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.

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 03:39:04

Essex has it right. They do it by hospital birth records, MW attended home birth records, and GP lists. Everyone gets sent a pack by the LA, preschools badger you to submit your application, two weeks before the closing date the LA sends you a letter in BIG writing reminding you to apply - only sent to those who don't do it before then...

I've not heard of anyone NOT applying. I'm sure there must be a few, dotted around the whole of Essex, that haven't got a pack, but they must have either been born outside Essex AND not registered with an Essex GP, or had their birth attended by independent MW's AND not registered with an Essex GP.

Haven't personally heard of that in the 8 years since Essex centralised applications, though. And I've applied for Primary school twice (DS1 and DS2) since then, AND Secondary school (DD and DS1) twice.

It's only 11 years ago that all I had to do to choose a school for DD was to go to the school I wanted, ask to have her name 'put in the book', and therefore got a place...

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 03:45:33

Oh - and the Essex booklet does have information about common misconceptions, what constitutes social / medical grounds, and the evidence needed for that, it also states that rejecting the offer for a school you were allocated is not going to make an appeal panel find in your favour, blah blah blah - it gives pretty much all the info you need.

I didn't realise until MN that Essex was the exception rather than the rule in the way they find out who needs an allocation form and send them out.

Surely ALL LA's have the same information to hand - otherwise how can they accurately predict how many school places will be needed for a given year?

<<Ooooooohhhhh...lightbulb moment...>>

THAT'S why I read threads on MN about some areas ending up having to find schools to push bulge classes on after allocations date!!

shock

Why the hell do they leave it so late?!

I couldn't understand how the LA's didn't plan in advance which schools to send a bulge class to, like Essex does, but I've just twigged that!

<<Facepalm>>

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 03:51:42

Our GP's send reminders of every jab. Little things with an owl on that you tear the sides open like a tombola ticket. With IMPORTANT written on the front...tbh I think they are actually sent out by the HV's.

They also send out a computer printed 1st Birthday card from the HV service...with a reminder printed inside to book your DC's 1yr check and jabs...

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 04:08:35

My cousin in another LA only just scraped the application deadline. Her DS is in a Private Nursery, no information there - she only found out because she returned her Dad's library book and saw an A4 poster in there.

No chance to look around etc. Her DS's birthday is Aug 30th - it just hadn't occurred to her to apply for a school when he was just turned 3yo...

She said she probably would have thought about it just after he turned 4yo. Not great if she thought about it on 3rd September, say, when he would have already meant to have started!

But for some parents of late summer born DC's, especially first born ones, why would they think about applying for a school for a child that's not yet 4?

She was under the impression that they had to be 4 and a half to start school, so in her mind, thinking about it 6 months before would be long enough.

Scraping in 3 days before the deadline meant she didn't do her research, and has ended up with a wholly unsuitable school (childcare reasons, not a bad school). She's going to appeal and lose because her LA doesn't do what mine does.

Thinking about it, I'm sure that my LA's help booklet has the last distance offered in the previous year for every school in the LA...

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 04:13:48

In my town the issues started when I applied for DS1, currently in Y4. 2003-2004 was a massive birth year.

As was 2010-2011, though that is even bigger.

Add to that the biggest house building program in the SE...

Going to create a perfect shit-storm for both Primary and Secondary places in my town in 2015!

And I will have DS2 awaiting a Secondary place, and DS3 awaiting a Primary place. Both with SN's, in a town where all Secondaries are Academies with dubious records on admitting DC's with SN's, and the Primaries are starting to follow suit...

I may need Valium throughout March and April that year...grin

tiggytape Sun 12-May-13 09:29:37

Couthy - places like London are different in terms of keeping track of people.
A lot of people living in London weren't born there. A lot of people born in London move out before school age.
Also, some boroughs are small and many people live on the boundary of 2 or 3 boroughs eg my Dr's surgery and dentist are in different boroughs - my Dr's surgery isn't in the borough that I live in and my children were born in a different borough altogether because of where the boundary / hospital locations fall.
And I am someone who has hardly moved at all but probably wouldn't feature on a born in / live in register based on medical notes.

I agree with you about the shortages. Some of it might be because London boroughs have a harder time tracking numbers but mostly it is lack of planning. They may not know exact figures but they know that from 2008 especially, the birth rate went crazy. Whether some children move in and some children move out is neither here nor there - the fact is that there are hundreds more children of that age than in other year groups so it stands to reason that almost every area is going to have to increase the number of classes.
Also fewer people going private and more families in flats means much denser populations and more people requesting places than normal.

mrz Sun 12-May-13 09:42:51

We display posters (provided by the LEA) in local shops and supermarkets

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 09:51:19

So why not go back to doing London as a whole, then? Essex manages it...

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 09:53:11

And they'd still need Doctor's. If they used a combination of methods, they could find out which DC's were coming up to school age.

I just can't see why London can't do it, if Essex can, tbh. Some areas of Essex have a very transient population too, you know.

tiggytape Sun 12-May-13 10:15:24

Some of London used to be under the control of one authority. That was abolished years ago and now there are now over 30 totally separate authoritites covering London.

So it isn't just that London is transient, it is the fact that it is treated in admin terms like 30+ separate counties.
Yet some boroughs are so small that people living 2 roads apart can be in 3 different boroughs (from my house, I can travel within 45 minutes to 7 boroughs including my own).

There is a PAN London system for applying to schools but each borough operates as a totally separate authority with it's own staff, processes and procedures like the LAs that run huge counties elsewhere.
So you get places where people live on the boundary of one part of London that operates a catchment system (like Tower Hamlets) whilst their own borough uses as the crow flies.
Or one borough operates 'nearest school priority' whilst the neighbouring borough doesn't.
Council tax is separate. Appeals are separate. It is treated like 30+ very tiny counties and they don't cooperate at all except to pass on applications from children applying between one borough and the next. I doubt my borough knows I exist in terms of having school aged children from any records they hold apart fro the fact that my children are in school. All records that point to me having children lie in other boroughs.

KansasCityOctopus Sun 12-May-13 11:37:16

i would have thought an info mailshot triggered and sent out from the GPs would probably be the best thing, when they have to have their pre-school jabs.

savoirfaire Sun 12-May-13 22:32:10

There is a thread, right now, on a local SW London forum (locals will know it) where they are talking about how 'admissions officers' at the council make decisions about where to place the children of parents who have only used 3 of their 6 choices. Basically, everyone saying that they reckon the 'admissions officers' make a deliberate choice to put those people's kids in schools far far away from their homes, as this will make them more likely to opt out of the system and go private (which they can presumably afford to do, because they have opted to only use up 3 of their 6 choices). I don't know enough about the system to shout at them with confidence that this is utter tosh. That it's a computer that just finds the closest school to them which has places, and it just happens that these are far away (because most people who live close to them play the application system a little better than they have done). It is exasperating to read - but demonstrates again that people need basic information that includes the fact that the system is not being run by a bunch of people who have set out to make life difficult for you. (I think).

tiggytape Sun 12-May-13 22:45:48

savoirfaire - that is the key. Many people assume a human element that does not exist.
Mostly it is the other way though - parents assuming that the council must surely realise they can't be at a school 2 miles away and get to work on time or that if they've listed the same school 6 times they must really want it and should be allowed to have it.

Snazzynewyear Sun 12-May-13 23:56:26

The Essex system sounds great. We should all be pushing for that to be the model for everywhere else.

I agree that for some people no amount of advice will ever be enough. But a good set of FAQs would be a start.

BarbarianMum Mon 13-May-13 08:27:59

<<Based on my experiences - urban area, oversubscribed schools - some people don't want to get their heads around it. They fix onto one school they want their child to go to, stick their fingers in their ears, and ignore the fact that the child is unlikely to get in. Then they are outraged when they don't. They argue that all other local schools are unsuitable for their child, even though they haven't even visited them.>>

This unfortunately is my experience too. In fact, I'd say it's the better educated/wealthier parents that are more likely not to read the admissions website carefully because they feel entitled to the school place they want and it never occurs to them that they may not get it. I know several people who only put down the name of one school in the belief that this would help them get their child in, even though it says really clearly in all the admissions bumf why that's a bad idea.

I do appreciate that many LA's could make things clearer, and that some areas like London are much more difficult to navigate as a parent. Actually I can't believe how bad the situation is in many parts of London and wonder why its not a bigger political issue.

ShadowStorm Mon 13-May-13 09:21:11

The Essex system sounds fantastic.

fatfloosie Mon 13-May-13 10:39:13

I think a lot of the problem with the posters etc is that the very people who need to see them are the last people who are going to notice them because they will have at least one small child in tow who they are completely focussed on keeping alive and out of trouble.

I looked into school admissions when choosing which nursery to send DD to, and sent her to the one attached to the best school she would be able to get into. I completely missed the consultation for the changes to catchment areas which was going on at the same time. The changes were subsequently implemented and DD didn't get into the attached school.

I asked the council how they'd consulted and they told me the usual: through schools/nurseries; with posters in doctors surgeries, libraries etc; adverts in the council 'what's on' booklet and the local newspaper. Who browses stuff on the walls in the library and at the doctors when they have a toddler with them? No chance. Who has time to read the paper? I think when DD was small I struggled to find the time to read my own post, never mind anything else. However, I did read my post so I think letters are a good idea. I accept you won't cover everybody but I'm sure it would help.

Also, I do think it would be good if councils automatically listed your nearest or catchment school as a preference, your only choice being what priority you gave it. This would stop people ending up with no school when they've misunderstood the process/accidentally chosen the wrong school with a similar name /been completely snobby about the local school. Hopefully the council would then be much more sympathetic to anyone without a place because it wouldn't be in any way their fault.

ShadowStorm Mon 13-May-13 12:57:20

Nice idea in theory for councils to automatically list the nearest or catchment school as a preference, but given that these schools can be heavily oversubscribed, that wouldn't automatically stop people ending up with no school.

kungfupannda Mon 13-May-13 13:26:09

I think, unfortunately, that there is a small core of people who are pretty much unreadable by any campaign. They are unlikely to attend any sort of structured activity and will ignore any targeted advice because of an inherent mistrust of official information. They are more ikely to believe the urban myths.

But I do think a bit more info out there would be useful to those who come from different systems, or who might be struggling for various reasons.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Mon 13-May-13 13:31:24

I think automatically adding the nearest/catchment school as a preference could actually work quite well, provided that there were enough preference choices in the first place. In areas which allow only three, it would be harsh to effectively reduce that to two for some people (those who wouldn't otherwise have listed the closest school).

There would be wrinkles, like religious schools - many parents might feel strongly that they would rather risk being allocated XYZ undersubscribed school miles away rather than a catholic/CofE school nearby.

It wouldn't help those in the black holes, though nothing will except more school places.

But it would have prevented at least two people I know in total pickles (one with a Catholic school when they aren't. One with a school miles away) from having those situations, as they would have easily got into their own closest schools. That at least would have left them with a workable alternative, even if they still went the waiting list route for others.

savoirfaire Thu 16-May-13 00:03:17

BarbarianMum has a very good point. In my area of London certainly there is a massive group of parents who do not read the 'rules'. They have spent £1 million plus on their homes in 'catchment' of a great school (but massive mortgages mean they need to use state schools) and believe they have a right to a place there. They don't realise that there is no such thing as catchment round here and are horrified when they don't get a place and they are 'forced' to go private or move (rather than use the 'good' rather than 'outstanding' school half a mile away). If sent decent information at the right point this group WOULD probably engage with the system properly, and perhaps might go and visit some of those 'good' schools and be less horrified when allocated them and actually take up a place there rather than immediately go private or move out of the area (both very very common round my way). I feel just a little smug at the moment, realising how many people have paid squillions for their homes near to me, thinking they'll get into a great school, then haven't got a place there - or anywhere else - because they've 'played the system' in entirely the wrong way. I live 10 minutes walk away, in a much much much cheaper house, but which is near the undesirable school. Of course, this is in fact a 'good' school with great teachers and results that match the fought over school. It's not perfect and I have my concerns but knowing without any doubt whatsoever that we get a place (despite paying a fraction of their squillions for my house outside the 'naice' area) and not having to deal with the kerfuffle of waiting lists etc like is quite nice. Shame more of them didn't put it as their second choice really or we'd be seeing them at the school gate!

ProudAS Thu 16-May-13 12:16:32

I'm all for making sure it is well communicated and it could be done better but there will always be someone who says they didn't know and blames the council.

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