How could people be made more aware of reception admissions?

(147 Posts)
Pyrrah Tue 07-May-13 17:14:31

Judging by the number of people on MN who turn up having made a balls up of the application process (which will be a fraction of those who have) surely there must be a way of alerting parents and of warning them of the possible issues.

Could the BBC do a party political broadcast type thing once a week from when applications open?

Could CBeebies do a basic guide?

I can see why sending letters out everywhere isn't practical, but it must cost a fortune for councils to sort out the mess each year.

Many people don't send their child to nursery, don't visit libraries etc and so really have no idea of when to apply or how it works - or more importantly the consequences of rejecting an offer or of only listing options they don't stand a hope of getting.

jamtoast12 Tue 07-May-13 17:41:43

I agree it does need sorting. Nearly everyone I know thinks by putting only one school down they will definitely get it! Some of these people are on their second and third child too! I also know lots who don't use childcare. I'm not sure what the answer is but agree is needs addressing.

rubyflipper Tue 07-May-13 17:47:23

I don't know what else can be done. I live in Oxfordshire and the application notes clearly state the dos and don'ts of completing the form.

If people choose to believe local gossip or don't call the education department to ask for help, then that is their look-out.

OddBoots Tue 07-May-13 17:50:02

They have a big spread in the local paper here including the basics in a range of languages but people still don't read that.

Our school secretary calls all the nursery parents in to talk them through the form bless her.

Pyrrah Tue 07-May-13 17:55:03

In many places there are no application packs or letters sent out - you need to know to go and find out about applying.

While application notes tell you how to apply, IMO they overstate choice and they don't make it clear that rejecting their offer, or only putting one school/no chance schools will not get you a better offer or make you top of the waiting list.

Do many people buy local papers?

Hence why I'm wondering about something on TV.

ClayDavis Tue 07-May-13 18:02:31

Maybe a section for common misconceptions in the admissions booklet. Also there's a lot of advice given by the experts on here,like always including a school that you stand a good chance of getting into somewhere on your preference list, that I don;t often see elsewhere. So maybe a section for useful tips as well.

Cantbelieveitsnotbutter Tue 07-May-13 18:05:22

Lovely idea to have something.

No local papers here,
No letters or application sent to me (although I know they did/ do for others)
Don't attend nursery/sure start etc
Have no health visitor either
I only came across the application by accident when checking bin dates!

Fuckwittery Tue 07-May-13 18:10:37

we had no letters about the process
just told to look online
I didn't see any application notes on the online application form
It would definitely be helpful to have a common misconceptions leaflet

tiggytape Tue 07-May-13 18:14:25

I think, in oversubscribed areas especially, they need to be a bit more negative realistic and really spell it out to parents maybe with a specific FAQ page right at the front of the booklet or on a leaflet sent home from Pre School:

Q: "We live opposite the school we want our child to attend. It is definitely our nearest school. Does that mean we are guaranteed a place?"
A: No - places in this area go to siblings first (except for faith schools) - see page 5 to see who was eligible for your nearest school last year.

Q: "I work fulltime and do not drive. There are only 2 schools that would be suitable in terms of childcare. If I explain this on the form will it affect the outcome?"
A: No - childcare and transport issues are not part of the admissions process.

Q: "My child has no special needs but is very shy. She would like to stay with her nursery friends. Can this be ensured?"
A: No - Attending nursery forms no part of the process for any schools in this area. To secure a place you need to qualify under the criteria listed (see page 5 to see who qualified last year)

Q: "There are only 2 schools I like. Should I just list 2 schools?"
A: No - if you do not qualify on sibling / distance / faith criteria for the schools you want, you cannot be offered a place at either. In that case, the council will find you an undersubscribed school to attend which will not be a school you listed.

It sounds really miserable and might put a negative gloss on things but the booklets are way too long and complicated.
People just don't get how places will be allocated because they are told they have a choice but don't understand the limits on that choice (preference).

They don't always understand that they only have a choice of the schools that they qualify for so sometimes that means a choice of 1!

Our local brochure states clearly:
A) include a school close to your home to maximise your chances of getting an offer
B) do not limit your choices - this will not improve your chances of getting your preferred school.

blueberryupsidedown Tue 07-May-13 18:30:35

The thing is, people know but choose to ignore the rules and think that somehow they will be the exception. I know some people know the consequence of only putting one school down but who chose to do it anyway because obviously they will be the exception. I know one person who only put down our local CoE school, which has seperate criteria stating that you have to attend church regularly, and flipped out when she didn't get a place (obviously, she attends church twice a year, Christmas and Easter, every year, which in her mind means regularly.... [sceptical]). The rules are there, they are black and white, either people don't bother to read them or choose to ignore.

blueberryupsidedown Tue 07-May-13 18:31:33

I meant [hmmm]!!

blueberryupsidedown Tue 07-May-13 18:31:51

i can't do those faces can I hmm

ihearsounds Tue 07-May-13 18:34:49

Something really needs to be done.
My oldest children, you just walked to the schools you were interested and put your name down for a place. Then you would start calling them to see what was happening.

Had dc4 and it all changed. It was all down to the LA to deal with.. Fine I thought. Only I was wrong because the LA never contacted me. Luckily he was going to the nursery by this point, and they said you can do it all online.

Looking online, there was no information. No does and don't. Just the application form.

The system has not improved. Occasionally I will sit in the park, parents with younger children will have a conversation and you can see the blind panic in their eyes when they realise the stuff they have been told by older relatives is all wrong because now it's all changed.

It doesn't matter who you know. It doesn't matter where you live. It doesn't matter you are known in the area. And it doesn't matter that you show up to all the fund raising events and spend a fortune because when the time comes, the school will remember you.

givemeaclue Tue 07-May-13 18:37:51

Really? 100% Of people I know managed it, who are these people who can't complete a form?

People already "in the system" eg nursery or pre school, or with older siblings, get frequent reminders of the deadlines.

People with lots of FB friends in a similar situation will be well aware of the deadlines.

The children whose literacy or awareness is lowest are the most in need of suitable school places. They will have the highest non-attendance for logistical reasons and can least afford to be at failing schools.

I think the odd reminder on CBeebies, Milkshake, Disney Jr etc in January (ie near the deadline to add urgency but not so near that people who didn't realise will miss it) is an inspired shout.

ClayDavis Tue 07-May-13 19:01:09

I think the appeals system can sometimes give a false sense of security too. Everybody, quite rightly, has the option to appeal the decision made. I don't think that it's widely understood that in ICS cases you can only win that in certain circumstances, so people put down unrealistic options thinking that it's OK they'll just appeal the decision and get in that way.

I've seen people on other sites complain that the system must be fixed because so few decisions are overturned.

* The children whose parents' literacy is lowest...


ClayDavis Tue 07-May-13 19:05:03

Adverts on commercial channels are going to be massively expensive. That has to be overkill. There's no way that is going to be cost effective.

CMOTDibbler Tue 07-May-13 19:09:12

I think theres lots of scope for it to be done better - in this area you have to know to apply online or ring up for an application pack, and I didn't see any info about it at all

gallicgirl Tue 07-May-13 19:22:34

I have a friend who has no kids in his family, child's mother only just come to the UK but I can guarantee he would have no idea of admission dates if we hadn't told him. He works in education too!
I have no idea how you would reach out to people like him - not even a letter from child benefit agency would work as he doesn't claim.

ClayDavis Tue 07-May-13 19:45:28

There certainly is scope for it to be done better in lots of areas but I don't think there's any way of catching absolutely everybody.

What about a generic letter through with the council tax bill/bin collection dates. Just saying something like 'If you have a child born between X and Y they will be due to start school in September XXXX. The final date for applications is 15 Jan XXXX. Please phone or check our website for the admissions booklet.'

paneer Tue 07-May-13 19:57:07

What about via GPs? They know how old children are and send out letters for pre-school boosters, so could remind people in the same process.

Springforward Tue 07-May-13 20:03:35

Really? Here we get notices up in nursery, then a letter telling you to apply which comes with a big booklet of the rules (including quirks for entry rules to e.g. faith schools or those with shared catchment areas), then you get reminder letters if you're getting close to the deadline. There were also coffee mornings attended by an LA staff member to go through it all with you, at nurseries. I really thought that was standard, if it's not I'm a bit shock TBH.

Clay that sounds like a good idea.

Putting idents on cbeebies/milkshake/etc is a fantastic idea. Also possibly on the cbeebies website - ads at the side of games or similar reminding people of the deadline.

Kittens it's all very well saying to include schools close to your home to maximise chances of being admitted - but in some areas (mine included) there are many cases where people who do this still don't get a place at a preferred school.

We listed the 6 schools closest to our home address, and would not have been given a place at any of them if our social/medical criteria hadn't been accepted. It's because of where we live (London) but by no means unique. I don't know that there's anything to be done about it though.

ihearsounds Tue 07-May-13 20:08:50

It's really not standard, even for people in the system.

Gp's send out letters about pre-school boosters? Gosh, this area is really failing in several areas.

Springforward wow, that's impressive! We get nothing. If you don't have your child in preschool/nursery then you wouldn't get any reminders or notice of the application process. It's difficult to even get hold of paper application packs - you have to call the council and request one be sent to you. They are strongly encouraging people to apply online.

Nope, not standard. We knew because DH was we were particularly interested in the process, but if DH weren't such a geek not for that, the only reminder we had was a single poster in the window of the office of the school in whose grounds preschool is located.

Particularly if you have a summer child, researching and applying when they are only just three seems vastly premature. It would be very easy to get to late January, early February, do the sums and think "huh, he starts school in six months, I'd better find something out."

I suggested Disney Jr etc as not everyone watches CBeebies. I was thinking more of a programme or a link that said "if you're turning four this year you need to apply for school by the end of January" hint hint, to get the idea in people's heads at least.

nextphase Tue 07-May-13 20:15:14

Its too late to catch the people who just don't apply, but a plea on the bottom of each form to read MN primary threads could sort out a lot of problems.

I too know people who only put down one school, to "force" a decision, and then got told no place offered (tho there are places in town, just not at the schools they would have chosen as 2nd or 3rd choice). One parent is a primary teacher.

I think standarding things across England could also help - I've seen lots of posts about 6 choices - we only got 3.

yes yes yes to explaining when appeals can be used - and that isn't because you did something silly.

But then, I owe MN wine and flowers because without you lot, I'd have known very little. I guess I also owe flowers to my friend that told me about you all! Never found her tho!

ClayDavis Tue 07-May-13 20:15:38

ihear, do you live in an area with a very transient population? If lots of people move in and out of the area they might have trouble knowing where people are. Although I've never heard of any where that doesn't send reminders for vaccinations.

Machli Tue 07-May-13 20:16:59

I didn't even know how to apply. I assumed you rang up the school you wanted them to go to the term before to register them blush. Most people I know thought this to. Awareness of when and how definitely needs stepping up.

BikeRunSki Tue 07-May-13 20:23:55

My eldest will be starting school this year, and I have been through the application procedure correctly and we've got a place at no.1 school. i've only known what to do, when to do it etc because a friend with older children has told me. No notification from nursery, HV or anything. I was surprised that there was no guidance from anyone in authority. I can easily see how people have not followed the process. in fact, one of our schools has two families appealing because they already have one child there, but didn't realise that they had to do any paperwork for the second child.

Springforward Tue 07-May-13 20:27:10

I guess I assumed they use the same lists they use to call DCs in for vaccinations, if so that would catch anyone registered with a GP I suppose?

PoppyT Tue 07-May-13 20:29:44

In the last month I've been told by numerous parents to get my DD's name down on school list now or I won't get in! They all tell me the application process means nothing & the only way to get in my preferred school is to be on the school list now. My DD will start school in 2016.

They are all adamant that they got their chosen school by reserving a place when their DC were babies.

I'm fed up of being told this now. I haven't got DD's name on any waiting list & was planning on completing the application form when the time comes. Am I missing something? Should I be contacting local schools to get her name on these lists to get preference?

kilmuir Tue 07-May-13 20:37:06

what do people imagine will happen when their child is old enough to go to school? someone will knock on their door and fill out necessary forms for them?
Surely you would start asking about the admission procedure?
Was very well stated in our forms to not put down just one choice.
Some people want it all handed to them

Springforward Tue 07-May-13 20:41:46

Around here the LA tells you that putting your name down with a school is meaningless for application purposes, it just gives the school an idea of demand and they might use it to send out information on open days.

I feel really lucky now - we were househunting during the application process (made it in time!) and I got the LA admissions team's contact details from the web. They answered approximately 1,000,000 questions from me about catchment areas, over and undersubscribed schools near houses we were interested in, planned changes to the secondary school system where feeder schools existed etc without a murmur. I really think this should be standard practice everywhere.

Thingiebob Tue 07-May-13 20:42:11

I have no idea about any of this and I have a three and half yr old. Should I be doing something now?

Poppy some schools (faith schools for example) will require you to fill in a supplementary application form. This will be in addition to the common application form that is submitted to the LEA.

You can hand this form in on the day your child is born or on the last day for applications in the January before they are due to start school in September. All forms will be considered equally when places are allocated regardless of when they were submitted.

Thingiebob assuming DC will be 4 after 1 September this year, they are due to start reception in September 2014. Applications will open in September (ish) and close in January 2014. Your local council website should have information about what you need to do to apply for places.

Springforward we don't get letters about vaccinations, either (hence why DD didn't have her preschool booster until she started reception... blush). We are expected to go through the red book and look for the standard schedule, then phone up and book appointments for them ourselves.

Thingiebob is your LO's 4th birthday on or after 1st September 2013?

If so you will be applying to start school in September 2014. The application process opens in the autumn and closes in January 2014 (it was 15th this tear - I don't know if that applies every year but it is approximately that date).

If your LO will be 4 before 31st August 2013 then you should have applied for this year and you will need to contact your LA to discuss late applications.

Thingiebob Tue 07-May-13 20:53:13

Ok thanks. Have looked on council website and a bit more clued up. Thank you!

Springforward Tue 07-May-13 21:01:05

Blimey, no vaccination letters? shock

GibberTheMonkey Tue 07-May-13 21:03:41

We got sent nothing and I saw nothing. Lucky for me he's dc4 so knew to look. Someone I've met since was on dc1 and realised earlier this year that as their child should start in September then surely she should be applying for school places. She applied by the skin of her teeth. If that realisation had come a week later it would have been too late. She wasn't being stupid, she just hadn't realised the process started so early on. I'm sure there are others who were caught out. A few short adverts on tv would be all that was needed surely

GibberTheMonkey Tue 07-May-13 21:06:03

And though I got nagged about 1st mmr even after telling them they had been done I have never had a reminder about preschool boosters for any of my four (more than one area of same county)

ICantFindAFreeNickName Tue 07-May-13 21:06:13

I believe that when the Reception admissions process was taken away from schools and done centrally by the LEA's, it was originally planned that they would use the Health authorities list of children born in the required date range to contact parents, however the LEA's & health authorities could not come to an agreement and it never happened.

PoppyT Tue 07-May-13 21:08:14

Thanks TheWoollyBacksWife that's really useful. I'm pleased to know there's no preference to people who appear to have put their kids names down from birth.

PanelChair Tue 07-May-13 21:12:44

I agree with many of the suggestions here, but have an inkling that, however much publicity there is, it still won't reach some people or (as another poster pointed out) they will feel it doesn't apply to them. The myth about 'putting one's name down' for a school place when a child is tiny may be a case in point.

I agree too that the existence of the appeals system perhaps encourages people to make rash choices - or, to be more accurate, to express rash or unfulfillable preferences - as there is a commonly-held view that arguing "I really, really want my child to attend this school" will be enough to win an appeal. The appeal panel will take it as read that they really, really want their child to attend that school (that's why they made it their first preference and that's why they are appealing) but the demands of the appeal code mean that there have to be stronger reasons for allowing an appeal than that, and for ICS appeals the threshold is even higher.

DontmindifIdo Tue 07-May-13 21:14:08

Poppy - do any of those people use private schools? I called round a few when DS was 18 months when we were toying with the idea, we were too late to get his name down for a couple of them shock

tiggytape Tue 07-May-13 21:25:38

GP registration is used in some areas to send reminder letters and an info pack. Not in London though (or at least not our part) - the population is just far too transient.
We don't get vaccine reminders either - we have to rely on the schedule printed in the red book and remember to book vaccines at the correct time.

BeehavingBaby Tue 07-May-13 21:25:41

Poppy, if you'd like a pre-school/nursery place, you'll have to apply to each but it doesn't need to be at birth smile. Depending on intakes DC may get offered a place in a January or Easter intake after their 3rd birthday so you'd have to have their name down before to benefit from that.

PoppyT Tue 07-May-13 21:25:48

No they're all talking about local primary schools & adamant they got in using the school waiting list. One is CofE school so maybe that's partly true.

PoppyT Tue 07-May-13 21:27:20

My DD goes to private nursery so won't go to school till she starts reception. I'm going to look at all schools in area then see if they have the supplementary form too but obviously no rush.

tiggytape Tue 07-May-13 21:31:51

No Poppy - it isn't true.

The trouble with admissions myths is sometimes they seem to be true:

Parent A is a Catholic who attends mass every week. Parent A puts their child's name on the 'interest list' held at the local Catholic primary
This list just exists so the school can guess interest levels - it means nothing in terms of getting a place.
Parent A also applies via the council the same as everyone else.
Parent A gets a place at the Catholic school and tells everyone they meet it is because they put their child's name on the special list when their child was born.
The truth of course is they met the admissions criteria so would have got a place anyway but now suddenly everyone thinks a place on the list somehow helps.

Ditto the parents who only list one school. It just so happens that they live close enough to qualify so get offered that school. But they won't believe that for a second. They tell all the other parents that they're silly to list more than one school because 'if you only list one the council has to give it to you'

NaturalBaby Tue 07-May-13 21:34:13

The information is out there, I'm amazed how many parents seem to be totally clueless and looking for someone to blame for not making an informed decision themselves.
I had letters and leaflets in the post, checked the council website a million times, talked to other parents, phoned the council, went to school open days and talked to teachers there....there are so many people who can advise and help before it's too late.

Pyrrah Tue 07-May-13 21:40:18

No vaccination letters here at all.

Plus, they have such a nightmare getting the kids to have the MMR that they do the second one 4 weeks later. So in the main there are no pre-school boosters.

A lot of people don't take into account how long the whole application process can take an LA and so presume that school applications are done at the beginning of the summer holidays for a September start.

I only discovered about the primary school nursery places by sheer chance when I went for a meeting that happened to be being held in one of the local school's hall and saw a small poster on their notice board. Just scraped the application deadline.

Someone pointed out the cost of commercials, but given that the BBC is funded through the licence fee, they should be giving time for free in the same way that free space is given to political parties in the run-up to the general election.

The PSA wouldn't need to give masses of detail, just urge parents of children born between x dates to contact the council/look on websites etc. The warnings could then be in the online/booklet stuff.

Very few people know about where to go to check things like last distance offered in previous years either.

NaturalBaby - that's all things you did, except from letters you received which aren't sent out everywhere. So you are kind of refuting your own argument... grin

tiggytape Tue 07-May-13 21:50:03

Naturalbaby - a lot of people don't get letters in the post about this like you did though.
The onus is on them to find out about it at the correct time without any proompting at all (and not all of them know when the correct time is as nobody tells them).

prh47bridge Tue 07-May-13 21:51:58

I am old enough to remember when the BBC changed all their AM radio frequencies in 1978 - a time when most people were listening on AM. There was an incessant campaign to raise awareness including adverts in the national and local press, information in the Radio Times (and, I think, other listings magazines), announcements between (and sometimes during) programmes on all BBC radio and tv channels, stickers to put on your radio sent to most (all?) households and so on. You couldn't get away from it! Lots of people complained that the campaign had gone over the top. Nonetheless my recollection is that the BBC received a load of complaints when the change actually happened from people who had managed to miss the campaign completely.

My point is that regardless of how much was spent running a campaign to make people aware there will still be a significant number who miss it completely.

katgod Tue 07-May-13 21:59:50

No letters re vaccinations in our area of London. Private nursery had application packs for schools on a table in lobby area but no one said 'you must apply for school'. DD went to school nursery and they did remind us all that nursery place did not equate to reception place and that we had to fill in the form. Very glad they did as could easily have overlooked as felt like she was at school already.
Am actually shocked GPs remind anyone about anything!!!!

steppemum Tue 07-May-13 22:23:54

the thing is though, that some people just don't think the rules are as stated. We had loads of information, but every day as we waited for nursery pick up, I found myself repeating the criteria again and again to parents who just didn't get it.

me - no, it doesn't matter if you can't drive
no, it doesn't make any difference who you know
no, it doesn't make any difference if you go to the school nursery - if your mate told you that then they were sadly mistaken. yes they were. Really.
no - if you put only one school it will not improve your chances, you really need to put more than one because otherwise you will risk getting xx school. (said parent, very intelligent, still put 1 school, and she lives in a black spot not close to any school, yet did not get that she needed to put more than one - she was lucky, she got her school, and now thinks it is because she only put one)

I could go on. People just don't get it that the rules are that simple and that inflexible. I think it is the apparent illogical nature of some decisions that leaves them flummoxed, like parents given different school for younger sibling.

I think the CBeebies idea is a good one.
My parents were on and on at me to get DS on some mythical list. They really didn't believe me when I said you didn't even contact the school unless you wanted to look around; it is all done through the council.

tiggytape Tue 07-May-13 22:34:13

I agree steppemum - lots of misinformation and lots of people refusing to believe that the LA doesn't care that you cannot drive / work fulltime / need to have a school near you mum because she does your childcare for free....

Lots of people say "So they'd expect me to give up my job? Because if they send DS to the school near my home, there's no way I could do the drop off at 8:40 and then get to work on time. They must have to take that into account else people would have to quit their jobs"

Many people think it is open to discretion in some way because - to them - that is just common sense.

prh - I have realised that is me! Not in 1978, but last year when there was the big digital switch-over. I didn't believe the TV would actually just stop working. I thought it was just a bit of hype to gently encourage us to re-tune it at some convenient moment in the future. So I too was guilty of seeing all those press and TV ads and feeling irrationally annoyed at getting a blank screen. blush

NaturalBaby Tue 07-May-13 22:57:08

I didn't get any letters for ds2, fortunately he was my 2nd child so I knew the system by that point.
My point was I made an effort to inform myself about what I needed to do to get my dc's into a school I was happy with. Your dc's have to go to school at some point, it's a bit naive to sit back and wait for somebody to tell you what to do and how to do it.
It's the parents/carers responsibility to inform and educate themselves, especially when there is so much information out there - you only have to look and ask.

NaturalBaby Tue 07-May-13 22:57:45

(except, of course, not all dc's have to go to school at any point if that's your choice)

ReallyTired Tue 07-May-13 23:09:47

In our area there is plenty of information. There were posters at the libary, children's centres/ health visitors/ private day nursery/ school and a letter from the council saying that we had to apply online. There was plenty of information on the council's webstie on how admissions worked.

In real life I don't think I know anyone who failed to understand the admissions process. In my town there are simply not enough primary school places because four primary schools were closed down 5 years ago and we have had a baby boom in 2009.

No amount of advertising is going to get round the fact that LEAs are in a mess that they are not allowed open schools where there is a desperate shortage. Instead we have stupid free schools in areas where there are a surplus of places.

meglet Wed 08-May-13 07:34:18

Thinking back the only place I saw a poster was at nursery, I found out everything else on MN and from reading the forms properly.

If an area can give parents the heads up then around the pre-school booster time it wouldn't be a bad idea as it would give parents enough time to get organised. I remember starting to think about schools in the summer term 2010, and made the first phone calls around then but the open days weren't until the autumn for a January 2011 deadline. CBeebies could do some reminders.

ReallyTired Wed 08-May-13 08:31:45

The closure of schools five years ago with the land being sold off for housing and baby boom has led to the admissions crisis. You can inform the parents all you like about the admissions process, but its no good as there aren't enough primary school places.

The LEA has their hands tied by the government and cannot open new schools. Seven years ago primary admissions was very easy. The majority of schools were not over subscribed and people could have choice where to send their darling. Unfortunately parental choice is not economic so the number of schools was reduced.

QOD Wed 08-May-13 08:35:23

Just ring the school you fancy when you find out you're pregnant, they'll put you in their list....

Barbeasty Wed 08-May-13 08:49:30

Lots of people here have mentioned the red book, so how about a page in there that says your child will be due to start school in September 20xx and you should contact your council in October 20xx for details of how to apply.

Our HV talked about applying for schools at DD's 2yr check, which I know we were lucky to still have. They've also mentioned it at clinic, even when I've taken my younger child in.

The children's centre work with the patents they support/ come across. Actually they have a big database with DoB and addresses, so they could do a mail shot.

Billboard campaigns, posters at bus stops, info at every public place- Dr surgeries, hospitals, job centre, CAB, banners on school gates, at parks...

TV and radio ads, a story in the papers- they all love a good "my triplets were sent to 5 different schools, 3000 miles from home" story. Maybe they could run an "I knew nothing about applications" story at the start of applications time.

A leaflet sent to every house. If businesses can afford it, surely the social good can. Put it in with the electoral role form, or as someone else said the annual council tax statement.

Then add an optional section to the forms of "where did you hear about the applications process, tick all that apply". Then target carefully.

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate Wed 08-May-13 10:16:16

With the actual need to engage with the process, I agree that things like indents on Cbeebies and Milkshake would help. Also things like those big plasticised banners outside primary schools. Most people with young children physically pass the outside of school buildings quite often. A big banner saying "If your child turns four before 31 August, you must apply for schools by 15 January. Please contact Worcestshire Council" (or wherever) could be strung out every year in November and left up until the holidays.

I am not sure a mailshot to every household would be cost effective given the tiny percentage of households the information would apply to. The red book probably should have a note, but honestly I've not looked at mine since DD1 was 2.

In terms of busting myths, my authority has a leaflet with all of them (if you put the same school down four times, you stand a better chance, if you put a school first you stand a better chance, they have to give you one of the four schools on your list, etc) which is online with online application and in the pack if you ask for a paper one. Yet I still know intelligent, educated parents (i.e. parents you wouldn't expect to need extra support to understand these leaflets) in my area who have fallen for these myths. I do think standardising the process nationally would help. Then sites like MN or could include a basic guide to applications.

DewDr0p Wed 08-May-13 10:35:27

I'd have thought that mail shots via child benefit records and child care providers or maybe GP records would catch the majority of parents? (I know not everyone gets cb any more)

There are 2 preschool providers who feed into our primary - one v good at informing parents, the other does nothing - every single year the school gets very late apps from parents with dcs at the latter who didn't have a clue about needing to apply for school ... Lucky for them there is generally a falling roll around here so places not an issue

tiggytape Wed 08-May-13 11:05:07

The proces is standardised nationally in the sense that the same method of allocations applies (equal preference system) and the deadline is the same. Next year, results day will be the same too.

The complication is regional variation - not in the admissions procedure as such but in the population and school types. So people in dense, urban areas with a lot of faith schools face totally different options to people in rural areas with undersubscribed schools.
Some people have a lot of factors to juggle and potentially very limited choice. Other people can fill in a form and get pretty much whatever they ask for.

Combined with annual variations in birthrate (eg your nextdoor neighbour's children all got a place last year but this year nobody in your road can get a place) all means that parents not only have to know the national system but have to be very tuned in to the local situation too which constantly changes.

For example if you don't keep up to date with the fact that 300 new homes have been built the other side of your county, you may not guess that this limits your own school choices. Or if you don't know it is a high sibling year due to a bulge class 3 years ago you may not know one of your previously realistic school options is effectively wiped out for this year. It is very tricky for parents to keep on top of.

Pyrrah Wed 08-May-13 11:05:36

I think the big plastic banners outside all primary schools from Nov-Jan would be a brilliant idea.

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate Wed 08-May-13 11:24:55

But there is a lot of variation in the application process too. How many schools you get to choose. What the form looks like. Currently (and I know this is changing) when offers are issued and how. How many waiting lists you can join if you don't get your first choice. Whether there is a priority catchment area or not.

I do agree that to assess your chances at a given school you will always need good local information, but for example there could be a standard way of presenting that information so that it was easily accessible. Imagine how much it would help at least the clued up parents if there was a standard table with distance admissions for the last five years, PAN, details of bulge classes in previous years, etc. My authority doesn't even automatically issue distance information for effective catchments - you have to request it.

tiggytape Wed 08-May-13 11:33:59

That is true Amanda however there are strict regulations about such things - it is just some councils choose to go above and beyond which is what causes regional variations. I am not sure if it is possible or desirable to force those councils to do as others do and only offer the legal minimum.

For example the number of preferences a parent may list is set nationally in the sense a minimum number is required by law. A council that offers 5 or 6 on their form is going beyond the legal minimum through choice. No council can choose to offer less than the legal minimum.

It is the same with waiting lists. The Schools Adjudicator has ruled every council is entitled to restrict or limit the number of lists a child can be added to. However a lot of councils try to be nice and don't enforce this.

The lack of information is something that should be addressed though. With too many LA websites, you have to dig through 5 layers and endless downloads just to find out the last distances offered at schools. It should be made very clear from the outset how far catchments have extended in previous years at the very least.

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate Wed 08-May-13 11:35:32

True. Maybe what we need is better publicity - i.e "You will have at least three school choices. Your area may choose to allow more options. You should always use all the options offered to you".

prh47bridge Wed 08-May-13 11:45:03

You mean like this? Part 3 says "You can apply for at least 3 schools". It doesn't say you should use all the choices, though. But some people wouldn't believe it anyway - it is, after all, the government!

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Wed 08-May-13 12:00:17

That's pretty hidden in the depths of the website though. You have to click through a lot of pages to get to it and I'd have followed the first link (applying for a primary school place) and ended up at my local council website. It also doesn't explain that you might get the chance to apply for more schools and I think the phrasing is duff.

It's kind of my point - the information might be out there, but it's not massively accessible. And, for example, if you just read that section on applying and thought it was what you needed to know I think you could easily believe that order of preference was relevant to what you are offered.

Oh yes, banners on school fences sounds like a brilliant idea. It is in each school's interest to be popular, so tying it in with "our open days are 15 and 24 Nov" or whatever would be an obvious benefit to the schools themselves.

mam29 Wed 08-May-13 12:48:08

Theres posters up in

eldests school.
nursery and preschools.

I think with eldest the admissions book came home with preschool but cant quite remember?

Or do some parents need to ask la to send copy.

Its online to download as im eagerly awaiting the next one to find outs whos under subscribed whos not.

Ours does have sections

dos and donts

with ticks next to some things crosses next to others.

I think admissions is very complicated even for the most savvy educated parent.

As so many different types of schools

free schools
faith schools and think academies control their own admissions
others are distance only but siblings can take up half the intake.

My 3nearest schools

one is rc primary-we not catholic.
large community primary-but does not achieve best results.
very well performing infants with juniors next door 10mins walk has such a small catchment area rare anyone from my new build estate or new build estate gets in.

So then the glossy brochures says we live in area of responsability -catchment so we had choice of 12-15schools and had to pick 3.

But we dont really have a choice we the kids are baptised coe but the nearby coe well performing schools are too far to get in as volntary controlled not aided.

Catchments change every year .

My health visitor recently sent out letter for my 2year old and mentioned school admissions on it.

I have to apply for dd2 by 15th jan 2014 to get place for sept 2014
then 15th jan 2015 for her brother to start sept 2015.

Then think get year off before applying for eldest and senior.

Im hoping my la do advice surgery as think they do 2. As i need realistric advice on what schools i have chance of getting as 1st choice is out of catchment.

I know some areas get 6choices wish we did.
Although hard enough picking 3.

Maybe its more issue in urban areas and areas with shortage of places.

I know one person who lives on an estate where the primary school is dire everyone tries to get any other school but that.
But many who got results this year tried other nearby schools and dident get in. They different la though as city is divided by 2councils and they on border.

mam29 Wed 08-May-13 13:21:35

Also estate agents on listings tell people they in catchment to well performing primary so parents think oh will get in.

I been told by few people just pick 1.

Pyrrah Wed 08-May-13 13:56:54

The number one issue is the make parents aware of WHEN they need to apply and that THEY need to seek out the information. The detail can all be attached to the packs and the packs tailored to the LA.

My LA does a really nice booklet with all the last distances etc included - but you have to be savvy enough to go to the website and find the thing. DD goes to both a private nursery and primary nursery and neither had copies of the LA booklet.

I rather think they should employ MN experts to design the info as well - the same things are discussed time after time on here.

So CBeebies alerts and HUGE banners on every school saying 'If your child turns 4 before 31st of August, you need to contact your LA for an application pack - web address, phone number of LA. Application deadline for sept 2014 is 15th Jan 2014' seem to be the best idea forward.

Needs to be simple and short and understandable to all.

GibberTheMonkey Wed 08-May-13 14:07:23

I have that tax credits deadline advert going round my head. So simple to do something like that.

Piemother Wed 08-May-13 14:23:18

What about schools admission parties? The hysterical mums seem to like Tupperware etc type soirées they might work wink

Lots of prats around here have just put one school (the good school that isn't quite in the posh housing area so not really the right catchment) then not got in and been offered a city centre school in a rough area I assume because they put no other choices and it had spaces. Hard in the kids but I'd have enjoyed writing that letter were I an ea employee!

Kendodd Wed 08-May-13 14:23:48

Going to school isn't a surprise though is it, I don't know a single parent who missed the deadline.

Where I live, no letters were sent, I had to look on line for the information myself, although I did see a poster up at pre-school (after I had applied).

Oh and I only applied for one school for each of my children, the year my eldest went, she was the closest child to the school in that year so only 'looked after' children were ahead of her. Same with my next child and there was one child living closer when I applied for my third.

Piemother Wed 08-May-13 14:25:49

Oh god and do something about this 'unofficial feeder' myth. You must send dc to x totally unaffiliated pre school it's an unofficial feeder fur y school. No it isn't.

Pyrrah Wed 08-May-13 14:31:26

It's not the going to school bit - it's the realising how early applications open that trips many up.

Lots of people don't realise that they need to apply for their just turned 3 year-old as everyone talks about children going to school at 5. If you have a late Autumn born child you are far more likely to have done research than those with August babies.

I consider myself to be pretty education-savvy, but I hadn't got a clue that I had to apply for a nursery place for DD for September 2012 in December 2011. I imagined it was summer-term 2012 and just got lucky and found out by sheer chance.

In London we also have a lot of people from European countries where school starts a lot later.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Wed 08-May-13 14:54:14

Yup, even if you are Scottish (so only foreign if you hold that as a political view!) you might assume that your spring born child would start the year after they actually do. It's not hard to get confused.

The big myths around by me seem to be:

- that you can in some way be tactical. For example, by listing the school you really want and three you'll never get, so the person doing the application will give you the school you want. Not sure of the reasoning, but it seems to be combination of thinking you can influence the person (when it is a computer) and believing you have to get one of your schools;

- believing that writing lots of comments in the additional box strengthens your case.

One school near me has a huge sibling year, and so a much smaller effective catchment than usual. Lots of people who would normally have been fine have been caught out because they didn't use the other choices on their form wisely.

rubyflipper Wed 08-May-13 16:26:32

Yy to what piemother said about unofficial feeder schools.

I just can't see a way round this madness. Even if the country could afford to send an admissions adviser to every home, too many parents would ignore the advice and believe local gossip.

ShadowStorm Wed 08-May-13 23:31:51

I think information needs to be in as many places as possible to increase the chances of parents seeing them.

CBeebies and banners outside schools sound a good starting point, and I'm sure would work well for lots of people, but wouldn't work for everyone.

For instance, in my village, the school is right at the end of a long cul de sac, so really people aren't that likely to be passing the school unless they already have children there. Also, ads should also be on other channels to target parents who don't watch cbeebies with their kids.

But last year near me, there were posters about school admissions up in the local GP surgery, the window of the post office, and I remember seeing a double page spread about school admissions in the free magazine the council send out every few months.

The LA also produces an application guide that includes admission limits for each school, numbers of applicants for each school in the previous year, and criteria applied to last pupil accepted in the case of the school being oversubscribed (i.e. distance 1.5 miles). It's easily found on the website, but of course you do have to know it's there.

ShadowStorm Wed 08-May-13 23:42:11

Oh, and re. school nurseries - it can make a difference in some areas.

One of my colleagues in a neighbouring county to mine was stressing about getting his kid into a particular school nursery in order to increase her chances of getting a place at the school when she reached primary school age.

I thought he was talking nonsense until he found the admissions guide for his area and showed me. Criteria for primary schools where he lives is:

1) children in care
2) children with complex needs who have been identified as needing a named school
3) children with sibling links
4) children within the admission zone
5) children with social or medical reasons to be at named school
6) children who attend full time nursery at named school at time of application
7) children living closest by distance

So children being in the school nursery can tilt the odds in their favour in some areas.

Not where I live though. Where I live, we only have criteria 1), 2), 3) and 7) from the above list.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Thu 09-May-13 07:30:06

Shadow - but that would be an official feeder nursery. I think what the others were talking about were silly rumours of unofficial feeder nurseries. Like it mystically makes a difference without being in the published criteria.

givemeaclue Thu 09-May-13 07:53:52

Nanny state?
95%. Of people are capable of filling in a form

You don't think the 5% matter?

givemeaclue Thu 09-May-13 09:21:24

I don't think the five % will follow up on an ad on cbeebies.

In the most deprived area of our town, when school starts lots of kids turn up whose parents did not participate in the admissions process at all, they just turn up at a local school at some point in September. They are not form filling competent. Even if you put the forms through their letter boxes they wouldn't complete them, poor literacy etc,

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Thu 09-May-13 09:56:56

That group of people is a whole other issue. They need more intensive support because those kids matter. But what a lot of parents need is clearer advice. I honestly don't think 95% of people are capable of filling in this form in a sensible way. Or, to put it better, currently do fill in the form in a sensible way. Just based on anecdotes round here, I reckon about 15% did something daft on the form, like naming one school. Most didn't get bitten because undersupply here isn't a massive issue. But it's an affluent, well educated area. I would be surprised if a national statistic was as low as 5%.

prh47bridge Thu 09-May-13 10:00:48

Of course everyone matters. But there are numerous examples (including the radio channel changes I've mentioned earlier on this thread) to show that even the most intrusive, expensive awareness campaign possible will still pass some people by. There will always be those who think it doesn't apply to them.

An ad campaign might catch the 10-15% who are capable of filling in a form once they've got the form, though, which currently they haven't realised they need to do.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Thu 09-May-13 10:09:20

Exactly Horry. I do agree that some people will miss every campaign. I just think that the current system relies on pro active parents, word of mouth or a pre school setting giving out the information. I think we could do better than that at relatively low cost.

Farewelltoarms Thu 09-May-13 11:14:52

Sorry bit of an aside, but it would really help if all schools had exactly the same admissions. The faith school banana really confuses the whole matter. It would be far easier to plan, both for the LEA and the parent, if it was all done on something measurable and transparent.

mam29 Thu 09-May-13 12:20:50

Well spurred on my this thread I did some digging.

I been through it once before

I thourght I was quite a bit.

rang lea today to clarify local sibling.

My eldest goes to out of catchment school within 2miles of our home on in year admissions.

DD2 starts sept 2014 when shes 5.

She has no sibling link

This year there were

67 application 1st choice for 20places.
1was child in care
13 were local siblings
which leaves 6 for closest to school.
They were not able to offre people within catchment the school

Its on la border so even people in different county stand better chance

Im not too hopeful.

my 2nd /3rd choice inprobable.

have choice of 2schools 1 of which already removed eldest from.
Other even further away from eldest school.
We want to move house but dont think we can do it in time.

worse still have same blooming stress the following year when her brother goes to school.

Right now homeschooling looking like attractive option the stress of veiwiing so many as my area has no area of prime responsability so could put like 12schools down wouldent make a difference.

I was clued up and even i made a mistake.
Its just so complicated.
lea lady said she was impressed I had initiative to check early as most people dont check the nitty gritty.

tiggytape Thu 09-May-13 12:29:46

Not just faith schools farewell:

Some councils have fixed catchment areas (eg Tower Hamlets with it's new colour coded segments)
Some councils have a 'for whom it is their nearest school' priority like in parts of Surrey.
Some academies have chosen to drop social and medical priority totally.
Some have random allocations or fair banding and lottery systems (Kingdale in London for example which is a secondary school)
Some measure as the crow flies
Some measure shortest safe walking route.
Some have sibling priority for in catchment siblings but some prioritise all siblings.

mam29 - that sounds very stressful. Have you got a local school you'd be happy with and able to get a place at even if it isn't the same one as your other child? I suppose knowing in advance gives you time to research them all but it is still a pain.

mam29 Thu 09-May-13 14:29:23

Tiggytape you right

thing is no 1 year same.

1st went to school 2010 wasent as bad as is now.

choice is an illusion.

no dont have local school i be happy with or any have chance getting in.

have until jan 15th to move house.
pass driving test
look at as many new schools as possible.
even the new magic academy miles away.this year.

the acdemy still unclear of admissions as subject to change not open until this septemember and undersubscribed

There is lot movement so could wait list and home school but at age 5 i imagine she desperate to go and her younger brother going following year adds new complicatons..

wondering if neigbouring la has flipping local sibling rule as if it dont then its bit unfair.

But hs confirmed i could move la and still get school place.

Guess pays to research early.

I was going to wait until new admissions books and figures released glad i rang now.
Theres a few at school long distance who feel confident siblings get in going to get a shock.

Floggingmolly Thu 09-May-13 14:36:42

You seriously think CBeebies should broadcast the news that you must apply for a school place for your child? hmm
Makes you wonder how any of us managed it without having our hands held.

ReallyTired Thu 09-May-13 14:41:34

In the past it was easier as there was less pressure on school places. Most schools were undersubscribed and parents actually had a choice. Labour stupidly closed loads of primary schools and sold off the land. We now have loads of families and no schools.

tiggytape Thu 09-May-13 14:51:41

People managed before as it was also less formal.
Now there are national deadlines, national rules and no flexibility. Whereas once you could pop into a local school at anytime, put your name down and be reasonably certain of a place, now you need official forms months in advance and have to research effective catchment areas to the fourth decimal place!

Floggingmolly Thu 09-May-13 14:56:01

My eldest is 12 and my youngest is 5. The process has been identical for all of them.

Pyrrah Thu 09-May-13 15:04:08

Floggingmolly - how did you know the first time that you needed to contact the council, that you needed to get the forms yourself and when the application dates were?

- If you don't have friends with similar age children - or friends who have been there before
- if you aren't familiar with UK schools
- if your child turns 4 in late August
- if you don't send your child to a nursery or use the library
- if there are no pre-school boosters because the 2nd MMR is done 4 weeks after the first
- and you live in an area where no letter or leaflet drops through the door, then how exactly are you supposed to realise - or realise in time?

A very large number of people don't - especially in places like London where the above situations are very probable, and where there is huge over-subscription plus very little chance of actually getting any choice.

For those for whom English is not a language they speak well, CBeebies is one of more likely British TV programmes that may be being watched at home.

SquirrelNuts Thu 09-May-13 15:18:20

I didn't know what I was doing when it was due etc til I looked it up! They should send out application forms/booklet or at least make sure nursery gives them out

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Thu 09-May-13 15:19:41

FloggingMolly- The short answer is that many, many people didn't manage in the past either. My mother spent the last 30 years of her career (she retired recently) teaching at a semi-disadvantaged school (not rough, but high levels of family disruption, low parental engagement, high free school meals, etc). Almost every year parents turned up on the first day or rang asking about the first day of term without having actually applied. Every year they got children suddenly added to the role by the council a few days before the start of the year. In an era of falling rolls, and particularly before class size limits, this type of cock up generally wasn't disastrous. Your child could probably get into the school you turned up at, or would be found one nearby. In recent years, it often results in a child being bused across the county whilst waiting for a space in the town.

Our MMR booster wouldn't have helped as it was months after the deadline anyway (summer baby).

In an ideal world every parent would be sufficiently invested in their children's education that they'd keep abreast of deadlines and procedures and wouldn't need reminders. But more realistically the process adds another layer of privilege for those children with engaged and educated parents.

teatimesthree Thu 09-May-13 16:16:14

Based on my experiences - urban area, oversubscribed schools - some people don't want to get their heads around it. They fix onto one school they want their child to go to, stick their fingers in their ears, and ignore the fact that the child is unlikely to get in. Then they are outraged when they don't. They argue that all other local schools are unsuitable for their child, even though they haven't even visited them.

Having got that off my chest, the system is quite hard to understand. I am not sure that there is a better way to do it though.

mam29 Thu 09-May-13 16:47:30

I think as some quite a few schools living in urban city area having so much choice ie having several schools within easily walking distance some living in same street as school seems inconciveiable they would not get a place.

There are quite a few black spots for schools her and the shortages were concentrated on particular parts of city are now all over.

Asking people what happened in their year no help as every years so different so many factors now people look at

good ofsted
sats results.

Daughters last school had no after school club.

working parents would look for a school with breckfast club and afterschool provision.

some go to nurserys attached to schools and think that gives them greater chance even though they do say they totally separate.

A few years ago when aplied for dd1 I had more choice.

Now i feel restructed to 2 schools i wouldent chose.

1 already tried and failed dd1 , bad ofsted and falling numbers.

Its going to be purly luck that i find a school have any chance getting into and a longer commute.

Horry interesting point how admissions process favours more affluent and educated parents.

Think in every town mainly through snobbery /bad reputation that some parents avoid.

I have no regrets I made right decision for dd1 at time she loves her new school is catching up just feel sad her 2 siblings may not be able to go to that school.

Going to be crappy 2years for me trying to get them both into a good school preferably the same one.

wonder if birthrates have peaked and will dip?

surly boom will affect secondaries in few years time.

ReallyTired Thu 09-May-13 20:06:41

The admissions process was similar for ds 7 years ago when he started primary. (It was online as well!) The only difference was that we could only pick 3 schools instead of four. Pretty much everyone got their first choice because there were loads of surplus places.

I dread secondary schools admissions.

savoirfaire Thu 09-May-13 21:22:29

people I know - very well educated, reasonably well informed on most things - have just sent their child to a particular school nursery because they are convinced it will increase their chances of getting a reception place there. It won't (according to the published criteria) and their real chances of getting in are marginal - it will depend on siblings in that particular year group. They aren't looking at any other schools, as they are so convinced at this. It is bonkers.

ReallyTired Thu 09-May-13 21:26:17

"people I know - very well educated, reasonably well informed on most things - have just sent their child to a particular school nursery because they are convinced it will increase their chances of getting a reception place there."

I don't know anyone who is THAT thick. Most people naively believed that their child would be offered a place in the school just down the road from them. They believed that their child would be offered a place in the school nearest to their house.

Actually lets get this right. These people believed that their child would be offered a place at a primary school within 5 miles of their house.

When you apply to school nursery the booklet makes it very clear that it does increase your chances of getting a reception place and that you need to re apply again.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Thu 09-May-13 21:30:48

I know a degree educated couple who were convinced that somehow the applications were individually processed (i.e. not by computer) and that they could put down one school they wanted (and most years would get) and three oversubscribed local schools (who would each have had to have a very, very slow year to give them any chance) and they'd definitely get one of them because it would be mean to give them nothing.

I know several families who only wrote down one school because it was a sibling. So if there happened to be too many looked after children and siblings for all the places, they wouldn't have got a school round the corner, they'd have got a failing school miles away. Thankfully none of them got bitten.

AlienAttack Thu 09-May-13 21:48:16

But surely all these stories of people who "should know better" simply supports the idea that no matter how good and extensive the information published is, there will be people who miss it, think it doesn't apply to them, think they've identified a shortcut etc etc?

ReallyTired Thu 09-May-13 22:03:41

Having a degree doesn't necessarily mean that someone has common sense.


It sounds like that your couple put down the four nearest schools and got nothing. Some people live in a black hole for school places.

SuffolkNWhat Thu 09-May-13 22:11:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Thu 09-May-13 22:52:31

Really - no. we are in a good bit of town for schools. They didn't list three closer schools - two of which I know they would have got based on distance, possibly the third too. Because they are good not outstanding. Now have a failing Catholic school miles away.

savoirfaire Fri 10-May-13 22:34:32

To be fair, the couple that I mentioned are very busy, don't do MN and presumably genuinely believe that there is a human element to the process - I don't think they're just being dim and ignorant. Perhaps it should state somewhere that this is a computer based process? I've also pointed out to them that if they were given a place in the way they think it possible (i.e. because of using the nursery) and someone who missed out on a place appealed, the chances are they'd all be found out anyway. (Not totally sure if that is true!).

steppemum Sat 11-May-13 00:33:58

I think you have hit the nail on the head there actually savoirfaire, people assume there is a human side to this process, they just can't believe that the system is so logically objective, and computer based.

People appeal because they just can't imagine how a council can give them an unreasonable school. even if they didn't apply for the available ones.

The people I feel really sorry for are the ones living in school black holes where you are stuffed before you begin.

FranksCat Sat 11-May-13 08:56:24

Our LEA do send out letters to remind, but only to those registered with the corresponding health authority. We are in part of the county that comes under a neighbouring health authority so they don't write to us - they say it is against data protection to get access to that information.

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 03:39:04

Essex has it right. They do it by hospital birth records, MW attended home birth records, and GP lists. Everyone gets sent a pack by the LA, preschools badger you to submit your application, two weeks before the closing date the LA sends you a letter in BIG writing reminding you to apply - only sent to those who don't do it before then...

I've not heard of anyone NOT applying. I'm sure there must be a few, dotted around the whole of Essex, that haven't got a pack, but they must have either been born outside Essex AND not registered with an Essex GP, or had their birth attended by independent MW's AND not registered with an Essex GP.

Haven't personally heard of that in the 8 years since Essex centralised applications, though. And I've applied for Primary school twice (DS1 and DS2) since then, AND Secondary school (DD and DS1) twice.

It's only 11 years ago that all I had to do to choose a school for DD was to go to the school I wanted, ask to have her name 'put in the book', and therefore got a place...

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 03:45:33

Oh - and the Essex booklet does have information about common misconceptions, what constitutes social / medical grounds, and the evidence needed for that, it also states that rejecting the offer for a school you were allocated is not going to make an appeal panel find in your favour, blah blah blah - it gives pretty much all the info you need.

I didn't realise until MN that Essex was the exception rather than the rule in the way they find out who needs an allocation form and send them out.

Surely ALL LA's have the same information to hand - otherwise how can they accurately predict how many school places will be needed for a given year?

<<Ooooooohhhhh...lightbulb moment...>>

THAT'S why I read threads on MN about some areas ending up having to find schools to push bulge classes on after allocations date!!


Why the hell do they leave it so late?!

I couldn't understand how the LA's didn't plan in advance which schools to send a bulge class to, like Essex does, but I've just twigged that!


CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 03:51:42

Our GP's send reminders of every jab. Little things with an owl on that you tear the sides open like a tombola ticket. With IMPORTANT written on the front...tbh I think they are actually sent out by the HV's.

They also send out a computer printed 1st Birthday card from the HV service...with a reminder printed inside to book your DC's 1yr check and jabs...

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 04:08:35

My cousin in another LA only just scraped the application deadline. Her DS is in a Private Nursery, no information there - she only found out because she returned her Dad's library book and saw an A4 poster in there.

No chance to look around etc. Her DS's birthday is Aug 30th - it just hadn't occurred to her to apply for a school when he was just turned 3yo...

She said she probably would have thought about it just after he turned 4yo. Not great if she thought about it on 3rd September, say, when he would have already meant to have started!

But for some parents of late summer born DC's, especially first born ones, why would they think about applying for a school for a child that's not yet 4?

She was under the impression that they had to be 4 and a half to start school, so in her mind, thinking about it 6 months before would be long enough.

Scraping in 3 days before the deadline meant she didn't do her research, and has ended up with a wholly unsuitable school (childcare reasons, not a bad school). She's going to appeal and lose because her LA doesn't do what mine does.

Thinking about it, I'm sure that my LA's help booklet has the last distance offered in the previous year for every school in the LA...

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 04:13:48

In my town the issues started when I applied for DS1, currently in Y4. 2003-2004 was a massive birth year.

As was 2010-2011, though that is even bigger.

Add to that the biggest house building program in the SE...

Going to create a perfect shit-storm for both Primary and Secondary places in my town in 2015!

And I will have DS2 awaiting a Secondary place, and DS3 awaiting a Primary place. Both with SN's, in a town where all Secondaries are Academies with dubious records on admitting DC's with SN's, and the Primaries are starting to follow suit...

I may need Valium throughout March and April that year...grin

tiggytape Sun 12-May-13 09:29:37

Couthy - places like London are different in terms of keeping track of people.
A lot of people living in London weren't born there. A lot of people born in London move out before school age.
Also, some boroughs are small and many people live on the boundary of 2 or 3 boroughs eg my Dr's surgery and dentist are in different boroughs - my Dr's surgery isn't in the borough that I live in and my children were born in a different borough altogether because of where the boundary / hospital locations fall.
And I am someone who has hardly moved at all but probably wouldn't feature on a born in / live in register based on medical notes.

I agree with you about the shortages. Some of it might be because London boroughs have a harder time tracking numbers but mostly it is lack of planning. They may not know exact figures but they know that from 2008 especially, the birth rate went crazy. Whether some children move in and some children move out is neither here nor there - the fact is that there are hundreds more children of that age than in other year groups so it stands to reason that almost every area is going to have to increase the number of classes.
Also fewer people going private and more families in flats means much denser populations and more people requesting places than normal.

mrz Sun 12-May-13 09:42:51

We display posters (provided by the LEA) in local shops and supermarkets

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 09:51:19

So why not go back to doing London as a whole, then? Essex manages it...

CouthyMow Sun 12-May-13 09:53:11

And they'd still need Doctor's. If they used a combination of methods, they could find out which DC's were coming up to school age.

I just can't see why London can't do it, if Essex can, tbh. Some areas of Essex have a very transient population too, you know.

tiggytape Sun 12-May-13 10:15:24

Some of London used to be under the control of one authority. That was abolished years ago and now there are now over 30 totally separate authoritites covering London.

So it isn't just that London is transient, it is the fact that it is treated in admin terms like 30+ separate counties.
Yet some boroughs are so small that people living 2 roads apart can be in 3 different boroughs (from my house, I can travel within 45 minutes to 7 boroughs including my own).

There is a PAN London system for applying to schools but each borough operates as a totally separate authority with it's own staff, processes and procedures like the LAs that run huge counties elsewhere.
So you get places where people live on the boundary of one part of London that operates a catchment system (like Tower Hamlets) whilst their own borough uses as the crow flies.
Or one borough operates 'nearest school priority' whilst the neighbouring borough doesn't.
Council tax is separate. Appeals are separate. It is treated like 30+ very tiny counties and they don't cooperate at all except to pass on applications from children applying between one borough and the next. I doubt my borough knows I exist in terms of having school aged children from any records they hold apart fro the fact that my children are in school. All records that point to me having children lie in other boroughs.

KansasCityOctopus Sun 12-May-13 11:37:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

savoirfaire Sun 12-May-13 22:32:10

There is a thread, right now, on a local SW London forum (locals will know it) where they are talking about how 'admissions officers' at the council make decisions about where to place the children of parents who have only used 3 of their 6 choices. Basically, everyone saying that they reckon the 'admissions officers' make a deliberate choice to put those people's kids in schools far far away from their homes, as this will make them more likely to opt out of the system and go private (which they can presumably afford to do, because they have opted to only use up 3 of their 6 choices). I don't know enough about the system to shout at them with confidence that this is utter tosh. That it's a computer that just finds the closest school to them which has places, and it just happens that these are far away (because most people who live close to them play the application system a little better than they have done). It is exasperating to read - but demonstrates again that people need basic information that includes the fact that the system is not being run by a bunch of people who have set out to make life difficult for you. (I think).

tiggytape Sun 12-May-13 22:45:48

savoirfaire - that is the key. Many people assume a human element that does not exist.
Mostly it is the other way though - parents assuming that the council must surely realise they can't be at a school 2 miles away and get to work on time or that if they've listed the same school 6 times they must really want it and should be allowed to have it.

Snazzynewyear Sun 12-May-13 23:56:26

The Essex system sounds great. We should all be pushing for that to be the model for everywhere else.

I agree that for some people no amount of advice will ever be enough. But a good set of FAQs would be a start.

BarbarianMum Mon 13-May-13 08:27:59

<<Based on my experiences - urban area, oversubscribed schools - some people don't want to get their heads around it. They fix onto one school they want their child to go to, stick their fingers in their ears, and ignore the fact that the child is unlikely to get in. Then they are outraged when they don't. They argue that all other local schools are unsuitable for their child, even though they haven't even visited them.>>

This unfortunately is my experience too. In fact, I'd say it's the better educated/wealthier parents that are more likely not to read the admissions website carefully because they feel entitled to the school place they want and it never occurs to them that they may not get it. I know several people who only put down the name of one school in the belief that this would help them get their child in, even though it says really clearly in all the admissions bumf why that's a bad idea.

I do appreciate that many LA's could make things clearer, and that some areas like London are much more difficult to navigate as a parent. Actually I can't believe how bad the situation is in many parts of London and wonder why its not a bigger political issue.

ShadowStorm Mon 13-May-13 09:21:11

The Essex system sounds fantastic.

fatfloosie Mon 13-May-13 10:39:13

I think a lot of the problem with the posters etc is that the very people who need to see them are the last people who are going to notice them because they will have at least one small child in tow who they are completely focussed on keeping alive and out of trouble.

I looked into school admissions when choosing which nursery to send DD to, and sent her to the one attached to the best school she would be able to get into. I completely missed the consultation for the changes to catchment areas which was going on at the same time. The changes were subsequently implemented and DD didn't get into the attached school.

I asked the council how they'd consulted and they told me the usual: through schools/nurseries; with posters in doctors surgeries, libraries etc; adverts in the council 'what's on' booklet and the local newspaper. Who browses stuff on the walls in the library and at the doctors when they have a toddler with them? No chance. Who has time to read the paper? I think when DD was small I struggled to find the time to read my own post, never mind anything else. However, I did read my post so I think letters are a good idea. I accept you won't cover everybody but I'm sure it would help.

Also, I do think it would be good if councils automatically listed your nearest or catchment school as a preference, your only choice being what priority you gave it. This would stop people ending up with no school when they've misunderstood the process/accidentally chosen the wrong school with a similar name /been completely snobby about the local school. Hopefully the council would then be much more sympathetic to anyone without a place because it wouldn't be in any way their fault.

ShadowStorm Mon 13-May-13 12:57:20

Nice idea in theory for councils to automatically list the nearest or catchment school as a preference, but given that these schools can be heavily oversubscribed, that wouldn't automatically stop people ending up with no school.

kungfupannda Mon 13-May-13 13:26:09

I think, unfortunately, that there is a small core of people who are pretty much unreadable by any campaign. They are unlikely to attend any sort of structured activity and will ignore any targeted advice because of an inherent mistrust of official information. They are more ikely to believe the urban myths.

But I do think a bit more info out there would be useful to those who come from different systems, or who might be struggling for various reasons.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Mon 13-May-13 13:31:24

I think automatically adding the nearest/catchment school as a preference could actually work quite well, provided that there were enough preference choices in the first place. In areas which allow only three, it would be harsh to effectively reduce that to two for some people (those who wouldn't otherwise have listed the closest school).

There would be wrinkles, like religious schools - many parents might feel strongly that they would rather risk being allocated XYZ undersubscribed school miles away rather than a catholic/CofE school nearby.

It wouldn't help those in the black holes, though nothing will except more school places.

But it would have prevented at least two people I know in total pickles (one with a Catholic school when they aren't. One with a school miles away) from having those situations, as they would have easily got into their own closest schools. That at least would have left them with a workable alternative, even if they still went the waiting list route for others.

savoirfaire Thu 16-May-13 00:03:17

BarbarianMum has a very good point. In my area of London certainly there is a massive group of parents who do not read the 'rules'. They have spent £1 million plus on their homes in 'catchment' of a great school (but massive mortgages mean they need to use state schools) and believe they have a right to a place there. They don't realise that there is no such thing as catchment round here and are horrified when they don't get a place and they are 'forced' to go private or move (rather than use the 'good' rather than 'outstanding' school half a mile away). If sent decent information at the right point this group WOULD probably engage with the system properly, and perhaps might go and visit some of those 'good' schools and be less horrified when allocated them and actually take up a place there rather than immediately go private or move out of the area (both very very common round my way). I feel just a little smug at the moment, realising how many people have paid squillions for their homes near to me, thinking they'll get into a great school, then haven't got a place there - or anywhere else - because they've 'played the system' in entirely the wrong way. I live 10 minutes walk away, in a much much much cheaper house, but which is near the undesirable school. Of course, this is in fact a 'good' school with great teachers and results that match the fought over school. It's not perfect and I have my concerns but knowing without any doubt whatsoever that we get a place (despite paying a fraction of their squillions for my house outside the 'naice' area) and not having to deal with the kerfuffle of waiting lists etc like is quite nice. Shame more of them didn't put it as their second choice really or we'd be seeing them at the school gate!

ProudAS Thu 16-May-13 12:16:32

I'm all for making sure it is well communicated and it could be done better but there will always be someone who says they didn't know and blames the council.

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