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Being stubborn to buy in a particular catchment area (within 2 months!)

(39 Posts)
Jedimum1 Sun 20-Nov-16 09:07:44

Sorry if this is all very obvious to you, but I'm really confused and would like some advice. I'm being a bi stubborn on getting into the catchment area of one school, my friend says I'm blinded by Ofsted reports, my DH is as confused as me but more flexible, a colleague at work who sends his kid to that school says it's worth the trouble... We went to see this school and it looked amazing, although a bit big, which concerned us a bit. I do think, however, than anything would concern me because I'm not ready to send her to school.

The schools in our area are not good and we have decided to move. We've already sold our property.

We are looking at an area where there are a few good and outstanding primary schools, an outstanding grammar and a good/outstanding secondary. Two of the outstanding primary schools are religious and although we are all baptised, we don't really go to church, so I feel it wouldn't be right to send her there when we cannot support at home the religious aspect of it. Their catchment area is quite big. The other outstanding primary is non-religious but has a tiny catchment area.

We are looking to buy, but the catchment areas are exclusive, if I move into one, I miss the other one, the limits are one street. We are having a hard time to decide because there are only a couple of houses in the catchment area and more expensive. The other non-religious school is Ofsted good and is exactly the area that this other school doesn't cover. My DH knows people through work who sent their kids there and say it's good.

I'm pushing to buy in the catchment area of the outstanding one but there are only two houses in the market, which are overpriced and have been there for a good month now (houses in this area tend to sell on opening day). If I buy outside this catchment area, there are more houses and cheaper.

So question:
Should I be stubborn and buy in the tiny but expensive catchment area of this non-religious outstanding primary?
Should I buy in the limits, theoretically outside the catchment area but obviously still close by straight line? This would put us in the catchment area of other schools, but housing is slightly cheaper and we could get more house for the same price.
What are the chances of the school oversubscribing with only kids of the catchment area and not going to the "distance" recruitment? The SchoolGuide website shows last year the kids that went there were also from within 0.2-0.3 miles outside catchment limits... but then these could also be foster children or siblings.
Am I being too stubborn on getting into this particular school? Does it really matter? Is there that much of a difference? This school is big, they get 70 students per year. The catchment area is about 5-7 streets to either side, so quite small.

I'm also assuming that if we buy in this particular catchment area, the house will always have that extra value to it (unless school turns to worse, but it has been outstanding for as long as I can see).

A friend of mine says I'm being blinded by Ofsted reports and that a good school is as good as an outstanding. She has not got or had kids in primary, though. She knows people who sent their kids to a nearby school and are happy, but the report tells me there are gaps and teachers need to improve teaching and attend to all students. Am I being unreasonable by not considering other schools? These other schools are smaller.

My DD is very outgoing once she gets to know the people, but she goes shy and a bit scared when she encounters a new environment. Obviously, no matter the school, she will have this problem. The outstanding school is big but have great facilities, great division of the space and the report says that it has excellent pastoral care and all children feel involved and are attended. The smaller school is half the size, I am assuming she'll have more 1:1 time... or is this not true because all schools are in a 30:1 ratio?

Sorry, long post... I'm completely ignorant in this, no matter how much I read, all these data and statistics only confuse me more.

AIBU by only considering houses in that tiny area? Let's say that usually the market for this is about one house for sale a month.

AIBU by believing the Ofsted report as a divine truth? For the three schools we have in mind, they are from 2013 (outs) and 2016 (good x 2)

Scooby20 Sun 20-Nov-16 09:15:10

I can't tell you what to do.

But my children have been to an outstanding school and we moved then to a 'good' school. It was far better.

The second school cared more about the kids than the ofsted reports. The outstanding school did everything they could to avoid tackling bullying or even admitted it was bullying. Everything was based around ousted reports.

Honestly I don't always rate 'outstanding' schools.

Dd is now in an outstanding secondary and there are similar problems there too.

In fact I was in there last week as they had been told they would be put be forced to take 2 hours of maths everyday in year 9 if they didn't beat their last maths test score. Regardless of how able their are. They haven't ever been told how they did in the last test. Kids who aren't able at maths wouldn't get the extra lessons they need if they beat their score and more able students would have to take more if they happened to not have a good day on the test.

Turns out it was all rubbish they were trying to 'encourage the kids' apparently. Lying and scaring kids to get good results is their tactic.

trixymalixy Sun 20-Nov-16 09:21:36

We've pretty much done what you're proposing. We wanted to live in a really particular part of the catchment for a great school. We've waited 3 years for a suitable house to come up for sale.

Can't tell you yet whether it was worth it, but I don't think you're nuts!

HSMMaCM Sun 20-Nov-16 09:22:34

Depending on how many people apply, even if you are inside the catchment area, you might not get in.

MissVictoria Sun 20-Nov-16 09:29:13

Is there any way you can talk to parents of children at each of the schools?
Finding out how the school deals with every day issues is a better indicator than how they deal with them on the few days an inspector is there.

thecraftyfox Sun 20-Nov-16 09:32:13

Admissions officer here.
The siblings are probably not the children shown as distances, the distance measures are usually to be the "other children admitted" and then the distance is the last child admitted (i.e child 60 or 30). That is only a guide though. A large number of sibling admissions or children from the other categories can change things a lot. One school I deal with usually admits to about 0.6 of a mile but one year got a lot of siblings and it dropped to 0.15 miles.

Are you sure that the number of children admitted is 70. It's an odd number for a Reception class. They tend to be 30, 45, 60 or in the case of very big schools 90. Smaller schools don't mean more 1:1 time as the law means 1 teacher per 30 kids. Big schools can be crowded and busy but also can mean more resources or clubs or facilities. Small schools can be cosy and friendly but can mean things like after school clubs are limited or don't happen, buildings can be older and they might be taught in mixed groups if the PAN is 45.

You will need to show admissions proof you own the house, a completion letter ideally as admissions will have your current address. Will you be able to complete within the timeframe?

I can't tell you which house to buy or which schools to put down as a preference. I can tell you that come offer day the parents who are devastated are the ones who were focused on just 1 school and didn't get it, rather than those who were happy to consider a few options. The worst situations the child is aware of the parents' feelings and they become upset too and it spoils what should be an exciting lovely time.

For my own child, I'll be applying to 2 good schools rather than the outstanding one. I'm happy with both of them and will make my application and think no more of it. My own experience is that outstanding schools can be very good but it doesn't guarantee it's the right school for your child.

RedHelenB Sun 20-Nov-16 09:34:19

YABU _ change of head and it all could change. I really dont get the mumsnet angst with schools - OFSTED categories really mean very little.

ApocalypseNowt Sun 20-Nov-16 09:40:00

Excellent post craftyfox!

GrinchyMcGrincherson Sun 20-Nov-16 09:40:23

Honestly a better bigger house is far more beneficial. My kids went to an outstanding school for 3 years. It had been outstanding for years. Best school in area etc. Then the head left. It bombed into special measures within 12 months. Another local school bombed when the head fell ill. Outstanding for years means nothing.

I would also be cautious of outstanding schools in general. The one local to us is horrible. You walk round and they look great but They are ridiculously strict. Masses of homework each night, super strict classrooms, bare minimum fun things. I've known kids there in tears each night with the pressure.

We chose to forego that in favour of the good school. Our kids are happy and settled there. They are achieving well but sats were far less painful for us than most and DD still passed them all (last year) We don't have the best sats results in the area but we do have some of the best sports teams, an amazing pta, polite and well rounded pupils and a school that values every child. We will probably never get outstanding because the sats aren't high enough. Part of the reason for that is we have a high number of low achieving kids simply because the school values them so well.

RandomMess Sun 20-Nov-16 09:47:32

At any school a particular teacher of group of children can make it good or bad overnight...

Hoppinggreen Sun 20-Nov-16 09:56:20

Being in catchment at the point you move won't guarantee a place. As houses are built or other changes happen catchments change. My DS is 4 years younger than DD and by the time he started at Primary we were outside catchment and probably wouldn't have got in without a sibling link.
Also, schools can change drastically. A very sought after school can become unpopular within a few years and vice versa.
Buying somewhere thinking it will definitely get you into the school of your choice is risky.

Jedimum1 Sun 20-Nov-16 09:56:29

Thank you for your replies. I only know two people in the area , one who did not have to deal with primary schools and is telling me I'm blinded by the report and get neighbours kids go to another one and are happy, and another person who sent his DD to that one I want and told me its worth. I want to call and visit the other two schools.

I didn't know I needed to show completion of sale/purchase. We might be in the middle of both sad

Thank you so much for your replies so far

OdinsLoveChild Sun 20-Nov-16 10:08:13

Don't rule out other schools they may well be perfect for your dc.

I moved into the catchment of outstanding schools (primary and secondary) Within 12 months the new head at the primary had sacked most of the staff and the rest resigned. The ofsted rating is now requires improvement and not a single teacher from the original staff were teaching there so my children missed out. The head has now resigned too so our lovely small outstanding village school has been ruined in the space of 18 months. It's been difficult on the children with so many activities cancelled a change in teaching styles and they don't know any of the staff anymore.

The high school has recently been rated good down from outstanding when my children started. The new progress 8 scores mean it will drop to requires improvement. It's really not the schools fault because this year they had their best ever GCSE results with more students getting those A grades than ever before and in A Levels again the best results in the schools history. A significant number of students gained oxbridge places for the first time ever but the progress 8 scores showed that the students didn't progress as much as other similar schools and that's because they were already high achievers when they arrived at the school.

All that Ofsted will tell you is that the school managed to tick all the correct boxes to make it fit into the outstanding category it will not tell you how well the students do or how happy they are in school.

I wouldn't recommend moving into a catchment just because the school is outstanding I would definitely look at good schools and pick the one that suits my children the most. At least a good rated school can strive to improve unlike an outstanding school where they can just coast for years without any improvement knowing they won't be getting an Ofsted inspection any time soon. It's about what you provide at home as much as what the school offers.

MigsSlippers Sun 20-Nov-16 10:50:59

It is getting v close to the 16th Jan, especially considering christmas is in the way. Have you got time to have moved by then? Look at your admissions info in enormous detail and understand what you need to provide as evidence by when.

I know you want the best for your child but I'd be looking at maximising your chances of getting a "good enough" school. Put down a couple of the best schools you think you can get into from your current home, just in case you have to apply from your current address. You can "shoot for the moon" and try for whichever school you wish, but don't put all your eggs in the basket and find yourself failing to get any of the schools on your list because you haven't moved in time.

EveOnline2016 Sun 20-Nov-16 10:56:10

I would buy where you can afford to give your DC a good home life and with the money saved get a tutor if needs be.

altik Sun 20-Nov-16 11:22:17

It depends on your priorities. We must bed because the area we were in had shit schools, esp for secondary. We moved to a much more expensive area, and had to downsize from a large detached to a small terraced house, losing a room along the way. It's still the best decision we ever made.

Interestingly, we moved for the secondary schools when our DC were still primary age. We chose an area where 3out of the local schools were outstanding and the 4th was rated good. In the end, we chose the one school that was rated good, and it has been a brilliant school for our DD. It's % of 5A-C grades is almost double that of the school DD should have gone to if we hadn't moved.

So no, you're not BU to move house for schools. Education is very important (I'm a teacher, so obviously really value it!) but I wouldn't base my decision on Ofsted reports... what they look for changes from one cycle to another, making reports unable to be compared. Furthermore, what's right in a school for one child just won't fit another. Ofsted has tight criteria that doesn't recognise this. Move for the school, but do choose the best school for your child - not just the one Ofsted says is great!

altik Sun 20-Nov-16 11:22:47

Must bed = moved house!

Babyroobs Sun 20-Nov-16 11:35:26

As pp have said things can change so quickly. Six years ago when my eldest ds started secondary school his school was in special measures and we seriously considered moving house or moving him to a school outside of our area. However the school got loads of help , got sponsored by an outstanding school and is now termed ' Good'. Last year it had the second best A level results in the county. My other 3 kids are all there now and all doing well.

MatildaTheCat Sun 20-Nov-16 11:36:32

Haven't RTFT but I would never buy a house that was overpriced or tiny in a rush for a school place.

All outstanding schools are oversubscribed. If you move to within a reasonable distance and select one of the other good schools you can still go on the waiting list for the preferred school. It's extremely common for last minute places to become available or for children to leave early on for many reasons.

That way you get to buy a better house, start DC at a school which she will probably love but potentially move her if a place comes up. Very few parents persist with waiting lists even if the child hasn't actually started and especially if they have. Odds on she will get a place quite soon.

Bluebolt Sun 20-Nov-16 11:44:12

I live in a catchment area, a few house each academy nearing the time to complete in time for admission go on sale higher than the would as the owners know eventually a parent will panic buy. It's only overpriced if no one ever buys it and the owners are desperate to move. Sometimes owners are just trying their luck.

Bluebolt Sun 20-Nov-16 11:45:38

Missed out the word year after academy.

Jedimum1 Sun 20-Nov-16 18:19:48

Thank you for your replies, I think I might have indeed been blinded by the reports. I will need to move eventually, we live in a small flat and it would be great to have a third bedroom and a garden. My neighbourhood is next to a problematic neighbourhood with a high incidence of crime and drug related incidents, I wouldn't want my kids to grow up here anyway, but that's something I didn't know when I was single and moved into the area. All the schools are under subscribed. I would send them there if I had to, for a year, or keep them in nursery until the following year. It's just too expensive to afford and I need to go back to working full time, but I can only afford 2 to 3 days maximum, which get written off by nursery fees.

Thank you for the explanation on how the Ofsted reports work, I probably was putting too much faith in their accuracy. I'll visit the schools and probably get a cheaper house in the other catchment areas! Thank you

CotswoldStrife Sun 20-Nov-16 19:20:25

You can only apply from the address you are living in, so if the sale hasn't completed (and as it takes 3 months usually if you haven't offered already it is unlikely to complete) then you have to apply from your current address - sorry.

BobGoblin23 Sun 20-Nov-16 20:19:45

I fixated on one specific area that is close to a great grammar school and the catchment area for an outstanding infants School. We paid the premium for being in that area and so close to an outstanding school but when I came round to applying for school places I decided that a school further away and rated good would be better suited to us.

The outstanding school was very small, cosy and a tightknit lovely community. Many stay at home mums and no breakfast club or after-school club. We needed a different set up with a wraparound care and I liked the idea ofother mixed ability groups. We were too far away and didn't get the first choice school place - instead getting our second choice at our catchment school. Now DS has started there it's brilliant and I would recommend the school to anyone. It's worked out well for us but childcare is definitely a problem .

Jedimum1 Sun 20-Nov-16 21:04:10

Thank you, this is really helpful. We might have an issue then, as the sale is under way sad I expected to be able to apply for a place with papers of solicitors, mortgages in the way, etc sad

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