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Information that must be in LA admissions brochure? Cut off distances?

(38 Posts)
infeasibly Mon 21-Aug-17 22:17:11

The National Admissions Code says that "The local authority will collate and publish all the admission arrangements in the area in a single composite prospectus". For the contents of the prospectus a note refers to regulations 5, 6 and Schedule 2 of the School Information (England) Regulations 2008 which gives a list of the information that must be in the prospectus.

As far as I can tell, that list doesn't include a statutory duty for them to publish the previous year's National Offer Day cut-off distances for the schools that use distance criteria. I know some Local Authorities do publish this in the prospectus, but I'm wondering if there's any explicit or implicit duty on them all to publish it in order to help families understand their chances of getting a place? If so, where is that duty defined? (I've got a feeling I've read it somewhere but can't put my finger on it now).

meditrina Mon 21-Aug-17 22:56:48

It won't always be published in the booklet, but is usually available - whether published on the council website or on request from the admissions authority (LEA, or school itself depending on the school's status).

It's nit published as part of the prospectuses, as it can be misleading. For example, it can be misunderstood as a distance within which you will get a place,, or people could confuse it with the formal catchment area. Also, unlike catchments (which can change only after consultation and which must be published as part of the admissions information) they can vary wildly year on year (eg if you're applying two years after a bulge class, or just as new housing comes into use)

Yes, they can be very useful as an indication of the admissions pattern (on offers day) but no, I don't think it should be published as part of the prospectus. Published elsewhere gives a much better chance that the caveats will be read and understood, because they can be highlighted as individual issues, not lost in a whole prospectus.

tiggytape Mon 21-Aug-17 23:12:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 09:20:18

Thanks both. Yes, there needs to be clear caveats on the data. However parents often find it a useful (in fact the only) indicator of their chances of getting a place at particular schools, and so the information needs to be available to them (along with numbers of places allocated on faith grounds etc in previous years). If nothing else, it enables trends to be analysed.

Of course as soon as you publish that sort of information to some parents (the ones who are savvy enough to ask) a moral duty surely arises for all parents to be given the same information, and for its relative usefulness to be explained. I assume that's why so many LAs do routinely publish it, even when it's not statutory.

The problem is that certain commercial providers are mining the data, repackaging it and reselling it, without all the necessary the caveats. For example it is being used by property portals, who are using it in a way that confuses the housing market. This sort of use is only going to increase and I think LAs need to be more aware of how their data is being used.

I would like to see all LAs publishing the cut-off distance data in a standard format, with a standard caveat, so that parents know exactly where commercially packaged information is sourced from and what it means. Presumably that standardisation will only happen if it becomes statutory. (And I would argue for the September 1st cut-off data to be published alongside the National Offer Day cut-off data, so that parents can make sense of waiting list movement in their areas).

Is there an LGA forum, or equivalent, that centralises discussion on this sort of issue? (My own interest in it is as a parent, a school governor and a home owner).

eddiemairswife Tue 22-Aug-17 09:25:06

My LA puts them in the prospectus, but also states that they can vary from year to year.
However, from my experience of admission appeals, few people actually read the prospectus.

meditrina Tue 22-Aug-17 09:25:57

Yes, some commercial pages are utterly woeful (see threads passim)

And yes, I think data needs to be readily available. And it is - published by many (most, all?) LEAs (can anyone think of one which doesn't?)

I do not think it should be part of the prospectus though. Not least because I doubt LEAs can afford a further data collection round (for situation as of 1 September) and I question the utility of delaying the applications round to allow for it (because printed and accessible versions all need to be produced for when the applications window opens).

tiggytape Tue 22-Aug-17 09:35:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 09:38:32

Yes, agree it doesn't matter whether it's in the brochure or not. But it does need to be published.

If everyone starts asking their LAs for Sept 1st cut off data they will eventually start to publish it routinely. It would just be better if they would take the initiative to get there more quickly.

mummytime Tue 22-Aug-17 09:47:01

My DC's secondary used to always have a range of maps available to show where pupils had been admitted over the years. It was very useful and showed clearly just how much variation there was. (And Rightmove has huge errors for this school, not sure about other websites.)

tiggytape Tue 22-Aug-17 10:02:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 10:07:58

Happy to agree that point tiggytape.

Any thoughts on how to communicate the issue to LAs on mass (my own LA are likely to brush it under the carpet without external pressure that is bigger than a single parent/governor, no matter how logically argued).

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 10:18:51

Interestingly, section 1.51 of the code says that info published in the prospectus must be kept up to date throughout the application period. Perhaps that could be used as a handle to persuade LA's they need to publish waiting list cut-off distances (if they have National Offer Day cut offs in their prospectus).

mrz Tue 22-Aug-17 10:20:53

The problem is the data they have will apply to previous years as tight says.

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 10:32:48

Good point mrz. I was confusing the cut off distances in the prospectus (from previous year) with the ones that our LA send out with offer letters (got the current year).

meditrina Tue 22-Aug-17 15:31:10

"If everyone starts asking their LAs for Sept 1st cut off data they will eventually start to publish it"

That assumes they are collecting it, which they won't be. You'd get an answer of 'disproportionate cost' and referred to the data already published. I don't think data is collected at the end of the time LEAs have to hold waiting lists before they are handed on to each admission authority either.

Of course, you say you are a school governor, so you could publish this info for your school (based on council data for offers day and info you hold on new starters). Just make sure that you don't publish new information whilst the applications window is open, because people should not be advantaged/disadvantaged by there being different information at different times. It must be indate and complete throughout.

haba Tue 22-Aug-17 15:39:28

Aren't many schools their own admissions authority? LAs would have to contact all these and collate/publish that data... they don't have the staff or the time, everyone has been pared back to beyond minimum IME.
And, in many cases it's meaningless- I know schools where 100% of the intake has gone to siblings, and there are even siblings that cannot get places! The cut-off circles change vastly year on year, hence the Rightmove data being garbage for many schools, completely meaningless.

meditrina Tue 22-Aug-17 15:51:19

LEAs run the main admissions rounds, and hold waiting lists until the December.

Schools that are their own admissions authority rank all applicants against their entrance criteria, but it's the LEA who turn the ranked lists into single offer per applicant and run the waiting lists during the initial shake-down.

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 15:51:35

Meditrina, yes my school publishes it, and presumably so do some others but it's quite rare. Yet the distances change by km in some cases local to me.

Haba, my school is an academy but the distances are all calculated by the council. I assume that's the case for most academies since councils still coordinate admissions and have the systems in place to do the calculations.

There will always be cases where the information is "irrelevant" but in the majority of cases it will be relevant, and the dataset as a whole useful for trend analysis.

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 15:55:34

Yet the distances change by km in some cases local to me.

Between National Offer Day and September that is. We have a lot of waiting list movement.

tiggytape Tue 22-Aug-17 17:36:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 18:03:26

Tiggy I'm in London too. I think it happens because some schools go from being massively oversubscribed on National Offer Day (but not on first prefs) to undersubscribed (or close to it) in September - even some outstanding schools. But very few people realise how far the distances move so they drop off the waiting lists to go private or don't bother applying in the first place. I assume that if people then phone the council and say they're moving into the area they're told to apply from their current address (sometimes km away) and they get a place.

I only know this because I've asked for the Sep1st distances for all the local schools.

haba Tue 22-Aug-17 19:47:33

some schools go from being massively oversubscribed on National Offer Day
??? How can they offer more places than they have? Isn't that the point of it all being coordinated by the LA, to avoid that? What if everyone offered a place accepted? AFAIAA only as many places as exist are offered. Churn happens afterwards (because we have independent and SS Grammar schools that people move around on waiting lists for.

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 20:05:02

How can they offer more places than they have?

They don't - you misunderstood. By "oversubscribed" I meant there were many more applications (not offers) than places.

haba Tue 22-Aug-17 20:19:56

Ah, more applications than places, but lots don't take up the offer? I see.

infeasibly Tue 22-Aug-17 20:53:06

but lots don't take up the offer?

In many cases they will take up a higher preference state offer if they get one. In other cases they will go private - many private schools have early deadlines for paying the first term's fees, so even if people do stay on the waiting lists for a higher preference state school, by the time they get an acceptable offer they may have already committed, financially and psychologically, to another school.

Local Authorities naturally want people to drop off the waiting lists quickly because it helps them with the difficult task of meeting as much demand as possible, with as little spare capacity as possible. They obviously won't want to highlight where cut-off distances significantly increase because it would encourage people to hang around for longer and may ultimately mean they would have to provide more places if fewer people go private because of it.

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