Admissions Myths

(96 Posts)
TheRobberBride Wed 20-Nov-13 10:25:56

I have a friend who is applying for a Reception place for her DD this year.

She lives fairly close to an Outstanding primary. Her DD may get in on distance but there's no guarantee (based on info on LA website she would have got in last year but not the year before).

The other schools she lives near are not as popular. Special measures in one case and the other has a poor reputation locally-though it gets consistently good Ofsted reports.

My friend has told me that she is not prepared to let her DD attend anything less than an Outstanding school. So has put the closest Outstanding school first on her form. Her other 3 choices are comprised of the best schools in the rest of the County. There is absolutely no chance her DD will get into any of these 3. Their catchments are tiny and her DD has no special circumstances (no Statement not a previously looked after child etc).

I have tried explaining that if she doesn't get any of her choices then her DD will be allocated a place in the closest school that has space. I have pointed out the section in the admissions handbook where this is spelled out.

But she still persists in the belief that the LA will look at her form, see she is a 'discerning' parent and place her DD in one of the Outstanding schools.

I can't get through to her at all.

It's very frustrating. Talking to other parents, it really is amazing how many myths regarding school admissions still exist.

OddBoots Wed 20-Nov-13 10:28:55

Oh gosh, I hope it works out for her but she is taking a huge risk. The system isn't that complicated but is seems so many parents feel like they can be an exception to the way it works - probably because of governments talking about choice.

lucysnowe Wed 20-Nov-13 10:45:08

Hmm yes I know a mum who did that - just chose three good/outstanding schools in the general area rather than any in catchment. She didn't get any of them - got the nearest school instead (actually a perfectly nice school). It's a real risk. I think it really needs to be made much clearer.

You could try explaining to her that by the time she is allocated a Reception place for her preferred school the Ofsted report could have downgraded it and then she's stuck with it!

This happened to me, although I didn't apply for Reception because it was Outrstanding graded, it just happened to be the closest school literally at the end of my road. I'm not bothered about the grading, the school is fantastic. It was only downgraded because of multiple staff changes in one year (maternity leave, retirement, 2 transfers) so hardly a siginificant factor). I've really learnt to take Ofsted grades and local reputation with a pinch of salt, you really do have to tour a school first and see for yourself. I'm convinced Ofsted grading brings out the inner snob in mothers hmm

She should get in on proximity but if she doesn't, Admissions like to fill up the lowest Ofsted graded schools next in line, so she could end up with the 'worst' school before the others in the rest of the county she also chose.

Sounds like she will learn the hard way though if her mind is already set. School Admissions is the most complicated red tape I have ever come across in my life.

tiggytape Wed 20-Nov-13 10:48:08

You know what will happen don't you? - she will get a place at the outstanding school close to her house just because she lives so close to it.

And for the next 7 years she will tell every other parents that they should only list oustanding schools because that's what she did and it worked (totally ignoring the fact that she would have got a place anywhere just based on her address)

Galena Wed 20-Nov-13 11:09:29

She should get in on proximity but if she doesn't, Admissions like to fill up the lowest Ofsted graded schools next in line, so she could end up with the 'worst' school before the others in the rest of the county she also chose. Is this not just another myth?

Our county now has a 'common admission myths' section on the school admissions website.

DeWe Wed 20-Nov-13 11:09:55

I know someone who did similar to that. Despite living next door to a "good" school, they listed three schools which were 2-3 miles away, all of whom the furthest distance was around 1/2 to 3/4 mile.

They then had a nice sad face picture in the local paper saying it wasn't fair they didn't have a choice of schools and they were being descriminated against.

Council did point out that there were three schools, other than the one they were next door to, that they would have got into had they listed them as one of their choices.

PastSellByDate Wed 20-Nov-13 11:31:03

Hi TheRobberBride:

This is the epitome of the problem with 'choosing school places' - it implies there you might have a free choice but the reality is there are catchments.

I will add that here the LEA here has started to explain that the catchment is <800m from school entrance for highly over-subscribed schools (primarily outstanding) in this area in their booklet/ webpage listing all primary school options. It has helped to make parents understand that it is unrealistic to think living 3 miles away is any advantage.

However TheRobberBride - the one thing I will say is that this kind of thing (people getting crazy ideas about the system) always happens and probably is a product of 'stress' - and starting primary can be very stressful/ worrying for parents for all sorts of reasons, including quality of school.

admission Wed 20-Nov-13 11:48:05

You will never stop these kind of assumptions.
If I had a pound for every parent at admission appeal who says their situation is different or unique or special and their child must be admitted to their choice of school then I would be rich. Parents want the best for their child and it is not unreasonable to expect that, but far to many parents have unreasonable expectations not only of the schools but also what they can do as a family but not then expect it to apply to everybody else.
OP you can only just keep telling them they are risking everything and that the sensible option would be to put down as their lowest preference the local school that they would find the most attractive and then allocate to the top three preferences the schools that she would really like.

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Wed 20-Nov-13 12:13:38

I know two parents who did this last year. Both didn't get the outstanding school, both got allocated schools miles away that they were both unhappy with.

One was high enough up the waiting list that she got in in the end. The other is at another local school (previously discounted as not being outstanding) and adores that school and thinks it is far better for her child than her original choice. Mind you, the only reason she got in is that she lives on the doorstep so was no. 1 on the waiting list when she realised her error after allocation day.

prh47bridge Wed 20-Nov-13 12:50:49

Is this not just another myth?

Normal practise is to allocate a place at the nearest school with vacancies if you miss out on all your preferred school. The Admissions Code doesn't insist on that approach so the LA can do something different if they want but I would be very surprised if one was using Ofsted ratings as part of the allocations process. Of course, it may look like they are to parents because the vacancies will be at unpopular schools and a low Ofsted rating tends to make a school unpopular. So if you don't get one of your preferred schools there is a good chance you will get an underperforming one.

it really is amazing how many myths regarding school admissions still exist.

As Admission says, this is never going to stop. Every year there are parents appealing who only named one preference (or named the same school several times) in the mistaken belief that this meant the LA had to give them a place at this school. Then there is the continued belief that those who name a school as first preference get priority along with a whole host of other myths.

pyrrah Wed 20-Nov-13 13:40:46

The biggest misunderstanding is that it is an actual person doing the allocating...

Ah, well we can see Mrs Smyth-Jones is REALLY interested in her child's education and has listed all the Ofsted Outstanding schools so we must make a real effort to get a place in one of them for her. Now Mrs Bloggs here has just listed the 6 nearest ones so just plonk her in any old one - probably doesn't really appreciate Outstanding so see if there's a good one...

Instead of which a computer calculates siblings/statements/looked after etc and then computes distance from each school and churns out a list of the top 30/60/90 names for places. It doesn't even care what order your preferences are in.

There is always the waiting list if you're disappointed - but, better to have a nearby school that you don't care for while you hope for a place to come up than one miles away. I got an Ofsted Outstanding allocation in the initial round, but 3 weeks into term I was offered a place at my first choice school. I felt no guilt in moving as I knew another family would be totally thrilled at getting DD's place at the school she was leaving just as I was.

SteamWisher Wed 20-Nov-13 14:31:57

So is your child at a disadvantage if their surname is near the end of the alphabet if the computer just churns out a list?

meditrina Wed 20-Nov-13 14:38:31

Does anywhere do it by alphabet.

Most LEAs, as they want to minimise the school transport spend, will look at the list of childen with no offers, the list of schools with unfilled vacancies, and rank by distance to those schools and make offers on that basis.

SteamWisher Wed 20-Nov-13 14:39:48

I guess they wouldn't have to as that would assume you had two children who lived the exact same distance.

trikken Wed 20-Nov-13 14:42:41

Shouldnt make a difference with surnames if done on distance surely?

tumbletumble Wed 20-Nov-13 14:46:18


A friend of mine went to an open day at a secondary school recently, and in her talk the head teacher said "if you don't put us first you won't get a place" or words to that effect. Was she talking rubbish (based on your earlier post)?

DuckToWater Wed 20-Nov-13 14:49:03

I don't think a school being outstanding is "meaningless". It means it will probably be over-subscribed so fill its class size allocation, and therefore get more resources per child. While I like classes of 23-25 the optimum number in terms of finances is 30.

You do have to go and see it and make your own mind up though.

So is your child at a disadvantage if their surname is near the end of the alphabet if the computer just churns out a list?

They do it by distance (all other things being equal) starting with the nearest - or that's how it appeared to have been done locally. As then the emails seem to be generated in reverse order, so a parent I know who was further away from the school found out before DSIL who was much nearer. And we were one of the last to find out as we had a sibling place, but they would have been allocated first.

The best thing you can do is work out which are your nearest schools on the Ofsted website by putting in your postcode. Then have a look at the data on your local authority website about schools admissions. On ours there is a .pdf document listing all local schools and (among other things) how far away the furthest away pupil lived who was allocated a place in the previous year. Then find out from individual schools if they are expanding (many are at the moment) and may be accepting more pupils in your year. If they are and you are on the border line for distance then you may well then get in for your year.

prh47bridge Wed 20-Nov-13 14:58:14

So is your child at a disadvantage if their surname is near the end of the alphabet if the computer just churns out a list?

No. The list is sorted using the admission criteria. They will specify a tie-breaker - typically the people living nearest the school get priority and there will be some method for breaking the tie if two people live the same distance away. The list is never sorted alphabetically.

Was she talking rubbish

Yes she was. The school will not know whether you named them as first choice or last choice. They have to put candidates in order based purely on their admission criteria. If two children are in the same admission category the one living closest to the school will get priority even if they made the school their lowest choice and the one living further away made it their first choice. Your preferences only come into play if you get a place at more than one school. The LA will only offer you the place at the higher preference school and will offer the place at the other school to the next person on the list.

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Wed 20-Nov-13 16:09:09

The Head may not have been talking rubbish. It depends exactly what she said. I have heard of people reporting that Heads have said 'you must put us first to get a place' when actually what the Head said was words to the effect of 'if we are your first choice, put us first because you'll only get offered one place ' (i.e. was trying to discourage admission myths and weird ideas about tactical listing).

Duck - Do you mind me asking if you live rurally? In all the towns and the couple of citites I know, pretty much every class is full. The idea of any of our local schools having 5-8 spaces in the year (and therefore popularity affecting finance) would be met with blank stares. In fact, once they have finished allocating school places, my large town had one spare place in the whole town for reception (hence why they are panicking and expanding a number of the local schools).

Totally agree with your postcode finder advice smile

DuckToWater Wed 20-Nov-13 16:54:53

Yes it is rural, DD1's class is only 23, DD2s is similar I think. But they have just gone from taking 50 a year in two classes to 60 and some local schools -outstanding ones- are full, some having three classes of thirty each year group. DD's school has spaces I think mainly because it only got Satisfactory in Ofsted a couple of years ago, and most other local schools are at least Good and a number Outstanding. And several other local schools have expanded.

pyrrah Wed 20-Nov-13 17:16:59

The list is based on distance not surname. In my LA if there is a dead heat on distance then the child with the lower door number gets it - so child at No.2 gets the place over child at No.25.

Although I'm intrigued to know how that works with houses that have names not numbers.

IHadADreamThatWasNotAllADream Wed 20-Nov-13 17:25:36

I heard a mother screaming at primary school reception that they'd returned a supplementary form to her all scrunched up and therefore her PFB wouldn't get a place at his chosen secondary school because the form wasn't neat enough. I chose not to reassure her because she was a lot bigger than me and really quite cross.

pyrrah Wed 20-Nov-13 17:28:44

Going to visit schools is one of the most important things to do - I saw 5 and put the 'Needs Improvement' one above three 'Outstanding' schools. Even among the 4 Outstanding ones there was a world of difference between what I felt was the best and the one that ended up last on my list. Choose the school that suits your child and where they will be happy over the 'good on paper' school that won't.

Another thing to take account of in city schools is the FSM percentage which can be a huge positive and not necessarily something to be put off by.

The latest figures show that DD's school has 71% FSM - this means that the school are getting a vast amount of £££ through the pupil premium and much of that money benefits all the pupils in terms of the extras that the school can now afford to provide.

crazymum53 Wed 20-Nov-13 18:04:41

What about the one that schools keep back "spare" places for children moving into the area who apply late. They don't!

admission Wed 20-Nov-13 23:15:46

The problem with most of these myths is that somewhere in past history there is some portion of truth in them.
So the one that crazymum 53 is quoting was actually allowed many years ago, was then subsequently stopped but some schools still think that they can do it.

tiggytape Thu 21-Nov-13 09:23:24

That is very true admissions.

In the distant past schools could give priority to people who listed them first. Not only is this very outdated, it is now also illegal but that doesn't stop parents having a nagging doubt that they've 'ruined their chances' at school number 2 on their list.
Even though it isn't true, some parents still insist that 'the school fills the places with people who listed them first then look at who listed them second' - complete nonsense but it sows the seed of doubt and people start worrying maybe it could happen.

UnicornsPooGlitter Thu 21-Nov-13 20:50:12

Oh, thanks tiggy and admission smile. DH and I have been worrying about this. So, the best advice is to state your preferences in order, and to include a school that you have a good chance of getting into.

tiggytape Thu 21-Nov-13 21:47:43

Definitely - that's exactly the right thing to do.

But doesn't this just relate to state schools? A moot point, but Church schools usually allocate places according to their criteria?

I would bang on the fact that it isn't a choice as much ad a preference and limiting her preferences just puts her in a bad situation

TheRobberBride Thu 21-Nov-13 22:06:16

I think it's difficult because as has been pointed out, a lot of these myths did have a basis in fact in the dim and distant past.

Also, we hear a lot about parental 'choice' these days and I don't always think that it is stated clearly enough that you are not choosing a school for your child, you are simply expressing a preference

Unfortunately, this has all fallen on deaf ears for my friend as she has already sent her form off to the LA. I just hope she's not disappointed come April.

Only voluntary aided schools can set criteria - many C of E schools just use the same criteria as community schools.

tiggytape Thu 21-Nov-13 23:13:32

Academies set their own criteria too (including non faith academies of course).

In an area with a mix of faith, community and academy schools, every school might have completely different admissions criteria to each other: faith school asking for church attendance, some academies opting to have no medical criteria, community schools sticking with medical/social then siblings then distance, other academies giving teaching staff or siblings of pupils higher priority.......

What they all have in common though is that they publish these criteria in advance. They don't know who lists them as 1st preference so cannot ever take this into account. They don't save spaces. They don't have discretion. They use the published criteria alone to issue places. They use the same criteria to put the waiting list in order.

Sharptic Thu 21-Nov-13 23:14:18

The school's admission criteria will be clear in a primary/secondary admissions booklet on the local authority website. Usually after looked after children and children with Sen, it will be children in catchment area with siblings at the school, then children in catchment in distance order.

The main difference I found was some distances were measured by the shortest walking distance, while some academies measured distance as the crow flies which can be misleading.

Sharptic Thu 21-Nov-13 23:16:25

That is it Tiggy, and then all that information is fed into the central computer system so there's no discretion.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Nov-13 23:43:59

An academy or VA school will act as its own admission authority. That means they are sent the list of applicants and asked to put them into order based on their admission criteria. They are not told what preference they are for each applicant, just that the parent has applied.

Occasionally evidence emerges of a school that has fiddled the system, e.g. a VA school that didn't like the results of its admission criteria and so messed around with the results to give greater priority to siblings. There are a number of safeguards to try and stop this happening. The main one is that decisions must be made by the governors or by a committee appointed by the governors, not by a single person. Also a school that does break the rules often finds that it loses appeals which acts as a deterrent. But one thing is guaranteed. They can't admit first preferences before other applicants. They are not given the information they would need to allow them to do that.

admission Fri 22-Nov-13 10:43:36

The comment on different ways of measuring the distance measurement is interesting and is something that parents need to take on board because it could make a significant difference to the actual measurement and hence the likelihood of the offer of a place.
As it is the LA who effectively does the measuring not the school with a different distance criteria, the system will normally be set up for whatever is the LA methodology for measuring distances. Whilst it is not that difficult to change the computer system, there is the obvious potential for an error to be made, so I would check very carefully which system has been used for the distance measurements.

Chocovore Fri 22-Nov-13 10:50:03

This made me laugh! Tell your friend our story. We applied and got our place at an 'Outstanding' school lat April. They school was inspected the following min and put into Special Measures! From the very top to the very bottom in one swoop. I am not concerned as we love the school and would have chosen it regardless but if that is the only thing she is going on she needs to be careful. OFSTED can be very random!

I only named two schools. I was considering naming none. Where I live there is no choice. Catchments are so tiny you will end up where you end up regardless of what you put on your form.

NotCitrus Fri 22-Nov-13 11:07:53

What about the effective-myth that there are catchment areas? They may have existed once upon a time, but if all schools are oversubscribed, being "in catchment" is meaningless - if the school has X places, and X children are higher in the admissions criteria than you are, then tough.

And past last admissions distance doesn't guarantee your year's admissions distance will be as big. So many people told me ds would easily get into local school as last year kids were admitted from 2 streets further away, including the headteacher. Wrong.

Especially when there have been recent bulge classes - the bulge's siblings will reduce the distance in years below. After two bulges there will be very few non-sibling places.

And if that happens, there will be a knock-on effect on next-nearest school. Thankfully third-nearest was expanding, ds is happy there, and it seems to be becoming the desirable school now!

AuntieStella Fri 22-Nov-13 11:28:34

"Catchment" (other than in Scotland) can exist.

It is a defined priority admissions area. Not all LEAs, or even all schools within an LEA have them. There should be clear maps showing the fixed boundaries of the catchment area, which only changes after formal consultation. The existence of a catchment will be reflected in the admissions criteria (eg after LAC/SEN, you see siblings in catchment by distance, other children in catchment by distance, other siblings by distance, all other applicants by distance). So you are not guaranteed a place at your catchment school if it fills up by children in a higher category, or if you are in the tie-break category if you are not close enough.

It is sometimes, confusingly, used where there is no defined priority admissions area, simply to mean the footprint of the addresses of previous years' admitted pupils. It gives you an idea of how close you need to love to stand a chance of entry, but means nothing in terms of how applicants are ranked.

AuntieStella Fri 22-Nov-13 11:30:59

Badly drafted, sorry, I meant in Scotland catchment definitely exists, and every address is in one. All children are guaranteed a place in their catchment school. Parents can request a place elsewhere, but if they cannot be located their preference, they get the catchment school.

Barbeasty Fri 22-Nov-13 15:06:05

Church schools often have a "catchment"- the Catholic schools in our diocese have a catchment of 1 or more specific parishes, as does our village CofE.

The LA secondary school here also has a priority catchment area.

Roodlepippin Sat 23-Nov-13 23:07:42

Does anyone know whether admissions take into account whether a child already has a place at a local school when they are allocating places? My ds' friend is 6 rising 7 and they are applying to move him in year 3 to the junior that is nearer to them (which also happens to be very affluent, very white and very middle class and therefore much more desirable).

Once a child has a junior place in the area, is that it as far as the admissions people are concerned? Or is a child is treated exactly the same way in being assessed for an admission to an oversubscribed school regardless of whether they already had a place somewhere nearby?

Should add that the LA is surrey and school places here are extremely hotly contested!

Oh, thanks tiggy and admission smile. DH and I have been worrying about this. So, the best advice is to state your preferences in order, and to include a school that you have a good chance of getting into.

This was our plan, we have three Ofsted Good schools nearby but our "catchment" school is "Improvement Needed*. We plan on putting the three good one as 1,2,3 and our catchment school as 4th. Our top ranking Good school, took 14 children out of catchment last year, so fingers crossed.

tiggytape glad to hear you think this is the best thing to do.

OP last year a friend of mine picked 4 good/outstanding schools out of catchment (none were catchment), she was allocated a school 6 miles away that was special measures and ended up going on the waiting list for her catchment school that was also good (but obviously not good enough) luckily a place came up but it was touch and go.

Devora Sun 24-Nov-13 00:19:44

NotCitrus - look at Fox School in Kensington/Notting Hill, one of the most oversubscribed schools in the country (according to last week's Evening Standard!). It has a catchment area that is long and thin in shape, meaning that if you lived to the west or east of it, you wouldn't get a place even if you lived nearer than people who lived south. This really scuppered me when I lived in the area. The other options were: two excellent faith schools that we could not get into because we're non-Christian (though Gove and Cameron's kids attend them, despite living a couple of miles away); a decent community school that didn't take children living further than 0.2 miles away; and a valiant but struggling school comprised almost totally of transient soon-to-be-displaced recent migrant families (40% churn rate and 90% boys, very few speaking English). Great 'choice' we had.

Parents went slightly crazed living in that area, and all kinds of myths abounded. One friend only applied for one school (one of the over-subscribed faiths schools), completely confident of getting in despite living too far and not attending church, because her boyfriend was an ex-pupil! (I tried in vain to explain that this may work in some of our major public schools, but not in the state sector). Another was fully confident she could send her child to any school she chose, because she's a teacher and 'they'll look after their own'. They didn't, and both ended up with schools they weren't happy with.

prh47bridge Sun 24-Nov-13 00:59:11

Roodlepippin - They cannot push a child to the bottom of the pile just because they already have a place elsewhere. All applicants must be treated equally.

pyrrah Sun 24-Nov-13 17:45:19

The 'they keep some places open for people moving to the area' myth seems to be alive and kicking still!

I was talking to my mother a few weeks ago - my brother is moving house and things fell apart in the 11th hour on the house he'd had an offer accepted on. Had he got the house, he would have been in one of the nearest properties to one of the most desirable primaries in London.

When I said it was a shame as he needed to get something sorted before the 15th January for admissions purposes, she said that surely schools must set aside places for people who are moving. I explained the London over-subscription issues and asked why on earth some child already living in an area should be denied a place in favour of some hypothetical child who may or may not move there in the next 9 months!

She was pretty shocked!

nlondondad Sun 24-Nov-13 18:25:18

A lot of myths arise from people misunderstanding what admissions staff tell them on the phone, I think. So this myth about places "being kept" I know that Islington place planning like there to be a few surplus places in Islington schools after the start of the school year, so they have somewhere to send children who move in during the year. But of course this is very much NOT the same as "holding places back" !

I was at a public meeting a few weeks ago where the topic of school places in Islington came up where a woman made the statement from the audience that she had rung Islington admissions to ask about a place for her child in 2014 and she claimed they had told her, that where she lived she would not have a place for her child! And of course she has misunderstood something as Islington admissions have no idea what the situation on any bit of ground will be until well after 15 Jan 2014! I gathered that Islington admissions saying she could not be guarenteed a place at any particular school was interpreted by her, and English was not her first language, as meaning that she would not get a place at any school... but unfortunately I did not get a chance to speak to her to confirm this.

And so the anxiety, and the myths grow...

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Sun 24-Nov-13 19:09:23

That is definitely true nlondondad. Misunderstanding things, mixing up coincidence and causation, relying on what the rules were 25 years ago and a fondness for conspiracy theories covers most of the myths I think!

EdithWeston Sun 24-Nov-13 19:11:07

Given what is said in the pan-London campaign about the shortage of school places, it is likely wil, be an increasing number of parents left with no offer at all, and faced with long journeys or the hope of bulge classes.

It is exceptionally difficult to follow the advice on this thread about 'include one you're reasonably sure of getting into) if you are unlucky enough to live in an LEA which has a shortage of places and is expecting to need to rely on bulge classes (for you'll have no idea where the actual places for your year might be).

Good planning means that there should always be a small margin of excess places (that's permanent, not bulge places) to allow 'preference' to have any meaning at all, and to accommodate churn without recourse to FAP. But that's becoming a rare luxury, as so many boroughs are struggling to provide the required number of permanent places without recourse to the emergency fall back of bulge classes.

nlondondad Sun 24-Nov-13 23:10:59


What is FAP?

prh47bridge Mon 25-Nov-13 00:05:16

Fair Access Protocol. Every LA must have one. It defines how they will deal with children for whom it is hard to find a place.

EdithWeston Mon 25-Nov-13 07:29:00

I'd characterise Islington as short of places because it had to create 80 bulge class places, 72 of which were immediately filled (according to other threads on this).

And apparently expects to need bulge classes again this round. So a shortage of permanent places, and very hard for parents to know exactly where all this years places are going to be and therefore to use their preferences in the ways described so sensibly here.

nlondondad Mon 25-Nov-13 10:59:36

@prh47bridge for explaining what FAP is. I was aware of the process in Islington but not under that name.

What they did this admissions season is look at the outcome of the first admission round, and where there was an excess of demand over current supply negotiated with schools that were rated at least "good" by Ofsted and which had experienced roll reductions in the past to increase their numbers, they then re offered again at the same time as making sure that disappointed parents knew to use the wait list system.

They only "allocated" places under what I now know to be the FAP towards the very end of the process as they were keen that as many parents as possible get their first preference, or if that failed one of their original preferences, In the event there were only a handful of these allocations and they were all to schools reasonably close.

It helped that most people applied for places on time, and in fact the first bit of advice is


PaperMover Mon 25-Nov-13 14:10:26

I know a few of the 80 extra Islington places were filled by parents from Camden where there wasn't a shortage of school places ( just a shortage of places at the most popular school). The Islington places were perceived as a better bet then the Camden schools allocated.

I would say please do not believe what you read in the local or national press. In might be true, or might contain elements of truth or it could be untrue; please just read the admissions brochure ( hopefully published by now, or borough hadn't published by this time last year).

nlondondad Mon 25-Nov-13 15:22:51

@papermover absolutely right. Use the admissions brochure.

@EdithWeston I put your points to islington and this is their response:

"The strategy for September 2014 admissions is to make permanent the (previous bulge class) increases at Ambler and Hargrave Park. This has been confirmed in the primary admission brochure as 'subject to formal confirmation in February 2014'.

We have over 90 vacancies at present in reception and at this point, we are not planning any bulge classes for next year but cannot rule it out.

The 'shortage of places' point is mixing up reception capacity with capacity through all primary years. Also, bulge classes make best use of resources, optimising school capacity (e.g. one spare classroom can provide for a bulge class)."

Debs75 Mon 25-Nov-13 15:45:09

I haven't even looked at DD3's application yet as she is still 3 but she will be 4 in August so starting school in September. Do I need to apply before January 15th 2014. OK from that sentence I think I do. Bloody Hell I better get moving.

Can I defer her place for a term?

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Mon 25-Nov-13 15:54:37

Debs - If she will be 4 in August, yes you need to apply by 15th January. Yes, you can decide that she will start after Christmas if you wish (although the merits of that aren't that clear cut even for young children, as they obviously then have to join an established class who've had a term of teaching).

tiggytape Mon 25-Nov-13 15:55:40

Debs yes you need to apply by January 15th
You will then be offered a place in April
When you get the offer accept it and tell them she will be starting in January. It is once you have the offer that you defer not at the application stage.

Debs75 Mon 25-Nov-13 16:00:16

Right done it, didn't take too long. I put the local school her sis is at as my first choice. Should I put any other schools on as a back up or do I not need to bother?

OddBoots Mon 25-Nov-13 16:02:56

Use all the spaces they let you have, Deb75. Even if you think your first choice school is a dead cert you have nothing to lose if you fill all the options and if the unthinkable happened you'd have some control not none.

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Mon 25-Nov-13 16:09:55

Yes, use all the spaces.

Debs75 Mon 25-Nov-13 21:03:39

Isn't is a 'dead cert' if their siblings are at the school and they go to the nursery? There are a couple of nearby schools I could put down so will add them on

CallMeDuringDrWhoAndIllKillYou Mon 25-Nov-13 21:08:35

You might as well put another school or two on Debs, it can't do any harm. That said, I did only put one school down for DS's primary application - he was a sibling, we live nearby and it's a pretty big school. It would have taken some wierd invasion of octuplets next door to deny us a place.

CallMeDuringDrWhoAndIllKillYou Mon 25-Nov-13 21:11:58

Going to the nursery however normally doesn't make any difference - that's another widely held myth (except in a very few foundation schools). Our primary school secretary spends most of each autumn term tracking down all the nursery parents individually and persuading them that yes they really do need to fill in a form if they want to move up to reception.

It's unlikely that you won't get into a siblings school if you are in the nursery but it can happen as many working parents don't use school nurseries due to their inconvenient hours.

Papyrus02 Mon 25-Nov-13 21:32:23

I have heard of someone filling in form straight away because, apparently, the places are filled on a first come, first served basis. Nothing in guidance sent indicates this is the case, of course!

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Mon 25-Nov-13 21:43:26

Nursery attendance normally has nothing to do with admission to reception Debs. You should be fine as a sibling. But there could be a freak incident- and in the case of a freak incident you want the next best option, not the underperforming school no one wants. (I'm assuming by the way that you're not in a complex siblings in catchment/sibligns out of catchment question. That can make even siblings less certain to get in if you're an out of catchment sibling).

tiggytape Mon 25-Nov-13 21:43:44

Papy - It definitely isn't first come, first served. Everyone who applies on or before January 15th is in the system and treated equally.

Debs- you have nothing to lose by listing more schools on the form but potentially a lot to lose. Chances are you will be fine. Nursery attendance is unlikely to form part of the admission criteria but sibling probably will (you can check your council website to see).
However, without wishing to scare you, it is possible for siblings not to get allocated the same school eg if out of catchment area siblings are lower down the criteria than local children with no siblings or if 68 siblings apply for 60 places (this can happen if there's been a bulge class in other year groups creating more siblings than usual).

You can reasonably expect to be O.K but you would be wise to list 1 or 2 other local schools as well just in case the worst happens and there aren't enough siblign spaces. If you haven't listed any alternatives, you get allocated whatever is left over at the end which could be miles away.

Devora Mon 25-Nov-13 23:59:06

A MNetter who lives in my street had her child in the school nursery, but then didn't get a reception place initially because she lived too far. This is despite the much larger number of reception places - apparently lots of local families keep their kids in private nurseries or pre-schools until Reception.

She did eventually get a place, but it was an anxious summer.

DazzleU Tue 26-Nov-13 00:28:11

My DC school clearly states having a nursery place at the school doesn't mean the DC will get a school place. Yet every year some parents don't 'get' this.

Catchment - their school also has a Catchment area.
Used to be that nearby streets DC would get in as number of local DC have risen last few years it has meant DC in Catchment area get places while just outside even across the road they only do now if they have older siblings at the school.

A lot of parents get very upset about that as 5-6 years ago being just outside catchment was much less of an issue. I image if DC numbers continue to increase each year then distance within catchment area would then come into play eventually.

DazzleU Tue 26-Nov-13 00:31:17

Oh and despite the LEA being in charge of admissions and the criteria for admission being freely available and not related to religion - some parent every year will assume because it C of E that having their DC Baptiste or knowing local vicar will get them in.

Debs75 Tue 26-Nov-13 20:24:58

God it's complicated. The school is a catholic school so covers about half of the city. Non catholic like us there is a catchment area which we are in.
It would be nice if they were both in the same school. DD1 and DS were in separate primaries and these two will be in a different one to theirs, if they don't get the same one it will be a nightmare!
Anyway added another 2 to the list, they are both nearby so not too bad if we get them.

PaperMover Tue 26-Nov-13 22:09:44

Please, please do read the admissions brochure, rules change slightly each year. I have just read this statement in this years brochure and it defiantly wasn't in last years.

Priority for siblings
X Borough is aware that some children gain priority due to the sibling criteria when the family no longer live
in the area or the borough. Where a family lives more than three miles as the crow files from the school we will consider the family on the distance criteria only, unless the family demonstrate to the social and medical panel why a place is needed.

Neverland2013 Tue 26-Nov-13 22:15:22

We have a school right next to us which although on paper looks good is rather big. Therefore, we put as a first choice a school which was outstanding but out of our catchment. We got in. How that was possible I will never know as I know some other parents who live closer to our preferred school but who didn't get in. Three years on, we have decided that the outstanding school which we selected 3 years ago is not all that after all and will be taking our daughter out in January/2014.

TheDoctrineOfWho Tue 26-Nov-13 22:23:21

Have you got an alternative place for your dd, never land?

tiggytape Tue 26-Nov-13 22:47:06

Debs75 - if all Catholics get priority over all non Catholic children (including siblings), it is doubly important to have a Plan B.
Of course having them in separate schools is not ideal but at least if you list a 2nd and 3rd preference you can limit the impact. If you can't have your 1st choice, you can use 2nd and 3rd preferences to try to ensure you don't end up with them far apart or in totally opposite directions which might happen if you just leave it to chance and the council have to allocate you somewhere random.

Neverland - You obviously qualified in some way that they didn't or they listed another school higher and got that. Distance isn't always as obvious as you might think (eg a house backing on to the school field might count as being a long way to the school if they use "safest walking route" but will only be a few metres away if they use "distance as the crow flies" It can seem people living close miss out if they use the walking route option which some do.
You are right though that it isn't always the popular schools that end up being the best at the time. Most school reputations (good and bad) are very out of date. Schools find it hard to shake off reputations whether they are undeserved good ones or undeserved bad ones

Agree totally with PaperMover
We live in a shared catchment area for two secondary schools one outstanding and one OK but really improving. Up until recently the one furthest away was our catchment (ie would have to travel past Outstanding one to get to OK one). Now we are shared and the admissions have been changed to include a green policy which is "extra distance needed to travel", which now mean kids that can see the outstanding school from their bedrooms may now have to go to the OK school and there are children (like DD) who would have to travel another 1.2 miles to get to it.
Good for us, not so good for others. It is total guess work on which school you would get into. It all depends on who applies and exactly where they live.

NotCitrus Wed 27-Nov-13 10:16:32

The "additional information" section on the form seems to confuse some people - it's clearly meant for info about special needs and statements, but I know people who wrote down that they needed a school near grandparents/childminder who would be doing the school run and argued that the LA would have to take that into account - if not why was there space to put such things on the form...

Don't know what happened as child isn't going to school near said gps/childminder.

A surprise for me was 3 of my 6 listed schools, non religious, wanting additional information supplied such as photocopies of birth certificate, NHS number, and photocopies of two utility bills and parents passports - stuff that I found fairly difficult to sort out in time - and a deadline for providing that to the individual schools of a week or more before the main application deadline (and in practice this meant doing it before Christmas if you wanted a receipt from the school office). I'm told that schools wouldnt be able to reject you for not supplying such additional info on time, but I wouldn't like to test that.

I was advised to apply immediately simply to ensure I didn't forget with having two small children, Christmas, illness, etc, and to give myself time to provide additional info, and then to adjust the schools applied for later if I wanted.

TheDoctrineOfWho Wed 27-Nov-13 10:16:50

The criteria may have changed, Heels, but they have to be published before the admissions round so it's not guess work.

tiggytape Wed 27-Nov-13 10:27:58

Maybe Heels meant that parents assume (wrongly) that the admissions criteria to a school can never change. So if it was sibling priority in the past, it will be siblings first in future. Or if it was a fixed catchment last year, the catchment will be the same the next year.

Whereas, with a fairly brief and not very well publicised consultation, a school can change it's admission criteria radically between one year and the next. Any parent who doesn't read the current booklet before applying might not even know about the changes.

prh47bridge Wed 27-Nov-13 12:50:40

I suspect Heels means that the added complication of a tie-breaker such as "extra travelling distance" means that it is guesswork whether or not you will get a place. When distance to school is used as a tie breaker the distance for the last child admitted last year is a good guide. With this kind of system there is no easy way of telling how good a chance you have of getting a place.

My local LA used to have a system where the distance to the preferred school and the distance to the alternative school were both taken into account and the rules applied depended on whether you lived closer to the preferred school or the alternative school. In some situations it meant that the further away you were from your preferred school the more likely you were to get a place. Indeed, in some scenarios it actually maximised travelling distance for the children involved which was presumably the opposite of the intention. For parents it meant it was guesswork as to which school you would get into as it depended on the distances for both your child and the child with whom they were competing for the place.

exactly tiggytape

It is guess work Doctrine just because they have published the policy (which they have but people don't read it) it all comes down to the amount of children that apply and how far down the criteria they get. ie we live in the outside bad under the "extra distance to travel rule" which means we have the furthest distance to travel to the alternative school. However, it depends on how many kids apply.

prh47bridge Eactly the same senario, we live furthest away so have more chance than some one who lives in the same road as they can get to the alternative school easier than we can.

prh47bridge Wed 27-Nov-13 14:46:33

NotCitrus - I would refer the schools concerned to the Schools Adjudicator. They should not be asking for proof of date of birth until after a place has been offered. Even then they must not ask for a long birth certificate nor can they insist on documents showing maiden names, criminal convictions, marital or financial status. It sounds to me like these schools may be going beyond what they can legitimately request at this stage.

lalalonglegs Wed 27-Nov-13 15:41:35

Some myths that I was told constantly when my daughter didn't get a place five years ago was that I should (a) have put her name down earlier (down where?) (b) be really nice to the HT and admissions officers at the schools I was hoping to get her into. Lots of people still think that admissions to state schools are done on a nudge and a wink.

SparklyNewNameChange Wed 27-Nov-13 16:10:32

I agree PaperMover - out of catchment primary siblings are becoming a big issue in the town I live in because of our single sex high schools. People do everything they can to get their first child into any of the very good and outstanding primaries we have, and then move within a year or two to be closer to the relevant high school they want. It creates enormous pressure in high birth rate/high sibling years for those applying for a first child primary place, and our town regularly has to have a bulge class or two somewhere anyway as there are too few primary places. Our LEA hasn't done anything about it yet, but there are rumours that it will be changing next year so that out of catchment siblings come lower down the admissions criteria than other in catchment children. I suspect a lot of parents will get caught out by this in the coming years.

PaperMover Wed 27-Nov-13 20:12:14

3 miles is too far in London I am afraid and won't make the impact it needs. People can still get their first child into the outstanding school in an area of expensive housing, then move to cheaper housing. Still, it's a start, and it's in the admissions brochure. (By expensive I mean a couple of thousand pounds rent a week for a two bed flat. )


friday16 Thu 28-Nov-13 08:47:31

photocopies of two utility bills and parents passports

The latter seems to breach the spirit, if not the letter, of 1.9(o) in the admissions code which forbids the use of photographs of the child for any purpose other than the confirmation of identity for taking selection tests (increasingly irrelevant, as the "10% for specialism" policy is falling from favour). The idea was, presumably, to avoid covert racial selection, which in broad terms would also be risks if schools had access to photographs and passports of the parents. As prh47 implies, it also flirts with 1.9(f) forbidding discrimination on occupation, marital and employment status. I don't believe schools are responsible for assessing whether people have legal right of access to UK education.

It would be very interesting to know why they want to see passports and utility bills: a cynic would suggest it's a way to intimidate parents from overseas, and to exclude parents who don't have passports (who will be overwhelmingly poor) or who don't pay their own utility bills directly (ditto).

CaroBeaner Thu 28-Nov-13 08:52:18

"They have t give you one of the preferences you have listed"
"you have to put school X as your first choice - they don't admit anyone who puts it further down the list"
"S/he's in the nursery and they love her, I'm sure they have some say even if they say they don't"
"If you only put one choice, you'll get that school"

PaperMover Fri 29-Nov-13 21:17:21

" if you don't fulfill the full church criteria, and hardly anyone else does, you'll get a place under church criteria anyway because they know you've been to church a lot.". Not true ( or it shouldn't be, again maybe it was in the past)

CaroBeaner Sat 30-Nov-13 11:28:55

StarlightMackenzie "I only named two schools. I was considering naming none. Where I live there is no choice. Catchments are so tiny you will end up where you end up regardless of what you put on your form."

if you are allocated anything other than your first choice school you automatically go on the waiting list for every school higher up your preference list than the one you were allocated. You are wasting 2 potential chances of being the applicant who automatically moved up the waiting list as soon as any place is not taken up after the acceptance date.

Also if you know that your chances of being allocated any of your nearest schools are slim to non-existent, you are chucking away a chance of getting a place in the least worst or closest 'unwanted' school.

Or are you confident that you will get a nearby or sibling place?

Anyone who puts no preferences down would automatically be assigned whatever school place was left after all others had been allocated - you wouldn't even get an otherwise surefire sibling place I you haven't actually named the school on the form. Why would anyone put no school down? (I know you didn't, in the end)

Because there are not enough school places, in our LA or the neighbouring ones. The cost of not giving us a school place close or at all woukd be an unnecessary expense for the LA.

Where we live we'd be first on any waiting list for 2 schools which were the two I chose.

prh47bridge Sat 30-Nov-13 13:36:05

They have to give you a school place but it doesn't have to be close. If you do not name any schools you will get a place at the nearest school with places available. That could be miles away and you would not be entitled to free transport, so no expense for the LA (not that they are allowed to take that into account in any event). If you name your nearest school and still get a school miles away they have to provide free transport so you are better off in that respect at least.

tiggytape Sat 30-Nov-13 14:09:41

Catchments are so tiny you will end up where you end up regardless of what you put on your form

As prh says - that isnt' really true.
Just because you live well within catchment won't get you a place if you don't name the school on your form.
Iff you don't formally ask for that school and other people do, they get priority over you even if they live much further away.

If you list no school in protest of not having a proper choice, you are likely to end up with an unpopular one a long way from home (i.e. one that not many people asked for).

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