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Should I be doing more to get DS a place a

(8 Posts)
QueenJulian Mon 20-Jun-11 11:47:22

We moved to a new area almost two years ago. My DS had already got a place in reception in our old area (moved in the August) and I put his name down at 2 local schools as soon as we moved. He is now at the end of year 1 and his name has been on the waiting list for 4 local schools since the local council took over primary admissions last September. I don't drive so we walk to the local train station, have a 15 minute train journey and then walk for about another 20 minutes to his school. It's quite a lot of walking for him but he just gets on with it. I spend between 3 and 4 hours a day taking him to and from school. It's time consuming and expensive (train fares) but probably the worst aspect is that it is very difficult for him to have friends over after school and I worry (a bit) that he is missing out etc.

Anyway, the issue is that people keep asking me why I'm not doing more to get him a local place. Mums at school, when they see us trudging up the hill to school, friends and family are constantly advising me to keep on at the admissions office, to 'make a nuisance' of myself so they'll want to get rid of me by giving him a place. (One person advised me to get the GP to put me on antidepressants and then tell the admissions office that it's because I can't cope with the stress of the journey hmm). Somebody else suggested speaking to our local MP - apparently it worked for him. I call the admissions office once every half-term, to let them know we are still interested and find out where we are on the list. They have a policy, it goes on proximity mainly, but am I being naive? Should I be being far more pushy? I'd really appreciate any advice. WWYD?

QueenJulian Mon 20-Jun-11 11:48:53

Sorry, title should read 'a place at a local school'!

admission Mon 20-Jun-11 12:51:40

I suspect the answer might be you are being a little naive based on what you say in the post because you seem to be just waiting for a place to come up based on the waiting list held by the LA.
The first question i think you need to answer is whether the four schools that you are on the waiting list for have an admission number that would mean that any admission appeal is an infant class size case. If they have an admission number of 15, 30, 45, 60, 75 or 90 then they are likely to be infant class size regs appeals. In that situation the near certaintity is that you will not win an admission appeal.
If however it is another number then it may not be an admission appeal based on infant class size regs. With the distance you are travelling and the effects it is having on your son etc, that should be the basis of a reasonable case to take to an appeal panel. To do so you need to formally ask the admission office for a place at the school, knowing you will be rejected and then ask for an appeal. I am not saying you will definitely win but at least you will have done something positive to try and get your child into the school.
The other thing I think you should do is review what other schools there may be in the district which would potentially be OK, may have places or may have potential for appealing for.
There is also a mechanism that is called the In Year fair access protocol which all LAs have to have and which in effects says they have to find you a school place if none is available. If you formally apply for a place at a school, I would quote this at them and see if it helps at all. The problem is that they will and can legally offer you a place anywhere and say that they have fulfilled their legal obligations, but maybe the LA will be nice and grant you a place at a much nearer school than you currently have.
You might also explore the possibility of getting the cost of the travel paid by the Council. I suspect they will say that it is your decision to go to that school, so no funding, but then I would reply to them that they have not offered any suitable lcoal school in two years and therefore you should be paying.

QueenJulian Mon 20-Jun-11 16:31:28

Thanks admission, I started another thread as I messed up the title so hadn't seen your reply.
The schools I have applied for take regular class sizes of 30, 60 etc depending on whether they are one,two or three form intake. At least, I'm pretty sure that's right but I will double check. I think that means that the classes are simply full and they can't take another child on until somebody leaves? I called the admissions office again today and found out that we are first on the list at my preferred school (but we have been since Xmas), 2nd at another, 3rd and 9th. I understand there's some leeway in year 3 when they can take an extra 3 or 4 but that's another year away.

I'll enquire about the fair access protocol - my concern is that they might offer us another school which is in the borough but still quite far to travel (ie a bus journey) rather than a local (walking distance) school and I would prefer DS to make local friends and I don't want to move him again. But I can try - nothing ventured and all that. I will ask about the funding too, that would be very helpful!

admission Mon 20-Jun-11 16:58:14

You are quite correct that any offer under the fair access protocol could be a fair distance away, it is all about achieving their legal requirements to offer a place, not what is most appropriate for your child.
The situation is that the infant class size regs limit infant classes (reception, year 1 and year2) to 30 pupils with one school teacher. It does not say you can't have more than 30 in the class only that you then have to have two school teachers, whch of course is completely impractical given the funding situation. The admission number does not change as the year group moves up the school, so the school is not normally allowed to just add more pupils at year 3, but the infant class size regs do not apply. What does happen is that parents can appeal for a place and if they have a good enough case, admission appeal panels can give them a place at the school. So yes it is not uncommon for junior classes to have more than 30 but there is no automatic right.
Although it is the LA who has to offer any available place at the school, i think it would probably be worth having a word with the school where you are first on the waiting list and just ask them whether they know about anybody who is going to leave during the summer break. The school quite often know before the parents actually formally tell the school (children are not so good at keeping secrets!) and you need to be there at the LA as soon as the actual form is received saying they no longer need the place. I would also check again immediately before they finish for the summer break and then the first couple of days back, those are the most likely times for a place to become available.

QueenJulian Mon 20-Jun-11 19:15:18

Thanks for explaining that, that is really helpful. So I imagine I have to appeal via the LA, not the school, is that correct? NobodyI have spoken to at the LA has mentioned that I can appeal but maybe they wouldn't. I will definitely take your advice about contacting the school.

admission Mon 20-Jun-11 20:46:17

If you formally make an application for a place, then when the LA say no, they have to by law tell you that you can appeal. But if you don't formally apply and only go on the waiting list then they do not actually need to tell you that you can appeal.
The appeal should be to whoever the admission authority is. In a community school it is the LA, if it is a faith school or a foundation school then the school is the admission authority. However just for added confusion all offers of places have to come through the LA.

QueenJulian Mon 20-Jun-11 21:35:38

I have filled in a form from the LA, giving a list of 4 schools we are interested in. It's the In - year primary admission form, I think. Apparently I have to fill in another one in August to 'update' our application for the next academic year. I thought that was a bit strange. I will contact the LA tomorrow to tell them I wish to appeal. Complicated, isn't it?!

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