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I am confused about primary school applications/admissions

(10 Posts)
HelenLynn Sat 03-Jan-15 07:06:28

We still haven't figured out what preferences to put on our eldest child's primary school application, and I'm posting in the faint hope that someone might have some useful information that we don't have, or a useful bright idea of some kind. Given the schools we think might realistically allocate our son a place, our concern is largely that we should end up with both him and his younger brother (starting in 2017) at the same school, rather than about which particular school that might be. Apologies for a long post!

We're in Ridgefield's catchment area, and thus also in Queen Emma's. Both are fine by us, but we're further from both than the distance up to which they allocated last year, so it's fairly likely neither will give him a place. We'll probably use two preferences on these schools nevertheless because, if our eldest does get a place, that's our best hope for ending up with both kids at the same primary. We're fortunate in that we're on the same side of Cambridge as the four schools that were undersubscribed last year (Fawcett, Colville, Bewick Bridge, Abbey Meadows) and two that, while oversubscribed, allocated past the criteron of out-of-catchment children unable to gain a catchment place due to oversubscription (The Spinney, Cherry Hinton CofE).

All seem reasonable as far as I can tell, though we'd prefer a school without any religious connections. Colville's last Ofsted was "Requires improvement", but it does seem actually to be improving, and I expect we wouldn't be dismayed if that were our children's school. Fawcett and Abbey Meadows are quite some distance both from the nursery where our younger child is about to start and from our places of work. I've visited our two catchment schools, but I haven't got to grips with the other possibilities enough to figure out where I ought to try and arrange a last-minute visit, and in any case, we don't feel like we have the luxury of being choosy beyond trying to choose a school that's feasible to travel to and where we have a reasonable chance of getting places for two kids two years apart. My current thinking is that the most sensible choices are Bewick Bridge, which was markedly undersubscribed last year but is about 1.7 miles away from us as the crow flies, and The Spinney, which was oversubscribed but allocated past the criterion for children whose own catchment schools were oversubscribed, and is under 1.2 miles away (it's the nearest school that would have allocated our son a place last year).

I haven't found anything in the allocation criteria that makes any robust provision for the younger siblings of kids who didn't get a catchment place because of oversubscription - they seem to be in the same boat as the younger siblings of kids who attend an out-of-catchment school by choice. Is there any consideration for these children that I've missed? If we remain on the waiting lists for our catchment schools while our eldest is in Reception and Y1, do we have a reasonable chance of ending up with both kids in one of our catchment schools? Is changing primary school a horrible thing to do to a child and should we avoid it at all costs? Does anyone have a game-changing opinion about any of the undersubscribed schools, or about The Spinney?

Thanks for reading this far, when you could instead have been reading a juicy AIBU!

northofcambridge Sat 03-Jan-15 16:20:19

I am not an admission expert by any means - and its worth looking at threads in the main mumsnet site in Primary Education and Education about admission s-
I don't think there is any difference between sibling out of catchment due to over-subscription or by choice - I would imagine that would be very complicated. I think that out of catchment silbling is still quite high on the preference though and would mean you would be pretty likely to get a place for your second child.

The key point is to put the schools you want in order of preference - so either Rigdefield or Queen Ediths first and also some schools that you are likely to get into.
Moving school is not a major thing in my mind at least in the first couple of years - my DS did it no problem
Re waiting lists - my impression is that there is quite a lot of turn over in Cambridge schools but you would have to ask the school/parents at the schools how it has worked in practice - also waiting lists also depend on distance so you could be no 1 on the list but is someone moves in to the area near than you they would get the place as I understand it.

HelenLynn Sat 03-Jan-15 16:59:38

Thanks northofcambridge. It's encouraging to hear that changing school early on needn't be too bad! Out-of-catchment siblings generally come after all catchment children but before other non-catchment children, which, last year, would have been more than OK for all the third-preference schools we're thinking about - it's just a question of trying to anticipate what the situation might be two years down the line. Which I should probably accept is impossible, and just generally unclench smile

Lizardc Sun 04-Jan-15 10:46:49

I may be going mad, but I am sure that I read somewhere that, if you don't get a place at your local school due to over subscription, then any siblings are treated equal to catchment siblings when it comes to their admission to the out of catchment school. I will try and find the link in a moment...

No definite opinions about any of those schools (we live in North Cambridge) but I do kno a friend who has 3 children at The Spinney and hasn't been thrilled with it.

Lizardc Sun 04-Jan-15 10:51:58

Here you go:

Section 8 on page 10. Not sure how/if that would apply here, if you got your third choice out of catchment school rather than just being allocated the next closest - but might be helpful? Note that you have to mention it on the sibling application, don't rely on the council to remember!

HelenLynn Mon 05-Jan-15 02:42:37

Oh brilliant - thank you very much indeed, Lizardc! I find that there is such a person as a Parents' School Preference Adviser (details at in case useful to anyone else), and I think I'll contact them to check how this is implemented. It would be great to be able to just concentrate on the decision for this September rather than worrying whether we're setting ourselves up for problems in 2017, and it looks as though perhaps we can.

I don't suppose you can give any hints as to why your friend doesn't rate The Spinney? Ofsted's Parentview thing has almost entirely positive opinions about it, and I might see if they can let me visit before next Thurs, since a few schools do seem still to be doing admissions visits. Unlike all the other possibilities, it's in a neighbouring catchment and in a part of Cambridge/Cherry Hinton that I've at least had cause to visit a few times in the past. I'll be a bit disappointed for DS1 if he ends up living nowhere near his classmates - the nearer the better from that point of view.

Lizardc Wed 07-Jan-15 14:43:32

Hi. I think my friend had a lot of problems with her eldest there. She really struggles with maths and she felt the school didn't really give much support or pick up on the problem soon enough. She also mentioned they didn't change reading books often enough (mind you, my son started school at a different one In sept and they only change once a week, so we just read our own stuff at home).

Artepka Thu 08-Jan-15 22:44:40

Hi, we are in a very similar situation. My son is also starting reception in September and my younger son in 4 years. Our catchment schools are also Ridgefield and QE. We are very close to Morley and like St Albans. I think (from what I remember from the open day but might be wrong) that QE took everyone from the catchment area last year so you might be quite safe there I would say even in the future. I really liked QE but it is quite far from us. I am now trying to decide if to put Morley or Ridgefield first for similar reasons. Ridgefield did extremely well last year and the head-teacher did a great job with the school so it might be our first choice.

HelenLynn Sat 10-Jan-15 03:15:38

Thanks again Lizardc. I reckon our priority is going to end up being proximity, all else being acceptable, given that if the DCs end up at the Spinney that's already comfortably over a mile and a half away, and other realistic possibilities are even further. Artepka, you must live fairly near us, I think. Your comment prompted me to look again at how far down their criteria Queen Emma allocated last year, and somehow I've managed to misread it (dozens of times! How??) - I'd convinced myself they'd only got part of the way through the criterion for catchment children without siblings at the school, but you're quite right, they got to the next criterion after that. So thank you very much for pointing that out - feeling better about DS1's chances of a place somewhere in catchment now!

Artepka Sun 11-Jan-15 11:52:01

Hi Helen, no problem. I can see that you are agonising about the choices as well:-). We will not probably manage to meet up by Thursday but perhaps we could do in the future as the kids might end up in the same school. Would you know how to send a private message? ...anyway good luck with the decision.

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