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To be really confused by the English schooling system (getting into a school an hour away; appealing places etc) and ask for someone to explain it to me?

(50 Posts)
MumfordandDaughter Wed 17-Apr-13 14:18:04

I'm from Scotland and have only just realised how different school applications are here compared to England.

(Not sure how it works in NI or Wales).

Here, you just apply to your local school approx five months before the August they're due to start and you're pretty much guaranteed a place. If there's a lot of pupils, then a new class is formed/new teacher hired. I think there were three primary one classes at my dd's schoola few years ago because of the huge number of new starts.

However, i've noticed that around this time of year, parenting forums and chat shows (Wright stuff etc) is always full of discussions about school admissions and appeals.

I've read somewhere that one mother has just found out her son hasn't gotten into the same school as her daughter. So she has to drop off her children at two different schools each day. How is this allowed?

I've heard another parent say their child has been given a place at a school which is the tenth furthest primary school from them and will take fifty minutes to travel there each day. No school transport is offered. Again, how is this allowed? How is someone supposed to afford that bus fare each day?

Also, is reception just the same as the Scottish primary one? Or is it the same as nursery?

Here, you get into nursery at 3 then start full time school (primary one)the August after your fourth brithday (if you're 4 before Feb of that year).

So where would reception fit in?

Sorry for all the questions! Just something i've always been curious about so thought i'd ask.

Looking4Sun Thu 18-Apr-13 09:26:13

tiggytape Thu 18-Apr-13 09:05:28

There are parts of England where there are physically fewer school places than there are children.
By 2015 there will be 250,000 too few primary places in England as a whole.

This is due to: higher birth rate, fewer people going private since the recession, families not moving out of London flats since the recession, new housing being built or existing housing being converted to flats creating a very dense population in some areas (13000 per square km in London as opposed to 68 per square km averaged in Scotland).

It isn't people being fussy
It isn't even people avoiding bad schools
It is perfectly possible to live in a road in London that does not qualify you for a single school. You can apply to your closest 6 schools regardless of Ofsted score and not get a place at any because 45 out of 90 places go to siblings and the other 45 places go to people who love 300m or less from each school.

Yes this was exactly our problem last year when applying for a reception place, we live on a very bad road in a highly oversubscribed borough in London

There are many kids who live on our street and of the ones that I know they go to atleast 15 different schools. We were allocated a Catholic school by the council, because it was brand new and the only place close with spaces...we are the furthest thing from religious....we had ZERO choice. We are still on waiting lists for 5 schools...the highest we have moved on any of them is 42nd place.

MumfordandDaughter Thu 18-Apr-13 09:27:45

Thanks all for the information. Feel much more clued up now.

It does seem really stressful.

Doctrine - the councils around here have recently knocked down a load of schools and merged them into bigger schools, due to the number of new starts that were predicted. If there's not enough new starts to warrant a brand new campus though,then some classes are merged into composite classess (e.g. if there's 10 too many new primary ones, they'll be put into a primary two class with fewer pupils, making a composite class). Or some schools have been known to make a classroom out of open plan corridors etc.

Around here (not sure what it's like for the rest of Scotland though), waiting lists for schools are unusual, and you can put your child into any of your local council schools. I'm ten minutes walking distance from three primary schools and could have applied for any.

I really feel for the people i've been reading about. I think it's mad putting siblings (who still rely on their parent's supervision) being put into two different schools. The transition to primary/secondary is already stressful enough without spending months wondering what school your child is going to and appeals and whatnot.

hackmum Thu 18-Apr-13 09:34:57

The system used in Scotland is the same as the one used in England and Wales before Mrs Thatcher's government introduced the idea of "parental choice".

Usually you can name three schools on your application in order of preference.

The way it works is that the local authority allocates places according to a set of rules giving priority to different groups. Legally they all have to give priority to children in care and children with a statement of special needs that names a particular school. Then usually you children with a medical or social reason for needing that particular school (you have to explain what that reason is and it is assessed by a panel.)

After that, it varies - usually either siblings or a rule based on distance. (Named catchments are supposed to be illegal but I think some local authorities have found ways around this.)

Some secondary schools are allowed to admit 10% of children on the basis of their ability in a particular specialism such as music.

Faith schools usually have different rules, giving priority to children from a particular faith.

Since the advent of academies and free schools outside local authority control, it's become more complicated, as these schools can decide their own admissions rules.

jojane Thu 18-Apr-13 09:51:10

We are in Wales and we have set catchment areas in our county, we are a rural county, you can go in the council website and there is a map which shows you catchment areas (I live closer to the kids school even though out of catchment than some people in catchment. ) in the opposite direction I would have to drive past a new primary school to get to our catchment primary. It is rural though with 4 small towns and then lots and lots of villages and hamlets so school transport plays a part as well as the road network.
Admissions do still go on distance but firstly within the catchment and then after all catchment children are allocated a place does it extend to non catchment. Luckily siblings get higher priority than catchment so in thoery my youngest will get in too unless 30+ siblings apply in his year.

jojane Thu 18-Apr-13 09:53:09

Plus we are in catchment for town A secondary but our catchment primary's feeds into and is in town B

Jenny70 Thu 18-Apr-13 10:08:31

We have this all the time near me (London).

Basically there are 4 primary schools within ?2 miles of our house, and all are full. They can legally only take 30 children per class, and adding classes etc depends on having classrooms and common facilities that will take them (ICT, hall for assembley etc).

The places are allocated for reception each year according to their published criteria, but all the local families never get entirely catered for (ie. the class fills with SEN, siblings and the closest local children). I live 600m from our closest school and if we didn't have children at the school my youngest would have missed out on that school last year.

But the kicker is, he would have missed out on ALL local schools, because even if I put them on my list, they are filled with their siblings and closest children etc.

Basically if you draw a circle around our local schools with the intake distance, there are HUGE "gaps" of children that fall outside every school intake. So the only places to offer them are miles and miles away, often in under-performing schools.

Different schools for siblings usually comes about because of in-year intakes - you arrive into an area and the classes are already full. So getting places for all your children at one school is difficult/impossible.

mrsjay Thu 18-Apr-13 10:10:54

What about people in Scotland who don't want their nearest school? What do they do?

put in a placing request for another school , we still need to register our scottish children for school and I have seen that some schools are getting over subscribed and children not getting in up here too,

MidniteScribbler Thu 18-Apr-13 10:25:43

Over here you get to go to your local school automatically. If there are more students than places, then extra teachers are put on, and classes have been held in demountable buildings if necessary. Some areas will have some choice (I'm in a rural area and could choose between four different schools). If you want to take your chances with another school, you can apply, and if places are available you will get in (although they won't put on extra staff to take out of area enrolments). If you have a sibling, and you're at an out of your area school (whether by choice or if you moved house and kept your child at the old school), you may or may not get in. You will either have to put both students at your own local school, or you have to travel to two different schools, but that is the choice that you make. The only exception to this is certain schools which have dedicated special education classes.

Maryz Thu 18-Apr-13 10:32:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CecilyP Thu 18-Apr-13 10:35:07

^It isn't people being fussy
It isn't even people avoiding bad schools
It is perfectly possible to live in a road in London that does not qualify you for a single school. You can apply to your closest 6 schools regardless of Ofsted score and not get a place at any because 45 out of 90 places go to siblings and the other 45 places go to people who love 300m or less from each school.^

This is what simply could not happen in Scotland. Everyone is in the catchment for one school. Catchments are usually split by obvious physical boundaries like major roads, rivers and railway lines, so your catchment school won't necessarily be your nearest school but will be fairly close to your home (other than in rural areas, obviously). If you do not want this school, you can make a placement request which will either be accepted or refused by the LA according to whether there are places available. You still always have your catchment school as a fallback, and, even if it is not perceived to be a good school, at least it is not a bad school miles away from where you live. Also, there are no primary league tables, so there is not a scramble for the schools with the best published results. The only downside is that schools can have quite uneven intakes, so composite classes are quite common - even in medium sized schools.

tabulahrasa Thu 18-Apr-13 10:45:50

*Surely if they got rid of "choice" there would be fewer really bad schools?

I mean, if a school is allegedly poor, anyone with any nous and the parents who care a lot about education then refuse to send their child there, so the school gets "worse".

If everyone just went to the local school, and boundaries were drawn so that every school included a variety of housing, then most school populations would be more equal, and all schools would be reasonably good.

Or is that too simplistic?*

That was the conclusion we came to at uni when looking at the differences between Scotland and England...that the English system seemed designed to create 'sink schools'.

It's not really comparable to business, which is the idea behind it, isn't it a free market system? because for that to work there'd need to be a surplus of schools and poorer ones would become emptier and close. Instead what happens is that the poor ones just become full of the pupils who didn't have a choice or parents who could do anything about school choice. So mostly pupils without engaged parents or parents who are stuck financially - the two groups of pupils who statistically do worse anyway, with the odd pupil who just got shafted when it came to school allocations thrown in as well.

I don't know how right that impression is though as we were all Scottish and young idealistic trainee teachers, lol.

CecilyP Thu 18-Apr-13 10:47:05

Doesn't Scotland have any issues over intake/ catchment at all? Not even in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where there will surely be a real difference between the "nayce" and the "not so nayce" areas? Is there not the same unseemly squabbling over a limited number of places, or are the schools in the "bad" areas just not perceived as being "bad" in the same way?

Yes, Dad, it does, and people can and do make placement requests for schools in better areas. There isn't really unseemly squabbling, simply some of the requests will be accepted and others refused. If a school is really full, admissions will be capped to catchment pupils and sibblings of current pupils, so any other requests will automatically be refused. The odd parent will appeal but, certainly in my area, appeals are not all that common.

Manchesterhistorygirl Thu 18-Apr-13 11:02:55

Our council now has you request 6 preferences and allocates on SEN/looked after
Out of authority area

There have been lots of schools with permanently raised intakes and some with temporary rises. Our council says it is a mini baby boom. Official figures show no sign of it slowing.

I'm aware that there is a shortage of high school places for my sons year in 2017. Council have said they are aware, but nothing will be done to sort it yet.

CecilyP Thu 18-Apr-13 11:15:16

The system used in Scotland is the same as the one used in England and Wales before Mrs Thatcher's government introduced the idea of "parental choice".

The system varied from place to place. In London, and much of the south-east, there was always a choice. However, it probably worked OK because there was far less information on which to base that choice, and also falling population.

(Named catchments are supposed to be illegal but I think some local authorities have found ways around this.)

I don't think they can be illegal as Brighton and Hove introduced fixed catchments for secondary admissions. It seems other LEAs are simply reluctant to introduce this and, as you said, there are added complications, with free schools, faith schools and academies.

CecilyP Thu 18-Apr-13 11:25:44

That was the conclusion we came to at uni when looking at the differences between Scotland and England...that the English system seemed designed to create 'sink schools'.

This might interest you, tabulahrasa. The school in question was supposed to serve the whole of the East of Brighton, but its fortunes were inevitably tied up with one housing estate which was only a small part of its catchment.


MrsJohnHarrison Thu 18-Apr-13 12:56:26

I was thinking this today after a couple of my friends in England said they were relieved to get their first choice.
So stressful. Glad I'm up in Scotland, and ALL children are entitled to a place in their local school. Just have to fill out the reg forms and you're done.
Luckily, our school is perceived as a 'good' school, but there are some perceived as not so good. That changes most years though.
The English system is, IMHO, crazy.

ProudAS Fri 19-Apr-13 07:36:25

I work at Children's Services (in England) and will try to clarify:

Each admissions authority sets its own oversubscription criteria. Some schools have their own admissions authority and in other cases the council fulfills this role.

Children who are or have been "looked after" (in public care) for a certain period of time must be the highest priority although faith schools may prioritise other children of the faith over LAC who are not.

Kids with a statement of SEN will be placed at the school named on the statement.

There are rules about what can be used as criteria. For example parental income, occupation and level of education may not be taken into account. Children with parents working at the school can be prioritised but the job the parent does at the school cannot be taken into account.

Not all schools have catchment areas, those which do generally prioritise children living in the catchment over those who don't even if the out of catchment child is slightly nearer.

Lonecatwithkitten Fri 19-Apr-13 07:46:14

One of the biggest differences that I see with my family in Scotland for large areas there is only one practical choice of school. That is much less common in England.
It is is definitely not perfect all across Scotland take for example the literal ripping out of middle schools in Shetland at very short notice last merging these schools with the primaries and highers making them over crowded. Yet bursting at the seam primaries are not allowed to use the empty buildings of the old middle schools next door!

Euphemia Fri 19-Apr-13 07:59:23

I think it's harder to judge whether a Scottish primary school is "good" or not, when all you have to go on is the most recent inspection report (which could be years old) and word of mouth.

No league tables, no SATs scores.

But much less stress for parents, children and teachers!

MissAnnersley Fri 19-Apr-13 08:12:41

It's definitely not perfect in Scotland but it is much simpler and far, far less stressful.

I am aghast when I read what some teachers on here have to deal with. Sounds grim.

hackmum Fri 19-Apr-13 08:25:41

Maryz - not too simplistic, but bang on. Once a school's reputation starts dipping, parents stop wanting to send their kids there, causing the reputation to dip further. One unfortunate consequence is that the fewer children a school has, the less money they get. So that usually means sacking teachers, reducing the quality still further.

CecilyP - my rather vague memory is that when the government introduced parental choice in the 1980s, it specifically made the use of catchments illegal. (I think the idea was that people shouldn't be able to guarantee a school place because they lived in a particular area, which is ironic, given how it all panned out.) However, I think it was later challenged in court by a local authority, and the rules changed. But, as I said, this is vague, and I haven't had much success with Google.

DontmindifIdo Fri 19-Apr-13 08:29:35

The problem here is a lot of schools can't just taken on another teacher and another class - DS will be going through this next year, our closest and most preferred school is usually oversubscribed, but there's no space for another class, so they only have 2 form entry and that's it. There's a shortage of places in this area, so two other schools have from this year put on extra classes each, which is great for those who are close to those schools, one would be a drive for us, the other is just about walkable, just take a lot longer.

So we'll put our closest, most preferred school down as first choice, but expect that we might not get it.

I still don't understand how it works in Scotland about just putting on extra forms, surely if within an area you have another school that's got spare spaces, wouldn't they just put the children there rather than have one school half empty and the other one overcrowded? Do a lot of schools just have extra classrooms in case of needing extra forms for some years? (Or is this just how it works in the countryside not in towns where the next school might be only another 20 minute walk away)

extremepie Fri 19-Apr-13 10:34:02

When we applied for DS1's school place we got allocated a school that was 1.926 miles away from us (not one of our choices). There were 9 other schools that were closer but none had places.

We couldn't afford the bus fare to the school and it was too far for us to walk (we dont drive) especially since DS2 has ASD and is still in a pushchair.

We went to appeal, which unsurprisingly didn't help. Despite applying under social and medical rules for a different, closer school (as recommended by SS and others) and having letters written by DS2's paediatrician and several other professionals advising that we be given a closer school, DS1 still could not get anything closer.

Also, because we were (just) within 2 miles distance of the school, they refused to offer us any help with transport - it would have taken us over an hour to walk this distance, each way.

The only option we had was to keep them out of school for over a year until we moved to a different area as there was no physical way we could have gotten him there!

I understand that it isnt the individual schools' fault but the system is so 'back and white' and doesnt really allow for cases to be reviewed depending on the circumstances,

tabulahrasa Fri 19-Apr-13 11:24:28

'I still don't understand how it works in Scotland about just putting on extra forms, surely if within an area you have another school that's got spare spaces, wouldn't they just put the children there rather than have one school half empty and the other one overcrowded?'

They might rejig catchment areas occasionally - but how would one be full or empty when it's worked out by population?

The LA know how many houses there are, they know roughly how many children are coming up to school age, if you just have a baby boom year then an extra class can be added, very few schools don't have at least a general purpose classroom that could be used or they rearrange into a few composite classes.

If it's because of new housing, well school places are taken into account at the planning stage. There's a massive new housing development a few towns over from me, part of the deal with the developers was that a primary school had to be built as well - as it's turned out they did underestimate the numbers of children because more people are buying two bedroom accommodation with families than was expected (probably to do with the financial climate) and the school is going to reach capacity faster than they thought, so there may be a couple of years with a bit of an overspill into the next nearest schools, but, there was an expansion plan already in place and they'll just move it up a bit.

In places where populations are steadily growing, they build new schools before they get to the point of not being able to accept new pupils.

CecilyP Fri 19-Apr-13 12:01:41

I would agree with Tabulah that where you have fixed catchments, you also have a fixed number of children and you can plan accordingly. In the first instance, if a school looks as if it is likely to go over capacity in the next few years, there will be a complete cap on placement requests. This has happened in a few cases here and solved the problem. In my town which is expanding considerably towards the east, there was only one school where there was a serious problem with overcrowding (though I can't remember what was done about it at the time) but since then 2 new schools have been built in that area. We have not had to redraw catchments except where new schools have been built.

Maybe it is inefficient, as we do have schools running well below capacity but if no new schools had been built and places allocated on proximity to school, as in England, children in the extreme east of our town would have been left with no places and directed to schools in the extreme west - a distance of several miles.

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