The Sibling Rule

(104 Posts)
knitcorner Thu 20-Dec-12 15:49:48

It's unfair right?

Primary schools should be for local kids not for those with older brothers and sisters who used to live in the area (or rented to get the school place) and are now driven to and from school, creating a 3.15 rush hour.

I just heard that my local school (700m away, not a cat in hells chance of getting a place) has 40% of pupils who live more than 1km away (ie somewhere much leafier and greener than where we live!)


Surely it is fairer that if you move out of a catchment area, you go to your local school? That's how it works in Scotland, so why have we got different rules down here?

anothercuppaplease Thu 20-Dec-12 15:53:12

Yes it is unfair, but what is more unfair are families with two or three children who are in different schools because the older sibling got in and the younger one didn't. The family didn't move. It's not a faith school. It's just a local school that was so so oversubscribed that younger siblings didn't get a place even if they are local and haven't moved. That is unfair. And the youngest child was left with NO school place at all.

knitcorner Thu 20-Dec-12 15:56:39

Yep, that is also v unfair but would be addressed by the Scottish system of having fixed catchment areas. All the siblings would automatically be offered a place at the same school.

Has anyone ever challenged the rule?

anothercuppaplease Thu 20-Dec-12 16:00:14

No the local council decided in all their wisdom to add one more child in all the receptions classes throughout the borough, taking all the R classes to 31 children. The boy in question was assigned to the school where my children go (CoE school), and then the family put their other children on the waiting list at that school and eventually got places for all three children there.

OvOinAManger Thu 20-Dec-12 16:01:02

In Scotland you can apply for out of catchment schools. It's just a lot more unusual than in England.

I'm just outside of Edinburgh and my 8 year old goes to an out of catchment school. We didn't like the Head of our nearest school so applied for the next nearest. I've just applied for a P1 place for my 5 year old for next August and am hoping the siblings rule will ensure him a place. grin

But I don't feel guilty about it as like I say it's uncommon here so there's no huge list of locals that can't get into their nearest school.

anothercuppaplease Thu 20-Dec-12 16:13:35

Kitcorner, a lot of unfair aspects of school place allocations come out when there is a desparate shortage of places period. The rules become unworkable and unfair. Up to 4 years ago, one average school in our local area would accept children from a few kms away (in London). There were always spaces at that school, it was popular, a good school, but never full or oversubscribed. They received an outstanding ofsted report and now, everyone, and I mean everyone locally is trying to get their child in there but siblings from further out get the places. Having said that, all, all our local schools are oversubscribed and last year, there were still 42 children over the age of 5 that didn't have a school place at all, even after the class sizes were increased to 31 for reception.

Myliferocks Thu 20-Dec-12 16:20:46

Where we live the over subscription criteria is:

Looked after children/ statemented children
Siblings living in catchment
Children living in catchment
Siblings living out of catchment
Children living out of catchment.

ReallyTired Thu 20-Dec-12 16:25:32

I think its fair to have a sibling rule for primary otherwise the logistics of having two children at different schools would be a nightmare. I agree its silly when people drive miles to a school in an urban area.

knitcorner Thu 20-Dec-12 16:26:18

mylife does your school actually HAVE a catchment?

Ours don't at all, so Siblings get all the places at the half decent schools (ie any school that isn't in Special Measures) no matter where they live.

knitcorner Thu 20-Dec-12 16:28:24

reallytired yes I don't advocate sending parents to two seperate schools every morning, I'm saying that both (or all) children should go to their closest local school.

Estate agents make a fortune out of this racket!

Arithmeticulous Thu 20-Dec-12 16:29:00

What would you do with the younger siblings of the children that get given a place at a school they didn't want that isn't their closest, because their closest was oversubscribed/they moved into the area - the siblings are "out of area" but not because the parents have moved.

redskyatnight Thu 20-Dec-12 17:01:22

We have the same oversubscription rules as mylife - and defined catchment areas. Maybe actually defining catchments is the answer? (which you'd need to do for the Scottish system to work in England anyway).

Myliferocks Thu 20-Dec-12 17:07:33

knitcorner yes where we live has actual defined catchment areas.

vess Thu 20-Dec-12 17:58:38

Around here schools have catchments and kids in catchment have priority over siblings out of catchment.
DD1 goes to a school we're not in catchment for, but still is local. It's a small school, so DD2 may not get a place when that time comes. I'd rather deal with that than keep DD1 at the nearest school where she wasn't happy.

Suzieismyname Thu 20-Dec-12 18:08:06

we're the same as mylife. If you're a sibling out of catchment you're below anyone in catchment.
My neighbour was in the situation that Arithmeticulous describes and had a few stressful months waiting to find out if her youngest had got into the same school (he did).
There is no completely fair system that suits everyone.

NotAnotherPackedLunch Thu 20-Dec-12 18:18:46

Siblings not having priority when they live a distance from the school is not always fair.

Sometimes an eldest sibling won't get a place in their closest school, but instead will have to take a place in whichever of the Borough's schools have a bulge class. There's no way it would be fair to not allow these families to get all their children in the same school, just because they didn't get their first child into their first choice nearest school. Things are already awkward enough for them not being able to be at the local school without having children at different schools.

HoratiaLovesBabyJesus Thu 20-Dec-12 18:21:15

The year before we moved, our "catchment" school had such a large sibling year that even siblings on the same cul-de-sac as the school didn't get in.

It's disingenuous to say all children should go to their nearest school - having that much flexibility in class sizes is too inefficient for staff costs, building occupancy and other overheads.

bubbles1231 Thu 20-Dec-12 18:22:17

In Scotland you can put in a placing request to send your children to an out of catchment school, but they will only take you if they have room and you can give good reason to want to go. Priority always goes to local children.

bubbles1231 Thu 20-Dec-12 18:25:21

Re the class size thing- the council will have record of preschoolers and under, living in the area from birth, so they can reasonably predict how many children will need to attend and plan accordingly.

tiggytape Thu 20-Dec-12 18:50:16

bubbles1231 - that may be the case but they can't build schools fast enough no matter how many children they know are coming through the system.
By 2014 in London alone there will be 70,000 more children than places and by 2015 it will be 90,000 places short!!

Knowing this in advance is no help at all unless someone is going to very quickly build an awful lot of schools (which some areas are doing but not all areas have space / money to achieve)

XBenedict Thu 20-Dec-12 18:54:36

I think there are so many different circumstances that affect where children go to school that it would be unfair to remove the sibling rule (although the sibling rule is way down the list in DC's school).

We moved every 2 years until few years ago (military family) and on our final move the council couldn't provide places for my DCs in the same school in our home town. They said it was up to me to find a school that could take them both, so I did in a neighbouring town. We are happy with the school, DCs ver happy with the school but DD is due to start school in Sept and I have my fingers crossed she will get a place because if she doesn't I am screwed as far as the school run is concerned.

bubbles1231 Thu 20-Dec-12 18:59:06

tiggy what a nightmare!! It must be really stressful not knowing where your children will be educated

tiggytape Thu 20-Dec-12 19:00:33

Oversubscription policies are always unfair on someone:
If you prioritise siblings over locals then people living 700m away from their nearest school fail to get in when people from 3 miles away are happily driving there everyday to drop off tow kids
If you prioritise in-catchment siblings over out-of-catchment siblings then lots of families cannot move for work or more room without messing up childcare and education for their youngest
If you prioritise locals over siblings then people who fail to get their local school for their first child face a double whammy of then having younger siblings in a totally different school.

The trouble is, with the number of children born every year since 2008 soaring, schools that once took most people who applied are instead turning away most applicants and the scramble for places has led to mad situations like not being allocated local school or any school at all. This has created a lot of ill feeling about how schools select children and how parents deal with where once, most people could get a place so didn’t mind about where other applicants lived / how they benefited from sibling links.

The 90,000 shortage is for London alone - the rest of the country has pockets that are equally bad and there is basically no fair way to tell so many applicants that they haven't a hope of their chosen school or even a local school

Izzyschangelingisarriving Thu 20-Dec-12 19:04:14

I send my children to a school miles away for deeply personal reasons.

I wouldn't be prepared to ddivulge them to another parent.

It costs a fortune, takes ages and is a complete pain - but it is necessary.

If I could odd move but we can't so thesis the next best thing.

tiggytape Thu 20-Dec-12 19:04:24

bubbles1231 - it is very stressful indeed and the situation is expected to start affecting secondary schools from 2014/15 too. In many areas, it is a real mess and a big headache for parents (and LAs too I imagine). I think the reason there is so little publicity about it is that, until you have a child that age, you just don't realise how bad it has got.

teacherwith2kids Thu 20-Dec-12 19:09:45


To plan how many places are needed at a given school (for a 'take all children in catchment every year, adjusting the size of the school to suit, while keeping class sizes at the infant class size maximum or below' approach) you are going to have to have really good, house by house data on the number of children in that catchment.

I am not certain that we have that data at that level of detail? Where do you think that it exists? Birth data is 5 years too early, census is only every 10 years, not every child attends pre-school, some are not registered with doctors - and in, say, a school which is set up for a single class of 30 in each year group, it only takes a few new families to move into an area, or 5 or 6 houses to be built, or a large house divided into flats etc etc for calculations which said 'yes, 1 class is fine' to suddenly be faced with the need for an extra class because there are 5 or 6 new children requiring entry.

To be able to run an 'in catchment guarantees a place' system, then there either has to be overcapacity built into the system - so there is always an extra classroom and extra teacher available should a cohort prove to be larger than expected - or a flexibility about maximum class size, so if there are 5 or 6 extra children, the class size just goes up to 35 or 36.

In areas of low mobility and with schools always running at slight under-capacity, it would work. In areas of higher mobility (in the Year 3 class I teach, 1/3 of the class have joined within the last 12 months) it would be harder.

anothercuppaplease Thu 20-Dec-12 19:17:33

DH works in a primary school in East London which was originally built to educate 400 pupils now has over 900 pupils. They have temporary buildings in the playground, no library, no ICT suite as they have been transformed into classrooms. The authorities have known for years that there was going to be a shortage - and the shortage is much worst than predicted - but they have not been able to 'build' or 'find' new school places to respond to the demand. It's the same story for many schools. And now with academies which get lots of money for very little school places, the problem will get worst.

admission Thu 20-Dec-12 22:25:46

The problem of school places has been recognised for the last two years by the government and they have actually put quite a lot of money into the LAs where the problem is worse to try and alleviate some of the problem.
However it is not quite that simple. There is now no possibility of any new school being built that is a community school as the diktat is that all new schools must be academy or free schools, so they sit outside the LA. The LA has a legal duty to manage the number of school places, which they have always had but that is difficult when they don't really control where free schools spring up.
So the extra funding is going into more classrooms in existing community schools, hence mobile cities on the playground etc. That is fine if there is plenty of space but sods law says that where you need school places the facilities are not there to allow such expansion.
Not sure what the answer is other than every space available in London area needs to be used for new schools - maybe that is something that Boris ought to be getting his teeth into rather than other more fanciful ideas.

steppemum Thu 20-Dec-12 22:42:55

One of my friends lives in a space about 2/3 mile away form 3 schools. She can apply to any of the 3 schools, but because there is no catchment system, she has equal chance of getting or not getting inot any of them.

So she applied and got dc1 into one of the schools. (luckily, as she could easily not have got a place in any of them) But next year dc2 will need a place. So, as all the schools are oversubscribed because there is a birth bulge at the moment, what should she do? If there was no sibling policy, she could easily be denied all 3 schools, and then be taking 2 kids to 2 different schools, each 2/3 mile away (or further)

bubbles1231 Thu 20-Dec-12 23:41:55

teacher I think you're right about the mobility thing. I live in a rural environment and though children do join the local primary (200 children) in years other than p1, it may only be 4-5 children a year and most of those will start in August.
The population in many rural parts is on the decline, so schools are more likely to be running under capacity and councils have a programme of closure for some. The local PS lost a teacher a couple of years back due to falling roles.

bubbles1231 Thu 20-Dec-12 23:44:55

We are lucky, I guess, to have max class sizes of 33, or 25 for composites.

Megan74 Fri 21-Dec-12 00:30:15

It's a tricky one as I dont think it will ever be fair when you have a shortfall of places to children. My Dcs go to a very good school out of my catchment. We lucked out in that by some fluke we got into one of the most desirable schools in the area one year. My nearest schools were not good so I had added my name to the waiting list for the desired school and thought nothing would come of it. It turns out the LEA added a class two months before the start of term and we got a place. As a result my younger child got in too. Yes we drive the 2 miles to school 4 days a week (walk on the 5th day).

I know this year for example the catchment only went out as far as 500m from the school. It must by annoying for those parents to see the likes of me driving too and from school and my children taking a place at a school they feel they have more right to. But, I just got lucky. I wasn't going to let the opportunity of my children having a better education as I perceive it, to pass me by just because I can't afford a house within 500m of the school. There is also an argument to be had for the view that if someone who lived closer to me had wanted a place at the school and gone on the waiting list when I did then they would have got it ahead of me. I can only take from that no one nearer the school wanted to be at that school at the time so there was space for my children instead.

Megan74 Fri 21-Dec-12 00:32:32

and to the point of the sibling rule - I can see why its seen as unfair but it really wouldn't be practical trying to be in two places at once which is reason enough for the sibling rule to remain.

Violet77 Fri 21-Dec-12 19:16:27

Personally i thonk it should all be down to distnace, fairest way.

Lots of people here rent then move on and its appalling that local children are excluded from their community.

tiggytape Fri 21-Dec-12 22:01:35

Schools are clamping down on the 'renters and movers' in areas where this has become a problem.
Lots of LAs and individual schools with their own admissions now refuse to use a rented address if the family also own a home elsewhere unless they prove the move to a rented house is irreversible.
So you can rent in London whilst trying to sell your house in Yorkshire because it is fairly obvious you won't be moving back to Yorkshire and commuting everyday if they allocate you the London school you're asking for.
But if you live in London and then rent in London suspiciously a tiny bit closer to a fantastic school and your 'poor catchment area house' is unsold, the admissions authority can refuse to accept the rented address and insist on using the mortgaged property address instead.

The shortage of places has led people to feel driven to extreme measures but equally it has led to a lot more checking up on applicants and a lot more tip-offs. Every year parents get caught, and whilst they aren't prosecuted anymore, the council either alter the application to show the 'real' address and use that or (if the parents get caught late), the council withdraw the offer of a school place.

PrincessScrumpy Fri 21-Dec-12 22:08:43

A friend of mine had to move or of catchment. Dd1 starts secondary, dd2 is in reception and since move dd3 will start september but as out of catchment it is unlikely she'll get into over subscribed school as siblings do not get priority here. As a single mum she cannot get3 children to 3 different schools on time, so unfair for her too, surely?

tiggytape Fri 21-Dec-12 22:26:43

Yes - but it is always unfair to somebody PrincessScrumpy - that's the problem.

Getting 2 children to 2 different schools is a nightmare.
But it isn't much fun being allocated a school 4 miles away and spending 45 minutes on the bus each way with a 4 year old and a newborn baby either.

People who don't have sibling priority for a local school place can easily face nightmare journeys, 3 hours on a bus everyday with a screaming baby or their children expected to have long commutes by car to another town that does have a school space.
Those parents would probably argue that this is impossible to do with toddler or newborn siblings and impossible to do if you have to work and need to get there on time.

Izzyschangelingisarriving Fri 21-Dec-12 22:32:12

There is always going to be an exception - I am sure people in my sons school are gossiping about our place - but they wouldn't if they knew why they had to go elsewhere.

Well they may gossip - but no-one would begrudge their place.

knitcorner Sat 22-Dec-12 09:49:58

Thanks for all the replies, i didn't mean this post to attack individual families on how they have managed to get places (congratulations if you are happy with your school!), more an attack on the SYSTEM and how unfair I think that is.

If there were fixed boundaries (and yes, there would need to be flexibility on class sizes and a phased introduction so as not to disadvantage current families with siblings). I don't think siblings should be split between primary schools but if a family deliberately moves out of an area, their younger siblings shouldn't get priority at the old school.

I don't see that this system would be any more admin-heavy that the current Sibling Rule - especially since the siblings are now having to fight for closest place as well (a school nearby had 35 siblings apply for 30 places).

Did you see the article in the Telegraph this week? (will try and post link), The journalist was all self-righteous about renting a bedsit in order to get a primary school place. So basically, if you have a few spare ££, you can get the school you want and the rest of us have to lump it. This is not a fair system!

Unfortunately our LA have not implemented the 2nd home rule that would prevent this happening.

tiggytape Sat 22-Dec-12 10:00:36

There can't be flexibility on class sizes though - at the moment the law says 30 per class upto and including Year 2. Even if you had fixed boundaries, they wouldn't be allowed to have 33 per class. There is no discretion on this as it is a national law not a guideline. And sometimes you do get 35 siblings for 30 places, in which case no local people without siblings get in and 5 families have 2 children at different schools. Common sense says, this shouldn't happen but the very strict law on class sizes means there's no way around it. There's simply more children than there are school places in many towns.

Renting for school was very common in some areas and still is in others. It takes a while for policy to catch up with reality.
In some famous London schools, renting for a place was something a handful of parents did every year. They got away with it because the practice was rare and anyway, there were enough spaces at other good schools that not much of a fuss was made.
Then it gets to the stage where more and more appliations seem dodgy. And other schools have less spare space. And people living 700m away aren't getting in anymore. And other parents furiously inform on anyone they suspect of cheating. At that point, clamp-downs tend to happen and address histories are taken, council tax records checked, child benefit history is looked at, Dr's address is noted and councils follow up tip-offs and withdraw offers. It is a slow and frustrating process but up until a few years ago, some LAs had never even heard of this as a problem. Now they are getting better at being strict as more as more pressure is put on them. The key is to make sure they know it is happening - they have a duty to make sure admissions are run fairly.

HoratiaLovesBabyJesus Sat 22-Dec-12 10:23:33

About the "no more than 30" thing...

... our R class is 31. The last two (twins) got in from the waiting list. I gather this is permitted because Y1 is not full, so it's actually a rule about totals in R/KS1 averaged over the number of classes or something.

Yes, I was shock and hmm too but there it is.

teacherwith2kids Sat 22-Dec-12 10:25:12

Should say that a move to a 'siblings in catchment' rule (from an 'all siblings' rule) plus a few highly-publicised removal of places for fraudulent applications from 'renters and movers' and others has turned round the situation at local school - have been able to take every child within their 'priority application area' (siblings or not) plus all siblings up to a wholly reasonable distance.

teacherwith2kids Sat 22-Dec-12 10:28:02

However, fixed boundaries for our local primary school last year (2 form entry) would have meant 2 classes of 48...

As it was, they put in a bulge class and still had to disappoint 6 children. Even with the bugle, furthest admissions distance was TINY, certainly not half way to the next nearest school.

RandomMess Sat 22-Dec-12 10:31:38

I think if you move further away from the school then you should lose your right to a sibling place.

teacherwith2kids Sat 22-Dec-12 13:56:31


The point is, how much further away?

The way the very popular secondary school locally works it is that they have defined a 'priority admissions area' [not called a catchment, presumably to alert people to the fact that it does not guarantee admission even from this area].

After the usual Looked after / Statemented children criteria, their over-subscription criteria are:
- Siblings living in this area [so you can move within the area, but not outside it to get high priority on admissions]
- Others living in the area.
- Siblings outside the area
- Others outside the area.

If you were penalised for just 'moving further away', without any limit (so you could move from 3 doors from the school to 4 doors and have your sibling place denied....) that would be a bit silly, but having a definied area where moving outside it removes your advantage over other children living very close to the school seems a good idea.

Myliferocks Sat 22-Dec-12 14:27:02

tiggytape My DS is year 3 now but in yr 2 he was in a class of 32, yr 1 31 and reception 31.
My older DC spent more time in infant classes over 30 than under as well.

tiggytape Sat 22-Dec-12 16:34:10

Myliferocks - it can happen in exceptional circumstances but the LA or school has no power to make it happen. Any child above 30 is an 'excepted child' and it can only happen if a child either wins an appeal (virtually impossible in Year 2 or below unless the council messed up their application which is possible)
or unless FAP had to be used (Fair Access Protocol is when no school within a 7-10 mile radius has any spare places at all - not even the bad schools - and the council has to use special rules to place a child in a full class because otherwise they would be without an education).

Otherwise the law is very clear. A school could not for example allocate 33 places just because 33 siblings applied. 3 of them would have to go to appeal and without good reason (transport, childcare and logistics don't count as a good reason at appeal) they still wouldn't get in.

tiggytape Sat 22-Dec-12 16:41:09

... our R class is 31. The last two (twins) got in from the waiting list. I gather this is permitted because Y1 is not full, so it's actually a rule about totals in R/KS1 averaged over the number of classes or something.

No this is not correct. The correct definition is no more than 30 children per qualified teacher. So you can have a class of 60 with 2 teachers or a class of 90 with 3 teachers (not TAs - they must be fully qualified) but you cannot have 32 in Reception just because there are only 28 in Year 1.

They can mix it though over year groups eg 30 children in one class all Reception age and 30 children in the other class with 5 of Reception age and 25 of Year 1 age. But it has to stay that way - they can't sneak the 5 extra reception children back in with the 30 others - each class must be a 1:30 ratio.

As of Feb 2012, twins and same year siblings are a special case. If the 30th child admitted to a class is a twin, then their sibling is allowed to be child number 31 and legally go above the limit. This is quite new. Until this year, if place number 30 was allocated to a twin, the mother had to decide which twin got the place and which one got sent to another school.

DoesntTurkeyNSproutSoupDragOn Sat 22-Dec-12 16:48:33

I don't think the sibling rule should apply to secondary schools - the children should be able to travel independently by then.

RandomMess Sat 22-Dec-12 17:39:37

Honestly, any further away.

Problem with any admission area is how does the school cope with fluctuating birth years?

Reception at our primary school this year had 27 siblings so 3 spaces - so if a further 15 children lived in the priority admission area and the school had to have them where on earth would they have fitted in 15 extra children, meanwhile plenty of other places at other nearby schools...

HoratiaLovesBabyJesus Sat 22-Dec-12 19:50:12

Ah, thanks Tiggy. I know someone got in on the "gits the whole school isn't full" rule so it must be one of the in-year children higher up.

Siblings in the same year, whether multiples or close pregnancies, is an odd exception though. Surely either a class is too big or it isn't. Twins don't count as one person! shock

HoratiaLovesBabyJesus Sat 22-Dec-12 19:50:45

gits = but shock blush

tiggytape Sat 22-Dec-12 19:55:49

Horatia - TAMBA campaigned for it for years and it was finally added to the Admissions Code this year.
It is pretty rare it has any affect though. It only applies for twin who are number 30 and 31 on a school's list.
If they are numbers 36 and 37 on the list, neither get will in
If they are numbers 16 and 17 on the list, then both get in as normal.
It is only for the very rare cases where the last house offered a place on distance criteria happens to contain twins and where they would otherwise be split up at separate schools unless this exception is made.

ReallyTired Sat 22-Dec-12 20:47:24

I think its a reasonable rule to allow 31 children in the case of twins or even 32 in the case of triplets! Most schools have a certain level of churn. I imagine that if a child leaves the reception class of 31 then that child is not replaced.

I hate to tell you that the reception class of your precious first born can be made 31 if the school has to take a local authority care kid.

I don't think that having 32 kids in reception is the end of the world. Especially if an additional TA is employed.

Pozzled Sat 22-Dec-12 20:53:02

OP, I used to agree with you that it would be best if children all attended their local school (except in exceptional circumstances!). But when we came to apply for DD1 we found that our 'local' school (300m away) is not, in fact, our priority admissions area school, which is about 1km away in another direction.

We had a really anxious wait, (made worse by the fact that the 'local' school we wanted had some strange admissions criteria and would actually have prioritized children much further away from us who weren't siblings and weren't in the school's priority area- a bizarre rule which has since changed).

It would be horrible to think we'd have to go through the wait again with DD2. So for us, the sibling rule means that we can actually get both DDs into our closest school.

RandomMess Sun 23-Dec-12 07:35:03

I think the demographics and admission criteria of where you live affect how you think/feel about this issue. I live in a densley populated area and admission is on distance not catchment area and so so so many people rent/buy temporarily to get the eldest in and then move away - so it's all down to money those who can afford it get their dc into a good school and then get to go and live in the nicest areas at the expense of others.

FamiliesShareGerms Sun 23-Dec-12 07:53:50

The really unfair thing is that there aren't enough good schools in parts of the country such that all children can just go to their local school without so much angst

Gatorade Sun 23-Dec-12 08:02:45

Up thread someone asked how far away a family would need to move to lose sibling priority, I think one of my local primary schools has come up with a decent policy to address this.

The school doesn't have a defined catchement area but uses a 'nearest primary school' policy. Therefore siblings have priority if the school is their nearest school, but don't get priority if they are closer to an alternative primary school.

AbbyR1973 Sun 23-Dec-12 09:15:08

All of those merrily advocating for no choice (force parents to send children to their catchment school) presumably live well inside the catchment of a good school!
I wonder if you would feel the same if the catchment school was a failing school? Surely such a plan would make even more money for estate agents as it would've crucial to live next to the school. What about the small village schools like the excellent one my DS attends that absolutely depend on out of catchment
children for survival? What about if you send your child to a school because you liked the feel of it when it was only satisfactory but it then becomes outstanding and everyone else suddenly wants to go to? What about forcing children to leave a school they are settled in because their parents moved away albeit within reasonable travelling distance (maybe a young family have outgrown a small house, need extra space for a new baby or trying to improve their children's circumstances.) What about the single parent that would end up finding themselves travelling to try and take children to multiple schools? What about if you had an older child at a good school but found that under these marvellous new rules your other child had to go to a failing school?
No system is completely fair but the sibling rule is good for children because it helps to keep siblings together in the same school, which is the right thing to do.

PrideOfChanur Sun 23-Dec-12 09:31:50

We benefited from a sibling admission for DC2 - but when DD started school,at what wasn't our nearest school,her year was very undersubscribed with local children,and was "made up" with quite a few children living furthur away,who were then followed by their siblings.
But without the out of catchment children in the higher classes,the school would have suffered.
I do think at primary school different children from the same family in different schools is ridiculous,and the sibling rule makes sense - but at secondary school I don't think you can justify it at all.
It is particularly nonsensical in our area (Kent,Grammar schools etc) where no one is considering it as a factor at all for grammar school attendees of different genders,or in families where some DCs aren't at grammar schools and others are.As someone upthread said older children can be expected to get to school independantly.

RandomMess Sun 23-Dec-12 14:51:07

Gatorade I think that is the fairest sytem mentioned yet although again I feel if you haven't moved home then that could be harsh if you don't get your sibling place.

auntevil Sun 23-Dec-12 16:11:55

A system where sibling priority based on distance first, then local area then siblings out of area only works well when there are free spaces in all schools.
There has been statistics stated in the press that there used to be mobility of families that created free spaces in different areas for families when they moved. This is not happening at the rate that it used to. Add this to the increase in building homes, need for primary places etc and the system is shot to pieces.
Until there are enough school places, there will be no system that works fairly for all.

admission Sun 23-Dec-12 17:19:50

Having had some experience of "nearest school" criteria as suggested by Gatorade, I accept that this does have some attractions. However it can also have problems as I have seen in its practical operation.
Firstly there is the question over what is exactly your nearest school, is it the nearest community school, the nearest faith school or just the nearest school, no matter the sort of school? Parents tend to have firm views on this!
Secondly, there are some interesting problems over measuring what is the nearest school. Is that in the LA, because if so it almost certainly going against the admission code. To establish which is the nearest school what method is being used, is that straight line distance, nearest walking route or what. The one thing it needs to be is exactly the same as that used in the general admission criteria for the school. I have come across one where the LA uses post code to determine which is the nearest school and then nearest walking route for the actual admission criteria, that simply should not be happening.
There is also a very interesting problem for any schools that are near either the welsh or scottish border in applying this. What happens if the nearest school is in say Wales, not England, which can easily happen?

tiggytape Sun 23-Dec-12 17:51:17

That is very true admission. Also nearest school 'as the crow flies' (which is how most areas measure it) isn't so great if you happen to live close to a motorway / river / airfield or any other natural obstacle which the map assumes you can cross but which, in reality requires a 4 mile detour.

HoratiaLovesBabyJesus Sun 23-Dec-12 19:48:42

YY to nonsense crows.

At our old house our nearest school was a couple of hundred metres away, and the second nearest maybe 500m ... across a river and up a hill. The nearer one is vastly oversubscribed (one year children on the same cul de sac didn't get in) so the "nearest" available school is a good 45m walk or drive away, up hill and down dale, age 4...

auntevil Sun 23-Dec-12 19:51:18

I had to laugh tiggytape as our LA used the same 'as the crow flies' suggestion as to our nearest school as you have said. She was none too happy when I told her that it would be our nearest if I felt inclined to walk my 4 year old through a river each day grin

tiggytape Sun 23-Dec-12 21:32:56

That is the trouble with admission rules in oversubscribed areas. You have to have one rule that fits all - and it never does. There is no room for common sense or logic or special cases (only severe ones eg statements).

Closest school seems good until you realise this means 47 children per class with half of them expected to wade a river to get there. Siblings sounds logical until you realise a lot of people move 3 miles to away to a much bigger house as soon as child number 1 gets a school place. Catchment areas are good until again you realise that twice as many peopel are packed into a tiny area than the school can cater for.
And all criteria feel unfair when there are 60 or 90 or 200 more people wanting a place than can have one because of the birth rate and school shortages.

The only thing they can do is set rules with some knowledge of the local area and crack down to make sure they are fairly applied. The trouble we've seen though is academies make admission rules in isolation. They still have to be lawful ones but they can choose siblings first and no social/medical needs or they can choose distance as the only factor. If they all do different things (as they do here) it leaves some poor people with no hope of meeting any criteria at any school let alone a local one.

BieneMaja Mon 24-Dec-12 10:04:50

HUGE problem in this city too. Only going to get worse. Last year at the last minute they added an extra reception class (now 5 class intake), stating that if they hadnt, the approx 80m "catchment" (there isn't one) would drop to 500m mainly due to the aforementioned sibling problem. The problem with this is that now an extra 30 children potentially have siblings to start in the next years and the LEA have stated that there will not be another 5 class intake.
I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that the sibling rule has to change here.

To make it worse the infants has a linked junior which is easier to get in to. People finally get the oldest in to the school at year 3 and automatically get the younger into the infants.

No good all round but I can understand how it goes. The problem is that the people who do this so this because there the only alternative for where they have moved to is sending their children to the other side of the city.

All very depressing. To top it all we have 4 classes currently in yr1 who have nowhere to go for yr3.

Huge worry for those parents.

mam29 Mon 24-Dec-12 13:43:23

im stressing over next application sept 2014 start shes will be 5when she starts as our lea says

local sibling-ithin 2miles-yes we are
but in area of prime responsability-little map which we not on.
Takes us 15mins car. 30mins walk.
its our nearest coe but voluntry controlled so although all 3baptised coe has not influence.

I have to apply jan 2014 not sure if we can move by then.

make matters worse have 3rd who starts sept 2015 so dont want to be doing 3schools.

will try make 2nd choice close to eldests current school but thats oversubscribed aqnd has tiny catchment area.
3rd childs april so prepared to defer an wait list if need be.

dreading secondry application for eldest really is pot luck here .

siblings dont always provide golden ticket.

Bristol like london has severe shortge of spaces initailly city centre now silling out to suberbs. something like 300kids diodet get any place one year.

I do belive in choice though its what strives schools to improve and be good surly.

StarOfLightMcKings3 Sun 30-Dec-12 00:11:33

Tiggy, you're right about not being allowed to go over 30 without another qualified teacher. However, the definition of 'qualified teacher' is not clear cut and the Dept of Ed leave it up to individual schools.

admission Sun 30-Dec-12 23:13:51

The definition in relation to the infant class size regs is not for a qualified teacher but for a school teacher as defined by section 122 of the education act 2002 and the Education (School teachers' prescribed qualifications etc) order 2003 and subsequent amendments.
A school teacher can include head teachers, qualified teachers, overseas trained teachers, instructors with special qualifications or experience and student teachers. A school teacher cannot be teaching assistants, HLTAs or other support staff. However support staff may carry out "specified work" such as delivering lessons to pupils within infant classes in certain circumstances. The certain circumstances include the head teacher being satisfied over the skills of the support staff and that the work carried out must be in order to assist or support the work of a school teacher. Support staff must not be the main teacher for an infant group or used for the majority of the school week on a regular basis.
So yes it is up to individual school head teachers or more correctly the governing body to ensure that the infant class size regs are being adhered to and my reading of the regs from numerous instances of schools trying to bend the regs is that employing a TA for a term for two days a week is not meeting the infant class size regs. However the only people who can make a definitive judgement are the courts.

StarOfLightMcKings3 Sun 30-Dec-12 23:43:41

It's the 'instructors with special qualifications' that is the grey area afaik. No-one at the then dfes could give me an answer to whether a specific person with a specific qualification woukd satisfy this definition and concluded it is up to the HT, which kind of makes a mockery of the rules really. A TA could be that person if they had a 'special' qualification.

forevergreek Mon 31-Dec-12 10:44:21

the thing is some places are so oversubscribed, that you have to book your place so early. and then might move after. in central london we have had to accept and get places for children at a school from 12weeks old! that means we have 4/5 years to move elsewhere before school starts, hence everyone travelling all over the place to school

ByTheWay1 Mon 31-Dec-12 11:07:05

Our local primary follows the sibling rule, the secondary does not..... seems fair as the little ones being ferried by one parent don't have the stress of different schools, the older ones can get a bus or walk.

I have a Y6 and a Y7, so am waiting to hear if youngest got the same school as eldest, I would like it to be so, but no big hassle if not...

we are lucky here that Y6 was a low birth year - 20 in her class (was 23 in reception) - though it was muted that it meant that their Y1 class could take the older (oversubscribed) Reception year children as part of their class - which would have been "interesting"

Myliferocks Mon 31-Dec-12 11:16:10

When my DC have had more than 30 in their infants classes they have only had 1 qualified teacher and an HLTA with the odd parent volunteer occasionally.
Like I said further up the thread my 5 children spent more time in over 30 infants classes than under which is why I always laugh when people on mumsnet start quoting the legal aspect of the infant class size regulations.
It didn't affect my children's education but for it to have happened so often makes a bit of a mockery of the regulations.

teacherwith2kids Mon 31-Dec-12 14:48:15


'Signing up from 12 weeks old' could ONLY happen at a private school.

No state school uses this system for entry into Reception, and to do so would be against the law (although it can be used for pre-schools / nursery schools, and since these are sometimes sited within primary school buildings it can be very confusing for parents).

If a state primary (whether faith or non-faith or academy) is telling you that you must sign up from 12 weeks old, I would suggest that you enquire a little further with the admission authorities.

admission Mon 31-Dec-12 16:04:35

It is quite possible to have more than 30 in an infant class and be quite legal. Any pupil that is admitted by an admission appeal panel will be considered an excepted pupil for all the time they are in infant classes - being excepted means that you can exceed the 30 limit. Also any pupil who has a statement of special needs and naming the school has to be admitted, no matter the number in the class.
If however the school is just playing silly buggers with the regulations then somebody needs to raise the issue with the school and then with the LA, if they don't resolve the situation.

Startail Sun 13-Jan-13 23:46:15

Totally infeasible to have DCs at two different primaries unless one has a breakfast and after school club, most small schools don't.

You cannot be in to places six miles apart at the same time and that's the reality in rural primaries.

So either you force DC1 to change school, cruel and difficult as other school may not have space or accept DC2.

Crap for close by parents, but unavoidable.

hels71 Mon 14-Jan-13 12:52:33

The school around here all do in in care etc as first, then in area with siblings, in area without siblings then out of area siblings. If parents make the choice (for whatever reason) to send their child to a school out of area/move away without changing schools then they should accept that siblings may not get in. In fact when we had the letter offering our DD a place last year it clearly stated that we should understand her place was no guarantee any siblings would get in.

bebanjo Mon 14-Jan-13 14:47:53

off at a tangent i know, BUT if the government went all out to inform every parent in the uk that they had the right to educate there children at home and there was information about all the different kinds of education, and home ed family's were given support instead of grief, maybe there would be places for those that WANT there children in school. many parents dont want there children in school but do not know they have a choice.

teacherwith2kids Mon 14-Jan-13 19:29:35

Startail: childminder. Common practice at the small rural schools that I know - either 'formal' childminders or 'informal' networks of mums / grannies / friends who do a lot of lift-swapping. We had an influx of children from a school around 4 miles away, many of whom had siblings still at the old school, and that network was how children got delivered and collected in practice.

DoodleNoo Wed 16-Jan-13 11:18:11

My eldest DD who was born in 2002 (a year of exceptionally low birthrate - look at the stats) was offered a place in a local C of E primary without us ever stepping over the threshold of the church: I didn't really dream she'd get a place but there were still spaces left even after all the church goers were allocated a place and they had to fill them, so they did it by distance alone. We got lucky. There's NO WAY nowadays we would ever get in with a first child and no church attendance: a surging birthrate and an outstanding Ofsted has seen to that. The church is simply crammed with young families every Sunday, all anxious to bag a place at the school.

But I still believe it is reasonable for a school to offer siblings a place even they now live out of catchment / no longer fill the criteria. Had there not been a sibling rule, we would have had a problem: how could I possibly have taken / collected younger DC to a different school at the same times?

I know this is a church school but the same would apply for a community primary in this area of London. Do remember that the current y6 were born in some of the lowest birthrate years ever on record in the country and schools weren't nearly so hard to get into. Not everyone has since wilfully moved out of catchment, rather that catchment area have shrunk beyond belief in those few years.

allagory Sat 19-Jan-13 20:25:57

People here seem to be focussing very much on the practicalities of different schools but does anyone think it is generally bad policy to have inequalities between siblings?

Upsetting for a child not to get into the school of their choice, but so much more upsetting that they didn't get in, but their brother/sister did. Because they were "unlucky"? It seems so personal, so arbitrary, so unfair, so unequal. And they will hear every day what they were missing out on. They no doubt have to go to their sibling's school for concerts, school fetes, sports events. They will always be reminded of what they don't have.

We have a reception year that was exclusively siblings the year my son started school round here. Those children who didn't get in will never know what they missed and 4 years later I doubt many of them give it a second thought.

My nephew didn't get into his brother's excellent school (via a "no siblings in 6th form rule" and shrinking catchment area) and got assigned a not-so-good London comprehensive. He got mugged and beaten up in the first year. He was miserable. Once the elder brother had gone to uni they moved completely away, but can you imagine the dilemma if the gap had been different: move and disrupt exams for one, or let the younger one suffer at the hands of thugs?

angelsonhigh Wed 06-Feb-13 06:57:01

God knows, our school system in OZ isn't perfect but the British system sounds horrendous. I really cannot understand how it works.

My DN is moving to the UK later in the year and I don't think she has a clue how the school system works. I think she thinks it will be the same as here.

"This is where I want my DC to go to school, so that is where they will go".

The trouble is angels in some parts of England it is so madly overcrowded without the space to build new schools, that the 'turn up and enroll' system you have, or the guarantee at local school in. Scotland just couldn't work. When dd1 went to school (not London) there were 168 applicants for 30 spaces. If there were fewer differences between schools and parents were less aware, it might be slightly better, but still there are fewer spaces than children in some areas. So although it must be immensely frustrating to be given a school that you don't want which is nearly 2 miles away, how much more so if you need to get a sibling to school at the same time a mile in the other direction. Under those circumstances you would get no help with transport, the Education Welfare Officers would still say that both children had to be in school at the same time, and unless you had freind/family support it would be iimpossible.

As it is ds should be fine on distance or sibling, but I know others for whom the school is their nearest but would not get a place if it wasn't for the sibling link so could easily be in the above situation, and this when the oldest is just 6, so not able to get to school on their own.

To answer your question, schools can take a set number of pupils (PAN), as a parent you can list the schools you want in order or preference, and each school will see how much you meet their criteria, usually they take children in care or with special educational needs which mean they need to be at that school (e.g. They use a wheelchair and the school is wheelchair accessible); then often siblings (although with some church schools attendance at church takes priority) and then distance. If there are 30 places and you are ranked 29th then you get a place, if you are 31st then they see whether you would get a place at your second or third choice.

If your DN's children are already of school age then it is easier in that they can go to anywhere which has a place, and/or put your name down on the waiting list for school(s) which you particularly want.

angelsonhigh Wed 06-Feb-13 10:47:19

Thanks for replies. It sheds a little more light on the situation. I guess we are very spoilt here as we have relatively few people compared to the UK. UK is a great place to visit especially as it is our ancestoral home but I am always glad to return home to the open spaces and casual lifestyle.

Also bear in mind that the situation varies widely across the uk, in London and the surrounding commuter towns the problem is particularly acute, as it is in some of the other large cities, however in other areas there may be lots of good schools and sufficient spaces, or land to expand a school. It all depends on where she is moving to, but definitely worth warning her to do her research first.

Startail Thu 07-Feb-13 00:16:10

So either you impose on friends or you pay?

That's not into entirely fair either.

Fortunately round here we are undersubscribed so we don't have a problem.

Startail Thu 07-Feb-13 00:18:33

Just as well because if I found myself with DDs at different schools they would just take it in turns to be late.

No one would notice my time keeping is famously bad already.

racmun Tue 12-Feb-13 22:55:27

The sibling rule is unfair. The main reason it's advocated is to prevent parents having to do two or more different school drop offs. Unless your children are twins and therefore in the same school year, at some point you will have to travel to separate schools anyway.

In surrey the criteria is SEN, siblings, children for who it is the nearest school with an intake. In our local school 64% if places went to siblings.

I believe a fair compromise is to split the siblings, so the criteria would be SEN siblings for who it's the nearest school, children for who it's the nearest school, other siblings.

Least that way schools are kept for local children.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Tue 12-Feb-13 23:51:21

Racmun, what would happen in your system to a family that had been allocated not-the-nearest school, maybe a second ch

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Tue 12-Feb-13 23:54:53

Racmun, what would happen in your system to a family that had been allocated not-the-nearest school, maybe a second choice, for the oldest child?

Are there really lots and lots of people getting an elder child into a school and then moving a long way away, giving themselves a nightmare school run? Or are there people who get their eldest into a school and move half a mile away to a bigger house because they've got a new baby - they are still local!

jellybeans Wed 13-Feb-13 01:14:38

Our area has scrapped priority for siblings out of catchment over catchment children with no sibs. Thank goodness as it was so unfair. Ridiculous that if you live next door to a school you could not attend it! Also encourages traffic chaos etc.

ariane5 Wed 13-Feb-13 09:05:51

I think the sibling rule is actually a good idea-I would not manage if I had to take dcs to different schools.

I am hoping the LA here keeps it in place for when I apply for dc4.

racmun Wed 13-Feb-13 09:17:02

If they are still local and it's still the 'nearest school' with an intake then fair enough give the siblings priority. That's my point, but make sure all local children for who it is the nearest school with an intake have a chance over those that have moved away.

Unfortunately were I live quite a few people do move out to the surrounding villages or adjoining town which are/is considerably cheaper.

ariane5 Wed 13-Feb-13 09:24:11

No, not nearest school anymore. When dd1 got a place we lived a 5 min walk away but moved shortly after and its now a 10 min car journey away (well would be if I drove).

Ds1 has a place due to sibling link, so will dd2 hopefully so will ds2.

The situation with us is very complex though and it is the best school for dcs needs.Without the sibling link we would have huge difficulties getting dcs to varying schools.

Startail Wed 13-Feb-13 09:46:20

Also it's quietly in the schools interest.

Parents who care that much which school their DCs go to are the sort of parents schools want.

They are likely to value education and get their DCs to work.

They may well be prepared to sit on the PTA or the Governors.

They are likely to be slightly better off than average and, on average, better off parents have brighter DCs.

If a school can admit a few more children of graduate parents by the back door, it can look better on the the SATs tables for no effort at all.

Also it only takes a small number of bright motivated DCs to motivate the teacher and encourage other children to try to.

Of course the poor DC living by the school might be all these things, but the school know Johnnies little brother is likely to be.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Wed 13-Feb-13 10:10:53

I live 800m from one school (DS1's) and 1100m from another.

If I move 200m down the road (which is actually where I'd have to move for a bigger house) I'd be closer to the other school.

I'd still be local to both, though.

Basically, there is no system that works for everyone, there are winners and losers either way.

mummytime Wed 13-Feb-13 10:28:15

Where I live, if we didn't have the sibling rule for my DC at secondary; then my younger children would be over lower preference than children who live 5/6 miles away rather than our nearly 2 miles. In some areas (rural and places like Surrey) the nearest available school for a child is very different from taking all the closest children. BTW I haven't moved, but have known people who did. I also knew people who moved into a rented house for the year of applications, to ensure they got into the "right" school. Oh and people who accepted a council house transfer "sight unseen" as it was in the right catchment.

racmun Wed 13-Feb-13 15:30:07


I agree that the schools are often complicit in unfair admissions, and it is often a form of social selection.

It definitely makes like easier for the teachers and head teachers if they have a school of the 'right sort' of children.

The majority of us make choices about where we buy or rent a house. If you choose to move to a bigger house for which there is another closer school
then you should, I think, lose the sibling priority at the first school. Assuming a new family move into your old house why should a place effectively be reserved for your now 'non local' child to the detriment of the new children?
Presumably you bought your house to get your children in and can probably
sell it for a premium because it is near a good/outstanding school.

If you want to get your second child you'll have to just play the system and at least wait until they're in Before you move. It you choose not to wait, then it is just that-your choice. If you choose to have more children than you house can accommodate and have to move then again that is a choice you have made and others shouldn't be disadvantaged due to your life choices.

Would add though any changes should be bought in on a phased basis so people don't find the rug being pulled from under them.

Anyway I'm off to buy a lottery ticket in the hope that I'll be able to afford private school and forget all about sibling priority, nearest schools and catchment areas......if only!

Frikadellen Wed 13-Feb-13 18:16:53

We moved 5 years ago when we did only 1 school localish had room for all 3 children. Our dc4 went into this school the year after under the sibling rule.
Had the rule been only sibling rule in nearest school we would not have qualified under that rule. However nearest school didn't have room for 2 of our children only 1.

Having said that the school we moved to have just proposed to change their admission to children in 4 named parish(CofE school) who are church goers (not how its said but how I say it) then children living in the 4 named parish then siblings before people outside.

People are up in arms but I am actually for this as I think it is fair a small (15 intake) local school gives priority to their local children. I also think it is fair that they give priority to CofE practicing children. (And personally I don't believe religion and schooling should be mixed) It is easy for me to say as I have no younger siblings waiting to go and I also live that close to the school we would still have got in on sibling rule.

Parents in the school are objecting but overall I think this is a fair way to do it and the school has to go on fair. In practice due to us living rually we will be talking 4-5 children a year so I suspect all siblings will get in anyway.

indyandlara Wed 13-Feb-13 19:39:49

I teach in Edinburgh. We take catchment children first, then siblings/ ASN requests then others. It is very common to request an out of catchment place in Edinburgh but is becoming increasingly difficult to secure one.

TheBuskersDog Wed 13-Feb-13 20:01:45

In our local authority siblings out of catchment are lower priority than children in catchment, but ahead of out of catchment with no siblings, this seems a fair way of doing things to me.

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