13 21:31:51

No Poppy - it isn't true.

The trouble with admissions myths is sometimes they seem to be true:

Parent A is a Catholic who attends mass every week. Parent A puts their child's name on the 'interest list' held at the local Catholic primary
This list just exists so the school can guess interest levels - it means nothing in terms of getting a place.
Parent A also applies via the council the same as everyone else.
Parent A gets a place at the Catholic school and tells everyone they meet it is because they put their child's name on the special list when their child was born.
The truth of course is they met the admissions criteria so would have got a place anyway but now suddenly everyone thinks a place on the list somehow helps.

Ditto the parents who only list one school. It just so happens that they live close enough to qualify so get offered that school. But they won't believe that for a second. They tell all the other parents that they're silly to list more than one school because 'if you only list one the council has to give it to you'

NaturalBaby Tue 07-May-13 21:34:13

The information is out there, I'm amazed how many parents seem to be totally clueless and looking for someone to blame for not making an informed decision themselves.
I had letters and leaflets in the post, checked the council website a million times, talked to other parents, phoned the council, went to school open days and talked to teachers there....there are so many people who can advise and help before it's too late.

Pyrrah Tue 07-May-13 21:40:18

No vaccination letters here at all.

Plus, they have such a nightmare getting the kids to have the MMR that they do the second one 4 weeks later. So in the main there are no pre-school boosters.

A lot of people don't take into account how long the whole application process can take an LA and so presume that school applications are done at the beginning of the summer holidays for a September start.

I only discovered about the primary school nursery places by sheer chance when I went for a meeting that happened to be being held in one of the local school's hall and saw a small poster on their notice board. Just scraped the application deadline.

Someone pointed out the cost of commercials, but given that the BBC is funded through the licence fee, they should be giving time for free in the same way that free space is given to political parties in the run-up to the general election.

The PSA wouldn't need to give masses of detail, just urge parents of children born between x dates to contact the council/look on websites etc. The warnings could then be in the online/booklet stuff.

Very few people know about where to go to check things like last distance offered in previous years either.

NaturalBaby - that's all things you did, except from letters you received which aren't sent out everywhere. So you are kind of refuting your own argument... grin

tiggytape Tue 07-May-13 21:50:03

Naturalbaby - a lot of people don't get letters in the post about this like you did though.
The onus is on them to find out about it at the correct time without any proompting at all (and not all of them know when the correct time is as nobody tells them).

prh47bridge Tue 07-May-13 21:51:58

I am old enough to remember when the BBC changed all their AM radio frequencies in 1978 - a time when most people were listening on AM. There was an incessant campaign to raise awareness including adverts in the national and local press, information in the Radio Times (and, I think, other listings magazines), announcements between (and sometimes during) programmes on all BBC radio and tv channels, stickers to put on your radio sent to most (all?) households and so on. You couldn't get away from it! Lots of people complained that the campaign had gone over the top. Nonetheless my recollection is that the BBC received a load of complaints when the change actually happened from people who had managed to miss the campaign completely.

My point is that regardless of how much was spent running a campaign to make people aware there will still be a significant number who miss it completely.

katgod Tue 07-May-13 21:59:50

No letters re vaccinations in our area of London. Private nursery had application packs for schools on a table in lobby area but no one said 'you must apply for school'. DD went to school nursery and they did remind us all that nursery place did not equate to reception place and that we had to fill in the form. Very glad they did as could easily have overlooked as felt like she was at school already.
Am actually shocked GPs remind anyone about anything!!!!

steppemum Tue 07-May-13 22:23:54

the thing is though, that some people just don't think the rules are as stated. We had loads of information, but every day as we waited for nursery pick up, I found myself repeating the criteria again and again to parents who just didn't get it.

me - no, it doesn't matter if you can't drive
no, it doesn't make any difference who you know
no, it doesn't make any difference if you go to the school nursery - if your mate told you that then they were sadly mistaken. yes they were. Really.
no - if you put only one school it will not improve your chances, you really need to put more than one because otherwise you will risk getting xx school. (said parent, very intelligent, still put 1 school, and she lives in a black spot not close to any school, yet did not get that she needed to put more than one - she was lucky, she got her school, and now thinks it is because she only put one)

I could go on. People just don't get it that the rules are that simple and that inflexible. I think it is the apparent illogical nature of some decisions that leaves them flummoxed, like parents given different school for younger sibling.

I think the CBeebies idea is a good one.
My parents were on and on at me to get DS on some mythical list. They really didn't believe me when I said you didn't even contact the school unless you wanted to look around; it is all done through the council.

tiggytape Tue 07-May-13 22:34:13

I agree steppemum - lots of misinformation and lots of people refusing to believe that the LA doesn't care that you cannot drive / work fulltime / need to have a school near you mum because she does your childcare for free....

Lots of people say "So they'd expect me to give up my job? Because if they send DS to the school near my home, there's no way I could do the drop off at 8:40 and then get to work on time. They must have to take that into account else people would have to quit their jobs"

Many people think it is open to discretion in some way because - to them - that is just common sense.

prh - I have realised that is me! Not in 1978, but last year when there was the big digital switch-over. I didn't believe the TV would actually just stop working. I thought it was just a bit of hype to gently encourage us to re-tune it at some convenient moment in the future. So I too was guilty of seeing all those press and TV ads and feeling irrationally annoyed at getting a blank screen. blush

NaturalBaby Tue 07-May-13 22:57:08

I didn't get any letters for ds2, fortunately he was my 2nd child so I knew the system by that point.
My point was I made an effort to inform myself about what I needed to do to get my dc's into a school I was happy with. Your dc's have to go to school at some point, it's a bit naive to sit back and wait for somebody to tell you what to do and how to do it.
It's the parents/carers responsibility to inform and educate themselves, especially when there is so much information out there - you only have to look and ask.

NaturalBaby Tue 07-May-13 22:57:45

(except, of course, not all dc's have to go to school at any point if that's your choice)

ReallyTired Tue 07-May-13 23:09:47

In our area there is plenty of information. There were posters at the libary, children's centres/ health visitors/ private day nursery/ school and a letter from the council saying that we had to apply online. There was plenty of information on the council's webstie on how admissions worked.

In real life I don't think I know anyone who failed to understand the admissions process. In my town there are simply not enough primary school places because four primary schools were closed down 5 years ago and we have had a baby boom in 2009.

No amount of advertising is going to get round the fact that LEAs are in a mess that they are not allowed open schools where there is a desperate shortage. Instead we have stupid free schools in areas where there are a surplus of places.

meglet Wed 08-May-13 07:34:18

Thinking back the only place I saw a poster was at nursery, I found out everything else on MN and from reading the forms properly.

If an area can give parents the heads up then around the pre-school booster time it wouldn't be a bad idea as it would give parents enough time to get organised. I remember starting to think about schools in the summer term 2010, and made the first phone calls around then but the open days weren't until the autumn for a January 2011 deadline. CBeebies could do some reminders.

ReallyTired Wed 08-May-13 08:31:45

The closure of schools five years ago with the land being sold off for housing and baby boom has led to the admissions crisis. You can inform the parents all you like about the admissions process, but its no good as there aren't enough primary school places.

The LEA has their hands tied by the government and cannot open new schools. Seven years ago primary admissions was very easy. The majority of schools were not over subscribed and people could have choice where to send their darling. Unfortunately parental choice is not economic so the number of schools was reduced.

QOD Wed 08-May-13 08:35:23

Just ring the school you fancy when you find out you're pregnant, they'll put you in their list....

Barbeasty Wed 08-May-13 08:49:30

Lots of people here have mentioned the red book, so how about a page in there that says your child will be due to start school in September 20xx and you should contact your council in October 20xx for details of how to apply.

Our HV talked about applying for schools at DD's 2yr check, which I know we were lucky to still have. They've also mentioned it at clinic, even when I've taken my younger child in.

The children's centre work with the patents they support/ come across. Actually they have a big database with DoB and addresses, so they could do a mail shot.

Billboard campaigns, posters at bus stops, info at every public place- Dr surgeries, hospitals, job centre, CAB, banners on school gates, at parks...

TV and radio ads, a story in the papers- they all love a good "my triplets were sent to 5 different schools, 3000 miles from home" story. Maybe they could run an "I knew nothing about applications" story at the start of applications time.

A leaflet sent to every house. If businesses can afford it, surely the social good can. Put it in with the electoral role form, or as someone else said the annual council tax statement.

Then add an optional section to the forms of "where did you hear about the applications process, tick all that apply". Then target carefully.

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate Wed 08-May-13 10:16:16

With the actual need to engage with the process, I agree that things like indents on Cbeebies and Milkshake would help. Also things like those big plasticised banners outside primary schools. Most people with young children physically pass the outside of school buildings quite often. A big banner saying "If your child turns four before 31 August, you must apply for schools by 15 January. Please contact Worcestshire Council" (or wherever) could be strung out every year in November and left up until the holidays.

I am not sure a mailshot to every household would be cost effective given the tiny percentage of households the information would apply to. The red book probably should have a note, but honestly I've not looked at mine since DD1 was 2.

In terms of busting myths, my authority has a leaflet with all of them (if you put the same school down four times, you stand a better chance, if you put a school first you stand a better chance, they have to give you one of the four schools on your list, etc) which is online with online application and in the pack if you ask for a paper one. Yet I still know intelligent, educated parents (i.e. parents you wouldn't expect to need extra support to understand these leaflets) in my area who have fallen for these myths. I do think standardising the process nationally would help. Then sites like MN or gov.uk could include a basic guide to applications.

DewDr0p Wed 08-May-13 10:35:27

I'd have thought that mail shots via child benefit records and child care providers or maybe GP records would catch the majority of parents? (I know not everyone gets cb any more)

There are 2 preschool providers who feed into our primary - one v good at informing parents, the other does nothing - every single year the school gets very late apps from parents with dcs at the latter who didn't have a clue about needing to apply for school ... Lucky for them there is generally a falling roll around here so places not an issue

tiggytape Wed 08-May-13 11:05:07

The proces is standardised nationally in the sense that the same method of allocations applies (equal preference system) and the deadline is the same. Next year, results day will be the same too.

The complication is regional variation - not in the admissions procedure as such but in the population and school types. So people in dense, urban areas with a lot of faith schools face totally different options to people in rural areas with undersubscribed schools.
Some people have a lot of factors to juggle and potentially very limited choice. Other people can fill in a form and get pretty much whatever they ask for.

Combined with annual variations in birthrate (eg your nextdoor neighbour's children all got a place last year but this year nobody in your road can get a place) all means that parents not only have to know the national system but have to be very tuned in to the local situation too which constantly changes.

For example if you don't keep up to date with the fact that 300 new homes have been built the other side of your county, you may not guess that this limits your own school choices. Or if you don't know it is a high sibling year due to a bulge class 3 years ago you may not know one of your previously realistic school options is effectively wiped out for this year. It is very tricky for parents to keep on top of.

Pyrrah Wed 08-May-13 11:05:36

I think the big plastic banners outside all primary schools from Nov-Jan would be a brilliant idea.

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate Wed 08-May-13 11:24:55

But there is a lot of variation in the application process too. How many schools you get to choose. What the form looks like. Currently (and I know this is changing) when offers are issued and how. How many waiting lists you can join if you don't get your first choice. Whether there is a priority catchment area or not.

I do agree that to assess your chances at a given school you will always need good local information, but for example there could be a standard way of presenting that information so that it was easily accessible. Imagine how much it would help at least the clued up parents if there was a standard table with distance admissions for the last five years, PAN, details of bulge classes in previous years, etc. My authority doesn't even automatically issue distance information for effective catchments - you have to request it.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now