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Lobbying for bulge class in primary school

(34 Posts)
hailsugar Fri 06-Sep-13 20:36:29


I am seeking advice from anyone who may have some experience in lobbying schools to take on an additional class.

We bought a new build in May in the catchment of an outstanding primary in South Oxfordshire (house less than 150 metres from the school) with the hope of getting our 4 year old and 3 year old into it.

We submitted a late application for our daughter to get a place in the reception starting in 2013. Our son has been awarded a place at the preschool, within the school.

Unfortunately our daughter is 4th on the waiting list, despite only living 150 metres from the school, and my concern is she is going to slide down the list as the new housing development completes another 150 houses in the next 6 months.

The school allocated all of it's 30 places in April 2013, 10 places to children out of catchment, despite a total of 275 houses being built around the school at the time!!

My daughter has been given a place at a primary 4 miles away, which is proving to be difficult wrt logistics (2 separate drop offs, trying to organise different afterschool childcare, and get myself to work).

Myself and other parents have appealed with no success. I have met with the head and asked for them to consider taking on an extra class but they are refusing, stating lack of funds and no room. However they have a music and iCT room within the school which are used on an adhoc basis and acres of outdoor space.

I have contacted my MP, local councillor, local newspaper and am still awaiting responses.

Can anyone advise me how to proceed from here as I feel we have a strong case and the school should act to provide places for local children.

Thanks in advance,


clam Fri 06-Sep-13 20:51:41

It's not up to the Head to provide a bulge class. Those sorts of decisions are made at County level.

tiggytape Fri 06-Sep-13 21:22:39

The school has no choice. It must allocate all the places to on-time applicants using the admissons criteria as the only guide to who to accept and who to reject. It is not allowed to save some spaces for 4 year olds whose parents may or may not buy a nearby house between May and August.

I understand your frustration though - in many areas all local schools are full up with on-time applicants leaving late applicants either very poor or very distant schools which is hard. As a late applicant, buying in catchment makes no difference to getting a place. If the school is full it is full. Being in catchment only helps in terms of waiting list positions at this stage.

Have you been offered a school place at all (even if it is not one you originally listed or considered)? If the answer is no i.e. if there are no available schools at all and if a lot of other people are in the same position, you can lobby the council for bulge classes.

But bear in mind, the council will have to consider which school it thinks is in the best position to cope with extra numbers (in terms of room, outside space, facilities) and it won't necessarily be your most local school that gets chosen to host a bulge class if any appeared.

If you have been offered a school place, and if others in the area all have places too, any request for a bulge class is not likely to be met. You only have the right to a school place not to the most local school or even a school you have chosen.

tiggytape Fri 06-Sep-13 21:26:31

Sorry - my screen had cut off the last bit of your post.

As you have been offered a place 4 miles away, the council must provide you transport for your child. That is not optional - they are obliged to fund this.

muminlondon Sat 07-Sep-13 09:47:58

As tiggytape says, you are a late applicant so the only priority you have now is on the waiting list.

If the school has only 30 places and is unlikely to expand permanently, a bulge class is very disruptive to the community in later years because the only ones with priority are younger siblings. A bulge class in a small school could result in 20 siblings and only 10 new places a year or two later and even on-time applicants close to a school get left without a place as the catchment shrinks.

PatriciaHolm Sat 07-Sep-13 12:49:46

Assuming it's a normal state school, appealing to the head won't make any difference, it's nothing to do with them - it's the LEA that make the decisions.

Bulge classes are the solution where a local area has a lot of children who don't have any school places, or who are all allocated schools a distance (several miles) away, and bulges are given to schools deemed best able to cope (not the school that residents necessarily want!)

In your case, it would seem that given the school allocated 10 places outside of catchment, then there aren't at present lots of very local children without places as they had to go outside of catchment to fill up. Those who have moved into the area in the last few months missed out, but is that going to be any more than a small handful? I take your point that more families may move in over the next year or so, but at present they don't exist and the council aren't going to create a bulge this year for children who may or may not need places in months to come.

Your best bet is to get your son into reception, which will probably boost your daughters' place on the waiting list as preference is often (not always) given to siblings. You could also appeal again at Yr3, as the rules on class size are relaxed then.

keepsmiling12345 Sat 07-Sep-13 13:10:35

I understand your frustration but I don't see that either the LEA or the school have any case to answer here. You presumably understood the risks of moving in May and being a late applicant for an outstanding school? I can't imagine many outstanding schools not filling all their places at the initial allocation stage so you would always be joining a waiting list. I can understand that you want a bulge class but I agree with others that these tend to be created by the LEA when there are large numbers of children unplaced at initial allocation stage and aren't always created at the schools parents want. They also, as others have said, create difficulties later on (assuming sibling priority). I'm afraid I think you need to cover this year as best you can, get your son into reception next year and hope your daughter is then better placed to get in from waiting list.

clam Sat 07-Sep-13 13:31:23

So, in answer to your OP, few will have experience to offer in lobbying schools on this matter, because it's not the schools who need to be approached.

clam Sat 07-Sep-13 13:33:00

Also, the music room and ICT base are very important facilities for the children already at the school.

Ladymuck Sat 07-Sep-13 14:08:15

Presumably your son will get a place in a few months and then your dd will be top of the waiting list? Given both your children will then be at the school for a combined total of 13 years, you may not want to give up the ICT/music facilities too quickly.

hailsugar Sat 07-Sep-13 18:57:28

Many thanks for the advice to all that have responded. Obviously I am very new to the education system so am learning the processes as I go along - a steep learning curve in the last few months!!

My intention was never to get rid of the music room/ ICT room, but I thought it would provide some flexibility and could be accommodated in a portable classroom.

I have lived in densely populated SW London for 15 years, and the last 20 months in the expanding town of Portishead, North Somerset, so have witnessed how schools and councils can react quickly to increasing demand and populations.

When my DS starts school officially next year, my DD will still not be at the top of the waiting list as others on the wait list will also have sibling priority.

I should add as well, that over the last 3 years nobody has left the infant school, hence places have not become available for those on the waiting list. If I was confident my DD would get a place in the next 12 months ish I would happily wait. However, I strongly suspect nobody will be leaving. hence I feel the school should be doing more to accommodate the local population.

As I said previously we will be clocking up an additional 80 miles/ week to get DD to and from school. It's not just the massive inconvenience, it's also a big hit on the budget, and I don't want to be doing that for years to come.............

Thanks again

tiggytape Sat 07-Sep-13 19:26:38

hailsugar - you are entitled to transport for the school 4 miles away. This is not something the council can choose to provide, it must provide it. If you had chosen to go to a school miles away in favour of a more local one (some people do) the council wouldn't have to pay but since this is the nearest school with a vacancy, they must pay transport costs

Unfortunately there is no similar obligation about making local schools take more children. If there are places sitting empty 4 miles away, they will want to fill those up before they consider expanding schools which are already full.

hailsugar Sat 07-Sep-13 20:54:32


thanks for the advice but currently do not feel happy to put a 4 yr old into a taxi each day. Maybe I will feel different next term if the juggling of drop offs and pick ups becomes too difficult.

The 2 neighbouring schools are now full (both 4 miles from the preferred school) so I suspect families arriving in the village in the next few months (still 150 family houses to be built before Easter 2014) are going to be very stuck for a school place.

The admissions officer has proposed the school take on additional 10-15 places, with the idea that this reduces naturally to 30 as the class progresses through the school.

However, the head has resisted this. I think this is a fantastic solution, but am confused if the LEA has the authority to make the decisions - can the Head continue to block them?


clam Sat 07-Sep-13 20:57:52

But you've already said that no one ever leaves? So how are 10-15 extra children expected to "naturally reduce" to a class of 30 again.

scaevola Sat 07-Sep-13 21:04:21

The LEA will have to find places for newly arriving children, at the time they arrive.

As the long term local population as recently as Jan/Feb/March meant the school had out-of-catchment pupils, then there was no particular need for a bulge class henchmen. And as offers have been made to all incoming pupils, there is no shortage of places right now. The 4 mile journey might appal you, but in terms of school admissions it is not exceptional at all.

The school might need to expand in future years - especially as you describe a situation in which even newer arrivals will be closer than your 150m from the school. But what year groups might these postuated new need?

Is there a plan for school expansion? Perhaps that is where the local community should be putting their efforts? Even if it does not directly make a difference to one of your DCs year groups, if there is a campaign for the longer-term capacity of the school then I hope they would welcome your involvement.

clam Sat 07-Sep-13 21:32:43

It staggers me the number of new housing estates that are being built nowadays with no regard by the local council as to where these families are going to send their children to school.
Or they'll close a school, and then build 3 and 4 bed houses on the site. Oh, and what a surprise, families with children move in and there are no local school places left. Crazy.

PatriciaHolm Sat 07-Sep-13 22:36:28

Ultimately, The LEA can impose a bulge, but it will be very reluctant to do so on a school where the head is opposed. Especially as, at present, the demand just isn't there for a full bulge class, and your children do already have places.

Does the LEA have a long term education plan? Most do and ours, for example, is on their website.

pinkdelight Mon 09-Sep-13 10:31:05

It sounds like you were aware of the problem of school places from what you'd seen in your previous locations so I don't understand what your plan was by having a late application to a small school with little or no movement. What was your back-up plan? We also had to move at a time that made us a late applicant for DS's primary, but we knew we'd have to have a private back-up in place or else take a state place further away, if no places at the local school became available. In your position, I'd not put the younger DC in the local nursery if that made drop-offs difficult. Can s/he go to a day nursery at a more convenient time/place, to at least take the pressure off the double drop-off?

Taz1212 Mon 09-Sep-13 14:17:58

I would be very very careful about wanting the extra 10-15 kids solution. My DD's primary school has a maximum capacity of 62 per year. For the last 5 years they have taken 80 per year because of overflow in new build developments. It's been really quite terrible- the school is bursting at the seams and they have not brought in enough additional staff and added respurces to deal with it. It's one of the reasons we've moved DS (and will eventually move DD) to private school.

hailsugar Mon 09-Sep-13 20:19:17

Thanks again for your responses.

Pinkdelight - we had to move suddenly because of my job, hence little choice and had to make decisions very quickly.
When we applied 'late' we didn't expect our daughter to get into the preferred school straight away, but thought she would be 1st or 2nd on wait list and thought she would get a place in the school within 12 months. Hence we registered our DS for the preschool at the preferred school (as he struggles much more than DD with change) with the plan that both would be at the preferred school within 12 months, and we could all walk to and from school each day for the next 7-8 years. What we did not forsee/ expect was that DD would be 4th on the wait list, when we bought a house that is situated at the bottom of the school field.

I found out this week there has been very little movement within the school in the last 3 years (the school never volunteers this info, just tries to reassure upset parents ''everything will sort itself out within 20 months'', and the admissions officer is almost impossible to get hold of). Having lived in Bristol and London previously, most schools I have experienced have relatively transient populations. So I was shocked to discover the lack of movement in this area.

It made me realise, that this situation is not going to 'sort itself out' but will need an action plan to accommodate for the massive and sudden increase in population (we think over 60%) that has occurred. After all, the builder is selling only family homes, within spitting distance of a fantastic school, hence the houses have sold like hot cakes, for premium prices in a time of recession.

I personally feel the school should have a moral duty to accommodate the children within catchment, especially as the school was built purposely for the ' new' community. The school were very aware that 300 houses were popping up on it's doorstep, and I don't think any planning took place for this. Not only that, the school have been actively dissuading parents from appealing, as they re convincing parents it will be unsuccessful!!

muminlondon Mon 09-Sep-13 20:49:52

hailsugar it must be so frustrating and a very worrying time, but it is not the school's responsibility to plan, nor its moral/legal duty to accommodate all families in the area. It's the LA's responsibility, but increasingly they have no power. They can't build new schools because they all have to be academies or free schools over which they have no control. And they are getting limited capital funding anyway.

From what you say there may be a case for permanent expansion but it requires consultation and bids for capital investment so usually has a two-year timetable. Bulge classes often precede this but not in half sizes. It would be best to talk to your local councillor.

BoundandRebound Mon 09-Sep-13 21:01:57

Even if the head agrees eventually to a bulge it certainly won't be for this academic year, but may benefit your second child. These things take planning, staffing and resources. Sorry it must be an awful position to be in

clam Mon 09-Sep-13 21:37:56

As muminlondon has re-iterated, it is nothing to do with the school whether it expands or not. Those decisions are made at County level, and if it is considered that there's a need for increased school places within the borough, then they will assess all the local schools to see which are in a position to be able to expand, funding permitting.

And as for the school discouraging parents from appealing; the schools don't run the appeals process. Admissions (and appeals) are administered by the LEA. What they might perhaps have done is to point out that there will be very little chance of success at appeal, as it will be a case of Infant Class Size, whereby the school is not allowed to go above 30 per KS1 class. The only likely chance of winning such an appeal is to prove that County has made an error in allocating places, which doesn't seem to apply to you and your neighbours.

keepsmiling12345 Mon 09-Sep-13 21:44:47

You really need to take this up with your councillor/the LEA. It is not the school's responsibility if a developer sells a whole load of houses for inflated asking prices to families moving near a good school. I live in SW London and am consistently struck by how many properties for sale are listed as being "in catchment" for certain schools when a/there are no defined catchment areas and b/the furthest distance offered is shrinking and so children from many of these houses would not get places on initial allocation. But it is hardly unusual for estate agents or developers to emphasise the positives even if there is no basis in reality...

clam Mon 09-Sep-13 21:51:04

The other thing of course is, that even though the school is currently outstanding, rapid expansion might well be detrimental to its success. The schools near us that have been selected for expansion will be doing it very gradually, starting with Reception and adding a reception class each subsequent year. Not sure how that would help the housing estate near you, if families with older children move in.

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