Move house, rent house, go private, hope?

(38 Posts)
Impendingdoom Mon 09-Feb-15 15:08:55

Hi all

Long time lurker here, with (long) primary school admissions questions...

Based on the last few years' distances, we wouldn't get in to any of our nearest primary schools. On last year's, we just get into one OK one, but only just, so this might change. The next options would be further away undersubscribed schools with very poor Ofsted comments. So it seems the options are:
1. Wait and see. Can anyone tell me whether the LA published distances are the furthest distance on the day places are allocated, or the final distance on the day school starts? If they are the former, would the LA/school tell me the latter? Then I could see how likely we really are to get into any of them.
One other thing about waiting and seeing is that we could go on waiting lists for the nearer ones - some people say the first couple of years of school are crucial, others that it'd be fine and not to worry about it - any opinions?
2. Move house. To somewhere very near a good school i.e much more expensive and smaller than where we are. Aaargh. I'm worried about doing this and then the school turning out not to be right (happened to some friends) and ending up moving again/going private anyway
3. Rent near a school, and live there for a few years. I've read previous posts on this and know the arguments on ethics and whether it's even possible. But I also know of people who have done it.
4. Go private. Probably can't afford this for more than one child, and we plan on having another.
5. Go mad. Start campaign to make nearer schools take another class. Moan at everyone for the next couple of years. Complain to MP about postcode lottery. Pray (to god of nearest good religious school). Obsessively check mumsnet for changes in admissions policy.......

Any help very gratefully accepted!

Somemumsodd Mon 09-Feb-15 15:40:22

How far away or out are you distance wise? In our area the LA publish last distance as of 16th April. There is lots of churn after that though. Lots go private at the last minute
Or have moved. Distances go up abit and typically 5-10 waiting list people get in the bigger schools. Your post lacks detail really

Impendingdoom Mon 09-Feb-15 16:26:13

Very small distances, but we're in London. Three of them we don't get in by under 100 yards, the one we would have got in last year would have been by under 100 yards. I can post more detail but thought it was long already!

Somemumsodd Mon 09-Feb-15 16:28:33

That's where only London people can advise really on how much churn their is etc

tiggytape Mon 09-Feb-15 17:17:17

Most last distances published are the April dates. It changes again through the summer (in some parts of London a large % go private even at this age) and it changes again even after September because people move over the summer or go with a private school offer at the very last minute.

If the schools you want are highly popular with last distances offered under 800m or so, there are 2 flaws to the renting plan:
1. The high demand means the council checks addresses so unless you sell your old house, it will be on record that you still own it and that it isn't so far away. Many councils will reject a rented address on these grounds without good reason (eg the house you own was flooded and uninhabitable.
In addition, other parents who report this will bring it to the council's attention even if the initial checks miss it. A lot of people get their rented address disqualified every year but of course nobody hears about them because who admits to that?

2. Siblings. Even if you rent within last year's distance of a great school, most of them in London take siblings first. If there have been any bulge classes in the past few years then the number of sibling applicants can soar one yera to the next so that either no non siblings get in or only a very small number who live within a few metres.
Selling your house to rent and live closer solves half that problem but not the sibling one. Selling and moving is risky for the same reasons unelss you can move very close indeed.

Number 5 on your list is an option. If a lot of parents end up with no local school, you can campaign for a bulge class to be opened. It depends where the next nearest school is. If there is an underperforming primary school with spaece a mile away, they aren't likely to be as sympathetic as if there was no other school at all with spaces for 4 miles.

Probably the best bet at thsi stage is more research:
1. Find last distances offered as of September not April. The schools themselves may know
2. Visit the schools and see if you like them.
3. Visit the schools you are nervous about getting and see what they are actually like. Just because a school looks great on paper doesn't mean you will love it. One of the ones near me that gets fantastic SATS results only does this because so many parents pay for tutors (near an 11+ area) not because of the school itself.
4. Check admissions policies. Some areas give priority to people living in certain roads. Not common in London but it does happen. Some give priority if you attend a certain church. You don't have to be religious - just attend the church.

lalalonglegs Mon 09-Feb-15 17:29:53

Hi - we were in your position almost 7 years ago with our eldest daughter - she didn't get offered a place in any of the local schools and it was very stressful. You don't say how old your child is so it's hard to know how urgent the "problem" (it might not be one) is. Have you visited any of the schools for open days and asked if they're planning extra/bulge classes? Have you visited any of the "bad" schools? Certainly in our area of London, two of the very undesirable schools are now unrecognisable so don't go on reputation/outdated Ofsted reports alone.

The long and short of it is that you never can tell if you're going to get into a school in London unless you live on the doorstep BUT my daughter did get offered a place at a (not brilliant) local school for the September start and started Y2 at a great school. In virtually every school - with the possible exception of one-class entry schools - the churn in London is high enough, even at the honeypot schools, that if you are living on the margins (less than 100m away from the last offered place in your case), you will get a place sooner or later. I know many, many people who live 3-400m outside the "catchment" who have been offered places within KS1. It's not ideal but it's not the end of the world and, if you like your house and wouldn't move otherwise, I'd stay put.

(By the way, we are now in the throes of waiting for secondary school offers and the school I thought I wanted my daughter to go to and for which we are borderline in terms of distance leading to much hand-wringing about whether we should have moved etc etc, I ended up hating when I visited it. It's not worth getting obsessed about these issues, things do work themselves out for the best smile.)

Madcats Mon 09-Feb-15 17:42:17

Are the schools in your area Infants and Juniors or are they Primary (straight through from 4-11)? Where I live we have a mixture of both (so some parents have to go through the application process again for yr 3, others don't).

What we also have is a lot of private schools (some more academic than others). If you get parents moving their kids out of state primaries at the end of year 2 into selective Indie, these spare places don't get incorporated into he standard application process.

Other parents, put their kids into private pre-prep whilst going on the state waiting list (though I guess even getting into a private school in London isn't easy).

letsplayscrabble Mon 09-Feb-15 20:46:14

Where in London? There are some experts here on certain areas.

admission Mon 09-Feb-15 21:28:28

The problem you have is that the infant numbers continue to rise and that means smaller and smaller distances where you will get in. In terms of moving unless you literally are going to be next to the school and you know that there are no admission criteria that are going to be an issue, then the chance is probably too much of a chance.
Because the pupil numbers keep rising, schools are being pushed to take more and more pupils. The problem is that where these extra needed places will be is not usually clear until after the initial allocations. So not only will there be churn of places because people do move in and out of areas but the school with only 30 available places may suddenly be taking 60 pupils.
As such I think you should do all your homework on every school within a reasonable distance and see which ones are your favourites, put them down in your priority order, partially base in those you like best but also based on which you believe you have more chance of success at and then hope. Whilst I accept that in many infant class size appeals the chances of success are low, I would always say appeal because you never know if a mistake might have been made, especially when you are just at that point of being possibly in distance and possibly not.

Impendingdoom Tue 10-Feb-15 10:28:15

Thanks for all your help so far everyone

I'm starting your lists of things to do, and will also ask about the bulge classes (though I'm not sure how far ahead a school would know?). The schools are primary.
The infant numbers rising is a problem - the distances have been getting shorter every year. I've looked at the LA planning report, and can see the new flats (including family sized ones) going up all over the place and so things could change a lot in the next two years (entry in 2017).
I guess I also ought to look at the private options while going on a waiting list. Given the tales of waiting lists/interviewing toddlers etc for those then it seems like there's lot to find out
The getting obsessed thing is the problem though - it's a long time to not know!

tiggytape Tue 10-Feb-15 10:43:38

Bulge classes are normally organised after national allocations day which is in April for primary schools.
A typical situation might be that 75+ local children are allocated no school in April or there are spaces but 7+ miles away. The council then approaches local primary schools and asks / tells them to add another class for that year only.

The good news is that this means a lot of local people now end up in a local and sometimes highly desirable school despite living further away than initial allocations.
The bad news is for those who apply 2 years later. That extra bulge class means there are 30 extra children in the school many of which have younger siblings who now get priority over more local people.
The late organistion of bulge classes also means you cannot rely on them.

As well as private, there are other options in addition to the list. A child does not need to start school until the term after they turn 5 or the summer term of reception (whichever is soonest) so you can accept a place at a school you don't want, not actually attend it at all and wait on lots of lists for better offers to come in. Of course there's no guarantee but the strategy means you have a definite reserved spot in a school somewhere should all other options fail (they cannot give your place away if you decide to delay the start date).
Some parents (especially of summer babies) do this and keep their child at nursery for nearly a whole extra year in the hope that a decent offer will come up in the meantime. It pays to be added to every list of every school you would even vaguely consider.

toomanywheeliebins Tue 10-Feb-15 12:13:50

It depends where you are in London but if you are v v close you may get in on a wait list. Also agree with previous posters- do go and visit schools and make judgement based on that. Schools can go up v rapidly and also down quite quickly too based on a whole range of factors. OFSTED is one indicator but only one indicator. Results are a poor indicator of your child's success as so much can change in that time. Value added scores are useful and show how much 'extra' a school puts in and as much as possible levels schools out so you can compare schools with a range of backgrounds.

millhillmum1 Tue 10-Feb-15 13:21:04

We are/were in the same position.
We went with the private option but with hindsight I wish we had just moved.

MaybeDoctor Tue 10-Feb-15 13:38:08

In the end we got fed up with the whole shooting match (especially with very restrictive faith school requirements distorting local admissions) and moved out of London.

I suggest putting your local authority/rough area on this thread, as then you will get some people with real local knowledge who can give informed suggestions.

millhillmum1 Tue 10-Feb-15 14:21:25

Just to add that for dc2 we are moving out of London. Cannot face the private option again and agree faith schools in London really distort admissions.

MaybeDoctor Tue 10-Feb-15 17:18:07

Yes, about the only thing more restrictive/ludicrous than popular north london state schools is north london private schools!

Lotteries, selection tests, registration fees, non-refundable deposits, the tiny ratio of places to applicants...

We left London and suddenly everything seemed so much more straightforward.

RiverTam Tue 10-Feb-15 17:23:26

well, for what it's worth, we went through all this last year and went with doing nothing and hoping. And astonishingly enough we got into the school we wanted (which DC from our road had got into up until about 4 years previously, then the furthest distance offered shrunk considerably). And we got in first round, whereas others on our road got in on waiting list. The furthest distance basically went up from about 400m to over 700.

Not sure I would recommend this, though! I think a number of things accounted for it - there was no nursery class last year, so no DC kind of automatically coming up, plus far fewer siblings I think.

JaniceJoplin Tue 10-Feb-15 17:31:46

It sounds like you have long enough to gain church credentials if you can find a faith school that you like. It's barmy to attend on one hand if you don't believe, but the cost of moving or private is also not exactly ideal either.

We moved to get a good schools place, about 30 miles. In hindsight it would have been better to go to church as that would have guaranteed us a place at a really great school and we could have extended or such where we were. We are happy where we are now though. Ironically I am constantly being asked to do things with the church now my children are at school, but I think that is just what they do out in the burbs...

JaniceJoplin Tue 10-Feb-15 17:35:05

In our old borough, there used to be about 10% of places freed up on waiting lists. This year however, hardly anything moved. We were on waiting lists for 3 schools in April - position 18,21,19 and by the end of the summer were 18,23,5. Never got offered a place at any of them.

MaybeDoctor Wed 11-Feb-15 07:35:17

The problem for us was that, although I am vaguely cofE, DH is of another faith entirely. So it would really stick in our throats to do the church thing.

NimpyWWindowmash Wed 11-Feb-15 07:47:08

I would start off by ignoring all Ofsted reports (useless) and visit all schools and talk to HT and decide based on that.

Then move close to preferred school. But NOT if you are currently living in your dream house, in which case give school you are given a chance, and if it does not work:private.

Ofsted is really worthless IMO

Nameofstreets Wed 11-Feb-15 09:59:57

Same position, also London

Considered selling and moving but resented system.

Too disorganised to rent closer.

Didn't get into preferred school.

Got into second choice school which was great, but stayed on list for first choice school.

second choice school went down hill.

Didn't get place for first choice school for four years on waiting list (even though two form entry and we would have been in the catchment the previous year).

Finally moved into private sector (could afford to, would not have if it had been a stretch).

Place finally came up in Year 4 in preferred state school but felt too mean to kids to do another move.

I still walk past the preferred state school feeling cross, as subsequent years the catchment would have included us and 0.3 more.

I sympathise. If i had not had the private option think I should have rented to be near preferred school.

But oh the way these school go up and down. I can't believe how the fortunes of these schools changes within a few months. It is incredible.
It is all flux.

var123 Wed 11-Feb-15 10:26:56

I would start off by ignoring all Ofsted reports (useless) and visit all schools and talk to HT and decide based on that.

I'd take the opposite view, hvaing explored the system quite extensively for a parent.

My Dc's first school got a 3 from Ofsted with the occasional 2. (Old system when 3 meant satisfactory). I viewed the school, decided that it was much better than ofsted had said. Then, real experience of the school made me slowly realise that i was wrong, and looking at the Ofsted report again, they had got it exactly right, albeit dressed up in language that is identical to the children's annual school reports. (So you needed to know what they were talking about before you understood what they were describing, IYSWIM).

We changed schools and I must have viewed at least 20 schools as we were moving area and were also deciding where to move to. This time, I knew what my children needed from a school and I knew what to look for, but I realised i'd never find it by doing a tour. talking to a couple of parents would help, but only if their children are like yours and the teachers have left, with new ones arriving.

Performance tables are supposed to help but unless you dig deep, all you will find out is how good the school is at getting children who are borderline over the hurdle into level 4.

If I had my time again, i'd base the decision on the Ofsted reports, but make sure I understand the implications of the criticisms.

NimpyWWindowmash Wed 11-Feb-15 15:53:49

Var123, that is a more measured response than mine grin

I guess I should reslly say: read Ofsted with caution.

Too many people raving on about "outstanding schools" has been getting up my nose grin I guess!

var123 Wed 11-Feb-15 17:42:39

NimpyWWindowmash - i know what you mean. For example all the schools that get outstanding results. Parents fight their way in etc. Then it turns out that 90% of the children go to the independent sector for secondary and they all get privately tutored for the last two years at primary. No wonder the results look so good and Ofsted give glowing praise - with help like that any school could look good and have plenty of time to indulge in all the extras that ofsted loves to see.

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