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how far would you go to get your child into a particular school?

(15 Posts)
Carriel Thu 24-May-01 12:31:54

I've got to go on radio 5 next week - in my capacity as mumsnet co-founder/parenting expert!??(not) - and one of the things they want to talk about is how far parents will go to get their kids into a particular school, ie lie, move house, suddenly rediscover their Catholic/C of E/Jewish roots. I wondered if anyone had any first hand or anecdotal experience of parents doing stuff like this. Also is this a particularly London/recent obsession - I know every parent I know in London is obsessed, but when I was a child in Lancashire we just all went to the local primary and then most of us just went where we were sent by the State at age 11.
Thanks in advance for any help

Bee Fri 25-May-01 12:21:39

I know of someone who reduced the size of their house by one bedroom and upped their mortgage by £200,000 so their child could be in with a chance of going to the school of their choice. As he is only 2 they will have to wait to find out. It is an over subscribed school and location is not the be all and end all of gaining a place. In my opinion it has all got completly ridiculous. my daughter goes to the local school, which we can walk to, so therefore not joining the fun on the roads between 8.30 and 9am. Children are in school for less than 35 hours each week so the rest of the time they need input and fun from other sources, school is not the MOST important thing in life, that's not to say that learning is n't.Learning takes place in every environment that children inhabit, whether it be negative or positive, it's how we as adults create opportunities for this that counts.I am not obsessed by this issue but I think I am in the minority. Everyone wants the best for their children that's clear. As a nursery nurse married to a teacher I know from the inside how location and Sats results don't give the whole picture as to whether a school is successful at helping children to reach their own potential.
Good luck with the interview, what time is it on?

Tigermoth Fri 25-May-01 13:44:40

In my neck of the woods, SE London, the majority of parents I have spoken to feel it is highly important to get your child into a good state primary 'feeder' school. They feel that a child's chance of getting into a good state school at 11 years is dependent on the primary school they attend. Apparently, each of the 'good' secondary schools take most of their pupils from a recognised quota of primary schools. I phoned the council education department to ask if this was true and was told that it wasn't. Hmmm... It still doesn't stop the feeling persisting.

As for myself, we started to attend church, sometimes, a year or so ago (I had a C of E education and church upbringing).The reasons were many and various and partly linked to the fact that my son goes to their Beaver troupe. The church school is very good and, consequently, heavily in demand. I have been told by people who have a longstanding connection with the school that it is a good 'feeder' school and much better than the school he is at. It is also about one tenth of the size, with much smaller classes and they wear a real uniform (!). I have, therefore, filled in a application form for my year 2 son. It is unlikely he will get a place, since it depends on someone leaving his class to create space for another pupil.

If he was offered a place, I would have a dilemma: My son has settled in very well at his present primary school. (We moved him there 18 months ago when we moved house). However it gets very average results and is very big, so rather impersonal. My son is wildly against moving to the smaller, much better-performing church school, even though he is now friends with some of the pupils. If we send him there against his wishes, we could be opening a real can of worms. But if we don't, according to local parents views, we could be scuppering his chances of getting to a decent state secondary school. Very difficult.

Rachel1969 Fri 25-May-01 13:52:53

Hi Carrie
We moved and upped our mortgage dramatically to get our children into a decent primary school and are realy glad we did.
I agree that school isn't the most important part of a child's life but I think that they might in fact disagree with us on this.
Their peers quickly become as important to them as their parents are and school is the place that they spend most of their time with them - however right on you try to be about these matters you do want your children to mix with youngsters who are as advantaged as your own and deprived areas tend to have schools which are deprived of resources.
The better the socio-ecenomic make-up of the area you live does have an effect on the local primary school for the simple reason that the parents as a whole have more resources to raise funds through the PTA - it's a sad fact of life today.
Good luck with your interview ...

Clairgod Fri 25-May-01 17:07:46

We lived on an estate that was adjacent to a big council estate that had serious problems (not always the case with Council estaes I know!)
The schools were terrible. A neighbour spotted a 14 year old taking drugs by the entrance, and the kids burned down the community centre!.
So we moved. We decided to forego our chances of owning outright in
order to buy a 50% share of a house in a nice village with a nice village school. it meant longer travelling distances to work, and when
I was on mat leave with my second I felt isolated from my
family who lived close together in the town. It's worth it though.
I don't know that my sons will be intellectuals, but I want to give them the chance to attain the highest levels they can.

Carriel Fri 25-May-01 18:45:14

Does anyone know if renting in an area is enough to get you into a certain school and has anyone come across anyone who's done this ? I know giving false addresses is illegal, but what if your parents/ sister lived nearby I wonder if you could say you lived with them?? Not seriously considering this, but wondered for sake of argument in prog if anyone knows if it's allowed/doable?

Janh Fri 25-May-01 18:52:38

carriel, the school doesn't know if you are renting or not. however pretending you live somewhere when you don't is a really bad idea. some people do it and get away with it but the chances are someone will report it - esp. if they think you got their place...

Binza Fri 25-May-01 21:51:19

I live in an area with one of the few remaining Grammar schools - I know first hand of people who have put their houses on the market and rented to be in the catchment area, people who have sold up and moved in the hope that the seven yr old will pass the entrance exam in four years time(talk about pressurising your child!) and parents who put their children into the boarding facilities and then withdraw them after two terms and they become day pupils.This then deprives the school of revenue (potentially for another six years) as it is very unlikely that another boarder will start in the second year. At present their are a number of people who have suddenly found religion because they need a safety net should their child fail the entrance exam to get into this grammar school and they can then insist on a place at one of the two very good church schools. Finally I know of three sets of parents who had their five year olds regularly coached every week to give them a "head start" over their peers! To my mind the answer is yes people will go to considerable lengths to get their children into the "right" school and I personally find it hypocritical of some parents and sad that, certainly in this area, children feel they've failed if they don't make the grade. I have explained to my children that not every school is right for every child and we must see what's on offer for them before we make a decision therefore hopefully avoiding any pressure for them to feel they have to get into the grammar or they are failures.

Carriel Fri 25-May-01 22:00:16

Bee it's on at 3pm on Tuesday - and I'm quite nervous, but all this stuff is helping - we're also talking about teenagers paligiarising stuff from the internet for exams and kids' behaviour in restaurants, but I'll post that elsewhere...I wondered if any of the folks who wote in about home schooling turned to it as an option because they didn't get into the school of their choice, or whether that's just a whole other lifestyle choice. Keep the anecdotes coming - I think it's a good topic, certainly one close to my own heart as a Hackney borough dweller with a two and half year old...

Janes Sat 26-May-01 06:15:43

I am a governor at my children's school in a semi rural area. Parents seem to be more and more "clued up" and looking further afield than was the case even a few years ago. Possibly this is due to Ofsted reports, SAT results and ease of use of the Internet for giving access to these and enabling them to compare schools even before they look at any. More and more families have 2 cars and if both parents are already driving to work then choosing a non local school is maybe much less of a practical issue than it was. The end result of all this is that the schools perceived as better are oversubscribed, just as in London.

Janes Sat 26-May-01 06:38:36

Just read Carriel's point.
There are ways this point can get checked out at the admissions stage - and what about just local knowledge on the part of the school? What would you do if your child got a place? How would the school know where to go in an emergency? What if the reception teacher asks for a home visit or even just in class - are you going to lie and tell the school you've moved house again just before your child starts?
More to the point, is the alternative really so bad or is it just local gossip? Look at all the schools yourself, read their Ofsted reports, find out about their admissions procedures.
Finally, if you do not get the school you would prefer, contact them again later in case places come up. Families do move on and most schools give priority to siblings so once one is in the others should follow.

Janh Sat 26-May-01 11:07:31

we have a grammar school too, and a lot of the parents around here actually ask the RECEPTION class teachers at parents evenings if little johnny will get in!!!!

there is also a lot of coaching. most of the feeder schools give the kids taking the exam practice papers. many parents have their kids tutored, which is lovely extra dosh for the primary school teachers who do it as a sideline (not kids from their own schools, usually....) but certainly does put pressure on the kids.

it annoys me intensely because we also have 2 very good non-grammar schools, one of them a large CTC (7-form intake) and the other a smaller country school, both of which provide far superior non-academic subject teaching. the grammar school head is really only interested in A and A* students and there is so much more to life than that. he is also an arrogant prat who doesn't consider anyone else's opinion valid, and prides himself on NOT knowing any of the kids' names.

sport, music, art, drama etc are seriously restricted - there is one team per sport per year (120 kids in each year) and lunchtime clubs are provided for the teams only. extra-curricular activities and pastoral care are minimal and lousy, respectively. the other 2 schools do far better in this area.

please, carriel, in your programme, try to stress that SATs, GCSEs etc are far from being the only things that matter....

Marina Tue 29-May-01 09:37:20

Carrie, we attend a church which has a good small primary school attached. The school is incredibly over-subscribed but what makes me sad about the situation is that a lot of the middle-class parents who attend church just to get their kids in have a panic fit at seven when they realise that most of the children who get scholarships to the local independent schools went to a "real" prep school first. So they take their children out again two years later (and promptly stop attending church). This has got so bad recently that it is undermining the stability of the upper age-group classes in the school. One family has done it in succession with three children, the younger two of which had automatic places because of the sibling rule. I have a small son myself and living in London I know how patchy and unsatisfactory state provision is. But I wish a few more people also stopped to think that building a good education is a two-way process a partnership between parents and the school, and that too much shopping around might be making them cynical and inconsiderate of others, not to mention liars and cheats. I wonder, for example, whether some of those children enjoyed being taken out of school again at seven. And how children aged five are expected to remember that for school purposes they actually live with their aunty, and what that tells them about ethics.

Tigermoth Thu 31-May-01 09:24:51

Carriel, The Guardian Education section, May 29 has a fascinating article entitled 'A place for us' by David Grace and Martin Wainwright, profiling the struggles of four families each trying to secure a first-choice secondary school place for their child. Lots of retrospective information on how they tried and failed to get their children into their chosen school, starting with their choice of primary school - and their experiences of the appeal process.

May be of use to you - if it's not too late.

Carriel Thu 31-May-01 14:06:25

Hi everyone

Thanks for that Tigermoth - bit late for the prog (last tues) but all fascinating stuff. Thanks to all who took the time to add their thoughts - when it comes to it, you don't get chance to say everything you want to (by a long way), so apologies if I didn't make a point you'd made here. Nerve wracking, but interesting, we're on again in a couple of weeks, with new topics, so I'll no doubt be back for more views!

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