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Given the number of appeals threads, what other system of admissions do people think would be better?

(36 Posts)
bumpyboo Sun 05-Jun-11 16:28:25

Just wondered, given the number of threads regarding appeals. My idea would be a lottery for schools within one mile of your home. Obviously not for small village schools but in the inner city would certainly serve to create a more equal school setting.

DeWe Sun 05-Jun-11 19:00:24

Why would that be better? There would still be roughly the same number of people unhappy.

meditrina Sun 05-Jun-11 19:07:25

Sorry, I don't agree with your premise that number of threads here is a reliable indicator of a RL problem.

But even if it were, I hate the idea of lotteries - even in a 1mile radius it could add huge amounts of traffic and stress in cities, and is completely unworkable for areas where there are not sufficient places within that circumference, or no schools that close to your home.

AgentProvocateur Sun 05-Jun-11 19:08:17

What we have in Scotland seems to work pretty well. Each primary school has a catchment area, and 90% of the time, that's where children go. Because they're local schools most walk, so less traffic congestion.

Each cluster of primaries feed into a secondary.

If anyone wants to go to a primary or secondary outwith the catchment area, parents put in a placing request.

I'm guessing it used to happen like this all over the UK until parental choice was introduced.

catsareevil Sun 05-Jun-11 19:15:06

I agree re Scotand. Parents can put in a placing request if they want to, which most of the time will be sucessful, but mostly people go to the catchment school. Its great for waking to school, and a sense of community. I suspect that it means that a greater proportion of schools are considered to be acceptable by parents, where it seems like in England there is greater polarisation, with peope vying to get into the 'best' schools, and doing what they can to avoid the 'bad' schools.

bumpyboo Sun 05-Jun-11 19:43:30

meditrina, not just going by the number of threads here but also the number of people i know in RL who have not got into the school they would have liked to. Its not a problem everywhere I know and as you say would not work in some places. Why do you think it would create more traffic?

meditrina Sun 05-Jun-11 19:56:01

Because instead of children by and large going to their nearest schools (or at least nearest at time of initial entry, assuming you keep some form of sibling priority), they could eg be going past the school at the end of their street to one a mile away in exactly the wrong direction to parent's public transport journey to work, necessitating car out. If you abandon sibling priority, then the chaos gets worse as parents might be having to make additional journeys to get children to different locations within a pretty small (and already busy) morning commute time.

And just as many parents would be unhappy. They just wouldn't be able to appeal.

The compulsory lottery eliminates parental choice/preference. Put in those terms, it would be unlikely to be an option with popular support.

If you keep parental choice, then you need more schools that parents are happy with. And in some places, just more schools.

SE13Mummy Sun 05-Jun-11 20:02:16

Round here (SE London) one of the issues seems to be that there are a lot of schools within a very small area i.e. 4 primaries within 5 streets (not main roads, residential streets). Each of the schools is very different although two of them share an Executive Head. One is open plan, another is a redesigned Victorian building across 3 storeys and another is a Victorian site but with three buildings and all teaching spaces are ground floor. This means that parents may well have quite a strong preference for one type/ethos of school over another and yet all the schools will be within 1000m of an individual's home.

I do not like the idea of a lottery as I do think siblings should be placed at schools together (if the parents want and if they live the same distance from the school as when the first child started-see below). It would have the potential to make life very complicated especially with regard to forming local friendships, being able to walk home from school (at a later age, not 4!) and all sorts of other things.

At present the system isn't that bad although it feels horrendous if your 4-year-old is unfortunate enough to be offered a school 2.8 miles away, in the opposite direction from the school you teach in, is only accessible via two different buses, has no breakfast/after-school club and there is no local (to home) childminder who will take on a child who needs to be delivered to a school so 'far' away. This is what happened to us and, had I not been on maternity leave at the time, either myself or my DH would have had to seriously consider leaving our teaching jobs in order to get DD1 to school. What actually happened was that I declined the place and accepted the one offered 5+ miles away, opposite the school DH teaches at; it wouldn't have been ideal but at least it would have meant we could both carry on teaching.

The Admission Code was introduced to make things fairer for everyone and whilst I believe that's the right thing to do, there's a part of me that would like some sort of priority criteria to be applied for Reception-aged offspring of teachers! Realistically I don't know how this could be applied; perhaps it should only be applicable if a school is at least 2-form entry and the child lives within a mile of the school.

The other change I would make would be to make sibling priority applicable only if the family home was the same distance (or closer to) from the school as when the first child was offered a place. It's frustrating to know that your own child has missed out on a place because X, Y and Z have all got places merely because they have siblings and that they now live much further from the school. Again, this wouldn't be easy to administer and something would have to protect those in social housing/those who have to move due to exceptional circumstances.

RustyBear Sun 05-Jun-11 20:24:06

SE13mummy - you may get your wish.... See this thread

bumpyboo Sun 05-Jun-11 20:24:19

I agrees, would definitely keep the sibling priority. Yes SE13 it is annoying when you know parents no longer live in the area and yet have priority but i don't think you could realisticaly change that because of the circumstances you mentioned.

SE13Mummy Sun 05-Jun-11 20:51:06

Thanks Rusty Bear - I think my issue with it is that I've never taught at an 'outstanding' school as the outstanding schools round here aren't the sort of school I would want to teach in/want my DC to attend. I teach at a 'good' school (according to Ofsted) which is just over 800m from my home but it is also the school that many parents place as 2nd choice on the application form for Reception places... their first choice is usually the 'outstanding' single-form-entry school 2 roads away from my school.

DH teaches at an 'outstanding' grammar school 5+ miles away - our DC getting some sort of priority on the grounds that their Dad teaches there would be odd, not least because 11-year-olds can get themselves to school on the bus/train; most of them don't need to be dropped off with a childminder/at a breakfast club in the same way that 4-year-olds do.

Our issue with the original school place offered was that its location coupled with lack of pre/post school provision meant that some form of time-travel would have had to occur in order for me to drop DD1 at school for 9am and simultaneously bring my class in from a playground two bus rides away. There is no flexibility when it comes to the start of the school day but, had DD1 been given a place at a properly local school, or even one with a breakfast club, the morning would have been a rush rather than completely impossible.

trixymalixy Sun 05-Jun-11 20:53:07

What others have said. The Scottish system seems to work much much better.

chopchopquick Sun 05-Jun-11 21:25:40

Perhaps I don't understand the system in Scotland that well but surely if the schools don't have enough places for the children in the catchment area wont you end up the same problem with children having to go to schools miles away?

AgentProvocateur Sun 05-Jun-11 21:36:03

I don't know how it works in England, but we get 2 years of pre-school education, so the education authorities know how many p1 pupils there will be at each school two years in advance. They then plan accordingly - some p1 intakes will have three classes, and on other years they will have 1 or 2, for example.

chopchopquick Sun 05-Jun-11 21:37:47

In that case makes sense!!

trixymalixy Sun 05-Jun-11 22:38:23

They seem to just add extra classes in Scotland. For example the school I would like DS to go to is having two p1 classes this year. One of 25 ( legal limit) and another of 31 with two teachers. Another nearby school is having 3 p1 intakes one of which is above 25 with two teachers.

I'm not sure what happens if there just isn't physically enough room in the school. I know they have changed catchment areas before to much hoo ha. Its not something that happens very often.

HushedTones Sun 05-Jun-11 23:01:45

I think the current system is as fair as it can be given the reality of the situation in many areas.
Some areas are fine and have no problems with school places but where you find dense populations, increasing numbers of school aged children (be it birth rate, immigration or relocation for work) and a mix of very good plus very bad schools all within a mile or so of each other, people will be disadvantaged and people will be unhappy and some people won't get places at all and will have to travel miles

The ideal solution would that every school would be equally desirable and that each area would have enough places so that all children in a town or a borough could attend a local school but that isn't going to happen anytime soon. The only change I would make is to abolish sibling priority for secondary schools. A good secondary school, especially if it has a good 6th form, is such a rare commodity in some areas that the sibling rule creates waves of parents moving close to the schools to get a place for their eldest and then moving away again. This doesn't happen at all schools, but where it does, schools should try to alter admission priorities to give local children the chance of a place at a local school. I think the same applies to teacher / staff priority. I can sort of understand it for Infant School children but not for secondary school admissions.

southofthethames Mon 06-Jun-11 00:18:03

One idea worth a look might be the system of giving each child their nearest school rather than giving the school their nearest children. The old system leads to the scenario of properties with ridiculously inflated prices because they are within 200m of the best school, or in some cases, THREE good schools, while other children further away are out of range of any school, and hence end up being allocated one many miles away. The system is unfair because it basically means that once again, those who are rich get more choice than those less well off, while the rich already have the option of private school. I think it is reasonable to stick to the principle of siblings getting priority, even if the family have moved away - as long as the family are happy to continue sending offspring to that school, as they will only bump someone else off the list in the new area anyway. It is less disruptive to the children.

However, fundamentally, we are still shifting the same number of too many children around the same number of too few schools. The best solution is to have a law/regulation that any new housing development cannot be approved unless new school places have first been created - whether by extending/enlarging existing schools, or by building a new school. There are far too many towns/cities where families haven't even got a school place at all, never mind a place that they have chosen.

weejie Mon 06-Jun-11 12:37:17

the one thing no one has mentioned is the fact that schools can select on religion. this leads to cases like the school near us taking children from a significant distance away as their mums were better at sucking up to the priests, and children next door to the school not getting in.

schools take who is in their catchment are and that is it. Religion is something outside state education, just like it is in america.

that way, local schools are for people who live local, giving a better sense of community and less commuting.

and finally, no sibling places unless the family are still in the catchment area.

Runoutofideas Mon 06-Jun-11 13:19:36

I agree with SE13mummy about the sibling thing. In my dd's class of 30 children there are at least 5 whose parents moved into the area temporarily to get the eldest child in to the school and have since moved out to other areas of the city - all at least a 10 minute drive to school. These families all have younger siblings who will get places in future years, above children who live locally. They are clearly playing the system and some action needs to be taken about it. I would suggest that if you move further away than the address of your initial application, then you lose your sibling priority. If you still live close enough then you will get in anyway. My mum has a friend who owns a house very close to the school. Over the past 4 years it has been rented out to 4 different families, all of whom now have children in the school and younger ones to follow.....

catastrophewaitress Mon 06-Jun-11 14:08:04

Totally agree with Weejie. If a school wants to have a religious ethos and the parents are fine with that, that is ok. But not OK for some children to be given preference over others because of their parents church attendance! Remember all of these "voluntary aided" schools are funded by everyone's taxes not only by the churchgoers'!

AdelaofBlois Mon 06-Jun-11 14:54:00

There isn't really much wrong with the system itself, it's the infrastructure that surrounds it. I'm infuriated that schools can set some criteria-especially faith-and that there seems to be a move to allow this to happen more frequently in less transparent ways. And I think the time and resources necessary to understand the system and use it properly are beyond most people's reach and could be provided better. But, overall, equal preferences and published criteria are a whole let better than anything that went before.

Surely, at the risk of sounding daft, the real problem is in some ways the preferential system itself, however it is administered, since it creates a 'market' without any excess of supply. People 'prefer' schools for various reasons, and there are clearly non-preferred schools that shouldn't exist. But a lot of other preferences are really between several happy schools where learning takes place, not a means of escaping 'failure'. And there the system is profoundly distorting to schools' abilities to teach and meet the needs of their pupils, and creates huge amounts of unnecessary upset. Somehow the system creates the expectation that everyone should be at an outstanding school, locks those schools into success, and increases the differences between them and others. Perhaps an hiatus where everyone goes to their nearest school to rebalance the system in accordance with present catchments would be an idea, before we return to such preferences under any code.

AdelaofBlois Mon 06-Jun-11 15:23:20

I would add on the sibling thing that DS1 will enter a good town centre school because we live on a council estate nearby. I would hope to move from here so that he wouldn't have to pick his way over needles on the way to the bus stop, or continue to believe that Santa breaks in to nick his stuff. When I move it will be to the suburbs, but I'd like him to have the continuity of staying at school and for his brother to have the advantages of entering a school where I am known, as well as a supportive sibling and a doable journey.

Does anyone know of any objective way of distinguishing me, or the young couple renting to save for a deposit, from those 'playing' the system?

HushedTones Mon 06-Jun-11 15:47:28

It's hard Adela - a lot of people have very deserving reasons or very practical reasons for wanting a certain school for their child but not everyone will get what they want or even what they need. Continuity is important but lots don't get this eg the 4 year olds at nurseries and preschools who don't get a place at their attached Infant School so have to leave behind every friend they've ever known (and the mum loses all her friends too) and go to a totally different school. And areas where siblings do not apply on time or do not get priority (not all areas give sibling priority because in some schools it has been abused so much)

In your case you have very good reasons but on the flip side a parent on your estate, seeing you move away to a nicer area but keeping your school place priority, could equally well argue that not only does their child still have to live on the "bad" estate but now their school places are taken by people escaping the "bad" estate yet still getting sibling priority at school.
If their child is 5 and your child is 5 and their child doesn't get a place because of all the siblings doing the same thing (ie moving to somewhere else once their older child is at the school) then could you justify to them the double whammy of living somewhere less than ideal AND not getting into the local school because of spaces filling up with people who have moved to nicer areas than they can afford?

I am not saying you have done this as a deliberate ploy like some parents do. Some people move short term just to play the system whereas you are genuinely just moving house but the net result is the same for the people left behind. Local children not getting places because siblings living even several miles away get that space instead.

AdelaofBlois Mon 06-Jun-11 16:12:12

But, equally, ditching sibling priority just gives extra pull to those settled enough when they have kids to be stuck in one place and liking it, the vanilla folk who plan their families and their lives on good incomes, have stable jobs in decent areas.

The inequalities in my situation aren't that I got the 'nice' school for both siblings, it's that because I had the time and knowledge to look round I didn't get the merged just-out-of-special measures school on the estate that my neighbours are allocated because they didn't return the forms or just put the nearest school because they don't have cars or ability to afford the bus fair. I'm not proud of that, but I have to think that arguing over which choosy middle-class parent wins or loses on particular points of the code just masks the basic fact that giving anyone the choice buggers everything up-me and the eight or nine families from the nice development on the edge of the estate should be sending our kids to the nearest school. But I'm not going to, because I don't think I have the right to take heroic social stances for my kids, nor why I should unless the folk from the outlying suburbs who flood the other nearest schools to me also do. Basically, not enough places, unequal places and choice puts every parent in some sort of prisoner's dilemma-you're screwed unless everyone else also does the right thing. Strangely, the rational answer to the prisoner's dilemma is to do the right thing....

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