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Admissions Y1 -Amazed and a little despairing

(88 Posts)
rushingrachel Fri 03-Jan-14 18:54:37

This is a bit of a long one! After nearly 10 years abroad I have recently been offered a job in the UK. It seemed perfect, near to the area in which I was brought up (Suffolk/Essex border) very rural. Although the salary is not great, and my DH would need to continue to split his time between Brussels and London, we thought we'd find a property in a village near to a good village school (such as the one I went to) and we would find a good balance. The property we found was lovely and four doors up from the local village school. So we rang to check. Year 1 full. Then we spread the net to 5 other schools trying to find a place. Nothing. It has made making a decision about the move virtually impossible. To apply you need an address, but to commit to an address you need to know your children will be placed, and in my case in a school with extended school cover. The fact is only awful schools, which were awful when I was around and still seem to be, can commit to having a Yr 1 place and then if the place is miles from where you live, and you work, how can you organise to collect them?

I wonder if the government ever thinks about people like me. They say they want to attract skilled expats to return to the UK and yet how can we with this uncertainty? My DH and I are both solicitors, we should be able to contribute to tax and community. But if we can't even be allowed to understand where a place might arise before we commit to a rental we might as well give up.

Something has gone wrong here. We have a lovely, clever, well educated son and the UK has nothing but the worst to offer him in terms of state provision.

I really, really, wanted to come home and build a home for my family and I feel very let down.

clam Sat 04-Jan-14 18:13:07

RE: the US system (which may vary from state to state), it sounds good in theory, that your child goes to the catchment school regardless (assuming you're happy with that school), but friends of mine in NC were in an area where there was so much expansion with new housing going up, that every now and again they operated 're-assignment.' Basically, they re-organised all the schools' catchment areas and many children were ousted from their school and sent to another one, no argument. No one's mad keen on that either.

meditrina Sat 04-Jan-14 18:22:25

There is no single "UK" system; in Scotland you are guaranteed a place at your catchment school.

It doesn't work like that in E/W because of the areas of incredible population density, and because of successive Government's policies of fostering (at least the illusion of) parental choice.

justicewomen Sat 04-Jan-14 18:38:52

Maybe you need to extend your search to other parts of Suffolk as great swathes of schools are regularly under-subscribed (and not just the rubbish ones) due to local demographics.

Have you seen this document?
This would give an indication of all the schools in Suffolk which admitted at less than PAN last year so would be a help to identifying ones with places in year 1. Don't just focus on Ofsted outstanding (as there are not many of those in Suffolk) but many with "Good" rating are actually really good. If you name some schools we could offer advice. I really only know Ipswich schools but there are enough Suffolk folk on the boards.

rushingrachel Sat 04-Jan-14 20:07:44

I love mumsnet. Thank you so much justicewoman. Seems like I was roughly unlucky and there are a couple of potential options here.

2 of the 5 closest were actually Essex schools. Do you know if we can apply for Essex and Suffolk schools in parallel. And be on waiting lists for both?

We looked at a Little Garth, which is lovely, but paying would stretch us to the limit.

cece Sat 04-Jan-14 20:13:15

Or you could get a childminder to take your DC to school and pick up and that way you can get to work on time.

HamletsSister Sat 04-Jan-14 20:20:07

In the short term, why not get a good au pair / live in help. That way you can go on waiting lists and have someone at home with your children who can "home educate" until a place comes up.

sunnyweatherplease Sat 04-Jan-14 20:59:07

op, would you really refuse your dream job offer on the grounds you can't get the school you wanted?? There are always ways round logistic problems, and people will help. Child minders will drive kids to and from school and you have a parent near by - could your mum help at all?

When we were considering an area move, I phoned up the new LEA and they told me which schools would likely have places available. Then we couldn't decide on moving to the area local to the likely schools, or moving to the area we wanted and going on a waiting list. SO we never moved in the end. But I believe that is the most usual way to move area(?).

The working parents issues of course are never ending. School holidays? Inset days? 9-3pm hours? Most people round here use child minders before and after school. My friend is a single mum lawyer and her kids travel 15min drive to school. She has a part time nanny share with another mum. Basically, the nanny does before and after school care for 4 kids.

At least the dc are young enough to adapt to moving schools at this age. It would be worse if they were year 6, or 7 to doing exams. Just go for it I say. Nothing is forever.

Good luck!!!

prh47bridge Sat 04-Jan-14 21:51:22

Yes you can apply for schools in both Essex and Suffolk. You apply to your home LA for schools in both LAs - you don't apply separately to each LA. And yes, you can be on waiting lists in both counties.

rushingrachel Sat 04-Jan-14 22:43:26

I will do more ringing on Monday!

If I can find any, or even better more than one, ok schools with places, we could commit to rental and I could start thinking about childminding and after school care solutions which you have all made me more cautiously optimistic about. I have got spoiled here and not had to think about building childcare solutions. All schools here have after school garderie, it's kind of cultural, so that's another thing this has set me straight on.

And yes, I would give up job if I couldn't get ducks in a row. Really I have been very tenacious already. My DH loves expat life and so luring him away has always been difficult. I finally came to the conclusion that to move him I needed to come up with a concrete proposal (work is x, kids go to y, housing is z) and force him to consider it. All of which was working until the 5 schools said no to DS1!

It may still have viability. Fingers crossed. I really want to do it, professionally and personally, it's just all tricky to line up.

teacherwith2kids Sun 05-Jan-14 11:33:24

To give you some optimistic thoughts on the childcare front - school-based before /after school care may not be the best solution fior a working parent in any case, simply because it doesn't supply what you may find most difficult - cover for the holidays / INSET days / half terms etc.

I have used a childminder for many years - often in combination with school based after school care / free local pre-school priovision for 15 hours per week - and it might well give you a flexible option for both your children. So, for example, your 2.5 year old could go to the childminder all day initially, but from 3 could be dropped off by the childminder at a local community-run pre-school for 15 hours, which would be free. The same childminder might well do school runs to one or a number of schools. There are databases of childminders online, but tbh if you identify a school with a place for your older child, it might be easiest to ask the school if they know of childminders who serve that school. All the schools I know of would be able to give you that list ... often with an unofficial 'commentary... 'Oooh, yes, X is the childminder I would want for my children' was the golden nugget that fell from the lips of the normally wholly discreet school secretary when I made a similar enquiry!

tiggytape Sun 05-Jan-14 12:59:00

That effectively puts a total stop to any kind of mobility - classic island mentality.

The system in England isn't borne out of any ideological mentality.
The reason we don't have a catchment system with guaranteed school places for all those living close to each school is population density.

In London, population density is about 5000 people per km compared to 65 per km in Scotland. There is no way schools could talk all children who live closest to them - for some schools this represents many hundreds of children

Added to that, land values and lack of undeveloped space means most schools in English cities physically have no room to expand to take more pupils.

lainiekazan Sun 05-Jan-14 13:09:55

It is extremely frustrating.

Our house search some years ago was not based on "do I like this house?" but "does the school have a place?" It was particularly exasperating when I found one house for sale next to the village school but the school secretary told me haughtily that I'd have to drive to a school five miles away because they were full.

Someone I know was top of the waiting list for primary school in same road and then to her horror a house came up for sale two doors nearer the school and her worst nightmare was realised when a rival for a year one place bought it. First world middle class problem, of course, but still gutting.

To the council, the fact that you don't fancy Bash Street Primary which ha plenty of spare places is immaterial.

My granny used to move every year, just because she fancied it. My mother said she and her sister were just sent off to the nearest school the day after the move and announced they were new. [No wonder my mum had ishoos...]

rushingrachel Sun 05-Jan-14 14:09:53

I have had a giggle about haughty school secretary. Got exactly that kind of response from the school 3 doors up from the house we planned to rent. "Come here? Of course not!" She was kind of pleased to be able to say no. Whereas the lady at the LEA who wasn't able to help me much was at least very pleasant and sympathetic.

It is frustrating. Even though I now realise I should have anticipated the problem, and it's not uncommon, I find it very frustrating. We are not helped by me needing to go to work in one direction and my DH needing to get to the train station in the other direction. The only doable solution is to live somewhere in the middle, which seems to make school places, child minders and ASC provision generally pretty hard to find.

CaroBeaner Sun 05-Jan-14 17:03:32

Yes, you can apply to schools in both counties, and you can put yourself on the waiting list for as many schools as you like.

If you want this job and to move to the location, I would do it, and then immediately put yourself down for places. In 5 schools, more across the border in Essex, a place will come up.

And as someone said if you move very close to a school you like and your younger child gets a place, your older one will shoot to the top of the list as a sibling. Conversely, you will be able to opt for a sibling place at a school your first child is at if you like that too!

It is a tricky and frustrating situation but it's hard to see how places could be kept 'just in case', or overseas workers or expat returners given any kind of favourable treatment over flexibility. Your OP was sounding a bit like an entitled tantrum! Lots of MN-ers ask about in-year admissions - everyone gets a place in the end, I imagine.

addictedtosugar Sun 05-Jan-14 17:03:40

It could be a tough commute for one of you, but the alternative could be close to one place of work, and the schools, and the other parent doing the commute? It would depend on the distances however.

rushingrachel Sun 05-Jan-14 17:43:38

Sorry if it sounded like an entitled strop. I am actually not at all a stroppy person. I really didn't expect places to be kept open just for me and my ilk. More just shocked by the stretch on school places in a very rural area and depressed by how very difficult it is to get certainty on what you can expect especially when trying to sort all this out from a distance. I do see why this is so but it doesn't make it any less disappointing.

I also happily concede this is a problem manufactured by my move overseas in 2004 (incidentally that was only supposed to be for 2 years at the time and I was 26. I never contemplated all of this.). Make your bed and lie in it. I see that too.

The expat angle was at the forefront of my mind as before Christmas I went to a chat about how the government really wanted to stem the flow of brain drain and British expats should realise GB has lots for us and we have lots for it. From which I went away glowing about how nice it would be to give my kids a country upbringing back home like I had.

But I am now fully realistic about what I can expect. And much helped by the advice here.

CaroBeaner Sun 05-Jan-14 17:51:39


Good luck!

teacherwith2kids Sun 05-Jan-14 18:06:14

Just a quick point on the 'living somewhere in the middle'.

We did this for several years - DH commuting off in one direction, me in the other, children remained at school n the middle.

Which is fine, until someone is ill. When you get the 'your child is ill, come at once', and BOTH of you are 45 minutes' commute away, it is hideous (not to mention lots of other slightly lower adrenalin situations like needing to get back for parents' evemnings, maybe moving a child to an out of school activity etc).

I now work very close to my children's schools. My DH does the long commute BUT it in fact works out much better than a 'fair' half and half commute split. I do all the child-wrangling, and that's easy for me because it is close. DH does the long commute, knowing that he will almost never have to drop everything and run - and in fact, because he does it by train, he gets a seat and a decent wodge of time to work on the train each way. The average stress level of the household is MUCH lower.

Where would you need to live if you were really close to one job or the other? How bad would it make the other commute? Would it help the school situation at all? Would it reduce any other household expenditure at all (we use less out-of-school childcare, and only own 1 car - which easily offsetas the marginal cost of extra miles on the train for DH)

prh47bridge Sun 05-Jan-14 19:29:23

you can put yourself on the waiting list for as many schools as you like

No you cannot - at least, not unless your home LA allows it. The Schools Adjudicator has ruled on this. You apply to your home LA even if you are applying for schools in a neighbouring LA. Your home LA is entitled to limit the number of waiting lists you are on. Some LAs only allow you to be on 3 waiting lists.

Shootingatpigeons Mon 06-Jan-14 00:54:10

Rachel I must admit as an ex expat I do find your desperation to get back here in spite of all the stress it will put your family under hard to understand. Has it occurred to you that when you get your children back from the lives they are used to, growing up between cultures with all the benefits that is now known to give them, third country kids, universities love them etc. etc. and put them in a country school they might find it a bit narrow minded and dull? That what seems so idyllic a life through the rose tinted specs of your nostalgia might be a little different in reality when it is a freezing cold winter, the nearest supermarket is 8 miles and you haven't a moment spare between all the haring about you need to do to balance work and children and house. And inevitably in relation to the latter you will end up buying/renting some "project" that consumes time, money and sanity. I have known so many expats end up miserable as a result of the contrast between the dream and the reality.......................

rushingrachel Mon 06-Jan-14 08:48:47

I know it wouldn't be perfect, and I also know that a big move would put my family under stress, which is exactly why I am trying to plan it sensibly and not just say "sod it, I'll go and sort it out later". My family has already been under tremendous stress and my desire to go back is rooted in certain things that have happened in the past few years and the lack of career opportunity for me here.

To explain. I moved here because, on a whim, I applied for and got a very senior position in a company. I just hit it off with the CFO and he hired me on the spot. I was at least 5 years underqualified and ambitious. It was a fantastic job, but long hours, lots of travel, lots of stress to get things right. I met and married DH who had, and has, a pretty cool job with a lot of travel. So we decided we'd try for a baby and that we would fit it around our work (how naive many of us are before kids actually arrive). With military precision I lined up creches and mothers helps and agreed I would leave the office at 19h for 2 hours and be back online for 9. You get 4 months maternity leave here so I went back to the dream job when DS1 was just 4 months. At 5 months he became chronically sick. After 2 months in hospital he was diagnosed with a rare and potentially fatal immunity problem. So for months DH and I had to juggle sleeping on hospital camp beds by our son and trying to get up and press on with work. When finally after 3 months he was discharged he couldn't go into creche so we got a nanny, but the nanny wouldn't work the hours that I did so we had to have 2 mothers helps to cover the nanny. And we were hostages to them all as we have no family here to cover. My boss up to this point was pretty understanding.

So for a few months we tottered on then I got pregnant again, only to have a miscarriage at 14 weeks.

Then my mum, to whom I am very close, was diagnosed with cancer. I wanted time off to be with her during her surgery but of course couldn't even ask after all of the above.

During my pregnancy with DS2 I knew my boss had absolutely got sick of me. I was trying very hard to keep all the wheels on but I was always stressed and drained, and planning how I could get out to relieve the nanny or the babysitter. He let me know when I was on maternity leave that he had hired "another senior counsel" and then when I got back told me that of course he didn't have the budget for 2 of us so he'd have to let me go. Of course this was illegal, but being a lawyer I know very well that you can't in most circumstances stop people doing what they want, you can only make it more expensive for them. So I negotiated a good settlement and a reference and left that chapter behind. Also I did understand. Ex colleagues tell me the new guy is always there, has a wife that doesn't work, and wears smart looking suits. And is good at the job. Who wouldn't want that guy rather than wait around for me to put my life back together!! Again!!

When I look back over the near fatal illness, miscarriage, mum's cancer and my redundancy (which I don't too often as going through it was bad enough), it has really made me hate being far from family. And made me reassess what kind of job is actually possible when your partner has a very hours and travel intensive role, but you still want to have some form of career and have worked hard for it over the years.

Of course there are things we would miss here. Our life is set up very comfortably especially as I am now around to do much more for the kids. But I have a crap admin role which requires only that you can speak English, whereas I have been offered a good job in the UK, doesn't pay as well as the dream job, but it is 3 full days and 2 half days which gives some balance. Here we have our elder son in British school (he hated the local school) but the younger one in local school because we couldn't pay a second set of school fees. We'd like them in the same place ... I feel very strongly we shouldn't offer an opportunity to one we can't offer to the other.

I guess the bottom line is I'd like a new start and to re-start my career, so the move is actually about me rather than the kids. But I won't do it if it's going to be really crap for them. But it's not driven by the fact I have a rose tinted view of how life would be although I probably sound that way (and I do occasionally dream about waitrose). After all life has thrown at me in the last few years I don't have the capacity for forward planning, I take everything a little at a time and very cautiously. Really big crap things make you wiser, but much older.

Shootingatpigeons Mon 06-Jan-14 10:45:01

You have had a tough time and I know law can be one of the last bastions of neanderthal behaviour towards women, as is I now find the academic world hmm All my lawyer friends (city firms) in the end have given up the big jobs in favour of tribunal or freelance work etc. anything with flexibility. I gather country practise is another option if a bit soul destroying if you are used to the adrenaline of big deals, though presumably a lot less soul destroying than admin work. Sadly even as a senior manager in a more accommodating business, a combination of Cancer and the demands of having older children meant I also lost my big job, hence the return to academia (though I did get a deal on the grounds of constructive dismissal, it was before Cancer was classed as a disability) Actually there is only one of my peers, we all are at the stage of having teenage children, who has stuck with a big job and she is the breadwinner. It isn't easy even if you are settled geographically.

However being a returning expat does have it's own challenges. I don't think anywhere is truly home again after you have lived abroad, in the sense it is before. You are always torn between the advantages and disadvantages of home and away, and if you feel negative there is a risk of the grass always being greener. I have just known so many expats be miserable between the new demands of UK life with children, even if you get them into the same primary / prep there will be the point at which the older goes to secondary, and that will be a whole other challenge to find a place at a good school, buying the dream house in the country, often complete with years of renovation, cowboy builders, expense etc., the sheer misery and negativity of UK society, and the bloody weather, especially if the partner is still travelling /working overseas. Having said that returning from Europe, especially Switzerland seems to be the least painful transition. hmm

I wish you luck but just wanted to highlight the risks.

rushingrachel Mon 06-Jan-14 17:19:42

I am sure there are challenges to returning as an expat. I just want to have a chance to give it, and my career, a go.

And there is hope. I have found 1 school that can have my DS. And it's a good one! Last challenge is finally to get my DH, who has started mumbling about costings, AGAIN, after months of planning, to sign the tenancy agreement so we can apply to the LEA to get this place.

Schools in Essex were more proportionately oversubscribed I found. Waiting lists of 1 or 2 at most Suffolk schools. Upwards of 10 in several of the Essex ones.

justicewomen Mon 06-Jan-14 18:53:07

I am really pleased that you seem to have found something suitable for your DS.

rushingrachel Mon 06-Jan-14 19:03:10

Justicewoman the only school I found was Stoke by Nayland. When I was at school that was posh. By dint of the golf club! The Ofsted report looks good. Not sure how I would sort out after school care but one thing at a time. And my DH is first. He's getting a royal sitting down and costing of everything in sight and a few peripherals he hasn't thought of. Into the night if necessary!

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