Admissions Myths

(96 Posts)
TheRobberBride Wed 20-Nov-13 10:25:56

I have a friend who is applying for a Reception place for her DD this year.

She lives fairly close to an Outstanding primary. Her DD may get in on distance but there's no guarantee (based on info on LA website she would have got in last year but not the year before).

The other schools she lives near are not as popular. Special measures in one case and the other has a poor reputation locally-though it gets consistently good Ofsted reports.

My friend has told me that she is not prepared to let her DD attend anything less than an Outstanding school. So has put the closest Outstanding school first on her form. Her other 3 choices are comprised of the best schools in the rest of the County. There is absolutely no chance her DD will get into any of these 3. Their catchments are tiny and her DD has no special circumstances (no Statement not a previously looked after child etc).

I have tried explaining that if she doesn't get any of her choices then her DD will be allocated a place in the closest school that has space. I have pointed out the section in the admissions handbook where this is spelled out.

But she still persists in the belief that the LA will look at her form, see she is a 'discerning' parent and place her DD in one of the Outstanding schools.

I can't get through to her at all.

It's very frustrating. Talking to other parents, it really is amazing how many myths regarding school admissions still exist.

admission Wed 20-Nov-13 23:15:46

The problem with most of these myths is that somewhere in past history there is some portion of truth in them.
So the one that crazymum 53 is quoting was actually allowed many years ago, was then subsequently stopped but some schools still think that they can do it.

tiggytape Thu 21-Nov-13 09:23:24

That is very true admissions.

In the distant past schools could give priority to people who listed them first. Not only is this very outdated, it is now also illegal but that doesn't stop parents having a nagging doubt that they've 'ruined their chances' at school number 2 on their list.
Even though it isn't true, some parents still insist that 'the school fills the places with people who listed them first then look at who listed them second' - complete nonsense but it sows the seed of doubt and people start worrying maybe it could happen.

UnicornsPooGlitter Thu 21-Nov-13 20:50:12

Oh, thanks tiggy and admission smile. DH and I have been worrying about this. So, the best advice is to state your preferences in order, and to include a school that you have a good chance of getting into.

tiggytape Thu 21-Nov-13 21:47:43

Definitely - that's exactly the right thing to do.

But doesn't this just relate to state schools? A moot point, but Church schools usually allocate places according to their criteria?

I would bang on the fact that it isn't a choice as much ad a preference and limiting her preferences just puts her in a bad situation

TheRobberBride Thu 21-Nov-13 22:06:16

I think it's difficult because as has been pointed out, a lot of these myths did have a basis in fact in the dim and distant past.

Also, we hear a lot about parental 'choice' these days and I don't always think that it is stated clearly enough that you are not choosing a school for your child, you are simply expressing a preference

Unfortunately, this has all fallen on deaf ears for my friend as she has already sent her form off to the LA. I just hope she's not disappointed come April.

Only voluntary aided schools can set criteria - many C of E schools just use the same criteria as community schools.

tiggytape Thu 21-Nov-13 23:13:32

Academies set their own criteria too (including non faith academies of course).

In an area with a mix of faith, community and academy schools, every school might have completely different admissions criteria to each other: faith school asking for church attendance, some academies opting to have no medical criteria, community schools sticking with medical/social then siblings then distance, other academies giving teaching staff or siblings of pupils higher priority.......

What they all have in common though is that they publish these criteria in advance. They don't know who lists them as 1st preference so cannot ever take this into account. They don't save spaces. They don't have discretion. They use the published criteria alone to issue places. They use the same criteria to put the waiting list in order.

Sharptic Thu 21-Nov-13 23:14:18

The school's admission criteria will be clear in a primary/secondary admissions booklet on the local authority website. Usually after looked after children and children with Sen, it will be children in catchment area with siblings at the school, then children in catchment in distance order.

The main difference I found was some distances were measured by the shortest walking distance, while some academies measured distance as the crow flies which can be misleading.

Sharptic Thu 21-Nov-13 23:16:25

That is it Tiggy, and then all that information is fed into the central computer system so there's no discretion.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Nov-13 23:43:59

An academy or VA school will act as its own admission authority. That means they are sent the list of applicants and asked to put them into order based on their admission criteria. They are not told what preference they are for each applicant, just that the parent has applied.

Occasionally evidence emerges of a school that has fiddled the system, e.g. a VA school that didn't like the results of its admission criteria and so messed around with the results to give greater priority to siblings. There are a number of safeguards to try and stop this happening. The main one is that decisions must be made by the governors or by a committee appointed by the governors, not by a single person. Also a school that does break the rules often finds that it loses appeals which acts as a deterrent. But one thing is guaranteed. They can't admit first preferences before other applicants. They are not given the information they would need to allow them to do that.

admission Fri 22-Nov-13 10:43:36

The comment on different ways of measuring the distance measurement is interesting and is something that parents need to take on board because it could make a significant difference to the actual measurement and hence the likelihood of the offer of a place.
As it is the LA who effectively does the measuring not the school with a different distance criteria, the system will normally be set up for whatever is the LA methodology for measuring distances. Whilst it is not that difficult to change the computer system, there is the obvious potential for an error to be made, so I would check very carefully which system has been used for the distance measurements.

Chocovore Fri 22-Nov-13 10:50:03

This made me laugh! Tell your friend our story. We applied and got our place at an 'Outstanding' school lat April. They school was inspected the following min and put into Special Measures! From the very top to the very bottom in one swoop. I am not concerned as we love the school and would have chosen it regardless but if that is the only thing she is going on she needs to be careful. OFSTED can be very random!

I only named two schools. I was considering naming none. Where I live there is no choice. Catchments are so tiny you will end up where you end up regardless of what you put on your form.

NotCitrus Fri 22-Nov-13 11:07:53

What about the effective-myth that there are catchment areas? They may have existed once upon a time, but if all schools near.you are oversubscribed, being "in catchment" is meaningless - if the school has X places, and X children are higher in the admissions criteria than you are, then tough.

And past last admissions distance doesn't guarantee your year's admissions distance will be as big. So many people told me ds would easily get into local school as last year kids were admitted from 2 streets further away, including the headteacher. Wrong.

Especially when there have been recent bulge classes - the bulge's siblings will reduce the distance in years below. After two bulges there will be very few non-sibling places.

And if that happens, there will be a knock-on effect on next-nearest school. Thankfully third-nearest was expanding, ds is happy there, and it seems to be becoming the desirable school now!

AuntieStella Fri 22-Nov-13 11:28:34

"Catchment" (other than in Scotland) can exist.

It is a defined priority admissions area. Not all LEAs, or even all schools within an LEA have them. There should be clear maps showing the fixed boundaries of the catchment area, which only changes after formal consultation. The existence of a catchment will be reflected in the admissions criteria (eg after LAC/SEN, you see siblings in catchment by distance, other children in catchment by distance, other siblings by distance, all other applicants by distance). So you are not guaranteed a place at your catchment school if it fills up by children in a higher category, or if you are in the tie-break category if you are not close enough.

It is sometimes, confusingly, used where there is no defined priority admissions area, simply to mean the footprint of the addresses of previous years' admitted pupils. It gives you an idea of how close you need to love to stand a chance of entry, but means nothing in terms of how applicants are ranked.

AuntieStella Fri 22-Nov-13 11:30:59

Badly drafted, sorry, I meant in Scotland catchment definitely exists, and every address is in one. All children are guaranteed a place in their catchment school. Parents can request a place elsewhere, but if they cannot be located their preference, they get the catchment school.

Barbeasty Fri 22-Nov-13 15:06:05

Church schools often have a "catchment"- the Catholic schools in our diocese have a catchment of 1 or more specific parishes, as does our village CofE.

The LA secondary school here also has a priority catchment area.

Roodlepippin Sat 23-Nov-13 23:07:42

Does anyone know whether admissions take into account whether a child already has a place at a local school when they are allocating places? My ds' friend is 6 rising 7 and they are applying to move him in year 3 to the junior that is nearer to them (which also happens to be very affluent, very white and very middle class and therefore much more desirable).

Once a child has a junior place in the area, is that it as far as the admissions people are concerned? Or is a child is treated exactly the same way in being assessed for an admission to an oversubscribed school regardless of whether they already had a place somewhere nearby?

Should add that the LA is surrey and school places here are extremely hotly contested!

UnicornsPooGlitter
Oh, thanks tiggy and admission smile. DH and I have been worrying about this. So, the best advice is to state your preferences in order, and to include a school that you have a good chance of getting into.

This was our plan, we have three Ofsted Good schools nearby but our "catchment" school is "Improvement Needed*. We plan on putting the three good one as 1,2,3 and our catchment school as 4th. Our top ranking Good school, took 14 children out of catchment last year, so fingers crossed.

tiggytape glad to hear you think this is the best thing to do.

OP last year a friend of mine picked 4 good/outstanding schools out of catchment (none were catchment), she was allocated a school 6 miles away that was special measures and ended up going on the waiting list for her catchment school that was also good (but obviously not good enough) luckily a place came up but it was touch and go.

Devora Sun 24-Nov-13 00:19:44

NotCitrus - look at Fox School in Kensington/Notting Hill, one of the most oversubscribed schools in the country (according to last week's Evening Standard!). It has a catchment area that is long and thin in shape, meaning that if you lived to the west or east of it, you wouldn't get a place even if you lived nearer than people who lived south. This really scuppered me when I lived in the area. The other options were: two excellent faith schools that we could not get into because we're non-Christian (though Gove and Cameron's kids attend them, despite living a couple of miles away); a decent community school that didn't take children living further than 0.2 miles away; and a valiant but struggling school comprised almost totally of transient soon-to-be-displaced recent migrant families (40% churn rate and 90% boys, very few speaking English). Great 'choice' we had.

Parents went slightly crazed living in that area, and all kinds of myths abounded. One friend only applied for one school (one of the over-subscribed faiths schools), completely confident of getting in despite living too far and not attending church, because her boyfriend was an ex-pupil! (I tried in vain to explain that this may work in some of our major public schools, but not in the state sector). Another was fully confident she could send her child to any school she chose, because she's a teacher and 'they'll look after their own'. They didn't, and both ended up with schools they weren't happy with.

prh47bridge Sun 24-Nov-13 00:59:11

Roodlepippin - They cannot push a child to the bottom of the pile just because they already have a place elsewhere. All applicants must be treated equally.

pyrrah Sun 24-Nov-13 17:45:19

The 'they keep some places open for people moving to the area' myth seems to be alive and kicking still!

I was talking to my mother a few weeks ago - my brother is moving house and things fell apart in the 11th hour on the house he'd had an offer accepted on. Had he got the house, he would have been in one of the nearest properties to one of the most desirable primaries in London.

When I said it was a shame as he needed to get something sorted before the 15th January for admissions purposes, she said that surely schools must set aside places for people who are moving. I explained the London over-subscription issues and asked why on earth some child already living in an area should be denied a place in favour of some hypothetical child who may or may not move there in the next 9 months!

She was pretty shocked!

nlondondad Sun 24-Nov-13 18:25:18

A lot of myths arise from people misunderstanding what admissions staff tell them on the phone, I think. So this myth about places "being kept" I know that Islington place planning like there to be a few surplus places in Islington schools after the start of the school year, so they have somewhere to send children who move in during the year. But of course this is very much NOT the same as "holding places back" !

I was at a public meeting a few weeks ago where the topic of school places in Islington came up where a woman made the statement from the audience that she had rung Islington admissions to ask about a place for her child in 2014 and she claimed they had told her, that where she lived she would not have a place for her child! And of course she has misunderstood something as Islington admissions have no idea what the situation on any bit of ground will be until well after 15 Jan 2014! I gathered that Islington admissions saying she could not be guarenteed a place at any particular school was interpreted by her, and English was not her first language, as meaning that she would not get a place at any school... but unfortunately I did not get a chance to speak to her to confirm this.

And so the anxiety, and the myths grow...

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Sun 24-Nov-13 19:09:23

That is definitely true nlondondad. Misunderstanding things, mixing up coincidence and causation, relying on what the rules were 25 years ago and a fondness for conspiracy theories covers most of the myths I think!

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