Is this legal? - school admissions - put us first.

(50 Posts)
steppemum Mon 14-Oct-13 09:29:40

On the website of a local academy, they state that they have the intention of admitting any child into Y7 for 2014 who puts their school first on the CAF form

I thought that that wasn't legal?

This is very relevant for us, as we want to put a grammar first, he has passed 11+ but may not have high enough grades to get in. This Academy is our 2 nd choice, but we don't live very close and it is borderline if we would get in.

Anyone out there know if this is allowed? Is it because it is an academy?

Ladymuck Mon 14-Oct-13 09:47:30

I assume that what the school is saying is that they expect to be undersubscribed, so if you have a preference for the school you will get in. The school of course cannot offer you a place if you have placed another school higher on your list of preferences and that school offers you a place. The academy of course will never know where you have put them on your list of preferences.

You are right OP, if you qualify for both schools, you will get a place offered at the one you put highest.

They cannot say - put us first or you don't get in.

Put the grammar first, Academy 2nd and a realistic back up school as your third choice - ie a nearby school that will do. So if you don't get the 1st or 2nd choices, you don't get a school you don't like that is miles away.

moldingsunbeams Mon 14-Oct-13 09:52:34

I thought school were not even informed which order you had made choices in for this type of reason.

steppemum Mon 14-Oct-13 09:53:34

ladymuck - we would put them second as we want the grammar place, do they really not know where they are?

I understand how the sytem works WRT if you don't qualify for your first place school, the secodn place moves up to first place etc, and that it is the LEA not the school allocating places. Which if why it seems like a very odd statement to me.

You might be right about undersubscribed, I have heard that this year is quite a low birth rate.

meditrina Mon 14-Oct-13 09:55:32

It's not legal, and it's worrying that a school sets out so publicly a big mistake in something that is pretty well known. What other laws and regulations might they be breaching?

I think it might be worth writing to the school and LA pointing this out, and stating that publication of unlawful criteria is grounds for successful appeal (even under ICS regulations) and perhaps they might like to correct it now.

bruffin Mon 14-Oct-13 09:58:33

What is their actual wording?

prh47bridge Mon 14-Oct-13 10:14:06

Which school is this?

They cannot say that. It is a clear breach of the Admissions Code. In any case the LA will not give them the information they need to implement such a policy. They will tell them who has applied but not whether they named the school as first choice or last choice.

If they are undersubscribed everyone who puts the school as first choice will get a place but they cannot guarantee that. Even if they were able to implement such a policy they are assuming that they have enough places to cater for everyone who names the school as first choice. So this is wrong on every level.

steppemum Mon 14-Oct-13 10:15:35

If you are intending to apply for a place at this school for September 2014, you should note that the School has the intention of admitting all applications where the School is placed as first choice.

I think they probably mean that if you choose us we have enough places, (so if your first choice falls through and we become first, we have enough places) etc. But that isn't what it says.

steppemum Mon 14-Oct-13 10:20:49

I am not prepared to say which school

At every other level this is an amazing school, we live in a city with poor schools, this is in a town about 15 minutes drive away. It is first choice for many parents in our city who are concerned about academic education. (they bus about 70 from North part of our city alone)

Normally, we would be right at the edge of qualifying, because we are quite far away, so it would be a gamble to get in.
It does have a huge intake (270) and I know there are too many secondary places this year for number of pupils in our area, so i am assuming they are trying to say, don't worry about being far away, we have the space, you should get in.

But as it stands it is a totally illegal statement. very worrying.

Ladymuck Mon 14-Oct-13 10:26:40

Certainly the school has an admission policy which does not refer to preference at all, so on the face of it the statement on the website is just wrong and misleading. If the POLICY stated it selected on the basis of preference, then that would not be compliant with the Admissions Code.

iheartdusty Mon 14-Oct-13 10:31:07

I read it slightly differently, it suggests to me that the school may be trying to bump up the number of first choices it gets in the face of possible over-supply of places across the LEA. In order to do so, it hints that you may have to put it first to get a place, but it doesn't actually say that. I agree it is misleading.

TheGirlFromIpanema Mon 14-Oct-13 10:41:26

Are you in Leeds Op?

I've heard this lately about a school I'm not applying for but friends are. Its a voluntary aided church school if that makes a difference. Sounded odd to me but they presume they will have several hundred applicants over and above the places and have said all places will go to parents who select as first choice only.

friday16 Mon 14-Oct-13 10:49:33

have said all places will go to parents who select as first choice only.

Either they don't understand the way the equal preference system works (few heads do) or they have a massive, burning urge to fight and lose dozens of appeals, probably culminating with the school being placed in special measures and new governors imposed. I suspect the former.

TheGirlFromIpanema Mon 14-Oct-13 11:27:33

Its certainly odd isn't it? I thought the first person who told ne must be mistaken, but now quite a few other parents have said the same so I assume they aren't all getting it wrong but maybe they are ?!

Luckily it doesn't concern me as ds has a place under sibling entry for my preferred school.

Our preferred school (which dd is already at) changed the rules this year too though and are only accepting applications from one postcode area. Doesn't apply to siblings though thankfully, but isn't this odd too?

I have a friend for whom its the closest school but she can't apply as she lives outside the postcode boundary hmm I think its odd that the royal mail seem to be able to dictate schools/distances! It's outskirts of a city, so presumably there will be people on one side of some streets able to apply bit others very close not able.
Is this normal does anyone know?

steppemum Mon 14-Oct-13 11:45:11

not Leeds
not voluntary aided
academy, not free school etc

friday - you haven't actually quoted what I said or the quote form the school website

I think it is a mis wording, based on the idea that they are trying to say, put us, down, you will get in, we have enough room.
But I am not happy that such a mis wording was allowed through, seems pretty fundamental

steppemum Mon 14-Oct-13 11:49:24


Probably they have introduced a selection criteria which is based on which LEA?

We have this on the edge of our city, there is one area/housing estate which is technically County LEA rather than City LEA. The criteria for schools in the county tends to go

looked after children/ SEN etc
county applications siblings
county applications non siblings
out of county (so our city) siblings
out of county non siblings

So if you live close, but our city LEA not county LEA, you come quite along way down the list.

bruffin Mon 14-Oct-13 12:11:29

*b. Preferences
Parents will be invited to state up to three ranked preferences. Each preference will be considered
equally. This means that ??? Council will consider all applications against the published
admissions criteria without reference to how the school applied for has been ranked on the application
form. As far as possible applicants will be offered a place at a school to which they have expressed a
preference, for example R????. Where the applicant has made more than one
preference the Local Authority (LA) will make an offer at the highest ranked preference school with
available places in accordance with the standard admission criteria. Where it is not possible to offer a
place at a preferred school, for example ??? and the applicant lives in
???, the LA will allocate a place. Allocations will be made after all expressed preferences have
been considered. An applicant will normally be offered a place at the designated school for their home
address. An alternative school may be allocated in cases where the designated school is full and the
alternative school is within the safe statutory 3 mile walking distance and has places available or it is a
school to which free home to school transport would be provided.*

This is from their admissions criteria for 2014 assuming i have right school.

steppemum Mon 14-Oct-13 12:16:15

bruffin - don't know if you have the right school, but yes that is same/similar to the official admissions criteria, which is same as the LEA criteria. (and anyway, don't LEA allocate places, not the school?)

so all that is correct. As someone upthread said, their official policy is correct, but they have this comment on their admissions page on their website. Which would appear to contradict their own stated policy.

moldingsunbeams Mon 14-Oct-13 12:41:05

Having re read it I think in a crappy badly written way they are trying to say they are hoping to admit every child who wants to come there (its known apparently this year was a low birth year) rather than saying we only admit people who want us as first choice.

I think its just badly written tbh.

tiggytape Mon 14-Oct-13 13:12:14

I agree with molding

The school don't know where you listed them so they simply cannot promise to give you a place if you put them first or threaten withhold a place if you don't. You send your CAF to the council. Only the council sees it. The council tells the school the names of everyone who has applied and asks them to rank those candidates according to how well they meet the admissions criteria.
This results in the school producing a list where some "first choice" applicants are placed below many "second choice" applicants because for example the second choice people live closer. The school just have the names and addresses and sibling details - no clue about preference.

The school sends the finished list back to the council. The council uses this list to offer places starting at the top and working down. As you can see, there is no room in this process for the school to be able to swing things to ensure all the places go to people who listed them first.

I suspect the poor wording refers to the fact that they are undersubscribed. Therefore, if you list them more highly than any of your other viable options, you will almost certainly get an offer there.
If you list them last, and none of your higher preferences work out, this won't stop you getting an offer there.
They are worried that if you really want a place, you shouldn't list them second since, if your first choice can take you, you won't also get offered your second since no child can have 2 offers no matter how many criteria they meet.

SuperwomanOnAgoodDay Mon 14-Oct-13 13:37:47

Step I have found out which school through googling the quote, you might want to get MN to change your post if you're worried about privacy.

difficultpickle Mon 14-Oct-13 14:16:34

Our local comp has the same. It is usually oversubscribted too.

friday16 Mon 14-Oct-13 14:23:38

Our local comp has the same. It is usually oversubscribted too.

Heads say this, and sometimes even write it down, because they fundamentally misunderstand equal preference. It's especially toxic in areas with selective schools, where badly informed parents either don't enter their children or submit ludicrous CAF applications with non-selective schools above the selective ones.

The point is that if you don't put a school first, and you meet the criteria for some school for which you expressed a higher preference, then you go to the school you put higher up the form. The only way to be certain you will go to a particular school is to both (a) put it first and (b) be confident that you definitely meet the entry criteria. But if you put down, say, your local comp where your brother goes and you live around the corner first, and a selective grammar second, you're wasting your time taking the exam because you will never be going there.

Preferences need to be filled in exactly as it says, in the order you would like to consider the schools (if I can't go there, then there, then there, then there). Heads do talk bollocks, and it's hard to argue people out of some of the misconceptions the heads give.

TheGirlFromIpanema Mon 14-Oct-13 14:48:48

Steppe sorry for the mini hi-jack grin But no, the school is in city LEA but is an academy, does that matter?

Like I said, its ok for me luckily but it seems odd they can dictate based on post code rather than distance. The post code area stretches northwards from where the school is so applications can be made from a few miles away closer to another town, yet can't be made by someone 3/4mile away as there post code is not the stipulated one! Her next nearest school is just over a mile away (as the crow flies based on LEA map) so she really is disadvantaged by the new policy!

TheGirlFromIpanema Mon 14-Oct-13 14:49:24

their blush

friday16 Mon 14-Oct-13 15:23:02

it seems odd they can dictate based on post code rather than distance.

Catchment areas based on factors other than distance are explicitly permitted by the admission code. Paragraph 1.14 of the February 2012 edition.

admission Mon 14-Oct-13 16:52:52

OP The school in question has an admission criteria which is legal as far as I can see. What is illegal is the statement they have made, which sounds like something that someone wrote who does not have a good grounding in admission regs and is just plain wrong. It is going to be interesting if they get a very large number of first preferences because with that on the school website, can's see too many appeals going past part 1.
To also be clear they have a catchment zone as part of the admission criteria but it is not the whole of the county!
TheGirlFromIpanema Having an admission criteria that says we will only accept from a stated postcode area is in my opinion illegal, they have to accept all applications. They can give priority to one post code area but if they are not full, they have to accept all pupils who apply, no matter where they are based.

mummytime Mon 14-Oct-13 17:08:05

I went to a school visit recently, and was totally frustrated as they got the admissions proceedure totally wrong. (They implied that if you don't get your first choice you would have to reject the school offered and then go back into some kind of melting pot from which you might get a higher choice school.)

friday16 Mon 14-Oct-13 17:30:39

I went to a school visit recently, and was totally frustrated as they got the admissions proceedure totally wrong.

It doesn't help that there's so much school-gate gossip about it, almost all of it wrong. So if you do understand the process, in intricate detail, and are even in a position to sketch the allocation algorithm on the back of an envelope, the endless myths ("have to put that school first, if you only put one school down they have to give it to you, if you don't get any of your preferenced schools you'll get your nearest") won't go away. I pretty much gave up the second time around and left people to get on with it.

Bemused33 Mon 14-Oct-13 19:02:40

I went to an open evening where one head teacher pretty much said if you put us as first then you will get a place. A total misunderstanding as its admissions work off feeder schools after care places/siblings then it looks as distance. It will be our third choice but the way it works is that we would still get a place over a child with no sibling/care issues/ feeder school that lives further away even if they had put it first.

steppemum Mon 14-Oct-13 21:17:35

thanks for all your comments
I am not too worried if people find the school, just didn't want to name it in this thread.

friday - couldn't agree more about school gate, dd2 is in Y1, and remember standing at the gate saying the same thing over and over and people just don't want to hear what you are saying.
I think the one that annoyed me the most was ''I don't know anyone in the council, so I won't get my preference'' I did know someone at the council who did admissions appeals, and I know that the there was absolutely no chance that any of the admissions procedure was fixed

We are visiting the school on Wednesday and I might mention it.

We were always planning to put our Grammar preference first, this is our second choice.

hottiebottie Tue 15-Oct-13 09:17:03

I live in an area neighbouring a selective county and never cease to be amazed by the various rumours and myths surrounding the system, and the ridiculous stories that are circulated and perpetrated. It's not as if the information is being kept secret by the authorities - accurate details about selection procedures and allocations is there online, available for all to see, if people would just stop gossiping for five minutes and take the trouble to look! hmm

friday16 Tue 15-Oct-13 09:32:03

if people would just stop gossiping for five minutes and take the trouble to look!

You don't have to read MN (or DigitalSpy "advice" or Netmums or wherever) long to see that some people prefer what they are told by "friends" whom they can "trust" over what they might find out from the sources of real information. It's a combination of paranoia ("they would say that"), inability to access the material (LEA admission policies are not written for casual reading, because they have to resist legal challenge as well and inform parents), confirmation bias (Nethuns are hardly going to say "you know what, that's complete nonsense", are they?) and a certain amount of group-think.

I used to prowl Eleven Plus Forums. The amount of disinformation even there, where you might expect parents to have done some basic research, was horrifying. Essentially, everyone believes that what they believe is right, and seeks out (and invents) justifications for it being true.

Truthiness is a very useful concept. Lots of it about in discussions of education.

tiggytape Tue 15-Oct-13 09:47:42

And of course it isn't helped by people who use their own experience seems to back up their misinformation

eg a parent who firmly believes that listing the same school 6 times or only listing one school and no others shows the LA you're serious. Similarly the ones who believe the council must offer you a school from your list so just list 6 outstanding schools and no back-up.

Come offer day, they get the school they wanted and feel vindicated so tell all their friends that it worked for them.
Of course the truth is that they must have genuinely qualified to get a place (by living close enough or going to church or whatever) so would have got offered it even if they had filled in their form properly. But of course they believe that they have dodged the system and tell everyone else so it goes on in future years too

friday16 Tue 15-Oct-13 09:54:06

School admission is increasingly like the NHS, where most people's experience is positive but they believe that they were lucky, and their positive experience was amongst a general sea of poor practice. 85% of children get their first choice at 11, and 96% get one of their first three choices (source). Even in London two-thirds of children get into their first choice, and in other parts of the country 95% get their first choice (^ibid^).

So all the entrail-examination and gossip is pointless: most people get their first choice, end of. So what tiggytape says is absolutely on the money: "I did (weird thing) and got in" tells you nothing, because you probably would have got in anyway.

prh47bridge Tue 15-Oct-13 10:15:45

I would suggest that anyone who is applying for a place at this school prints a copy of this page of their website. As Admission suggests, it could be very useful for appeals.

FriendlyLadybird Tue 15-Oct-13 11:24:28

So many people are misreading this. It does NOT say that you will only be offered a place if you put it first. It says that if you really do want your child to go there -- in which case, you will have it as your first choice -- you can be pretty certain you will get a place. This is a positive message, not excluding anyone, and not illegal. You cannot infer from this what they are going to do about applications where they are second on the list.
The reason you are misreading it is because for some reason they included the vaguely threatening phrase, 'please note'.
Where the OP may have a problem, of course, is if so many people want to go to the school that it fills up its year 7 with pupils who gave it as their first choice, thus leaving no room for people for whom it was a second choice. But that's not illegal and it's just the way the cookie crumbles.

friday16 Tue 15-Oct-13 11:31:38

Where the OP may have a problem, of course, is if so many people want to go to the school that it fills up its year 7 with pupils who gave it as their first choice, thus leaving no room for people for whom it was a second choice.

Let's try all this again. That. Isn't. How. Equal. Preference. Works.

Take the instant school. Imagine it has two places.

Candidate one lives next door, and puts the school down first.

Candidate two in the flat upstairs from candidate one, and puts the school down sixth. Places one through five are weird choices they absolutely won't get into (say, grammars for which they haven't taken the exam, girls schools when they are a boy, etc).

Candidate three lives a hundred yards further away, but puts the school down first.

Who gets the two places? Candidate one, who put it first, and candidate two, who put it sixth. Candidate three, who put it first, doesn't get a place.

Schools cannot fill up with first preference, and then only turn to second preference applications. It would be illegal. They would lose any subsequent appeals.

tiggytape Tue 15-Oct-13 11:32:07

thus leaving no room for people for whom it was a second choice

But that's not true either!

If the people who put it second qualify more for a place than the people who put it 1st, the people who put it 2nd will get all the places (unless they got their own first choice school of course).

Nobody who puts it second will ever miss out due to the number who list it as their first choice. That can never happen. Even if a thousand people put it as their first choice, this has no impact at all on the people who listed it second but live very close (or have a sibling or whatever else you need to do to get priority)

tiggytape Tue 15-Oct-13 11:41:01

Seriously - people who post about schools filling up with parents who listed it first leaving no room for 2nd choice applicants really need to read the admissions laws or not post on these threads. It is wrong - in all circumstances it cannot happen and it just adds to the rumours that are hard enough to shift as it is.

ALL that matters in school admissions is one single fact.
Do you qualify for any of the schools you listed anywhere on your form?:

* If the answer is yes to just one school - you get a place at that school whether it was your 1st or 6th choice.

* If the answer is no - you don't get a place even if you love one school in particular, list it 1st and write half a page about why you like it so much.

* If the answer is yes to more than one school on your list you get the school you put as your highest choice. Even if it was only your second choice school and someone else loves it more than you - if you qualify for it and they don't, you will get the place and they will get rejected.

The 1st, 2nd 3rd choices etc ONLY come into play for the people who qualify for multiple schools (to ensure they don't get more than one offer). For all other people the order of the list isn't even looked at.

tiggytape Tue 15-Oct-13 11:43:59

X post with friday16 whilst I figured out how to shout type in bold grin

FriendlyLadybird Tue 15-Oct-13 11:56:18

OK. Got that bit wrong -- but the school can still say what their 'intention' is without being illegal. In our county, at any rate, there is a second-round rejig process during which most people get their first choice before having to go to an appeal. We, for example, got our catchment school (our second choice) first time round, but then got our first choice in the rejig. They are trying to make it an encouraging message rather than the opposite. The whole point about listing preferences is that most people who are not playing a weird game put the school they most want to go to first.
What I actually think is unfair is having to list a grammar, which has different entrance criteria, as part of the same process.

tiggytape Tue 15-Oct-13 12:15:28

Saying it though creates a false impression in parent's minds between listing a school first and having an improved chance of a place when no such link exists.

It might be true that they like the idea of people listing them first on the form but they shouldn't say this because it has nothing at all to do with the admissions process.

It is at best a bit of a poorly worded way of saying "don't list another school first if you really want to come here because you might get offered that one instead". At worst it is a cynical attempt to panic parents into thinking they will have less of a chance of a place if they list other longshot schools first and then fail to get those long shot schools - which is of course untrue. They won't have harmed their chances in the slightest.

titchy Tue 15-Oct-13 12:35:11

It also implies that they will be able to accommodate all applicants if it is their preferred school. Which will give them a bit of a problem if their PAN is 120 and 240 people put it first!

steppemum Tue 15-Oct-13 13:21:59

the thing about the grammar is that the selection process has already happened and WRT to the form it pretty much works the same as for any school

so ds has passed the 11+ and qualified for the grammar. He is not guaranteed a place, as there are more passers than places.

Anyone actually could put the grammar school first, but they wouldn't get a place because point 1 on their selection criteria is that you have a passed 11+.

So we put it first, grammar school does same process as any other school, taking qualifying children in the order of priority according to their entry procedure.
If he doesn't get a place, then second place school moves to first place.

Some people put 3 grammars on form, in order of preference, having qualified for all of them, but not guaranteed a place in any, as it has to go through same procedure as other schools

The mistake that is often made is to put grammar second, and then be surprised when offered place at first choice school and not grammar!

prh47bridge Tue 15-Oct-13 13:34:21

but the school can still say what their 'intention' is without being illegal

No they can't. Paragraph 2.1 of the Admissions Code specifically says that admission authorities (in this case that is the school) must not give any guarantees that a preference will be met. This statement amounts to a guarantee despite the slightly vague wording. And as worded it definitely implies that they intend to give priority to people naming the school as first choice in breach of paragraph 1.9(c) of the code.

It is quite possible (albeit somewhat unlikely) that they will get a glut of people high up the admission criteria naming the school as second choice, in which case it could be that no places at all go to people naming it as first choice.

However you look at it this statement is wrong. I have emailed the school concerned to point out the error of their ways and suggest that the Schools Adjudicator may take an interest if they leave that statement on their website.

steppemum Tue 15-Oct-13 13:58:09

really prh47bridge?

I would have appreciated it if you had said, as I would like to print/save a copy of the webpage before they take it down.

Are you legally involved in school admissions somehow?

Not sure why, but I feel somewhat gazumped hmm

friday16 Tue 15-Oct-13 14:03:51

It's still there to be printed.

steppemum Tue 15-Oct-13 14:12:14

thanks friday, I have now saved it

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