Secondary school admissions with separated parents

(50 Posts)
littlelamby Thu 03-Jan-13 10:42:00

My eldest DSS is going to choose a secondary school next year. His main residence (without a residence order) is his mum's, about half an hour away from us in a different local authority area. One option we'd like to look at is him going to school in a town half way between us. There are two potential issues with this. One is that particular town is our local authority area, so not the one his primary school is in. The other one is that his mum would like him to go to a grammar school which is half an hour from where they live (but in current local authority area) in the other direction from us - so an hour away from us.

I've got two questions I'd love some help with! Firstly, does anyone know what the deal would be with going to school in a different local authority area to where they live? A secondly, what happens if parents disagree on where a child goes to secondary school?

Thanks!

ladydeedy Tue 05-Feb-13 14:15:27

In our case, DH's ex decided the school. She told DH where she was going to send him and that was that. Despite the fact that DH felt the nearest school was the best (and, academically speaking, it is) but she wanted DSS to go to one she preferred further away because "his friends were all going there". She then tried to sting DH with half the (highly expensive) travel costs (no public transport option so had to be by private hire bus). DSS pretty much hated it there. would much rather have gone to local school, walk there and back, have friends round after school, attend clubs etc without it being a pain to travel back from. Actually I DO think there are good reasons to go to a local school.

Stepmooster Tue 05-Feb-13 01:10:04

Hi OP, my DH has had a battle over secondary school for DSS. His Ex re-married and has to move out of FMH and will be moving 90 min drive from the schools she has applied DSS to go to.

DH went mad initially as daily commute to/from school will involve M25 and Dartford or blackwell tunnel. DH has serious concerns over DSS arriving to school on time and being able to see friends at weekends / evenings. DH spoke with LEA who have told him they will put a note on file and get in touch with him if his attendance does suffer.

DH ex reason for sending DSS to a school 90 mins away is cos she works in that area and its easy for her. DH has even offered to have a childminder in place so DSS could go to a school local to his new home and make new friends. The school the ex wants DSS to go does not have good ofsted reports either.

DH could go to court but DSS has had enough of DH an his mum 'fighting' and being used as a pawn by his mum. DH will be reviewing once DSS has moved school and home.

OP maybe your DP could wait until your DSS has moved school too? Is it worth the upset in the long run?

CarlingBlackMabel Mon 04-Feb-13 23:16:25

MumAndBoys123 explanation of the admissions process is inaccurate. The schools decide which applicants they can offer places to based solely on how they meet the admissions criteria. Applicants are placed in order of meeting the criteria no matter what position you have put the school in in order of preference. Then you get an offer from the school highest up your list which can offer you a place. But for determining distance the address to which child benefit goes, and the place where the child lives the majority of time is counted as the address from which the application is made. So a school closer to you would probably be too far from his mother for him to get a place.

Yr 4 is early to be starting an argument about this. You can't yet know if grammar would be best. And Yr 7 children are a different species to Yr4. Chill out and step back.

largerleon Mon 04-Feb-13 22:47:37

Actually, if both parents have parental responsibility they have to agree on the order of which schools are put on the preference form. If they don't agree and the NRP (with no day to day school contact at all), knowing what choices had been made by the closing date on 31st Oct, decides LAST WEEK to put in a 'counter application' against the child's wishes and for a school that is oversubscribed, both applications get suspended until either the matter is agreed or a Specific Issue Order is granted in a court. This information is correct & up to date and I am having to deal with it right now sad hope this helps

allnewtaketwo Fri 04-Jan-13 17:29:47

I do think Soupdragon makes a good point about know knows in detail about his day to day work at school, how he gets on with homework etc etc. I think it would be very unusual for an NRP to have as good a grasp on this as the Pwc

VivaLeBeaver Fri 04-Jan-13 17:18:53

And I might be wrong but I get the impression your DH is a bit "anti Grammar schools".

If I'm right, he really needs to put that to one side. This isn't about him, its about his child. Even if he doesn't believe in selective education if its the best school for his child then its the best school. I don't think its fair to not let a child go to a grammar just because you don't believe in them.

That's just my opinion. grin But in this case I think that view point is even more valid as the boy's mum obviously doesn't mind Grammar schools.

VivaLeBeaver Fri 04-Jan-13 17:15:46

I do understand what you mean about a grammar not always been the best school for every child.

My dd is quite bright and passed her 11plus but we live a bit too far away from the grammar and she didn't get a place. There is a very academic comp near us with better results than the grammar (100% of kids get 5 GCSEs inc maths and english). She could have gone there but we didn't send her there as it wouldn't have suited her even though she is probably bright enough to manage the workload.

So we went her to the bog standard comp!

It might be worth asking your DSSs Year 5 teacher towards the end of Year 5 if they think he will be suited to a grammar. The teachers often have a good idea of which kids will suit which schools or vice versa!

PoppyPrincess Fri 04-Jan-13 15:30:31

Sorry but I'm on the ex's side on this one. I'd pay every penny I could afford, move heaven and earth to send my child to the best possible school. As it happens all the grammar schools in this school are reserved for the very well off or the exceptionally intelligent so this isn't an option for us. But if there was a grammar school which there might be a chance of my child getting in then I'd do everything within my power to get him in. If it happened to be a ball ache for me to get him there then ah well. If it happened to be a ball ache for his dad then that's a shame but never mind.
Tbh I think you're being quite selfish.
Yes your DSS probably isn't bothered about going to the grammar school but that's because he's 11 and probably won't appreciate the value of his education until he's much older and left school.

nailak Fri 04-Jan-13 14:57:12

i went to grammar, and most of the children lived miles away, a lot lived near me, we used to get the bus too and from school together. for 7 years.

SoupDragon Fri 04-Jan-13 14:55:13

As primary carer, I had the best grasp on DSs needs as I dealt with any issues when they were at primary and did all their HW with them etc. XH simply did not have this in depth knowledge.

SoupDragon Fri 04-Jan-13 14:53:52

Even if parents are together it isn't easy as they can still have different views. In a way, it was easier for me because, as primary carer, I have a pretty good grasp on what my DSs needed from a school and could argue this (it wasn't actually necessary).

It's a shame you've come into this at this time of year as I would have suggested going to the open evenings for all prospective schools. Definitely go next year though - they are usually in September/early October. By seeing them in Y5 you will have a better idea of what will suit and thus be able to make a more informed judgement before seeing them again in Y6 and making a decision.

Whatever happens, going into it with a "we want him nearer" attitude will only put the mother's back up. It needs to be argued from the POV of what suits the child and you may find that neither school is right!

mumandboys123 Fri 04-Jan-13 14:00:35

the concept of 'what is right for him' is very difficult though, isn't it? Even when together, parents can have different opinions on just this issue. When separated, and there's a third party involved, it makes things even more difficult.

Your partner has a legal say in what school his child attends. I don't think you should dismiss it quite so easily as 'she signs it so it's her say'. But if taken to court, it would be up to your partner to 'prove' to a judge that the decision is a wrong one. As such, the circumstances of the parent with whom the child lives most of the time are going to be of prime importance - it is no good sending a child to a school an hour away if there is no public transport and mum is unable to drive, for example, no matter how good a fit the school might be to your step-son's needs. I too have a son in year 4 and would like him to go to a school a couple of towns a long when the time comes - preliminary discussions suggest this is possible from a 'getting in' point of view - but as I teach myself, in the opposite direction, and need to be in school prior to the time my son needs to be in school, and my ex is as useful as the proverbial chocolate fireguard, it simply isn't going to happen. I have to accept that and make the best of the nearest school (which isn't bad, but probably isn't what I would choose for this particular child for a whole host of reasons). That's just how it is. If you're going to fight for something, you will need to be very clear why you're fighting and what the odds are of the child getting into the school 'cos that will, ultimately, be the deciding factor.

littlelamby Fri 04-Jan-13 12:35:10

Thanks Soupdragon & Rechargemybatteries. It does sound like choosing a school is a nightmare anyway!

Primary concern is definitely where DSS will do best. That's part of the problem - DP (for valid reasons which are another debate) isn't convinced a grammar school is the best option for DSS. But you're right - so long as DSS is at a school that is good for him, the rest can be worked round. What would be sad would be if DSS ended up at a school that wasn't right for him (grammar or not) and DP was pretty much powerless to do anything about it - that's a hard position to be in as a parent. But then how do you totally know if a school is right for a child until they've been there a while anyway? Just have to go on the best information! Sigh!

SoupDragon Fri 04-Jan-13 12:24:45

If DSS is presented the options fairly and honestly as to what each school can offer him decides grammar is best for him

Be wary of letting him choose his school. IMO they should only be allowed to express an opinion. eg DS2 wanted to go to the decent High School where all his friends went. This was not the right school for him by a long way. As has been said, this is a decision to be made by the parents, not the child.

I made the actual decisions about which schools to send my children to (I don't think I actually consulted XH before actually putting the applications in as the choices were quite clear cut and the schools they attended did not affect him on a practical day-to-day basis *). Thankfully XH was in agreement but ultimately I do think the final choice is down to the resident parent as they will be dealing with it on a day to day basis. Unless they are utterly barking and making a ridiculous choice, obviously! At the end of the day, the decision has to come down to one parent. If there are strong and valid reasons why the decision should be challenged then I guess it has to go to court but, realistically, the deadlines for applications are so tight that this probably isn't practical.

You need to approach it from the POV of ^which school is the right one for this child?* This is the primary concern - the school must be the one you feel the child will do their best at. Anything else can be worked around.

Choosing schools is a hellish job at the best of times.

* apart from the fact that both DS are at private secondary and he's paying the fees! A minor point - LOL. Clearly he was happy with that though smile

rechargemybatteries Fri 04-Jan-13 12:14:08

LittleLamby - unless your DP took it into court for a Specific Issue Order (is that what it's called?) the resident parent signs the form and it is ultimately their decision. I don't think that's necessarily fair, but it is what it is.

(have pm'd you btw)

littlelamby Fri 04-Jan-13 12:10:25

Both good points - definitely up the parents. I'm not planning on making the decision, don't worry! Can I at least be allowed an opinion/thoughts about it, even if I keep them to myself (except on here!)?

It looks like, even if all things were equal (i.e. both parents able to make informed, fair decisions that were fully focused on the best interests of the child and could both present an option that ticked those boxes, however you judged that) and the parents disagreed - the resident parent gets the final say.

millie30 Fri 04-Jan-13 11:58:50

This is very similar to a thread a couple of weeks ago where the OP asked the child if he wanted to come and live with them instead so he could go to the school that her DP preferred. I really think you should stay out of it and leave it to the parents. And I also agree that an 11 year old shouldn't be burdened with the decision on where he goes to school, especially in a case like this where there are other factors to consider. It should be left to his parents to decide.

allnewtaketwo Fri 04-Jan-13 11:53:59

Tbh from my own perspecive, whilst I would of course ask my child's opinion on his secondary school and take relevant points into consideration, I would still make the choice. So if I felt grammar school was the best option for him and would be more suited to his abilities and nature, then that's where he would go, regardless if he said he wanted to go to the local comp. We're talking here about a 9/10 yo (when the application is made?). Sorry but at that age a child doesn't get to make a life changing decision.

littlelamby Fri 04-Jan-13 11:49:43

(Oh goodness, terrified the mental health problems comment will open up a new can of worms. All I meant was, what if she was in some situation that prevented her from being able to make good decisions e.g. was under immense stress? Don't want to be flippant about mental health problems, I've had them myself and have full sympathy for anyone experiencing them - doesn't prevent you being a good parent AT ALL. So apologies if I've offended anyone, I was just trying to find an example! Sorry sorry...)

littlelamby Fri 04-Jan-13 11:46:46

No, I'm not a parent myself and I'm not trying to make this decision - just trying to understand all options so I can support DP & DSS. DP however is a parent and is just as capable of making good decisions about his child as the child's mother!

Obviously lots of responses on here involve our opinions e.g. the grammar is automatically the best school for DSS(what if DSS really didn't want to go there?), it isn't unreasonable for parents to travel long distances for child's school (what if one parent had a long term medical condition that limited travel?) and that the mother will automatically have chosen the best option (what if she has recognised mental health problems?) (not saying anything in brackets is true - just saying decisions aren't black and white). So lots of other discussions are going to pop up here! Also there's lots of details specific to our situation that I don't want/need to go into, but are all factors to consider.

DP would love DSS to go to the grammar if it was what he wanted and he felt DSS would be happy there. What I said at the start was we wanted to explore other options and I needed a bit more understanding of the situation around those options, and thank you to people who have helped answer those particular questions. Thanks everyone else for the opinions, I've felt a bit judged at times (just trying to do my best! Really no conspiracies here to sacrifice DSS's education to save us a bit of travel time - as his father, DP of course wants the best for his son and I have to/will happily go along with that!) but it's useful to see other points of view and add those into my/our thinking.

If DSS is presented the options fairly and honestly as to what each school can offer him decides grammar is best for him and gets in I'm quite sure DP will be delighted he's happy, and will support him and arrange our life accordingly to be part of it all and of course is happy to 'sacrifice' things to see the children, he's done plenty of that already (as has their mum - part of being a parent). What DP is concerned could happen is that ExP will not let DSS consider any other options & he'll be made to apply for grammar even if he didn't want to. It sounds like short of court (which would be horrible and feels way out if proportion) there's not much DP can do to help DSS if he's not happy with his mum's decision. I wish I hadn't said grammar school at the start as there's an automatic assumption that's the best school - the question should have been, do both parents legally get a say in where their child goes to school? And now that it looks like the answer is no, the resident parent gets the final say, is that fair (even if there's nothing that can be done to change that!)?

It's good to understand what the situation is so that DP can approach discussions with that understanding and be able to support DSS through that whatever happens. I will do the same, and promise I won't stick my nose in or force unwanted opinions on anyone! Funny how you feel the need to defend yourself on here eh? DP is a great, loving father trying to do the best for his children, and I'm  just trying to help him do that!

SoupDragon Fri 04-Jan-13 08:23:32

I find it hard to believe that a parent wouldn't make some level of sacrifice to ensure their child was at the best school for them.

XH still manages to support DSs in their education/hobbies and maintain midweek contact despite having moved a 45 minute drive away.

SoupDragon Fri 04-Jan-13 08:20:23

I think the objections to the school that is so far away (regardless of the snobbery value/red herring of it being a 'grammar') are perfectly sensible - they will impact on the child's relationship with Dad and SM

That is simply not true.

VivaLeBeaver Fri 04-Jan-13 07:31:02

Have to agree. As parents/step parents the most important thing to consider is which is the best school for my child. The one that will suit them the best. That's by far the most important thing and when you've made that decision then you work the logistics out, however tough they are.

I know people who send their kids to a school near us which has no school bus. These parents get up and drive their child for 40 mins every morning to secondary school, often with younger kids in the car as well. Then have to rush home for getting the younger ones to primary. Then in the afternoon repeat the journey.

Every day for 7 years. Rather than sending them on the bus from the village with most of the other kids.

Sometimes a childs' school will inconvenience a parent. But the parent has to sort it/live with it.

allnewtaketwo Fri 04-Jan-13 07:24:47

OP are you a parent yourself? tbh it sounds like you're not.

Personally for my own child, location and "perceived handiness" would be far down the list of priorities for my child's secondary school. If someone else was trying to butt in and choose a school place for my child because it made life easier than them, I would be furious. It's totally about which school is best for the child. The child's quality of life, as a child and into adulthood, will be affected hugely by how good the school was for them. Adults can simply just fit around that imo.

littlelamby Fri 04-Jan-13 01:23:46

So much to think about! Mumandboys, thanks for background on admissions - had a fair idea it was mega complicated but useful to understand more. Sounds like it's a difficult thing to negotiate before you even try & consider the separated parent situation!

I (we) do see quality of relationship doesn't depend on proximity of dad to children - we've been living 100 miles away before and DP's relationship with DSSs has been brilliant, even when ExP has made that difficult. However both DP & DSSs both want to see more of each other & the children say this & say they're sad they can't see him more. When ExP has made contact difficult we have seen changes with the children & at times their time at school has suffered as they've been unhappy leading to difficult behaviour. So I don't think it's so simple as to say education is definitely more important than seeing their dad.

All a long way off & DSS's opinion is obviously v important too & will absolutely be taken firmly into account. It's really useful to get all these opinions as it helps me/DP understand ExP's point of view as well. Thanks everyone for comments!

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