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schools admissions advice again please - how to choose

(6 Posts)
shelley72 Wed 25-May-11 08:18:16

Further to my other post, we are due to apply for schools this autumn for sept 12 start. We have been told that we CAN apply on our form for another LEA (near work and nursery drop off) but we would be way, way down the list, and the school sounded a bit off hand with us when I phoned to arrange a visit.

So thinking about the form, is there any point in putting down schools you relay like but are not in catchment for? Where we live, we have 3 schools – according to ofsted one is good, but you have to live on the ‘posh’ estate to get in (we don’t), one is ‘satisfactory’ but catholic (were not - but then my friends DCs go there and they’re not even christened so not sure they are that strict) and one has just come off special measures. I do not want DS to go to that school at all – they have attainment and attendance issues.

So if on our form we put down say the one out of area, the one that’s ‘good’ and the one that’s catholic as a last choice and we don’t get offered any of them, we will get put into the school we really don’t want right? Can we then refuse? What would we do then? I maybe worrying over nothing, but am trying to arrange visits and it seems all the reasonable schools are barred to us simply because we don’t live on a nice estate (and cant afford to move or rent anywhere else either).

Is it ever worth wasting a preference on a school that you have no hope of getting into?

GiddyPickle Wed 25-May-11 08:59:58

shelley - the honest answer is no.
Not unless the school in the other LEA is short of applicants and undersubscribed (you can ask them or the LEA to find out a rough guide to numbers)
If it is an over-subscribed school, with distance as one of it's admssion criteria and you live miles away then it would almost certainly be a wasted choice.

With regard to your other choices, it is always a good idea, if you can, to put down at least one school that you do have a reasonable chance of getting into and that you wouldn't mind accepting. It might not be the one you really want but if it's better that the one you hate then it's worth putting it down.

If you put down 3 schools that you have no hope of getting into, you won't get any of them and the LEA will allocate you a school instead. They can only allocate schools that still have places left so realistically this is going to be a less popular school.

You need to find out a few things to help you choose. You need to know what the admissions criteria for each school are (usually siblings and then distance but it can vary). You need to work out how far away you are from each school and find out how it is measured (as the crow flies or shortest walking route - different LEAs do it differently) and how far away the last applicants lived who were accepted in past years.
With all of this, you can make an informed decsion balancing the schools you want, the schools you want to avoid and the schools that you have a reasonable chance of getting into.

All of this assumes no special or medical need exists.

admission Wed 25-May-11 11:13:27

You do have to be realistic about what preferences you decide on and the starting point has to be the admission criteria for the school, not what Ofsted say. If the schools have a standard type admission criteria of catchment zone, siblings and then distance it follows that putting down your catchment school as one of your preferences is going to be a realistic choice. Less realistic is going to be one that you are in the distance category for, which is a considerable distance to travel and is well known for being popular.
I would do the research for the schools that seem sensible and then go and visit them all. A school that is sniffy about visits and is not welcoming would be immediately off my list of preferences, no matter how good a school Ofsted or other parents think it is, because I would want my kids to be welcomed in the school.
All LAs now operate an equal preference scheme for admissions. That means that all preferences are treated as being of equal weight to start with and you are put in admission criteria order for each of the schools. The LA will then see which school can be offered based on the number of available places at the school. Only if you can be offered more than one will the ranking of the preferences come into play when you will be offered the higher ranking school. That is why it is usually thought to be the safe option to put your catchment school as the third preference (as the fall back position) and then put schools that you prefer but have less chance of getting a place at as first and second preference.
Under your preferences, the likelyhood is you will not get your first preference because of not being in catchment and distance, ditto the second preference and the catholic school will depend on how many apply with a "faith credential". If you do not put down the other local school, you may get that if they have any spaces left but if it has just come out of special measures and is thought to be doing well, many may put that down as a preference. You might then not get any local school and be allocated a school miles away, which by definition of being a school that has available places will not be a school you prefer.
In your position I may consider plumping for the out of LA school as first preference, the catholic school as second preference and you local school just coming out of special measures as the safe and third option. The local good school you have effectively said you have no chance of getting into because of distance, so why bother putting it down as preference?

shelley72 Fri 27-May-11 14:55:13

thank you - some sound advice there.

how do i find out the admission criteria for each school and if they are over subscribed? do i have to phone each school individually?

at the minute i am thinking 1. school on the lovely estate (in same town so i am guessing we would be in catchment?, unless they have a ridiculously small distance) 2. school out of LEA (lots of nursery friends who are also out of LEA have got in there this year - around 1/3 pupils from out of area), 3. catholic school as third / safe option. or maybe not bother with the school on lovely estate at all and try and find another school thats not so full.

so what DOES happen if you are only offered a school that you really dont like. do you HAVE to accept? is that it then. the whole process seems a tad barking / unfair. of course if ALL state schools were of a good quality then it wouldntr be an issue but thats a whole new thread wink

PanelMember Fri 27-May-11 15:07:58

The admissions criteria (and how many children were admitted under each of the criteria in the previous year and the distance at which the last place was awarded) should all be in the "starting school" booklet on the relevant LEA's website. This should also tell you whether the school has a fixed catchment area or whether places are awarded according to distance (usually, straight line distance) between home and school.

If you are allocated a school you really don't like, you can turn it down. However, you need to think about this very carefully because (1) after that, the LEA will probably not offer you any alternative school unless you make a fresh application for one (and bear in mind here that the allocated school will have been the nearest one with a vacancy, so any other school with a vacancy is likely to be even further away) and (2) being without a school place does nothing to move you up any waiting list or improve your odds at appeal.

MovingAndScared Sat 28-May-11 13:26:17

Hi - the leaflet probably won't be out yet - probably
although you could get an idea from last years leaflet
which is your nearest school - that is one you stand the best chance of getting into -also I would advise going to visit your nearest school even if it hasn't got a good reputation you may be pleasently suprised -

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