Advanced search

BoffinMum Education Comment No 1 - Pressure on school places

(25 Posts)
BoffinMum Wed 15-Jul-09 09:39:52

One or two MNetters have asked me to post occasionally about topical education issues linking it to current research. I have written a little something about school rolls that I hope people will find helpful. I haven't put references on because it makes it a lot more complex to write and then read, but will do so for future posts if people feel a desperate need for them. Let me know if this type of post is helpful for you, and what else you might like to know about.



School places in short supply

For the past few years, Local Authorities have responded to declining birth rates by closing and merging schools. However the birth rate is now rising comparatively rapidly, and also in some areas parents are turning their backs on private schooling because of money worries. The consequences of all this are that some areas do not have enough state school places for the next academic year, which means some families will struggle to get their children into nearby schools. People will also start to find that their children’s class sizes become bigger, possibly even too big, with some infant children being taught in ‘illegal’ classes of over 30.

What can research tell us that might help?
Remember that school isn’t everything, and that careful support at home can compensate for a lot. Tutoring your kids for 10-20 minutes a day, every day, around the kitchen table can help them to gain a solid knowledge of the curriculum without any gaps that will confuse them or hold them back. Using star charts and related reward systems can gain their co-operation in doing this. Investment in textbooks and proper stationery can make it easier to know what to teach and also can help children develop a systematic way of working that will stand them in good stead in noisy, busy classrooms – BoffinMum’s state-educated progeny use the Galore Park textbooks aimed at prep schools, and proper lined paper and writing slopes to encourage good handwriting. Twenty ticks on the chart on the fridge means a reward equivalent to £5 in value – you get a tick for 5-10 minutes’ solid work on a subject area. (This week’s reward was a pair of water pistols which resulted in BoffinMum having to be chased around the garden in the wind being drenched with freezing water – greater love for education hath no woman, surely?)

Also remember that roughly two-thirds of parents who appeal school places win their appeals. It is always worth having a go if you are determined that a particular school is right for your child. Scrutinise the Admissions Code and only make arguments based on this, and you are likely to win (eg personally measuring the distance from your home to the school and contesting the methods used by the Local Authority as being inaccurate would be a good one).

If you have a bit of cash to throw at the problem, a final plan of attack might be to try to get a bursary at a private school. These are different from scholarships, in that they tend to be means-tested. BoffinMum has even seen bursaries being given out to relatively well off families when there are private school places going begging – schools sometimes think it is better to get some fees in rather than no fees at all. It’s usually worth persisting with an application, particularly if you are a one-parent family or have recently experienced unemployment or serious ill-health.

Roastchicken Wed 15-Jul-09 10:22:22

Thanks Boffinmum. Very useful to know about the chances of appeal success.

BoffinMum Wed 15-Jul-09 14:01:09

It's a bit more than two-thirds outside London, by the way.

senua Wed 15-Jul-09 15:22:13

Boffin, when you are talking about pressure I presume that you are talking about Primary schools. Secondaries are due to see a fall over the next few years but will then have a rise (from those same Primary-age kids working their way through).
BBC article

BoffinMum Wed 15-Jul-09 17:10:10

No, the problem is actually in both sectors due to a double whammy of rising birth rates (primary sector) and secondary schools in some areas (flight from independent sector/families not moving house as expected).

BoffinMum Wed 15-Jul-09 17:16:01

Sorry, I'll rephrase that whilst concentrating on MN rather than telling off DS2!

No, the problem is actually in both sectors, but due to different reasons. In the primary sector it's mainly down to rising birth rates as you rightly point out, whilst the secondary sector in some areas is experiencing the consequences of the middle classes locally rejecting independent education and/or staying in the inner cities rather than moving to the suburbs as they might have done in previous years. So the available school places are in the wrong locations, effectively. The knock on effect for parents in some areas is likely to be increased numbers of appeals and - between you and me - a great deal of stress.

ottersRus Wed 15-Jul-09 18:34:08

Hi Boffin Mum - Have you read the research that shows that rewarding children (or anyone actually) for an activity actually decreases their enjoyment of said activity and thus their motivation to repeat that activity.

TEJQ Wed 15-Jul-09 18:36:05

Hi BM,

I note the stats on appeal success, but is its worth pointing out that these stats are usually based on Junior/senior school appeals which are somewhat easier to win than infant class appeals.

The stats I have read for infant class appeal success is rather different at around 30% winning and 70% not.

It definitely depends as you say on making your argument fit the criteria that the panel is able to rule on. A highly emotional beg is less likely to succeed than a rational, researched argument which quotes facts and statistics.

PS I recently won a reception appeal but the other 8 appelants on the same day for the same class at the same school all failed.

BoffinMum Thu 16-Jul-09 07:42:59

Otterus - good point. The arguments surrounding intrinsic v extrinsic motivation are complicated and sometimes contradictory, but taking it from a behaviourist point of view, you would actually be rewarding the children for coming to the kitchen table and settling down. In doing this you are trying to develop a particular set of behaviours conducive to work, and once children become habituated, the enhanced subject content knowledge and related sense of self-efficacy provide a basis for a more long term enthusiasm for their studies.

BoffinMum Thu 16-Jul-09 07:45:53

TEJQ, I confess I just looked at the headline figures for appeals last time I analysed them. This is a very interesting point you raise and I might investigate further.

TEJQ Thu 16-Jul-09 09:02:23


Have a look at this mini-guide to appeals and the difference between 'prejudice' appeals and 'infant class size' appeals. With the latter you are to some extent trying to circumvent the law which says classes from YR to Y2 must have a ratio of no more than 30:1 teacher.

petelly Fri 24-Jul-09 22:09:48

I'm in the process of appealing to a school at the moment. I understood that overall only one third of parents win , i.e. for both infant class size prejudice and regular prejudice. The odds are against the parent.

Infant class size prejudice appeals are extremely difficult to win as they are basically only won if your child has been deprived of a place due to a mistake or some kind of completely irrational behaviour on the part of the admissions authority.

snorkle Fri 24-Jul-09 23:26:48

Thanks Boffinmum, That was interesting to read athough it was of no direct use to me. I still think your job sounds fun smile.

cherryblossoms Sat 25-Jul-09 12:44:29

Thank you BoffinMum.

The bit about working around the kitchen table has made me sigh but has confirmed something I knew all along - this is something I really need to do with my dd. And your "how to" is incredibly, incredibly helpful.

Fascinated to read that the anecdotal reports about people returning to the public sector/not moving to the suburbs is true.

That seems bear out what we're feeling here. Dd is on waiting list for various schools and I think, a few years ago would have been offered a place by now. not this year, though ... .

[To the stationer and the bookshop with me, then.]

Thank you, again, for posting. It IS interesting.

AramintaCane Sat 25-Jul-09 19:56:01

very useful but what are writing slopes please ?

mrz Sat 25-Jul-09 20:12:21

AramintaCane Sun 26-Jul-09 09:48:29

when do you fit in your ten mins a day ? Do you find it is bes to do it before school or after ? Mine are so tired after school

AramintaCane Sun 26-Jul-09 09:49:10

smilethanks for the writing slopes info mrz

mrz Sun 26-Jul-09 10:36:32

There are a variety available commercially or you can make your own

BonsoirAnna Sun 26-Jul-09 10:40:42

What is your job, BoffinMum?

BonsoirAnna Sun 26-Jul-09 10:42:28

Here in France "working around the kitchen table" with your children is just expected.

malfoy Sun 26-Jul-09 22:23:47

Thank you Boffinmum.

cherryblossoms Mon 27-Jul-09 01:23:05

Thanks here, too.

fridayschild Sat 01-Aug-09 07:12:21

thanks Boffinmum.

We are also struggling to find the good time of day for this. Sometimes we manage at breakfast. The other time is when DS1 has finished his tea, and DS2 is munching away slowly, but I think we need to get it into our routine somehow. The teatime solution won't work when DS2 starts getting homework in September either!

3rdnparty Sun 02-Aug-09 10:15:52

thanks Boffinmum, this is interesting DS due to start at 2nd choice school ...lost appeal sad and can't afford private, though may check on Burseries.

Anecdotedly think private schools still doing well here as over subscription to good state schools and not a good distribution of schools accross the borough.

Is there a way of mapping population density and school spaces/catchment (If that makes sense) as my borough seems to have big clumps of schools in some areas and gaps in others both at primary and esp at secondary ?

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: