What to say so that your first-choice school will give its place to your child?

(43 Posts)
Fiona2011231 Wed 20-Nov-13 13:32:15

I put this question as a mother who still hopes my 4-year-old son can be accepted into our first-choice school. In Sept, we missed the place and the child is now number 7 in the waiting list.

I always thought simply that I should contact the council sometimes to ask about the waiting list.

However, now at least two of my friends claim that you have to contact the school itself to show how 'desperate' you are. The school will always say No to you first, that they do not have any power, and that you must contact the council. But apparently the reality is they will listen to your desperate voice and somehow you will get lucky.

Is it true? If it is true, then what exactly you should tell the school, knowing that the person on the phone will say No to you at first?

Thank you very much.

Your friends are wrong I'm afraid. It really is up to the council.

tweetytwat Wed 20-Nov-13 13:35:14

Your friends are wrong.

You are on the waiting list, places are allocated when a space appears. That's it.

You could appeal if you had grounds. But from your OP it sounds like you made a late application?

There is no benefit in mithering the school. Is he attending another school in the meantime?

OddBoots Wed 20-Nov-13 13:36:33

If it is a state school then you can't just be let in, that wouldn't be fair on those above you in the waiting list, you need to formally appeal but the only way to win what is probably an infant class size appeal is to show that there was a mistake in the way the spaces were allocated.

That aside you just have to wait and hope you move up the list, get on with it at whichever school your child did get a place at, home educate or go private.

redskyatnight Wed 20-Nov-13 13:37:55

Places have to be allocated strictly according to the admissions criteria (which is how the waiting list is ordered). Neither the school nor the council can do anything about this. So whether your child gets into the school will depend solely on how many children leave it and how many children are above him on the list (that still want places there).

Of course, if you have grounds to do so, you can appeal. There is no other way to "jump the list".

prh47bridge Wed 20-Nov-13 14:50:31

As others have said, whoever is managing the waiting list must do so in line with the admissions criteria. They cannot under any circumstances move someone up the list on the basis of something they've said to the school. If the wrong person is admitted from the waiting list the parents of the child who should have been offered the place would almost certainly win an appeal.

The only ways to leapfrog the waiting list are to win an appeal or get a statement of SEN naming your preferred school.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Wed 20-Nov-13 15:05:28

A child might also "leap-frog" the waiting list if they get a sibling into the school but as others say just sweet talking the school won't do it.

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Wed 20-Nov-13 16:11:42

Your friends are talking rubbish.

Sadly what happens with admission is people mistake coincidence for causation. Someone will have done this and got a place. They'd have got a place anyway. But now they think that the pleading got them the place and word has spread...

Good luck with the waiting list. Do just check how the list is administered after Christmas onwards. Although the same admission criteria are used, some seem to have different rules about opting in and remaining on the list after certain dates, etc.

hallamoo Wed 20-Nov-13 16:14:43

You may have to contact the school and/or admissions dept to say that you want to remain on the waiting list for a particular school. I think after a certain time has passed, they assume people no longer want places and start the lists again.

lljkk Wed 20-Nov-13 16:35:15

I hear many anecdotes to suggest OP's friends are right.
Put another way, I don't see that contacting school can do any harm.

prh47bridge Wed 20-Nov-13 17:28:26

It can't do any harm but it won't do any good either. The school can't magic up a place if they haven't got one and when a place does become available it must go to whoever is at the head of the waiting list.

drwitch Wed 20-Nov-13 17:34:01

I could be wrong but I think in-year admissions are handled by the school rather than the council (at least they are in Kent). In the main rounds the council makes the allocation but after the first round of acceptances has taken place the waiting lists are passed onto the schools. They still have to abide by the oversubsciption criteria though.

pyrrah Wed 20-Nov-13 17:41:24

It is a myth. Sometimes it appears that way as not everyone on the waiting list will actually want a place.

You are automatically on the list of every school higher than your allocated choice. So X school might have Child A first on the waiting list - but school X might actually have been Child A's fifth choice preference and so if a place came up the parents might well not take it.

A lot will depend on your area - how many schools are regarded as good, how high levels of mobility are, the number of siblings, bulge classes etc.

DD was fairly low down on the waiting-list for our first-choice, but we got a place 3 weeks into term - 2 children didn't turn up and had actually moved away, 3 children left in the first few weeks, the school was running a bulge class and all the schools in the area are extremely good and parents didn't want the hassle of moving them, buying new uniform, opting for higher but not first choice etc

So while it might appear to some that I must have jumped the queue to get a place given my position on the waiting list (and I had been ringing weekly), the truth was that I got very lucky. When I was there filling in the forms, the secretary was ringing round desperately trying to fill the last place as they risked losing funding and no-one was wanting to take it.

pyrrah Wed 20-Nov-13 17:43:13

As of 31st August, in many LAs the lists pass to the schools to manage - it's worth ringing to make sure you are definitely on the list. Some will ring round to see who wants to stay on, but not all.

tricot39 Wed 20-Nov-13 19:09:01

in our area the waiting lists are cleared at christmas and you have to re-apply again in the new year. it makes sure that those on the list really want to be there as once people get settled they often forget that they wanted to move. make sure you find out what your area does!

mammadiggingdeep Wed 20-Nov-13 19:43:14

Tricot, that's what happens in our borough too. Oooh...it's a lottery. I already feel anxious and haven't submitted the form yet!! Eeeek.

RaspberryLemonPavlova Wed 20-Nov-13 22:41:48

My school asked the LA to continue to handle in-year admissions, but it was their choice so always worth checking. But they said that apart from the Reception intake waiting list until Christmas, they have no legal requirement to keep a list and so won't. So I'd be ringing the LA every week

afussyphase Wed 20-Nov-13 23:08:47

I have heard this kind of rumour too, and it was in a very convincing way - no reason friend would be misinformed, other parents confirmed, etc etc. With schools managing their own waiting lists, and with councils not following up with schools or confirming who is on what list, and with councils also not particularly checking where people live (how hard is it, after all, to get a child benefit thingy sent to another address? now, the sainsbury deliveries, that's another matter!) ... I think that while what everyone above says about how it's supposed to work is true, without oversight and enforcement, it's not always how it actually works. Would love to be wrong on this though.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Nov-13 00:26:44

Parents who really want the school and are at or near the top of the list are often pretty active in checking for vacancies. If they thought someone had jumped the queue many of them will appeal and/or complain. That is usually (but not invariably) a pretty effective form of oversight and enforcement. The school will get its knuckles rapped if it is found to have administered the waiting list wrongly. Even LAs have been known to get it wrong (indeed, I can think of one that deliberately administers its waiting lists in a way that is contrary to the Admissions Code) so it is important to keep an eye on what is happening and kick up a fuss if you think they have admitted someone incorrectly.

madwomanintheatt1c Thu 21-Nov-13 00:33:03

'My child has a statement of special educational need and you are the named school on the statement'.

That's about it, really.

Fiona2011231 Thu 21-Nov-13 09:47:54

The replies are very helpful. Reading this, I'm not sure if I would dare to call the school, though. Thank you very much.

DowntonTrout Thu 21-Nov-13 10:06:56

When my eldest were that age ( over 20 years ago) this was almost certainly true. Admissions have changed a lot since then though. Still, keeping in touch with the school, if the list has been passed on to them, cannot do any harm.

Slightly different, but youngest DD was first on waiting list for private prep. I was told a child was most likely leaving and if so, the place was ours ( no admission criteria other than first come first served) My friend rang me and was delighted at being offered a place and thought we must also have been offered as they were 2nd on the list. We hadn't though, so I rang the school, who confirmed it was a mistake and withdrew my friends offer and give the place to us. This all happened within a couple of hours but was still awful and our friendship never recovered.

Mintyy Thu 21-Nov-13 10:12:18

I too know of 3 people who have got their children into their first choice state school and have bypassed the school's usual admissions process. And this is not anecdotal, these people are known to me. But I am talking about secondary rather than primary.

Tailtwister Thu 21-Nov-13 10:22:37

I know someone who wasn't in a catchment but got her child into the school nursery and herself onto the PTA. She literally campaigned for a year to get him in and she did. Getting placed out of catchment where we are is incredibly rare. In fact, when I called up about the same school (we live a few streets away) I was told there was no way we would get in as it was a small school and it was over subscribed in it's own catchment. The Head teacher basically told her that she would ensure her child would get a place.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Nov-13 10:50:31

The rules for school nurseries are somewhat different to those for schools.

The Head teacher basically told her that she would ensure her child would get a place

If it is a community school or VC school the head teacher should have no involvement in the process. It is all handled by the LA.

I too know of 3 people who have got their children into their first choice state school and have bypassed the school's usual admissions process

Statements of SEN bypass the normal admission process. So do children admitted via the LA's Fair Access Protocol. In other circumstances it shouldn't happen. If the school is a community school or VC school the only way it can happen is if the school offers places direct to the parents, in which case the head teacher will be in trouble with the LA. If it is another type of school it is possible for this kind of thing to happen but it would mean, if true, that 3 families have been deprived of places that are rightfully theirs and should win an appeal.

I know of people locally to me who believe they have bypassed the usual admission process to get into their first choice school. In every single case they are wrong. Their attempts to bypass the process failed but a place came up in the normal way and was offered to them.

MadamNoo Thu 21-Nov-13 11:05:23

I believe my son got his primary place from being plucked off the waiting list by the headteacher (not by being at the top of it necessarily) and the reason is that this is what the head teacher more or less told me. she's the type who likes a nod and a wink and having the inside info, pulling the strings etc. so it may be that she just wanted me to feel she'd done us a favour. however my understanding is that after all the places have been assigned, the waiting list is passed back to the school to administer (or was when my son started 5 years ago), so no-one is checking how the school apportion any places that come up. I took two tours of the school and chatted a lot with the head about how keen I was for him to go there, and called up/popped in a few times to ask the ladies in the office about the waiting list, whether places ever come up in-year etc so they definitely knew me and my son (disgusting pushy middle-class parenting behaviour basically). he had four days at another primary and then I got a call from the head personally to say that someone had not turned up and would we like the place?

Mintyy Thu 21-Nov-13 11:31:59

Prh - the two schools concerned re. my post are both academies, one of which has a lottery system for admissions. And, of course, it is not just the three children affected, there will be five other children in future years who won't get in to those schools because of the sibling policy.

SidandAndyssextoy Thu 21-Nov-13 12:01:52

Sometimes maybe it seems like that. My husband was convinced his son had got into his over subscribed primary because he had begged the head teacher. I had to tell him several times that it happened because his older sister joined at the 'same time' basically going into a higher year and making her brother a sibling and top of the waiting list. For years he thought his pleading letter had succeeded.

Not necessarily wrong.

After a year on the waiting list and then finding out some councils have a 'secret service' called the Education Entitlement Team, and probably also the daily nagging and reasoning I instigated with the old infant school head and the personal interviews I requested with the proposed infant school head, emails to my local MP, chewing miles of red tape looking for loopholes (and there's barely any, but they do exist), then learning that Admissions like to place children at the start of any new term even if it means increasing the class size, eventually my child got a transfer place in Year 2.

However, her brother had started Reception at this school by then (although younger sibling criteria doesn't officially apply) and I had moved to a different town and couldn't afford the travel costs between old and new school or the logistics of two at different schools, plus the old school head hated me asnwemwere probably solely responsible for their poor grading on attendance due to my travel problems so was glad to get rid. The new school head said they'd had many talks together about it... So I may have just had a good case.

Request an appointment with the proposed school's head and keep ringing Admissions daily. Pester, pester, pester.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Nov-13 14:27:53

Mintyy - If they are fiddling their lottery or in some other way subverting the waiting list someone should report them to the EFA. They will mend their ways pretty quickly when they realise they can lose their funding for this type of behaviour.

MadamNoo - Five years ago schools generally handled their own waiting lists. We have been through a period where the LA has to deal with the waiting list for all community and VC schools in their area but now some LAs are passing this back to schools. There is always the risk of this kind of thing happening where the school manages its own waiting list - indeed, even having the list officially managed by the LA never entirely stopped it. A few successful appeals due to this behaviour often brings the school into line but there will always be the occasional head teacher who thinks the rules don't apply to them.

Ladymuck Thu 21-Nov-13 17:10:05

Certainly with independent schools it is worth keeping in touch. Admission registrars trying to fill a space will prefer to avoid writing and phoning each parents on the list if they have an eager parent at the right time.

I think it is worth keeping in touch over any waiting list. My niece was at the top of the waiting list for her closest state school, so dbro was suitably surprised to find the place had gone to another child. After enquiring it became apparent that a mistake had been made, and she got a place (in addition to the other child). If he hadn't been in regular contact he wouldn't have known.

DoesZingBumpLookBigInThis Thu 21-Nov-13 18:00:38

there's nothing you can say if it id solely based on distance.

but we will put down everything we can think of (father went there, 4 brothers went there, we've been supporting the PTA actively for 9 years etc) - just in case it's between him and another child who lives the same distance away.
it might not help.

I am trying to not worry about it (or I'll cry)
if he doesn't get it we are screwed as if he doesn't get in in our chosen one straight away he'll have no chance in the 2nd or 3rd choices as they are all over-subscribed.
he'll be on the waiting list and remain on it as long as needed.

he'll carry on going to playgroup until his 5th birthday and I will have to home school him until he has a place - with a 2.5 year old and a newborn in tow (#7 is due in July).

<sticks head back in sand>

ClayDavis Thu 21-Nov-13 18:23:02

The LA admissions booklet should tell you how they decide in the case of a tie break on distance, Zing. I suspect it's likely to be random lottery. What you've put almost certainly won't make any difference,

teacherwith2kids Thu 21-Nov-13 18:31:47

SharesinNivea- I'm glad that your situation has been sorted eventually!

BettyandDon Thu 21-Nov-13 18:39:38

I'm sure the CoE schools near us are passed the waiting lists from May each year so I imagine it is very hard to identify if the admissions codes are strictly enforced. Interesting...

I'm sure i. state schools there is less doubt.

DoesZingBumpLookBigInThis Thu 21-Nov-13 18:54:38


I know but I'm desperate.

3bunnies Thu 21-Nov-13 19:18:36

I would keep in touch with the school - you don't need to be having tea with the head but just keeping track of where you are on the list and whether any places have been offered. Also if you know anyone with dc in the school then asking them to let you know if they hear of any children moving. The school won't break the rules just because you ring them a lot - equally though they can't blacklist you for doing it.

You will though be able to make sure that they are administering the waiting list correctly. Ours wasn't for a while - they didn't seem to realise that places were becoming available and so didn't offer them out until then other siblings were offered a place, they joined the school - got to know a few parents and discovered that there were spaces the school wasn't aware of. By this time they had a sibling priority and so jumped up the waiting list. It is sorted now but it did leave the school open to appeals and it is possible that some children should have been offered places who weren't and would win an appeal.

You won't get a place just by hassling them but you might make sure that when your turn comes you are offered the place.

Floggingmolly Thu 21-Nov-13 19:25:36

Do you really imagine the school would let you leapfrog the waiting list because you can come up with a good sob story?
If that were possible, it wouldn't have gone unnoticed; people would be employing professional scriptwriters to up their chances.

MrsYoungSalvoMontalbano Thu 21-Nov-13 19:38:50

I know of two cases where the parents were able to creatively circumvent the usual rules to do this, but both were several years ago so may not work now. The first case was a reception-year applicant who had a younger sibling with a disability that would mean he would get into the nearest school. the school then gave the elder sibling a place in reception. In the other case, the mother had a disability that meant she could argue that she could only walk the child to this specific school and no other. It could be done by persuasive and creative people - not sure how it would work now.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Nov-13 23:35:14

Today the first case would not work. The older child might get priority once the younger child had been admitted but that is all.

The second case depends on the admission criteria. Some will include parental issues such as this in their "special medical needs" criteria and therefore the child would get priority. Some schools don't have such a category and many of those that do will only consider the child's needs not the parent's.

DeWe Fri 22-Nov-13 10:06:06

Someone I know who is very intelligent and generally full of common sense told me that at the school open day (infants school) one of the governors told her that they had full control over admissions and could get their child in. hmm.
She also attended (with child) all 6 open days and made sure she personally spoke to the head to make sure they knew she was there, as she was told that would make a difference.
Slightly backfired on her when her child at the 6th open day (probably bored) scribbled on a piece of artwork, and she was convinced that would blacklist them grin

I suspect the governor was hoping for a backhander, and told her that I wouldn't want a school that had governors that were either misinformed or corrupt. I don't think that went down well.

(did get in anyway as it was undersubscribed)

Floggingmolly Fri 22-Nov-13 11:55:57

3bunnies. I wouldn't want my children attending a school where places can become vacant and it's not actually noticed until those on the waiting list helpfully point it out? confused. not that I believe it anyway

3bunnies Fri 22-Nov-13 12:49:21

Afraid didn't have much choice as was LEA administered at the time so all schools would have had same incompetence. Have seen our LEA slated on here before. Would be a bit silly to leave a good school because other people couldn't get a place. I am just saying that mistakes can and do happen but if you keep in touch you are more likely to be aware of them. Up to you whether you believe it or not smile

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