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Keeping a child out of school because of not getting a place at first choice primary

(13 Posts)
Tamz77 Sat 15-Aug-09 15:27:43

Opinions sought on behalf of my stepdaughter who is in a bit of a quandary. My thread title is a bit of a tag line I'm afraid, in reality it's slightly more complicated.

My stepdaughter applied for a place for her DD at a primary school outwith her catchment area. This was for a number of reasons: for one, she plans to move within the next few months (into the area of the primary school to which she applied), but mainly because the area in which they currently live is not great and her DD, who is mixed race, has been subjected to verbal abuse from kids in the local playground when they pass, which they do daily, going to and from the shops etc. SD's DD has been attending nursery in their preferred area - which itself involved quite a hefty commitment to travelling - however SD's application for a place at her preferred school was turned down.

Clearly she's upset that her DD faces starting a primary where she knows no-one (of course all her nursery pals will be going to the other/better primary) and one where there is apparently a rather vocal racist minority (SD did write to the school to complain about the name-calling from the playground but received a very generalised "we take a very serious view etc etc" form letter in response). SD is now wondering whether to actually 'withhold' her DD from starting primary 1 until the local authority agrees to her request for placement in her preferred alternative. I'm here mainly to ask for opinions on this course of action, I don't really know how to advise. And before anyone gets the idea that SD is simply suffering from a misplaced sense of entitlement, she's not, at all - she is actually young and not at all confident, but doesn't want her DD starting her school experience getting singled out for (racial bullying). In addition the plan to move is a serious one, the only reason they haven't done so already is because SD had a baby in March which interrupted their plans for relocation.

Do you think there is actually any hope that SD keeping DD out of school could have an effect on the LEA's decision? Could it actually rebound on her in a bad way? Is there anyone to whom she could/should be appealing further re. school placement?

We are in Scotland, if that makes a difference re. education policy.

Thanks for reading.

Hassled Sat 15-Aug-09 15:44:56

How old is the DD? I gather you're in Scotland - in England, at least, schools start at the "4 rising 5" Reception year, but you're not legally obliged to educate your child until they're 5. The problem then is that by that point, the good schools are full and you've missed the boat.

If you use the Advanced Search you'll see there has been a lot posted here re school appeals - that might be useful. But I suspect your SD is too late for that.

My instinct is to say start at the dodgy school and see how it goes. The name callers in the playground may well have moved on in the meantime. Ask at the school office for a copy of their Equality Policy and Anti-Bullying Policy, and the moment the school is failing to follow the policies, get on to the school's Governors.

Starbear Sat 15-Aug-09 15:52:26

I can't help because we are in London but I do sympathise. We did not get our first choice. Well never mind me.

1) I would say she will have problems with the Educational Welfare Officer straight away. She could try calling them now they should be in the office (unless on hols as individuals). I guess she knows it is against the law to keep you child away from school unless you home educate.I think you have to apply to do that.
2)Does the local police have a school police officers. It is a serious public order offence to shout racist abuse. They know it tough to speak against these people. They can offer support and advice. The officer might be off on hols too but ring and find out when they are back. It doesn't always mean going to court. They might be a nasty family to their neighbours and an ASBO may be put in place. Never mind that, they might be able to support her application, in the future, to move schools because of the abuse. If her DD does go to school tell her to keep a diary of events and write down incidents and words used verbatim (time date place). This helps those in authority to see they problem clearly and know she is serious. This will also help her see the problem clearly.
3) Community Safety Unit (police again) if you have them. They might go under a different name in your force. might help if you have one but a crime must be reported before they can help.
I'm sure they will be other here that will give you further advice.

Good Luck

Tamz77 Sat 15-Aug-09 15:52:47

She's 5, schools are due to start next week, SD is in a last minute panic about what to do. She's thinking that once DD is at the 'bad' school there won't be any leverage left. There will be no chance of getting her into her first choice primary if she's already attending another one.

quoteTHISyafuckers Sat 15-Aug-09 15:53:01

I'm not sure about scottish law but I know the lea do not take kindly to being 'bullied' into something. Did she appeal?

I think all you can do is try the ';undesireable' school, logging any incidents stringently while maiking sure the lea knows you are wanting to be on the waiting list for the other school. (ring regularly)
from gov wesite''In england, all children of compulsory school age (five to 16) must receive a suitable full-time education. For most parents, this means registering their child at a school - though some choose to make other arrangements to provide a suitable, full-time education.

Once your child is registered at a school, you are legally responsible for making sure they attend regularly. If your child fails to do so, you risk getting a penalty notice or being prosecuted.

Action on school attendance
A child registered at a school can legally miss school only in very limited circumstances. These include:

when the child is too ill to attend

when the school has authorised the absence beforehand
If a child is missing school without good reason, schools and local authorities have a number of legal powers that they can use.
School Attendance Order (SAO)

A School Attendance Order is issued if your child is not on roll at any school and the local authority is worried that you have not made arrangements to provide an alternative, suitable, full-time education. SAOs are used to direct you to send your child to a specified school.

Before serving an SAO, Children’s Services Officers should make every effort to discuss the situation with you. If it is not possible to persuade you to make suitable arrangements for your child’s education, then you will be served with a notice stating that you are failing in your duty to provide your child with an education.

The notice must inform you that you need to satisfy the local authority that you are providing an education at school or otherwise within a specified time period (but not less than 15 days beginning with the day the notice was served).

Local authorities are responsible for prosecuting parents if they breach an SAO and also have the option of seeking an Education Supervision Order.

Education Supervision Order (ESO)

As well as or instead of prosecuting you the local authority may apply to a court for an ESO. This order means that a supervisor will be appointed to you to give you help and advice on getting your child back into education.
Penalty notices

As an alternative to prosecution, authorised local authority staff, police officers and headteachers can issue penalty notices to parents of children who are not attending school regularly. The penalty is £50, rising to £100 if not paid within 28 days. If you fail to pay a penalty fine, you will be prosecuted.

More on penalty notices Opens new window Taking you to court

The local authority may prosecute you (they don’t have to issue a penalty notice first) and this could result in a more severe penalty.

You could get a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or, in extreme cases, a jail sentence of up to three months. If the court thinks it will help to stop your child missing school, it may also impose a Parenting Order.

Parenting Order

A Parenting Order is a court order which requires you to attend parenting education or support classes. You will also have to do whatever the court says is necessary to improve your child’s behaviour and attendance at school.''

Starbear Sat 15-Aug-09 15:54:37

I'm mean your daughter write everything down not her DD unless she is gifted and talented
smile

ommmward Sat 15-Aug-09 16:04:24

If she doesn't want her child at the awful school, that's absolutely fine. Noone should feel forced to send their child 6 hours a day somewhere they don't want to be.

If she wants to hold out for the better school, the thing to do is

1. get in touch with schoolhouse who are the home ed organisation notb. They will be delighted to advise whether she is wanting to HE for a few weeks or months until a place comes up, or whether she decides to go for it for the long haul

2. Get in touch with the preferred achool. Tell them you're planning to go through the HE route until you've moved house into catchment - it's not that she's planning a random massive daily commute - and ask to be put on the waiting list for a place. Children move in and out of schools all the time - you might have to wait a year, but a place will almost certainly come up at some point, I'd say.

Might be worth asking if there is any information they can give so that SD can be confident her Dd will know similar things to the school children ones she gets a place, and can slot happily in. If it was England, then you could look up the NC online and follow it if you wanted, but I don't know how things work in Scotland - ask Schoolhouse (NB you don't have to follow the school curriculum at all, but if you'll be wanting to put the child into school as soon as a place comes up, you might decide that's the best option).

3. get in touch with the school (in writing) where the place has been offered and simply say thanks but no thanks, we've made alternative arrangements for our child's education

4. have some lovely times!

It is completely legal not to send your child to school, it;s just worth making sure you've chatted to schoolhouse about how to jump through the necessary legal hoops.

ommmward Sat 15-Aug-09 16:05:55

ones once

see, I definitely shouldn't be allowed to HE my children wink

Iusedtolivehere Sun 16-Aug-09 21:09:35

Is the child on a waiting list for preferred school?

MrsMuddle Sun 16-Aug-09 21:51:15

Not sure how she would stand if her child didn't attend, but if her DC is on a waiting list, I'm sure a place will come up soon.

The thing is, even if she moved to the catchment area now, she wouldn't be guaranteed a place if the school is full. She'd had to have been living there when they registered in Feb to be guaranteed a place.

But a child who moves into the catchment area would go to the top of the waiting list.

I think she should give the local school a chance. There will be other DC there who don't know anyone, and I'm sure the school will come down hard on any bullying - racist or otherwise.

Actually, if she doesn't go to school it will be recorded as an unathorised absence, which may go against her if a place does become available at the other school (when she's not yet living in the catchment area). They won't know the reason why, and may worry that she will bump up their UA rates.

ommmward Sun 16-Aug-09 23:36:11

No it won't be unauthorised absence if the mother writes whatever letter it is she needs to write living in Scotland (like I said, SChoolhouse will be able to explain the system to her - it's a bit different from England) which deregisters her child from school. And if you HE and then change your mind, that makes no difference legally - an LA can't then say "oh no, we can't find a school place for this child".

If she's after this particular school, the choices are either to HE her child, completely legally and no problem while she waits, or to put her in a school she doesn't want to put her in. There's no particular merit in spending a term or two in a school you'll be moving a child from asap, is there?

AMumInScotland Mon 17-Aug-09 09:13:09

She won't have any "leverage" with the council whether she sends her DD to the local school or not - she's entitled to make a placing request, but they don't have to give her the place, and they won't be "pushed" into giving her what she wants just because she wants it, even if she threatens to keep her child out of school because she's not happy with the offered one. Sorry, but council policy is always "all of our schools are fine, we only have to offer you a place somewhere"

As Ommmward says, she can home educate if she really doesn't want to send her child to the available school, and let the preferred school know she would still like a place there when one comes up. Apart from the normal "starting at 5" intake, the admissions are normally done through the school itself, so she needs to conatct them so they know she's interested. It's possible (though not guaranteed) that when she moves into the catchment they will slot her in anyway.

The law in Scotland about HE is slightly different from England, but she would only have to ask permission to HE if her DD is registered at school and has attended for at least one day. So long as she writes to decline the offered place, and never attends, then she doesn't have to ask permission. She can then just HE until she moves and a place comes up in the other school.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Sat 22-Aug-09 17:37:00

I don't know how different the law is in Scotland but, in England, withholding your child from the allocated school in an attempt to get a place in another one does not give any sort of 'leverage' at all. LEAs are very resistant to anything that smacks of blackmail. Instead, there needs to be an appeal which addresses why (in the parent's view) the refusal of place at the preferred school was unfair or unreasonable. This needs to be based on the school's admissions criteria.

At the moment, I would guess that - living out of catchment - they are a long way down the waiting list but they should move up it once they live in catchment.

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