What truths in these unnerving application-related comments?

(93 Posts)
EugenesAxe Wed 04-Sep-13 08:18:30

"There is no point putting it down as a second choice" (about a very oversubscribed school)

"I only put down one school as I was told if you gave other choices then they wouldn't worry so much about not allocating you your first choice if the school was oversubscribed."

The first one I was dubious about as essentially that would make a person's preference part of the selection criteria. The person implied they would rank all people that had listed this school as first preference and allocate places amongst them; as there were always loads people putting it second wouldn't get a look in. My understanding was that the council gave the school names/addresses of anyone that had put it on their form in whichever rank, then these were ranked according to the selection criteria. The council would go down the list allocating places to anyone that had listed it first preference, or who had put it lower but failed to get a place at the preferred school. A waiting list would build up for any people listing as first priority but not getting a place.

The second I just find hard to believe. The ranking isn't provided so the council has breathing space is it? I thought if you only put one down choice there's a risk of you not getting it, and being allocated a place in whichever school still has places after everything's been sorted.

I would be grateful to hear opinions!

Lancelottie Wed 04-Sep-13 08:25:31

The second one is just nuts. If you do that and don't get your first choice, you then have no say whatever over where your child will be sent. Madness.

The first one is also almost certainly bollocks, unless you are applying to a school that can set its own entry criteria -- check their website and make sure.

tiggytape Wed 04-Sep-13 08:41:47

There is no point putting it down as a second choice

Untrue. It isn't first preference first anymore.
If you listed the school second and didn't get offered your first choice school, you would have MORE chance of getting your second choice school than another person who lives further away but who listed it first.
All that matters is how well you meet their admissions criteria.
The order of preference only comes into play if it turns out you qualify for two or more schools and the council has to look at your list to see which one to reject on your behalf.
If you qualify for your 2nd, 3rd and 6th choices, the council will reject the 3rd and 6th schools and offer you the 2nd.

I only put down one school as I was told if you gave other choices then they wouldn't worry so much about not allocating you your first choice if the school was oversubscribed.

Untrue. If you don't qualify for a school you will not be offered it no matter how much you love it (even if it is the only school you listed)
If you list 6 options, you won't be seen as a soft-touch who doesn't mind what they get. All of this is done using cold hard facts and computers. No lady at the council decides some people look more keen than others.
If you list one school and qualify for it you will get offered it
If you list one school and don't qualify for it, you will get offered a council-allocated school
If you list 6 schools and qualify for all of them, you will get offered your first choice school.

So many people think there is discretion (or common sense) in school applications. There isn't. Either you meet the criteria or you don't and there are no tactics you can use to beat the system.
List all the schools in the true order you like them and the council will give you the highest ranked one that you qualify for.

tiggytape Wed 04-Sep-13 08:45:54

Lancelottie - it is illegal for schools to set admissions criteria that says 'we will give priority to parents who put us as first choice'

The schools don't know where you placed them. Parents apply via the council not the school even for academies and church schools.
All the school knows is that Little Fred's mum has listed the school on her form. The council ask the school to tell them if Little Fred lives closer / goes to church more than the other 157 parents who listed that school and therefore how well he meets the criteria.
The school has no way of knowing that Little Fred's mum put the school as her 6th choice but loads of other parents living in the next town listed it as their first choice.

There is no point putting it down as a second choice" (about a very oversubscribed school)

Probably right. The school will allocate spaces according to selection criteria (whether sibling, catchment, church attendance etc), they dont know whether you have it as second or first choice. But the council does, so they will ensure that the people who has the school as First choice get spaces first. They will think the people who put it as second choice and give the First choicers space first.

I only put down one school as I was told if you gave other choices then they wouldn't worry so much about not allocating you your first choice if the school was oversubscribed.

This is utter madness. The council will not care what school they offer you, so if you dont get your first choice, they will give you any, and most likely end up with a school that nobody will have as first or second choice. You get offered the school that nobody has as preference. You are telling the council that if you dont get first choice, you dont really care what school you get.

tiggytape Wed 04-Sep-13 09:18:16

But the council does, so they will ensure that the people who has the school as First choice get spaces first. They will think the people who put it as second choice and give the First choicers space first.

I'm sorry Quint but that is totally, totally untrue
If the council did that, they would be breaking the law.
An equal preference first system (dead opposite to first preference priority) is a legal requirement for the allocation of all places

I do find it scary that despite endless articles and council attempts to explain this that people still don't know.

Really Tiggy?

So if a school has 30 places, and 50 applicants to those places in total, will not the places be allocated first to those who have the school down as their first choice?

If not, what is the point putting the preferences down in order?

Just noticing that the topic is Primary Education.

Maybe it differs from the way it works in Secondary these days?

tiggytape Wed 04-Sep-13 09:26:52

I have c&p some quotes from schools and councils who explain this better.
It is important to note that this isn't a local or optional thing - it is a legal requirement in all of England NOT to allow first choice candidates to get automatic priority. However some schools still hint that putting them first can help which is very naughty and not true and a throw-back to when the system allowed this:

The local authority will use the equal preference model for deciding which school is offered. This means that all school preferences are considered together and the admissions criteria applied equally. The rank or order of preference will be used only if it is possible to offer more than one of the preferences. The highest ranked potential offer will be offered.

Do schools fill up with candidates who have put them as first preference?
No. The system does not work like this. The old system of ‘first preference first’ which was employed in the past by some schools is no longer legal. The process is conducted by the Local Authority, not by the schools, so there is no way in which schools could give preference to candidates who have put them first even if they wished to do so. The system used these days is called ‘equal preference’. Under this system, each school tells the Local Authority which of the candidates who have applied to them it is able to offer a place to. For some, this is determined by the rank order of the entrance test; for others it may be distance from the school, etc. The Local Authority will then look at the order of preferences stated by the parent on the Common Application Form. It will check to see whether any of the schools listed by the parent are able to offer a place and, if two or more schools can do so, it will offer a place at the one you have said you prefer.

"The Local Authority will then look at the order of preferences stated by the parent on the Common Application Form. It will check to see whether any of the schools listed by the parent are able to offer a place and, if two or more schools can do so, it will offer a place at the one you have said you prefer."

Thats the bit I mean. I think.

<confused>

tiggytape Wed 04-Sep-13 09:32:34

Quint - it applies to secondary AND primary

So if a school has 30 places, and 50 applicants to those places in total, will not the places be allocated first to those who have the school down as their first choice?

NO they won't:
Let's take this as an example
30 places
50 applicants
17 siblings
The schools admissions criteria is looked after children then siblings then distance

There are no looked after children applying.
All the siblings put it the school as their first choice and they all get a place BUT not because they put it first - because they get top priority due to the sibling thing. That leaves 13 places.

The 13 places go to the 13 people who live closest to the school UNLESS one of those 13 people asked for a place at a different school (higher on their list) and got offered that instead.

As you can see, it makes no difference WHERE the children put this school on their list UNLESS they put this school second or third and another school (higher on their list) offers them a place and so takes them out of the running for this school.

It is perfectly possible the school will be filled with 17 siblings and 13 pupils who listed the schools 2nd or 3rd and ALL of those who listed it first will be turned down because they live further away.

harryhausen Wed 04-Sep-13 09:33:31

If I'm understanding Tiggy right it's the idea of first and second choice that is confusing people. There is no real preference, only 3 listed schools. If you qualify for your first, you get it. The school has no idea of your order 'preference'. So you could get an oversubscribed school you listed as 2nd if you qualify.

Does this mean that in reality you could qualify for all 3 and get offered places at all 3 (and turn down 2 obviously)? Or do they just look at the school at the top of the list first?

harryhausen Wed 04-Sep-13 09:34:07

Sorry crossed posts. Thanks Tiggy. A mine of infogrin

tiggytape Wed 04-Sep-13 09:36:00

The local authority looks at your list ONLY if it turns out you get offers from 2 or more schools
No pupil can have 2 offers sent out.

So if you qualify for 2 schools (eg Catholic School plus local school) the council looks at your list to see which one to offer you (the one you put highest).

The order of the list NEVER gets you priority for a school above somebody who qualifies for it more than you do (eg by living closer). You are more likely to get offered a school by listing it second and living nextdoor than you are by listing it first and living a mile away.

tiggytape Wed 04-Sep-13 09:40:01

harry - that's exactly it and much better explained
There is no such thing as 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice etc - it is just a list of schools you have applied to and they are all treated as equal.

The only time the order of the list becomes important is when a child qualifies for several schools and the council uses the list to give them the one they want the most.

If you only qualify for one school, that's the one you get even if it is your last choice. If you aren't Catholic / live miles away / have no sibling then putting a school first will not boost your chances at all. You will still be behnd all the people who are Catholic / live nextdoor / have another child at the school even if they put the school last on their list.

"The order of the list NEVER gets you priority for a school above somebody who qualifies for it more than you do (eg by living closer). You are more likely to get offered a school by listing it second and living nextdoor than you are by listing it first and living a mile away."

That is also what I meant, the selection criteria is above order of preference. I was just expressing myself very badly!

Thankfully you cleared it up!

harryhausen Wed 04-Sep-13 09:40:54

I'm glad you've explained Tiggy. I love MN for stuff like this. I'm currently contemplating secondary school so good to know all this.

It was MN who quashed my 'knowledge' that I could apply to a different LEA as well (technically having 6 choices!). This 'absolute truth' was emparted to me by a local parentgrin

tiggytape Wed 04-Sep-13 09:47:23

harry - when we applied to secondary schools for DS (just going into Year 8), there was a mum in his Year 6 class who had another child ten years older who was totally confused by the current system.

The way they did admissions 10+ years ago is nothing like how it is done now so I can see where a lot of this 'absolute truth' comes from.
When she applied for her older child, she applied to 3 different boroughs and got 3 different offers to choose from which she mulled over for a while and then decided on.
She also had to be careful about putting a popular school first as anyone who put it second couldn't get a place (the school gave offers to those who'd listed the school first before handing out any other offers to anyone else).

None of those things happen anymore but I know she checked and triple checked with the council as, until it applies to you, most parents don't know about the admissions rules and how places get handed out. She was very miffed at only getting one offer too (although it is just as well - in our area there's barely enough places for 1 offer per child let alone 3!) but thought it was much better not being blackmailed into putting popular schools first and risking losing out on a local one.

harryhausen Wed 04-Sep-13 09:50:31

Gosh, that's interesting. I can see how these myths arise. Would be lovely to mull over 3 offers.

We're in a dodgy area for good school places too. No grammar schools and I can't stretch to private. So all the info I can get helps ease my brain into itgrin

Willemdefoeismine Wed 04-Sep-13 09:55:36

I sometimes wonder whether other parents can be deliberately misleading on school application information. You would not believe the levels of subterfuge that some will go to hmm.

Good luck with applications.....I don't envy you - we'll have this to go thro' again in three years. With the babyboomers just hitting secondary school age it's going to be a total nightmare....

EugenesAxe Wed 04-Sep-13 10:25:47

Thanks very much tiggy - that's what I thought, but you start doubting yourself when it's something pretty important (well I do anyway).

To be fair I think you explained it perfectly but the council commentary was good to have too! I couldn't find it so definitively dealt with on our site but that's not to say it wasn't there...

EugenesAxe Wed 04-Sep-13 11:00:26

And thanks willemdefoe for your luck - I hope it goes well for you too!

DeWe Wed 04-Sep-13 11:48:42

In dd1's class they mostly were going for school A and B.
One person put down school A first, B second.
Second person put down B first, A second.

Both got their second choice. hmm

Willemdefoeismine Wed 04-Sep-13 11:50:05

wink EugenesAxe - it is an extraordinarily stressful time but I think once the school allocations have been done and dusted most parents and children quickly come to terms with the decisions and move forward positively.

The thing to is just to repeat the mantra "it's going to work out" every time you have a shadow of a doubt.

friday16 Wed 04-Sep-13 12:25:40

The fun starts where I live, where there are (a) massively over-subscribed popular comps to which we are close enough to be certain of a place and (b) super-selectives running through the council preference system

It is routine to hear of people who put down

1. Over-subscribed comp that they live next door to (put first because "everyone knows they only take first choices")

2. Selective school

They then pass the exam and are horrified to find they don't have a place at the selective school. And the council then plays very, very hard ball with any subsequent appeal. The parent's logic was that they wanted the comp as a fall back but had to put it first because they didn't understand equal preference.

With my first child, I explained the situation to people that appeared to misunderstand. With my second, I didn't bother, because such people usually won't be told.

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