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Only one school in catchment area, and it's not very good?

(32 Posts)
alittlebitmanic Mon 24-Oct-16 17:47:14

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here as my child isn't even born yet, but I'm trying to figure out how the whole school catchment thing works. My partner and I have been living in our house the past 2 years and we love it. It's a lovely cul-de-sac and a nice area, but a few streets behind us it's all a bit less refined!

I've just had a quick look at the school catchments as we really don't want to move. There is an infant and primary right in the middle of those streets. It's ofsted is 'good' but all reviews and info online suggests it's not very good at all, significantly below average on all ratings.

Is it usual to only have one school option in a catchment area? Our address is actually that of the nicer town we are on the border of, but the school sits inside the less desirable part. There are several lovely schools a little further away at 1.8 miles, and in the direction I would travel to work.

They are all oversubscribed and I'm wondering if I have any chance whatsoever of getting my child into one of them? I find it a bit unfair I have only one option of one of the roughest schools. I'm starting to think Private may be our only option which is a shame when there are great schools nearby!

Do you all only have one school in your catchment area? Does your child go to that school or did they manage a place elsewhere if it wasn't your first choice? Typically my mother in law lives in the catchment for the very best school around, only 2.2 miles away from us which makes me understand why people do lie in school applications!

Thanks for any insight, and I really hope this doesn't come across as snobby as I really don't mean to be!

OutDamnedWind Mon 24-Oct-16 17:50:57

Do you mean catchment as in a defined boundary with children living within that boundary getting priority admission, or that you live further than the last admitted distance on oversubscription criteria?

If it's the latter, it's worth having a look to compare data from a few years to see how much the distance fluctuates, as it can be affected by things like high birth rate years or a year with a lot of siblings.

LIZS Mon 24-Oct-16 17:51:20

What site are you looking at? Many areas use distance rather than a defined catchment area. You need to look at the local authority website for each school to find out how far the furthest child admitted in your likely category was over past few years.

aforestgrewandgrew Mon 24-Oct-16 17:52:17

Where do you live?

I wasn'the aware there was such a thing as catchments in England any more,.I thought it was all done according to their admissions criteria. If you don't meet any of their criteria (eg subling at achool) then it's simply down to distance (measured as you would walk to school not as the crow flies). The "catchment" isn't therefore a true catchment area you could draw on a map as it will change from year to year depending on who applies.

If you are in Scotland on the other hand they do still use catchment areas which ae defined on the map IIRC.

Helenluvsrob Mon 24-Oct-16 17:53:42

Your child isn't even born yet. THat's loads of time for the school to go up and or down in the ratings smile

Starlight2345 Mon 24-Oct-16 17:53:49

Firsrtly yes you are getting way ahead of yourself because a school can change a lot in a couple of years particualry if head changes.. The school I sent my DS was requires improvement when he started and now is graded good. There was a lot of money and training pumped into school. Talk to people..People who tend to write school reviews tend to be unhappy with the school.

The other thing with catchment is that it will vary from one year to another dependant upon how many people apply to a school..How far away people apply. Is the area of the school highly populated.

rosy71 Mon 24-Oct-16 17:56:09

I'm a bit confused about what you mean. Generally speaking, schools have a catchment area. If you live in that area, you are in the school's catchment, Normally, 'you'll only be in one school's catchment area.

You need to find out how likely it would be for you to get into any other school as "out of catchment." The LEA should have data about this.

Alfieisnoisy Mon 24-Oct-16 17:58:00

Don't panic, your little one isn't here yet and lots of hinge can change between now and when he/she is ready for school.

Firstly take no notice of anything online in terms of reviews etc. Go into the school yourself nearer the time and have a good look at what they offer. Take notice of how they talk about and to the children. When I was looking round Primary, I chose the school where the headteacher squatted down to listen to what my son had to say and answer his questions, I chose that school above the outstanding one closer to me where I felt less welcome.

Also catchment is a very fluctuating thing. The favoured secondary school up the road to me as an example has a catchment which changes every single year.

aforestgrewandgrew Mon 24-Oct-16 17:58:57

We didn't have a school we liked local to us so we moved to the other side of town.

Lots of people do and that's what I'd do in your situation.

Don't lie and say you live at your MILs. I'm not saying that with any kind of judgement but simply because it's just too risky. They're hot on checking these days and the consequences of being caught would not be good at all.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 24-Oct-16 17:59:00

Talk to people. Rough doesn't mean bad - the less posh schools often have brilliant teachers but it's just very hard for them to do well according to official measures because they have poor results and things like attendance, for example, which have less to do with the school than the parents.

HeadDreamer Mon 24-Oct-16 18:00:13

You need to tell us where you live. In Hampshire you may have one or more catchment schools. But it is normal to have one only. Schools are oversubscribed so your chances of getting in a out of catchment school might be 0. You can see on the county wed site the last offer category and distances. Then you can judge if 1.8miles is above the normal last offer distance for out of catchment.

HeadDreamer Mon 24-Oct-16 18:01:00

If you really don't like the school and you have no chance out of catchment, you need to move.

Robinkitty Mon 24-Oct-16 18:01:37

The reason we moved house was because the school within our catchment area were terrible.
If you drive and can go further afield you stand a chance of being able to get your child into a better school but you will have to do your reasearch and see how likely it will be.
But a lot can change in the next few years

HeadDreamer Mon 24-Oct-16 18:02:33

Like others say, people don't usually move until they are close to applying. A year before the application year is enough time to buy and sell.

meditrina Mon 24-Oct-16 18:13:33

"Is it usual to only have one school option in a catchment area?"

Yes, it's much rarer to have a two (or more) school shared priority admissions areas.

In England, not every area uses catchment areas at a all, and they can be introduced, altered or abolished following consultation.

Living in the catchment may however not be sufficient to secure you a place (it would if you were in Scotland). If more children live witching the catchment area than the school has places for, then there wil, be a tie-breaker, typically in-catchment siblings, by distance, then other catchement children by distance. Some schools however take all siblings, in or out of catchment, before catchment children with no sibling already at the school. You need to check exactly what the criteria are for you preferred school.

You can apply for non-catchment schools (and indeed as the standard forms give you the chance to express a preference for 3-6 schools depending on LEA, it is expected that you do)

So put schools in the order you like them best, even if your top 1-2 would take a small miracle of unusual demographics for you to be offered a place. Just make sure that you include one or more schools where you can be as near-as-dammit sure you would qualify for a place.

WhiskyTangoFoxtrot Mon 24-Oct-16 18:26:37

"The other thing with catchment is that it will vary from one year to another dependant upon how many people apply to a school."

This is not true.

Catchment - where it is used - has to be clearly defined, and can only be changed following consultation.

Living in catchment may not be enough - you may need to live close as well. After SEN and LAC admissions, the criteria would often be:
a) in-catchment siblings, by distance
b) all other catchment children, by distance
c) other siblings, by distance
d) all other children, by distance

If the criteria mention a catchment, a map must be provided. If the criteria do not mention catchment, then there isn"t one.

The actual admissions footprint (greatest distance offered) may bear no resemblance to the catchment at all.

meditrina Mon 24-Oct-16 18:29:33

"Also catchment is a very fluctuating thing. The favoured secondary school up the road to me as an example has a catchment which changes every single year."

Possible, but it must be published for that year before the application window opens. People have to know if their address lies within the catchment of priority admissions before they apply. It would be grounds for successful appeals if parents did not know the catchment boundaries at the time of application.

Blu Mon 24-Oct-16 18:33:10

You may well find that the school (s) 1.8 miles away accept children from your area - the lA website on schools admissions often gives the list of all the schools and how many people applied and what the last distance was. The distances given are the places allocated on national Offer day, not the ones by the end of the summer when waiting lists may have moved. How big are the further away schools/ if they are 3 form entry, say, you may well get in from where you live.

Also, things do change. And definitely visit your closest school. In due course. And watch where your neighbours kids go to school.

Blu Mon 24-Oct-16 18:35:59

It all depends on whether the strictly accurate use of the word 'catchment' is being used, as in a pre-determined an pre-advertised geographical area, or 'catchment' to mean 'there distance within which kids get offered a place on distance'- which does vary from year to year.

Ta1kinpeece Mon 24-Oct-16 20:56:08

"catchments" are fixed areas drawn on maps
"intake areas" flex depending on cohort size
your house can only normally be in one catchment (as why on earth would they make them overlap)
but within the intake area of several schools

and school policy changes so fast its not really worth worrying much more than 2 years ahead for any school

my "catchment" secondary school is utterly dire
which is why my kids did not go there
and its got 400 empty places

OdinsLoveChild Tue 25-Oct-16 11:00:17

You don't need to worry about this just yet. Just keep an informal eye on the progress over the next few years to help you decide.

I was offered a school the other side of the town and not my 'catchment' school due to the large numbers applying. There is no guarantee you will get into your 'catchment school' as the admissions often put catchment quite low down the list (its bottom where I live underneath, looked after children, faith and siblings). You also often list 2 or 3 schools that you would consider a place at anyway. You are not stuck with the only school that you are in the catchment for when choosing. Catchment is just one of the criteria that some schools use when allocating places.

alittlebitmanic Tue 25-Oct-16 14:36:00

Wow – thanks for so many replies! It might be that I am not understanding things properly, I have only started looking into this now (already too early, I know), and my main reason is because we are currently putting a lot off effort/time/money to make our great house become our dream house. So I really would rather fork out for private schooling rather than move – but it would be just ideal if we could get into a better school that really isn’t that far away.

I am using this website (I am based in Hampshire) to find the catchment areas: localviewmaps.hants.gov.uk/LocalViewmaps/Sites/schoolcatchments/ and while I get that things can change – I just feel like our closest school is in the roughest area, but only a hop and a skip beyond that several open up that I would consider over this one. I understand things can change, but I don’t think this school is going to shoot up in ratings any time soon.

I do have a third option that I’m not sure how I feel about, and probably won’t until nearer the time. I have a family connection (way, way back in my family tree) that means I could get my child into a very good boarding school under a full scholarship. However, even if I was to consider this I don’t think my child could start there until they were 7 anyway so I don’t know how much problem this is solving! Is it the end of the world to go to a not so good infant school and then hope they can get into a better junior school afterward? I am a chronic over-planner so I just want to be aware of my options really!

Thanks for the suggestions to visit the schools myself, I will definitely do that. The few ‘outstanding’ schools in the area were all over subscribed for the last few consecutive years, and I think this will become more of an issue as more houses are due to be built nearby soon. My main reason for this worry, is because when I was younger I fell in with a crowd of kids who were a seriously bad influence. (My school was good, but it seemed to accept lots of expelled kids from the rougher areas). I would just hate that to happen if they are forced into the one school I’d rather avoid.

HeadDreamer – I can’t see where I am able to see the last offer category and distances for the schools I would like, do you know where I can find it?
Ta1kinpeece – I think I am thinking of intake areas then, I guess. I just always assumed there would be 2-3 to choose from, even if my favourite one wasn’t there. I would take any other school than this one if I had to.

I know, I should probably be worrying about the whole adjusting to being a mother thing and not this, but for some reason I am fixated on it! I think if I know I have options, I can put it to the back of my mind. But if I really am looking at that school and nothing else, we may have to consider moving house at some point in the future.

Thanks so much for taking the time to reply.

Shurelyshomemistake Tue 25-Oct-16 14:43:38

This is madness. Your putative child could have additional needs, anything. Planning ahead for a full fees scholarship.... daft! If the school nearby is graded good yet has a disadvantaged intake it is likely to be a very good school. It is harder to get 'good' in those circumstances.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Tue 25-Oct-16 14:47:57

A lot can change in the next few years, but it doesn't hurt to start doing your research. When your baby is born you will probably meet other parents, some of them will have school aged children, start picking their brains and getting a feel for what the general view is on the local schools. However if there is new housing planned in the catchment area of the desirable schools it will affect your chances - I'm also in a fixed catchment local authority and my DCs primary is oversubscribed routinely from within catchment due to developments in the last ten years. However, despite some of the local schools being in slightly less desirable areas, they are all generally well thought of.

It is also worth looking to see if there are any plans to expand any of the schools near you, that could change things significantly.

mouldycheesefan Tue 25-Oct-16 14:49:11

A family connection giving you a full scholarship to a boarding school? That is highly unusual I would imagine.
Do you want your child to board though?

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