securing uk school places from overseas

(12 Posts)
choklit Sun 08-Dec-13 00:40:38

We are hoping to move back to the uk from Australia. Dc's will potentially be in reception and years 2 & 4.
All areas we are looking to move to, ie in nice areas , good schools, commuter distance to London are oversubscribed. (Sevenoaks, Tunbridge, parts of Essex)
My concern is we rent somewhere but don't get local school spots. A bigger concern is that dc's will be placed in different schools wherever there is a space in their school year. Could I be given separate schools miles from home and forced to accept?
How do I find out those schools with places? I am thinking of targeting undersubscribed schools so that we have certainty in terms of renting close to school. Although everywhere looks oversubscribed and I am guessing any undersubscribed schools (unless in a remote rural location) are unpopular for good reason.
The uk system is very alien to me. Advice greatly appreciated on how we go about this.

gallicgirl Sun 08-Dec-13 00:48:40

Each council will have a list of schools and application procedures. This will tell you who has priority to a school place and which criteria was the last to be used.
For example a school takes 60 pupils into reception and the least important criteria is out of catchment area.
If 65 pupils applied and 10 were out of area, you have a pretty good chance of getting a place. But if 120 applied and the last pupil was admitted as a sibling, then you've got a cat in hell's chance.
No idea about non-reception year applications though but I imagine its similar except pkaces will be filled.

gallicgirl Sun 08-Dec-13 00:50:29
steppemum Netherlands Sun 08-Dec-13 01:01:16

first thing you need to realise is that you cannot apply for a school place until you are resident at an address. This means that you can't apply until you are physically here.

You then apply through your local council, and you state your choice of schools.

The schools may well be full, possibly with a waiting list. But not necessarily. A school is legally limited to 30 children in a class for reception, year 1 and year 2, but at the discretion of the head they can go over 30 for years 3 and above. For you in practice this may mean that if they have places for the younger ones, they may go over 30 to accommodate your year 4 child.

If none of the schools have places for all 3 children, it is worth considering putting them on the waiting list. The school will usually tell you if there are lots of children on the list, or none, and also what their turnover is (how likely a place is to come up). You can then home schoo for a month or two until a place comes up. IN over subscribed schools though, there tends to be a lower turnover.

You don't say when you are expecting to return. reception places for sept 2014 have to be applied for by 15th January. If you can't do that, then you will probably be on a waiting list anyway for a reception place.

How do you find out about schools? If you use a house buying website (like right moves) and choose a house in an area you like, there is an option to show all the local schools. You can then see where they are and their names, and then go to that schools website for more information. You can also find their OFSTED (inspection) reports online, just google the school name and OFSTED, and that gives you some idea of results. BUT outstanding schools are not always the best, many people find that a 'good' can be as good if not better on a day to day basis (some outstanding schools can be a bit driven by results) However, you really do need to visit the school. As you can't apply until you get here, I would set up visits to a selection of schools for the first week here, and then apply.

The council does have to find you a place by law, but it may be, as you said, that the only place is on the other side of town, or that there aren't 3 places in one school.

Just a further note, Kent has a grammar school system for secondary and Essex doesn't. This is a whole other discussion, but unless your dcs are very, very bright, they won't get into grammar in Kent unless they have been tutored all through year 5.

Hope that Helps!

steppemum Netherlands Sun 08-Dec-13 01:04:43

If you can manage it, phone the schools you are interested in, explain your situation and ask them how full they are, what chance you have etc. They may tell you over the phone, where they won't put it in an email.

madwomanintheatt1c Sun 08-Dec-13 01:13:08

I always phone the schools, explain when we are coming back, and ask about spaces in relevant year groups. As long as it's an in-year admission, it's usually not too bad. The schools will be able to tell you what spaces are available etc.

Yr r places are always a pisser though. Schools advised us to move back within 6 weeks before the end of the summer term, and place the existing children into yr 1 and 3 - this would ensure that the next year's yr r sibling would get a sibling place.

Looking for three kids including a yr r place is never a picnic, but we were fine. Found a nice outstanding infant school with similar juniors in reasonable commuting distance.

choklit Sun 08-Dec-13 02:12:12

Thanks everyone for your replies.
It appears best to call the schools first to get an idea from them on numbers. Seems like a catch 22 getting a uk address if there are no appropriate schools with spaces in the area as would that address then work against me if applying for schools out side the area?

Madwoman-can you tell me where you found the outstanding schools within reasonable commuter distance? (of London?)

tiggytape Sun 08-Dec-13 16:24:54

A lot of it is timing and luck. You cannot guarantee you will get a place in the year group you want at the exact time you want it. Even if you phone a school tomorrow and they have a space, it might be gone by the time you move here. And, as others have said, you cannot apply for a UK school place from outside the UK (except in exceptional circumstances eg military personnel).

It is a bit chicken and egg - you cannot ask for a school place without being resident in the UK but you don't want to commit to a UK address without knowing if you'll definitely get a local school. Unfortunately, there is no way around this completely.

A good bet is to identify areas that have a number of schools - preferably at least some of which have spaces. This spreads your options a bit. You can then accept whichever place you are offered (and the council must offer you a place - even if it isn't at a school you listed - once you move here) and ask to go on the waiting lists of numerous other schools that are more local / better schools.

pyrrah Sun 08-Dec-13 20:24:58

Worth remembering that if the council offer you a school place and you turn it down then they are under no obligation to offer you another one.

You might find you end up with all 3 in different schools - unfortunately the councils do not take the problems of getting each child to a different school gate at the same time into account and expect you to deal with this via child-minders, breakfast clubs etc.

If you are hoping for waiting list places, then try to be here before the start of the academic year and get on as many lists as you can. Lots of juggling happens then - I got a place for DD at our 1st choice school 3 weeks into term when 4 places came up due to people moving/not turning up, this then created a vacancy at her oversubscribed school which may well have then created a vacancy at the school the child that took DD's place was at etc.

Waiting lists are based on the same criteria as initial applications, so if you identify a school you really like and it's in an oversubscribed area then try and move as close as possible. You don't go to the head of the queue for having no school, you would be offered a place once all the children on the waiting list who live closer have been offered it.

Once you have one child in, then siblings will automatically move up the waiting list IF the school has a sibling priority.

I would look for schools with large intakes - 60+ each year, and areas of high mobility. Also areas with a number of decent schools not just one great one.

If you are looking at Kent, think hard about the grammar school issue. The vast majority tutor for the exam (both DIY and paying privately) - and coming from Australia where schools tend to be behind the UK in terms of syllabus covered by that stage, you will definitely need to tutor to stand a chance.

You need to consider the alternatives if your child doesn't get a place. The alternative is not a true 'comprehensive' as a sizeable chunk of the very bright have been creamed off into the grammars.

Good luck!

nocheeseinhouse Mon 09-Dec-13 14:51:16

Bollocks do the "vast majority" tutor for the Kent test. The vast majority of mums in Kent who post on mumsnet, maybe. But then, from mumsnet, I get the idea that unless your child is a 'free reader' at Christmas in reception, they're behind! You do not need to be tutored or "very very bright". And often a grammar school isn't the be all and end all, anyway, other schools can be fine.

Applying from overseas, well, you can't. You'll have to be here. I'd go as far away from the competitive belt around London as possible.

EdithWeston Mon 09-Dec-13 14:55:49

Also, a school cannot admit over the PAN (ie formal number of places) at the head's discretion. It has to go to appeal. Appeals are easier to win in years 3 and above, as the binding Infant Class Size rules no longer apply.

And obviously if the head is happy to have you, then a strong argument against admitting is unlikely to be deployed at appeal, again increasing your chances of winning.

nlondondad Wed 11-Dec-13 17:10:19

Actually two bits of information we need to be able to give you better advice:-

Are the years given for your children the year they will be in autumn 2014?

Will you have an address from which to apply BEFORE the deadline of 15 January 2014

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