Duffers Guide to South London Schools Admissons Required...

(26 Posts)
MsPickle Tue 13-Aug-13 20:33:37

Hi

My PFB will be starting school in September 2014. We live in Lambeth with a mix of schools around us. I need to really start thinking about the options and scheduling some visits (more making DH know that he needs to find some diary time...). My friends are a mix of the super worried who've been visiting/sorting places since babies were tiny and the last minute panickers. Private isn't an option. I know that the deadline for application is January (and we may move house which would change catchments but that's looking unlikely at the moment).

What do I need to do?! Where do I start????

RandomMess Tue 13-Aug-13 20:39:28

Honestly I'd find the nearest x number of schools to your house that you are eligible to apply to with distance being the criteria. Check their admissions criteria carefully then visit those and then put htem in order of preference.

There is a shortage of reception places so concentrate on getting a place at a school that you can get him to.

MsPickle Tue 13-Aug-13 22:23:54

And then? I've read some threads on here about a London preference system-what do I need to know about that?

And do I need to look out for prospective parent evenings or should I make contact with schools directly? I know that it's density catchments so our nearest school could be ours or we could be 2 metres or so out depending on the intake.

I feel like such an arse-both my SIL are primary teachers but outside London and it seems to work differently.

Levantine Tue 13-Aug-13 22:30:34

Look on their website, there will be a guide to choosing a school in Lambeth. It will tell you the procedure and the last offered distance last year (though afaik catchments are still shrinking). There is a shortage of spaces in the south of the borough I think but not in the north.

RandomMess Tue 13-Aug-13 22:35:25

Everywhere has a preference system, it just means you list the 7 (is it 7 you can put down I can't quite remember) you would accept down in order of which you would like most as No 1 and least prefer as the last.

Most schools have open days/evenings where you can go and visit, usually published on their websites for Sept/Oct/Nov.

For each of your nearish schools look carefully at the admissions criteria of each one and rule out any that you are highly likely to get into - for example if they have a faith criteria that you are not eligible for.

I would put down as top the 2 schools you really want and use the rest of the spaces as ones that based on their last intake you would get into otherwise you run the risk of being offered a school miles away type of thing.

tethersend Tue 13-Aug-13 22:43:30

Page 32 of this document should give you some idea of how oversubscribed each school is- However, this is not a definitive guide, as it will change each year.

There will be another booklet published very soon for 2014/15 admissions which will explain how to apply and give the data from this year's admissions. There are some significant changes to the admissions procedures next year, so use the old booklet as a rough guide only.

tiggytape Tue 13-Aug-13 22:45:40

I agree with Randon – definitely visit a number of schools and go by word of mouth but also make sure you visit the schools that you meet the criteria for (based on last year’s distances and / or faith criteria if that applies to you).

So your first job would be to look at Lambeth's website to see which schools you would have got offers at last year if you'd applied. The link on Lambeth's site has a grid on page 34 that, for example, tells you everyone who applied to Henry Fawcett got an offer there or at a higher ranked school (one they listed higher on their form) whereas Rosendale only has 90 places and more than half of those went to siblings so you had to live less than 476m away without a sibling to get in. For Henry Cavendish in Balham it is less than 300m so you may think you live close but you need to check it is close enough.

If you live near the borough boundary, you may also live close enough to schools in neighbouring boroughs to have qualified last year so check that too.

You can list 6 options and you should list the schools you like in the true order of preference since if they can't offer you your 1st choice, they'll offer your 2nd and so on but if you list no schools at all that you live close enough to qualify for, you'll get a council allocation of a school not on your list which isn't a good position to be in - it usually means a poor school and / or a school miles away. Therefore, at least one of your options should be a school that you would expect to meet the criteria for.

Basically - make sure your form lists your ideal schools at the top but with a realistic back-up option too.

RandomMess Tue 13-Aug-13 22:46:05

tethersend do you know what the changes are (roughly)?

tiggytape Tue 13-Aug-13 22:46:42

x post with everyone!

MsPickle Tue 13-Aug-13 22:54:11

Only scan read so far but this is bloody brilliant-just what I need!

Thank you everyone-I'm sure I'll be back with more questions...

tethersend Tue 13-Aug-13 22:54:20

Random, I was under the impression that schools were to become their own admissions authority next year, but this may not be the case or may not actually have a significant impact. I am glad tiggytape is here to clarify!

There may still be bulge classes added and there will be one national offers day.

So 'significant changes' may not be completely accurate, sorry.

RandomMess Tue 13-Aug-13 22:56:53

OMG can you imagine if each school starts doing their own admissions shock the whole situation is a nightmare as it is sad

tiggytape Tue 13-Aug-13 23:00:42

Any VA or Academy school is already its own admission authority. However this make no difference to the application and allocation stages - they are centrally coordinated for all types of state school - parents always apply to the council not the schools direct (but some schools will have an additional form for you to fill in eg to prove church attendance so make sure you ask if there are any extra ones).

The change for in-year (i.e. late) applicants is that the schools will be dealing with vacancies direct rather than parents applying to the council and waiting to hear whether the school they like can slot them in. This however doesn't apply to parents who will make the deadline - only for those who move late and have limited school options.

Bulge classes however are a big thing in Lambeth like a lot of London and tethersand is right that is makes predicting allocations tricky for parents. A bulge class is a one-off emergency class at a full school to accept children who have no place. Just because a school had one last year doesn't mean they will this year (they might or might not) and bulge classes in older year groups can artificially inflate the number of sibling applicants so shrink a catchment area much further than expected some years.

tiggytape Tue 13-Aug-13 23:02:18

That's not changing Random.
Schools will only do their own admissions for late applicants when everyone else's place has been allocated by the council and a family is new to the area and needs a school.
The central admissions system is not being abolished.

omaoma Tue 13-Aug-13 23:03:34

The catchment areas can change quite a lot year to year so look further than just 1 year ago. things like recent outstanding ofsted reports can change a school from 'so unpopular everyone leftover gets sent there' to 'impossible to get into' within 1-2 years (yes i'm talking about you, jessop). Rosendale and Streatham Wells are basically impossible to get into if you're not within 400m so don't torture yourself.

Buy a map and a ruler and measure the direct distance between any schools within about 2km and your house to check actual distances. Look at the council's admissions brochure for the last 2 years (the old ones are usually findable if you google) and study the furthest distances for places given over that period to get a sense of your chances; remember to check if they have increased their intake as well, lots of Lambeth schools have recently.

Also check the school distances and admissions brochures for neighbouring boroughs - you might find the nearest achievable school is actually in Southwark or Wandsworth depending on where you live.

Ring each potential school and get the dates of their autumn open days and go on as many as you can so you can build up a picture of current teaching styles and gauge differences in quality. Things hot up after October! Take a lot of notes (you will forget important details!). Try and figure out what your 4 year old needs to help them thrive in a school environment. That's probably more important than the teaching standard (unless that's seriously bad). The style of the open day will tell you as much as the content. Is the head teacher available and helpful? how do they deal with questions? do you get to see teaching in action? how do the kids look and behave? chat to the pta - do they feel involved/listened to?

Finally, remember there are always waiting lists and there's usually a huge shuffling process at the end of summer term where everybody finally takes their best/worst offer and discards the other places they've been holding so you're always in with a small chance even if catchments have shrunk, people also move around during term. Haunt the school office and keep ringing up the council to find what number you're being held on. Officially where you go to preschool shouldn't affect where you get offered a place but from personal experience I do wonder if that's true... if the school know and like you and your child it can't hurt. Also, on a practical note, if you know the preschool you'll already have 9 month's experience of what the school and its culture are like which is much more than one 2hour visit.

tethersend Tue 13-Aug-13 23:03:38

Ah, thanks for clarification tiggy.

There you go Random- just me scaremongering grin

omaoma Tue 13-Aug-13 23:05:57

... can tell you. ahem, itchy trigger finger!

omaoma Tue 13-Aug-13 23:07:09

I should also clarify: i don't mean where you go to preschool can affect your first offer. That is entirely done by computer and the council. But in my experience, it seems it may affect how quickly you move up the waiting list (although it shouldn't)

tiggytape Wed 14-Aug-13 08:41:57

Where you go to PreSchool doesn't help or hinder you.
It may seem like a lot of people already at PreSchool get the offers but that's probably because they live closer to the school in the first place (hence them choosing that Pre School to attend)

The admissions criteria for each school are followed rigidly - there is no discretion for the children they like. A lot of people wonder if there is a personal element to admissions - there isn't. Each school has admissions criteria and the council uses those to make offers. A parent living closer will get an offer before one living further away even if the Pre School staff report their child is a genius! This applies to waiting lists too.

If there was any hint that a child got an offer from the waiting list because they were well liked at Pre School that would be very serious indeed and very bad for the school. It would mean any person who qualified more than that child's family (eg who lived nearer to the school than them) could appeal and should win creating very large class sizes not to mention a lot of trouble for the school itself. Admissions are governed by laws and are treated very seriously - there is no room to fiddle about with waiting lists to cherry pick children.

MsPickle Wed 14-Aug-13 09:36:21

Thank you all again.

Rosendale is our nearest-people near us have got places but reading these resources posted/anecdotally it depends on the sibling situation next year. For the others-the visits will be interesting, trying to balance fashionable/popular against our gut instincts, I wonder whether we'll follow the crowds. Am very aware of how tight places are, but anywhere that could make sense for us to move to has the same problem!

I also have a 2012 baby and the recent reports of the baby boom last year made me realise that it'll be just as tight then. I wonder if Lambeth were counting on their leaflet campaign about the shortages would convince more people to move out...

It's such a minefield. My SIL (deputy head) says her preference as a teacher would be a school with new SLT coming out of special measures/poor grading as the level of motivation is often higher (she's taught in a range of settings).

omaoma Wed 14-Aug-13 17:58:38

yes it's often good to catch a school on the way up as it were. it's possible Jubilee may be one of these - a few years to go yet, but it has lovely facilities and is motivated, as you say. Rosendale has been top of the pile in the area for a while now! There's a school i think is called Julian's that seems to get a lot of interest to the west of you, it's opened a couple of outposts to service the middle class families in Streatham-ish area. I didn't go to see it myself though. Might Jessop be within distance for you?

tiggytape - i absolutely agree. didn't try and fiddle a place at all. just pretty surprised to go from way down the list to an offer right at end of term and trying to work it out - but perhaps that's just a sign of how big the shuffle can be once everybody accepts a place.

tiggytape Wed 14-Aug-13 18:43:11

omaoma - not suggesting for a second you'd done anything wrong at all (I was just saying schools cannot fiddle the waiting lists in anyway - it is all very rigid and governed by laws).

However huge amounts of movement aren't uncommon especially at the end of term or end of summer. By then a lot of people have accepted the school they've been offered and, even if they get offered a higher preference school from their original list, may reject it. The closer it gets to September, the more likely it is people above you on the list will decline a waiting list offer so that vacancy may get reoffered several times and therefore the lists move pretty fast.

teabagpleb Wed 14-Aug-13 18:46:30

Building extra capacity also makes a difference - extra places in one school lead to larger catchment one year, maybe the next, but then more siblings fill the places and it reduces again. A lot depends on which schools are told to add bulge classes in your dc's year - I'm the other end of Lambeth but same problem.

I'm just very glad I filled in 6 schools on my form, as somehow we got #3 a mile away, presumably as #2 has no 3rd class this year but did for the previous two years. I didn't bother looking round as thought we'd never get in anywhere other than our first two choices.

omaoma Wed 14-Aug-13 22:00:47

oh god yes definitely fill in your full 6 potential schools with places you could bear going to! nothing to be gained by 'just putting down the only place we love' that you have very little chance of getting... you may get an offer for somewhere in the arse-end of Lambeth that nobody else wants to go to...

Pyrrah Sat 17-Aug-13 19:39:18

Some VA schools do have a preference system for children who attend the nursery - my DD's CofE primary gave us the same number of points as children attending out of parish churches despite our being complete heathens (she is going to a different primary).

So, watch for that if you are looking at VA schools - as far as I have heard, not a single child got in to that school via distance this year.

Look round as many schools as you can - I soon found that there was 'outstanding' and 'OUTSTANDING' and some 'Needs Improvement' schools appealed more than the former!

Definitely use all your choices and if you have a dead cert that you don't care for and the others are all a bit of a gamble, then put it down as option 6. Better a school you hate on your doorstep than a school you hate over an hour away!

If your child is at a nursery with an after-school club, then ask their opinion. The staff at DD's pick up from 5 local primaries and have known the kids for years. They were able to advise me on which ones were a best fit for DD.

Not that it makes a huge amount of difference as we only stood a chance of getting one of our options - but had one been vastly more suitable than another than I would have listed it higher and pursued a waiting list place.

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