In-year admissions - quandary

(31 Posts)
Rooble Wed 15-Jan-14 13:44:15

Hello - I need your advice and collective wisdom! There is a possibility that my family may have to move - several hundred miles, so not a commutable distance. The destination local authority website (Hertfordshire) has a list of schools which have spaces, but looking through, there are very, very few! If we were to choose a town to live in which had no free spaces in DS's year group, does anyone know what happens? Can they allow a special circs class extension (im sure there would be a more accurate term for this). I'm a non-driver (disability, not choice), so wouldn't be able to drive him around...
I'm really in a bit of a brain-swirl (quite apart from being horrified about how little house my lovely Yorkshire home would buy in the SE....)

lougle Wed 15-Jan-14 13:45:50

The LA have to offer a place at a school with space. If that school is more than 2 miles away (Key stage 1) or 3 miles away (Key stage 2) then the LA has to provide transport.

meditrina Wed 15-Jan-14 13:51:23

Being a non-driver would not count as special circumstances.

Transport has to be provided to the nearest school with a vacancy if over 2 or 3 miles (dependingon age of pupil).

And you can always keep trying for nearer places via appeal or waiting list even if DC has to start at a more distant school.

The Fair Access Protocol can kick in to force a school to go over numbers (the one LEA thinks can best cope with an extra pupil, not necessarily your choice), but only if there are no vacancies whatsoever within a reasonable distance (which is usually judged in terms of travelling times over an hour).

Rooble Wed 15-Jan-14 14:02:41

That's really helpful, thank you both very much. He's KS1, but only for another 6 months. It was just very noticeable that all the places we'd identified as nice options to go to in terms of location, size, feel etc are all devoid of school places!
It was all so much easier when I was a child and, when you moved house, you just registered at the local school.

lougle Wed 15-Jan-14 14:09:11

Unfortunately, KS1 restricts class sizes to 30 or under by law. An appeals panel will have no discretion to award a place taking a class over 30 unless a mistake was made which cost your child a place.

If you can, I'd wait until September, when there is more discretion on class size, if he becomes Year 3.

exexpat Wed 15-Jan-14 14:22:58

Very few good schools would have open spaces in KS1 at any given time, because any time a place comes up, it will be taken by someone on the waiting list. Once you are in the area and can go on the waiting list for local schools, with any luck a place may come up when someone moves. Even if a school had a place now, they wouldn't hold it for you if you were not planning to move for weeks or months. When I was moving back to the UK with my DCs, I think the longest a school would hold a place for us was four school weeks (ie not including holidays), and that may have changed since then.

There is often movement at the end of KS1, particularly in areas where there are private schools, as children switch from state to private. Whether you get any empty place depends on your position on the waiting list, which is usually based on the same criteria as normal admissions, ie siblings, distance from school etc.

So I'd say the best advice would be to move down towards the end of this school year and find somewhere to live as close as possible to a school you would be happy with, and if possible within reasonable distance of at least a couple of other decent schools, whether or not they currently have vacancies, so that you are in a position to snap up a place if one becomes available. As others have said, KS2 also has a bit more flexibility on class size.

There is a possibility that you may have to temporarily home educate or accept a place at a less-than-desirable school for a while until a better place comes up.

Wingdingdong Wed 15-Jan-14 14:23:36

lougle, is it true even for in-year transfers?

I ask because we're likely to be in a similar situation to the OP, looking to move to Hants/Surrey to be nearer family. I phoned up both Hants and Surrey CC admissions departments to ask them about what happens if the schools are full (as they all are!) and was told that if the nearest schools are full, the CC would try to find a place at another school 'within reasonable distance' to expect us to travel. If there isn't one within reasonable distance, both CCs said that they would go over numbers at a local school, but that the choice of school was at their discretion and not necessarily the catchment school. My DD is YR at the moment and again both CCs said that it would make things a lot easier if we could wait till July before moving as it's easier to go over numbers in Y1 than YR.

Obviously I know nothing about the legal situation, which is why I phoned the CCs in the first place, but would love to hear from those who do!

OP, is it worth calling the CC admissions department now and asking what they'd do? Certainly for us the knowledge influences where exactly we'd choose to live (e.g. If DD would have to attend a school on one side of a particular town, we'd choose to live on that side of town if possible).

exexpat Wed 15-Jan-14 14:24:44

Just to add - when I was moving, the school only agreed to hold a place for us when I already had a signed tenancy agreement to show them that I had a local address. It was a bit of a juggling act trying to find somewhere to live and a school with potential space at the same time.

TurnOffTheTv Wed 15-Jan-14 14:29:56

I moved to surrey last year and I was hugely stressed by the whole in year admissions process. We ended up going private as there was not one place within ten miles of us. It nearly finished us financially. A good friend had the same problem with secondary and had to wait seven weeks for a place.

lougle Wed 15-Jan-14 14:49:13

Wingdingdong their definition of 'reasonable distance' will be a 45 minute journey each way to school. Transport provided by the LA. If they can't find anything within this distance, they are able to use the Fair Access Protocol to admit her.

prh47bridge Wed 15-Jan-14 15:49:45

I have no idea why both CCs would tell you it is easier to go over numbers in Y1 than Reception. It isn't. Infant class size regulations apply to Y1 and Y2 just as much as Reception.

mummytime Wed 15-Jan-14 16:01:57

The good news for the person moving to Surrey/Hants is that Surrey at least provides transport by minibus/taxi rather than handing out a bus pass to a 5 year old. I also wonder if all schools, even the more rural ones/ones in the less posh bits of town are really full. (At least if you don't mean the Runneymeade area, which I think has it worse.)

Wingdingdong Wed 15-Jan-14 17:18:41

Hm. I did wonder but both people said the same thing. Then again you never know who you're talking to on the phone and for all I know they could have started the day before and not had a clue. One of them, think Hants, seemed to think that half an hour was their 'reasonable distance' limit.

It seems to be a real problem in that the CC can't give accurate information about where the child could be schooled, they can give current vacancies, you can proceed with a house move on the basis of that info then find that you're about to complete and there's no school place after all.

Yes, of course there's the argument that you don't do an in-year transfer, you wait till the child's about to move up to secondary or sixth form - but that's then assuming you can complete in time to move in summer hols and/or there's a place at the local primary until end of term and that you have only one DC. We want to move before we have to do two in-year transfers!

Is it just so bad at the moment due to demand for school places or has it always been like this? My parents managed to move house and get three of us places at the local primary school no problem whatsoever!

prh47bridge Wed 15-Jan-14 17:47:37

When most of us were young parental preferences did not form part of the process. You went to the local primary school and they were expected to cope. Now schools have a fixed capacity and should not go over that. Furthermore they are not allowed to go beyond 30 children in a class in Reception, Y1 or Y2 other than in certain defined circumstances. The result is that there is a shortage of places in many areas.

tiggytape Wed 15-Jan-14 18:15:15

It seems to be a real problem in that the CC can't give accurate information about where the child could be schooled, they can give current vacancies, you can proceed with a house move on the basis of that info then find that you're about to complete and there's no school place after all.

That's all they can do. The admission code says if they have a place and somebody asks for it (with a view to starting straight away) they must give that person the place. If someone leaves a class and there's a waiting lits, they must offer that place to the first person on the list.

So councils never know either. They might get an application form tomorrow from someone who moved into the area today and then that place is taken. There is no option to save spaces and few schools have lots of spare capacity now.

Wingdingdong Wed 15-Jan-14 21:46:39

Oh, I'm not trying to apportion blame here or saying that the councils won't give accurate information, they can't, I know. I was wondering more whether this is a recent problem and if so, what's the cause - legislation or a national shortage of school places/change in demographics, and further down the road, how this increased restriction of family mobility may impact on the economy... Another thread, perhaps!

Mostly I was thinking that, e.g. the OP, whose family "may have to move", is kind of stuffed by the system at present. Presumably if they have to move, it's not a free choice and they don't have so much control over the timing etc. Also the OP mentioned disabilities and being a non-driver, further restricting the circumstances of the move (presumably needs a town with easily accessible transport and facilities rather than a rural village with a bus on Tuesdays and Thursdays). It just makes the whole task of relocating that much more challenging, especially as there can't be certainties (and again I understand why they can't hold places just in case - but that doesn't make the thought of moving somewhere on the basis that's the only place available, only to find that when you get there the nearest place is an hour away, any easier to bear!).

Anyway, I didn't mean to hijack with our search, just express sympathy with the OP and wonder aloud about a few points, as my conversations with the two CCs had led me to believe it wasn't as much of an issue as I had feared - and indeed as it seems to be!

sittingagain Wed 15-Jan-14 21:53:46

Op, there are quite of few of us from Herts on mumsnet. If you need info on areas or schools, just ask.

springrain Wed 15-Jan-14 22:15:45

Wingding - I agree with mummytime. There are slightly more rural schools in Surrey with R spaces, including at good schools that were initially oversubscribed. Where are you looking?

tiggytape Thu 16-Jan-14 08:49:40

I was wondering more whether this is a recent problem and if so, what's the cause - legislation or a national shortage of school places/change in demographics

More pressure on school places is the main answer. The birth rate since 2005 and certainly 2008 has absolutely rocketed. In many areas, it is not unusual for every single school place to be full and for the council to have to add extra classes just to cope with the people living in the area at that time. If more people later move to the area, there can be literally nowhere for them to go (although by law the council will have to find them a place and fund transport, this isn't likely to be a place of the parents' choosing).

The second issue is class size laws. YR, Y1 and Y2 are restricted by law to 30 children per class (i.e. per teacher) so even in a lovely spacious school, there is no option to add an extra chair and an extra pupil to any of those classes.

In past years and in rural areas, some schools routinely had a spare space or two in each year group so this was never a problem. New people to an area would get a place virtually straight away.

And it already affects mobility. Many people abandon a job offer or a house move closer to family for this very reason. They plan the move and then realise that their child will get no school offer initially and eventually be placed in an unpopular school several miles away from their new house. The education boards have a few such enquiries each week and some of those people will not go ahead with their move because the school situation is just too uncertain. Others will go private or Home Ed waiting for a local place.

MaKettle Thu 16-Jan-14 09:12:13

We moved back from abroad 18 months ago just before the beginning of the school year - to our house that we'd been renting out, so already had a local address - but our LEA were clear that no application could be considered until we were physically back in the house. The LEA didn't really start allocating places until the beginning of term, and then it was just a waiting game. Which was frustrating at the time, when we knew precisely when and where we were moving to - but clearly there have to be rules. The only rule which I was a bit shock about was that my child (who didn't have a school place at all) had no priority over a child whose parents wanted to change schools within the area - so if they lived closer to the target school than we did, then their child got the place.

tiggytape Thu 16-Jan-14 09:19:07

Yes MaKettle - the law says they have to keep all waiting lists strictly in order of admission priority so a child living closer normally gets to be higher up the list whereas having no school place doesn't bump you up the list at all. It is very frustrating.

However, if you'd still had no school place after 2 months, emergency measures can kick in that means a school is forced to go over numbers to accept your child and then you do move up over everyone else on waiting lists.

PastSellByDate Thu 16-Jan-14 09:50:01

I'm in the midlands and schools here are also very full do to a rise in birthrate - many schools are expanding creating more places, but that is coming on for YR/ Y1 ages and future classes and may not apply to Y2.

What I will say having observed this pattern over the last few years. Is our school which is GOOD but not great and has 'high mobility' often has spaces filled by a child for a few months until a vacancy is available at their local school.

So my advice is don't fight the council decision upon arrival (the likelihood is it won't be your first choice school) but be savvy enough to directly contact the nearby school of your choice (ensure you are definitely within their catchment) and asked to be put on the wait list. Schools are now directly controlling waiting lists - so you need to be proactive. Don't be pushy but do send occasional e-mails reconfirming your interest for a place in the school. Do provide age & Year of your child and your address details/ contact details. And it definitely doesn't hurt to make sure the letter is well-written and that all dealings with the potential school are extremely polite.

People do move (as you have) so hopefully a place will materialize sooner rather than later.

HTH

AllOverIt Thu 16-Jan-14 16:13:36

I'm in the same position. We're moving from Surrey to Dorset. Luckily DD, who is in reception, had a choice of two schools, but DS has no place. They offered h somewhere 45 mins away, but I didn't want him in a taxi with a stranger for 45 mins twice a day at 7. He's in Y2, so I'm having to homeschool him until he starts KS2. We managed to exchange in time to get our KS2 application in, so at least he has a place from September.

The people at Dorset CC have been lovely. Their hands are tied really. Im lucky that I'm a teacher so homeschooling isn't as daunting as it might be for some. It's not ideal though..

Good luck OP

Suttonmum1 Thu 16-Jan-14 16:27:22

There is a child in my son's year who was top of the admissions pile due to the complications caused by the parent having Epilepsy (including not being able to drive). If you can argue a similar case that might help put you to the top of waiting lists. It also covered issues to do with before/after school care being provided in the local area too I think.

tiggytape Thu 16-Jan-14 17:01:17

Suttonmum1 - There is no automatic right to be top of the waiting list due to child (non statemented) or parental disability. Waiting lists are always held in strict admissions order.
However you are right in the sense that many schools have a "social or medical" category very near the top of their admissions criteria. If a school has this criteria, and if a parent can provide evidence they meet that criteria, they will be above siblings and distance candidates on any list because they will be in a higher admission bracket than others.

However not all schools have a medical and social admissions category and by law they can choose not to have one and to give no priority for medical reasons that don't have a statement. At those schools, parental or child needs would not affect waiting list position.

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