Applying on social need basis(9 Posts)
My stepson is in Yr 5. We are in London with the problems of over-subscribed schools and shrinking catchments. Our nearest school, which is almost certainly where he would get a place based on distance criteria, is a single-sex school famed for its iron discipline (possibly not a very accurate reputation) but not particularly for academic achievement. DSS is very bright but with significant issues around socialising and attention. He has also lost a sibling and parent, and is about to lose another sibling, to a genetic disease that he may well have himself. Unsurprisingly he has involvement with CAMHS and his primary has kept an extremely close eye on him. In the past he has been on School Action because of his social communication. He struggles to accept authority and views the world very literally. He has had some assessments and for now any ASD diagnosis has been ruled out.
His primary has said that, in their opinion, he qualifies under the social need criteria to apply to a couple of schools slightly further away that are mixed-sex and more academically focused. They feel he needs strong pastoral support. The community paediatrician says our 'local' school is completely unsuitable for him. CAMHS are also concerned.
Questions are, what actually happens when you apply on the basis of social need? The primary seems very blasé and seem to think they will just need to put in some sort of supporting statement. Is this true? I'd be grateful either for some expertise from applications people or from anyone who's done this themselves. Both the other schools are very popular-one is in the top ten of over-subscribed secondaries in the country!
Yes - the additional needs he has (medical and social) are things that are covered by the criteria but your issue is more about proving suitability for the schools you want. Admissions are never about the schools you don't want or hope to avoid.
Having additional social needs that can only be met by one particular school can give him priority for that school (if the admissions criteria lists medical/social reasons as one of its categories - not all of them do anymore).
However having additional needs doesn't get you a free choice of all schools or enable you to avoid schools that you don't like. Evidence will be needed in the form of letters sent at the time of application but a letter from CAHMS saying 'the local school would be a disaster' won't help.
Instead, the kind of evidence you need is a letter from CAHMS saying 'in my professional opinion this child is in need of the enhanced pastoral support that can only be offered at school A' with details about why it is necessary. It therefore follows that you will have to narrow it down to one or possibly 2 schools that are particularly suited to his needs and apply for those on the medical / social criteria (if they have that criteria listed). You cannot put in evidence to say 'anything except the local school' as that isn't how it works but if there is a school that is well suited, you can aim for that one.
Thanks. It isn't just 'not the local school' - that's just the paediatrician's thing. We were concerned about him going there but prepared to give it a go for lack of other options. The primary though has picked the two other schools for specific academic/pastoral reasons so we need to talk to both the schools and make sure they have what we need.
Is there a set form or anything, or do we just provide as much evidence as we have? The school seems to think that just their statement will be enough but we're assuming there is a very high bar for these sort of applications and the more the better? (Both schools have social/medical needs above distance in their admissions criteria still.)
Agree with Tiggy that it sounds as if your child has both medical and social needs. The medical professionals need to write letters that are submitted at the same time as your application form that state "in my professional opinion the school best suited (or only school that it suitable) for named child is ............. school."
It would also help if you work out what specific facilities this school has that would help your child in terms of support available.
If there is no "medical and social" criteria, then your child's situation could also qualify under an "exceptional circumstances" criteria as well. I have a relative in the London area who successfully obtained a secondary place for their child, who was recently bereaved, under this criteria.
It does, thank you. I think the primary intends to go in heavy on the bereaved part.
There are schools which have no exceptional situation criteria and medical criteria at all. They aren't obliged to.
The only allowances schools must make are for statemented children (with a statement naming the school) or children who are in care or adopted from local authority care. Any medical or other need that isn't covered by a statement doesn't have to be considered at all but will be by schools that list this as part of their admissions criteria.
Assuming the schools recommended to you have such criteria, you apply in the normal way and tick the box to say you are applying under social and medical reasons and include all your evidence with the application. The best evidence is the type crazymum describes - professional experts saying why the school you want will best suit your son and meet his needs and what difficulties he may face if he cannot have a place there.
I chair many panels in London and see many appeals on the basis that the original admission under "social and exceptional " was disallowed. IMO you need to get a letter from a professional expert setting out very clearly and precisely why a particular school is the best for your stepson. The community paediatrician will need to spell out exactly what it is your stepson needs and then you will need to show that your preferred school is the only one in the local area that meets this need. Mention of bereavement and the need for strong pastoral care will not be enough, the level of detail cannot be underestimated. Do not mention as part of your case particular staff at the preferred schools as the school and indeed the panel (if you later need to appeal) will assume that staff at a particular school could easily leave. Unfortunately in many London Secondary schools there seem to be high levels of children on School Action and or with high pastoral care requirements. Your case has to stand out for a chance of success.
Thanks, Timmytoes. Really stupid question, but who actually makes the original decision on admissions? A panel presumably rather than the schools themselves? Who is represented on the panel?
What worked well for us was a two-step method:
the paedicatrician outlined exactly what criteria dd's school needed to fulfill but did not specify the school
and we then provided the evidence as to why our preferred school was the only one that could meet these needs
Instruct the paed so that they know the kind of information that will be required but tell them only to include what they know of their own knowledge: nothing looks worse than "A's mother says that he needs..." on a letter supposed to provide independent evidence.
As Timmytoes says: be specific. Don't just say "this school is known for its pastoral care", say "this school has a special unit for the support of X". Go and talk to the schools first.
And though you don't mention the no-go schools at this stage, it is good to be as well informed about them as you can, so that when the LEA says "oh, but X school can provide this" you can come straight back with "we have been to look at X school and discussed the situation with them and it is clear that for Y reasons they will not be able to offer this". Don't bring the subject up, but be prepare to answer it.
Our LEA swore blind that the school they wanted to put us in was wheelchair accessible. Dh pulled out the plans from his pocket. LEA ended up with egg on their face.
Fact is king.
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