Do you really understand the admissions system?(33 Posts)
Asking because I know so many people this year locally who are in a dire school situation. As in a lot of places, some cut-off distances for our local schools changed dramatically this year, partly siblings but partly because there just seem to be more kids.
So I know quite a handful of people who only put 1 or 2 popular schools down as preferences (sometimes without having actually visited them!), which were oversubscribed and hence have been allocated somewhere they definitely don't want miles away. 2 people have turned down these offers on bad advice, and now have no school place.
It's not that there aren't enough school places in our part of London (I know this is the place in some), more that so many parents dismiss without even going to look some schools that are perfectly adequate but just not as popular.
A local children's centre did workshops for their parents and every single one of them was allocated a local school, maybe not their first choice but nonetheless a decent local school.
This made me think that more nurseries etc should do workshops and even the English-as-first-language, know-the-system cohort of parents don't seem to understand what is actually a very complicated, anti-intuitive system.
I understand the system, but I suspect I'm not "normal"
A lot of parents mix up parental preference & parental choice - BIG DIFFERENCE.
Trouble is I don't think the LAs can be seen to be influencing parental preference, which makes it tricky. I agree that a lot of parents need to become better educated about how the system works.
My top tips (for anyone thinking about next year's admissions) would be
1. Visit every school local to you & make your own mind up - don't go on reputation/gossip/Ofsted reports/league tables
2. Find out how likely it is you stand a chance of a place by looking at the last few years admissions (eg what category & distance)
3. Put the schools in your genuine order or preference (schools are not allowed to operate a "first preference first" system, despite what people tell you)
4. Use all your preferences - but be realistic about your chances of getting a place - don't waste a preference on a hell-will-freeze-over-first option.
5. Always include one "safe" option (even if it is as last preference) which you are okay with & are pretty much guaranteed to get into. (Or you run the risk of getting a "worse" school miles away if you don't get any of your preferences)
6. You will not be able to bully the LA/school/appeals panel into giving you the school you want by only putting that school on the application form & refusing places at other schools.
7. Read the admission code - you need to know the "rules" as if the rules are broken it gives you a valid reason to appeal.
8. Submit any exceptional social/medical circumstances evidence with your initial application, whether or not you are fairly confident you will get a place anyway - much easier than trying to win an appeal based on this later (which will typically fail if it is an infant class size appeal)
School admissions are much more strict with a lot less discretion than even a few years ago so people give advice that is outdated and people listen to bad advice
The favourite is "Just appeal. If you kick up a stink you will get in. That's what we did with our 3" so obviously, one upon a time you could go to appeal and say "I'm not sending my kid to that s**t school. You'd better give me the school I want or else" but nowadays you have to have compelling grounds to appeal and even then you many not win.
It is the same with people who believe that putting only one option down means "they'll have to give you that school if you put the same school down 3 times". Maybe one upon a time this tactic worked (judging my the number of older people who all swear that's how they got a place for their children) but it certainly isn't the case anymore.
Whatever used to happen, the system is not open to discretion or foot stamping or people insisting they want a certain school. You have to look at the admissions criteria and, as Betsy says, you must put down one safe option even if you really don;t like it because, if you don't, you may end up with the same calibre of school but 4 miles away.
I think the admissions thing depends on area as well? Round here (big town in south east) there are enough school places for children, there are no really bad or really good schools so I don't think (haven't come across any) any parents are really genuinely upset if they don't get first choice.
At secondary level you have only a tiny chance of getting into a non-catchment school and most people "expect" their child to go to their catchment school.
So, in answer to the admissions question, I understand how admissions work in relation to round here as it is quite straightforward!
Yes, it's the putting down a safe option bit that people seem to not realise it vital. That and actually going to look at the schools.
I understand it but it would seem I'm in the minority. It was only recently though that our LEA introduced equal preference as compulsary.
Also a lot of people getting their eldest into reception just don't seem to believe/understand/know that there is a shortage of places in all but the really poorly performing schools. They don't seem to understand that they need to put down a "safe" option or even one of the poor schools as a poor school in walking distance is better than a poor school not in walking distance.
What if you don't have a safe option? I've just received an offer for a really rotten school for my DD. I put down 3 acceptable schools on the form, but they were all filled by siblings and people who attended the right church (they are all church schools, so even if I'd gone to church, how would I have chosen which one to attend?!). They were the only 3 acceptable schools within a 5-mile radius; there was no other option available
we don't have catchment areas here, it's distance as the crow flies and the LEA keep stuffing up anyway
If there were only 3 schools that you thought were good enough then your safe option would have been the best of the "poor" lot.
I agree with much of what BetsyBoop said, an excellent checklist, exactly what we did (no 'good' schools that we didn't stand a plausible chance of getting into, three schools which had admitted from where we lived recently and which were all happy places where learning took place, option four as the best of the 'bad' schools-brilliant staff but very challenging intake). DS got choice three, which we are increasingly happy with as we learn more about them-contact about induction and support has been swift and extensive. The only change I would make would be to say 'visit all schools you might be admitted to and could get to'-which may be more than you instinctively feel 'local' in some situations.
BUT I don't think everyone who has failed to get a good local school has been ignorant. There's a huge difference between the woman living 2 miles away from the school I work at who has rung the head repeatedly moaning that that was her only given option and please can't 'I' get in, and the woman living one street away for whom it's her nearest school, who has always lived close enough to be admitted before, who entered the next three nearest schools and still got no preferences.
So, yes, understand, but please if you have understood and been allocated schools, don't feel anyone is digging at you at what must already be a worrying time.
That's a good point about not having a safe option. Around here, people do as some unpopular schools have large distance cut offs, though many people don't even look at or consider these schools.
In some parts of the country, it is possible to put your 6 closest schools and not be offered a place in any, which must be very upsetting especially if you would have been okay in previous years.
To state the obvious, I understand the admissions system! It really isn't all that complicated. The problem is that a there are a lot of myths, including:
- You will only get into school X if you make it your first choice
- If you only name one school they have to admit you
- If you keep rejecting schools they have to admit you to your preferred school
It doesn't help that many schools give poor advice because they don't know how it works. Of course, situations where black holes develop as described by AdalaofBlois and Rosebug05 don't help. It is unfortunately the case that in a number of local authorities there are enough school places to go round but they are in the wrong place.
I agree completely with BetsyBoop's excellent checklist. Perhaps that is something that should be posted here annually at the appropriate time.
Rosebud - yes we live in such an area. It is perfectly possible to live 500m from your closest school, 700m from your second closest school and 1200km from your 3rd closest school and still not get a place at any of them.
If there are a lot of siblings and lots of families living close to the schools, the first school might fill up after 200m, the second school after 500m and the third school after 1km leaving you with no school place at all.
The LEA then allocate a school several miles away or even in a different borough.
Yes I understand the system have always been "lucky" enough to get our 1st choices I have pulled 1 child out of such a 1st choice and it taught me to look for very different things in schools.
When we moved I picked the school I liked the best that had space my dd3 got into reception there the year after after on sibling rule. 14 ssiblings to 15 spaces. had we moved the year after we would not have been able to get them into the same schools
I have found it difficult when reading about the complaints of people not getting in their preferred schools and allocated the rubbish one down the road when I know of so many people Surrey/London where there are just insufficient places full stop or as happened to one of the mum's at our primary that the LEA just simply haven't allocated her dd a place anywhere - I think they forgot about her somehow!
I understand it but only because of the research I did last year after my DS ended up with no offers due to shortage of places in my borough.
CarGirl The reason why I didn't have a safe option for my DD was that where I live, as in Surrey/London, there was a shortage of over 300 Reception places and 7% of applicants didn't get any of their 3 preferences. There was no "best" option of the "poor" schools, to use your terminology; the poor schools were all awful, full stop. How do you distinguish between crap, awful and rubbish?? Out of the three schools I applied to, I am in catchment for one and I live less than 1 mile from the other 2. I didn't apply for our other catchment school, which is awful, and was allocated a school 3 miles away which is also awful.
Some of us really don't have a safe option, if we have the misfortune to live in an area where there is a massive shortage of places
The "safe" option for many people is a "crap" school that they can walk to which is preferable to the "crap" school 3 miles away that they will be allocated if they don't put a realistic choice on their form.
Of course you should put 1st and 2nd choices that you are really happy with but you should always list at least 1 school that you would be almost certain to get a space at else you risk being allocated a random school miles away.
Some people however have no safe choice. Not because their local schools are poor but because of the London black hole effect where you can live 500m from your very nearest school and still not be close enough to get a place ie you don't live in catchment for a single school not even a bad one. Those people have no choice but to get allocated a random school at some point between May and September when everyone else has their place.
Yes, we back on to a 'crap' school and put that as our last choice as I knew a place in a nearby 'crap' school is better than a place in a random miles away 'crap' school. Many other parents regard our second choice which we got as 'crap' btw.
I'm was shocked how many people around here have come a cropper because they only put one or two popular schools down, even though there were safe 'crap' options. I can only think that they didn't understand the admission system or believed the 'urban myths.'
I know a couple of people ie in other areas who live in a bermuda triangle area and a couple where the LEA actually doesn't have enough places.
We know people in the same boat Rosebud who had no place at all last year. For some of them, their nerve failed them as it got to Summer with still no place and they went private but stayed on waiting lists. For many others this wasn't an option and they just waited and waited until eventually they got offered something.
It was a mix of some parents being overly optimistic when listing their preferences and putting down schools that they didn't have a hope of getting into and [parents who just happened to live in areas where there physically aren't enough places for every child who wants one. Bulge classes were opened but it took months to sort out which isnt great when all your sons friends know where theyll be going and your child is one of the ones who has no place.
I am really shocked how difficult it seems to have been in some areas with schools filling up within a few 100 metres.
However am equally shocked by what I consider relatively intelligent people local to me believing the playground myths and not bothering to find out the facts & also those on my road that moan about being given a school miles away but didn't put the catchment area school as a preference - without even bothering to visit it...
and along with many other local parents were pleasantly surprised - hence hopefully with more and more "decent" kids going it can only get better.
I think BetsyBoops advice at the very top is spot on.
Haven't even looked at our Ofsted report - but impressed by nice teachers, nice kids & a headmistress who spent 2 hours showing us round.
You are absolutely right go to the school, see it, feel it and then make a decision do not be lead by Ofsted or other parental gossip (they can help but should not be the starting point for dropping that as a preference)
Sadly I do mean the safe option is the nearby "crap" school rather than the random "crap" school you will get offered miles away.
I don't like it, I don't think it's acceptable but that is the reality for those of who us who live in Surrey/London. Our local secondary school is the crap one that was bottom of the Surrey league tables for 6 years apart from the year it was in special measures so it wasn't on there at all! We can't afford to move so the reality is that is our safe option - our only option tbh.
I think the person who said that people get 'preference' mixed up with 'choice' makes a good point. I wouldn't 'choose' to send my kids to the 'crap' school which we back on to, but I would prefer it to 'maybe not quite so crap' school 2 or more miles away.
I'm not sure how many people read the admissions booklet, tbh. It's long and does explain things but not in a very accessible way. I think there should be some 'case studies' ie Mrs B really wants her son to go to school A. They live .3m away and her neighbour's son was admitted last year. However, as distance cut offs change year to year, Mrs B needs to ensure that she puts other preferences down..." etc. Also, a 'myth and fact' section and it should set out the possible consequences of just putting down one preference or preferences you don't have a hope of getting into more clearly.
Join the discussion
Please login first.