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How are waiting lists legal?

(47 Posts)
AdelaofBlois Sat 06-Nov-10 11:19:40

Am applying for schools for DS1 at the moment. Quite tricky for various reasons, most particular to him, and not seeking advice.

I am, however, being attacked by my parents for not putting him on a 'waiting list' as my sister did for her DS (at 1!). The LA denies waiting lists exist, yet I hear parents all the time talking about having put their kids on such a list.

Problem is, I just can't understand how a list would be morally right or legally possible. Admissions criteria may annoy me (particularly those which demand faith) but they seem fairly straightforward-an assessment is made based on the child's needs and background at a particular date. How on earth could it be possible to advantage one child whose parents had arrived in an area earlier over another child who meets the criteria but moved there later, or a child whose parents had the time and background to research lists over a child whose parents didn't? Surely that would be simply wrong, untransparent and illegal.

Am asking seriously how this is allowed anywhere. Lack the energy for legal action, but would piss me off enormously if some middle-class cartel is running admissions policy in ways which are hidden and unfair.

animula Sat 06-Nov-10 11:24:37

You seem to be implying that some (state? - you are talking about state schools. aren't you?)) schools operate admissions by holding a secret list, and they fill places on a "first come, first served" basis.

This is not the case. In fact, most (all?) waiting lists are now held by the LEA.

FiveGoMadInDorset Sat 06-Nov-10 11:25:11

I don't think they are waiting lists, you can register your interest with a school but it is still up to them/LA to decide who to take.

Simbacatlives Sat 06-Nov-10 11:25:59

Nursery admissions are managed by the school to certain criteria. You may put your child on a waiting list for that. It is usually an expression of interest and places are allocated against criteria- often when children are still. 2 to start the following year. Many parents don't realise this and only contact school when a child is 3.

Reception admissions are managed by the la. A waiting list would not be relevant. However if you express an interest with a school they will ensure that you get an admissions pack. Most schools hold their own list of expected applications ( this may differ in highly populated areas with many choices). This is then checked against the la list as partvof the admissions process. Sometimes it highlights a lost application or a parent who didn't realise that they needed to app,y.

DamselInDisgrace Sat 06-Nov-10 11:27:57

There definitely aren't any waiting lists for the normal entry points to state schools, for all the reasons you've outlined.

Schools do appear to operate waiting lists out of those entry points though. When we moved two schools offered to put DS on their waiting list but the other local school had spaces so we took the place and didn't bother with waiting lists for the 2 more 'desirable' options.

JellyBelly10 Sat 06-Nov-10 11:28:45

State maintained schools do not have waiting lists where you can put your pre-school aged child's name down to somehow advantage their later application. All normal state maintained schools admissions are managed viw the Local Authority, the school do not even know the names of the children coming until AFTER the authority has allocated the places out based purely on very transparent admissions criteria. So no, no-one can put their pre-school child's name down for a school as such, the school have no influence whatsoever on who the LA admit during the normal admissions process. The only waiting lists that really exist for state maintained schools are the ones for people whose children did not get in to their preferred choice. So if you applied to X school as your first choice but due to other children being further up the admission criteria than your child you ended up getting a place at Y school, then you can put your child's name on the waiting list for X achool in the hope that someone may drop out or not accept their offer. If however you are talking about private schools then I do not know, I am sure they can to a certain extent create their own admissions citeria and that waiting lists for the most popular probably do exist from when babies are still a twinkle in their parents' eyes!

NoahAndTheWhale Sat 06-Nov-10 11:30:36

Waiting lists happen once all the places have been allocated - if you have been given a place at a school that isn't your preferred one then you can go on a waiting list to see if someone moves and then your child could get a place.

You can register an interest with a school but this isn't going to give you any guarantee of a place for reception.

AdelaofBlois Sat 06-Nov-10 11:33:41

What you are all saying is what I assumed, and what I believe to be correct and fair. I understand this, from contact with the LA, with schools and from the work I do in a primary school. I think I know how things should work.

I'm also aware that there is confusion over terminology-that there may be some parents who refer to being on a list which states an 'expression of interest' as a 'waiting list' or, even, being on a 'reserve list' after places are allocated in such terms.

But none of this explains why my sister has registered her child at a state primary in Kent from age 1 (that can't be an 'expression of interest' surely, and he attends a private nursery) or all the parents of 2-3 year olds in Gloucestershire I hear speaking about admissions with the surety that they are on a 'list' for what are most definitely state schools. Either they are all deeply misled, or the system is being abused. Which goes back to the original point which is, surely, that such an abuse would be illegal.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 06-Nov-10 11:36:36

There won't be a waiting list in the way they are suggesting. There will be a published set of admissions criteria, and the school must adhere to them. Nowhere on them will it refer to a waiting list. Somebody told me their child was on a waiting list for the school my DC attend. She was mistaken.

onimolap Sat 06-Nov-10 11:37:44

No idea why they do it: mass hysteria?

Round here, you can apply when you like - insanely early if you want to - but all applications go in a pile (actual paper or electronic), and are considered on their merits (against the published criteria) immediately after the final closing date.

Simbacatlives Sat 06-Nov-10 11:37:52

If your child does not get Into the school of their choice at a standard admission point (reception, in some areas year 3 and year7) they will go onto an la held list in case a place comes up.

This list is only held until the end of September when the admissions then become those of entry at other points (ie mid year movers). In many las you then have to approach the school directly with an expression of interest should a place become available. The la will not know if a child leaves a school for a whole after it happens. If the school I'd then no longer oversubscribed (ie it has a place within it's normal admissions number) it may be able to offer that place to you. If the school was above it's admissions limit a child leaving does not mean that a place is available.

VivaLeBeaver Sat 06-Nov-10 11:38:49

Your sister may think she has registered a child for a primary school but she hasn't. She'll have rung the school up and said she wants to send her kid there and the school have taken her details. Either to be polite or for their own purposes to give them an idea of how full they theink they'll be that year. She will still have to send the form back in in Feb/march before he starts in the Sept. All the forms will then be looked at after the date that the forms have to be in by. Places will then be allocated according to criteria - siblings, SEN, distance, faith, whatever. Having rung the school up when the kid is 1 gives no advantage and is pointless.

I tried telling my SIL this but she wouldn't believe me.

animula Sat 06-Nov-10 11:40:44

I think it might explain why your sister has done it: She's a.) organised (you'd be amazed how many people dither for three/four years, and miss the application deadline b.) operating under a mistaken belief system (ie "the earlier you register, the more likely you are to get a place) c. is actually registered with a private school.

AdelaofBlois Sat 06-Nov-10 11:52:30

Thank you all for telling me that the system is as I understood it. I'm really not seeking clarification on that-it's easily obtainable from the LA and government and from schools even without phoning them up. And, as I said, it seems clear to me that deviation from that would be wrong. And, from what you're saying, such lists would indeed be illegal.

But it does leave me with a certain problem in understanding the world. Basically, a large number of well-educated and informed parents (who have far more time than me to research this and much better local contacts) seem to think that the system is abusable, despite the ready availability of information on how it works.

Are there other parents with pre-schoolers out there who encounter this kind of talk? In their experience have people on a 'waiting list' done better out of the system?

Basically, my conundrum is not the system as it should be, but whether I am dealing with mass hysteria or an overly developed sense of conspiracy? Neither seems particularly satisfactory in explaining the evidence I have.

prh47bridge Sat 06-Nov-10 11:53:16

Agree with everyone else here!

Anyone who thinks they have placed their child on a list for a state school is wrong. Schools are not allowed to operate in that way. Independent schools can do what they like but state schools cannot.

Everyone applies at the same time. Admissions are determined by the admission criteria, which do not take any account of when someone puts in their application. Waiting lists only come into operation after places have been allocated, a few months before the children are due to start school.

I don't know this for sure but I suspect VivaLeBeaver is right that some state schools co-operate with the fantasy that you can put your child's name down simply to make pushy parents go away.

prh47bridge Sat 06-Nov-10 11:56:19

And yes, I've come across all kind of fantasies from parents. Many parents have no idea how school admissions work, despite the wide availability of information. Indeed, many schools have no idea how school admissions work and give poor advice to parents.

I guess it partly comes from the past when the system was far more open to abuse and manipulation than is now the case, partly from people making assumptions and partly general belief in conspiracy theories.

singersgirl Sat 06-Nov-10 11:57:04

I think you're dealing with mass hysteria and with other people who haven't bothered to find out how the system works. They will gain no advantage by going on a waiting list early as the admissions criteria (distance from school etc) will come into play on all applications received on the correct form by a certain date, in the year before the child will start school.

piprabbit Sat 06-Nov-10 12:03:42

Phone up the school to register an interest - this may help them (a small amount) with planning for future numbers. More importantly, they will have your details so they can invite you to the open days that they run ahead of the admissions closing date. But this won't help actually get a place at the school.

The amount of rubbish that I've heard people spouting, with a huge amount of confidence, is unbelievable.

The LEA holds a waiting list for the children who applied to a school, but who weren't initially offered a place. It only comes into being after places have been offered and it lets them juggle the people who give up places vs. the children who need them.

AdelaofBlois Sat 06-Nov-10 12:05:55

All re-assuring, thank you.

I would add my sister is annoyingly prepared and organised, but I think that makes it much less likely she'd misunderstand, and it is a state primary. Same applies to the parents around here-they are generally much better informed than me about how things actually work (you need to talk to x to get that done). Two of them are primary school teachers!.

Think, basically, the next time I get a thorough denunciation of my parenting skills from my mother, will mention this.

VivaLeBeaver Sat 06-Nov-10 12:13:05

Why don't you ring your LEA and get some reassurance from them. Then the next time your mum starts off about it you'll be able to tell her that you've got advice from the officials that you don't do this.

AdelaofBlois Sat 06-Nov-10 12:20:02


Ultimately I don't reassurance from the LA (who I have already contacted and who confirmed what I-and everyone else here-believed about what should happen). And, anyway, it wouldn't make any difference for DS. And talking to my mother in a way which uses reason, information and solid fact over assumption is the way to greater not lesser conflict. Will stress to my sister she's wrong, though, try and find out why.

I am still baffled by the degree of basic misinformation held true by people who I would really expect to know better, though. Am used (at both KS1 and university level) to the idiocies and assumptions people have, but this surprises even me, given the huge amount of energy parents put into this.

Is there anyone out there who believed they were on a 'waiting list' and didn't get a place? How did the misunderstanding arise?

mrz Sat 06-Nov-10 12:29:15

Even the most organised parent can't register their child more than 12 months in advance of the year they are due to start school.

prh47bridge Sat 06-Nov-10 12:31:06

School teachers are often the worst sources of information about how admissions work. LA schools are not involved in the admissions process at all and even church schools only have minimal involvement. Time and again I hear of schools giving very poor advice when it comes to admissions.

piprabbit Sat 06-Nov-10 12:31:29

mrz - that's not true - you can phone up the school as early as you like. They will (probably) be polite and register your interest, taking your details for future reference.

But it has bugger all to do with actually getting a place.

Runoutofideas Sat 06-Nov-10 12:31:42

It tends to be people who have been successful in their careers/life choices who believe that they can sway a decision by their actions or by knowing the right people. In business this may work but not when it comes to school applications - they just don't realise it or refuse to accept it! By accepting the fact they would be accepting that they have equal right to a space as their neighbour and in their view that cannot be right as they have "spoken to the right people"!

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