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In-year primary admissions - should I be doing more?

(25 Posts)
QueenJulian Mon 20-Jun-11 12:33:35

Right, second try - thread title went wrong before.

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. (Also been advised 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?

scrappydappydoo Mon 20-Jun-11 12:38:35

I'm in similar postion although not as bad as yours - been on waiting list for over a year now and hate being in this state of limbo. I am also fed up with people telling me to appeal but we have no grounds so would be waste of time - or maybe not I don't know now - every so often I think maybe i should be doing more but don't know what??
Sorry that doesn't help does it? Just thought you would like to know you're not alone.

Runoutofideas Mon 20-Jun-11 12:46:06

I think it depends whereabouts you are on the waiting lists to be honest. If I was top of the list I would be in close contact with the school and the LA so that if a place was coming up, I knew about it and there was no chance of it being mistakenly given to another person, or any query about whether you still wanted to be on the list. If I was number 10 though, I wouldn't call any more often than you are doing.
When your son goes into yr 3, so in a year's time, the schools are not as restricted on 30 in a class, so you may have a chance at appeal then? Lots of people on here know far more about that than me.
I wouldn't go down the medical deception route myself, and not sure it would work anyway! Not sure what the MP's supposed to do. LAs have admissions criteria which they are legally bound to follow. Good luck with it though.

AMumInScotland Mon 20-Jun-11 12:59:00

In some areas, you would be entitled to fares from the LEA if you are forced to keep your child in a school more than 2 miles away. Have you tried asking them if you are entitled to any help? If you are, then it may give them an extra push to find him a place nearer!

QueenJulian Mon 20-Jun-11 13:43:49

thanks for your replies.
scrappy - it's such a pain, isn't it. That's exactly how I feel, appeal on what grounds??

runout - I wouldn't dream of going down the medical route! I could hardly believe the person who suggested it was serious, but she was. I was told before Christmas that we were first on the list for two of the schools and that was also the case at Easter. I think you're right about contacting the schools directly- maybe that would help.

muminscotland - thanks, I didn't know that. It's worth a try!

PanelMember Mon 20-Jun-11 18:35:10

I agree with everything that Admission said on your other thread.

Waiting patiently hasn't done you or your son much good, so you need to be more active. If this would be an infant class size case, your scope for appeal is very limited. If, though, this isn't an ICS case the practical and social problems for your son in going to a school so far from home give you a reasonable basis for an appeal. Appeals on the grounds of the parent's health rarely get anywhere - the very few exceptions tend to be where the parent has a physical disability which prevents them going any farther than the nearest school - so hoodwinking a doctor into prescribing antidepressants is very bad advice! Similarly, your MP could (if they wanted) publicise your case in the local media or could contact the LEA on your behalf, but they can't do anything about the admissions criteria or the limit on infant class sizes, which seem to be the issue here.

LEAs now deal with in-year admissions and hold waiting lists, so you'll probably get more reliable and up-to-date information from them than you will from the schools.

QueenJulian Mon 20-Jun-11 19:02:06

That's the thing PanelMember, I'm almost certain that the problem is that the classes are full. They have their 30 children per class and they can't take anymore. But like I said, I'm almost certain not definite on that so I will investigate further. Should I ask the LEA or the school about this? If this is the case then is there anything else I can do but keep in touch with the schools and the LEA and keep reminding them that we are very keen? The other thing is, I always contact them by phone as they've asked me not to email. Would it actually be better to email so that there is a record?

PanelMember Mon 20-Jun-11 20:01:36

The LEA should have all the information about spaces and waiting lists, so it's best to start there (although you've got nothing to lose by asking the schools whether any parents have notified them that children will be moving away over the summer). It's cheeky of the LEA to tell you not to email - I would always prefer email because you can produce the printout as evidence, should it ever come to appeal. Failing that, get the name of the person you speak to and make a log of all phone calls.

Even if you are in infant class size territory, if you decide to appeal you might find that (even though there is no evidence as yet of any error) an appeal panel might stick its neck out for you and allow the appeal where strictly it shouldn't, simply to provide your child with a place.

You should also ask the LEA again what they propose to do, to provide your child with a school place. Still being without a place after two years is not (in my view) acceptable. If you think the LEA has been negligent or otherwise useless in not finding your child a school place, you could ask the Local Government Ombudsman for their opinion - that might get things moving.

admission Mon 20-Jun-11 20:20:47

I would actually make sure that the requests to be on the waiting list are in writing. Call me paranoid if you want but I have been there to many times when a parent appealing says but I told the admission office >>>>.. and the admission office say no record exists we don't think it happened. Its a brave panel that makes a decision that says we think the admission office is lying through their teeth, so normally the panel would where there is no clear evidence have to plump for accepting the admission offices explanation.

scrappydappydoo Tue 21-Jun-11 07:49:17

Can i just add if I may - We're only the waiting list for one school so i find it actually better to ring the school - not only am I building up a nice relationship with the school but I also get information that the LEA don't give. For example, the school are really stuck as the LEA has placed 2 extra children over the PAN due to special needs - this skewed the waiting list because even though we are no 2 on the official waiting list in actual fact we are no. 4 as two children will have to leave to get down to the PAN and then they start on the waiting list. LEA will just tell me we're no.2 and thats that..

QueenJulian Tue 21-Jun-11 09:41:21

Hi scrappy, what is the PAN?

PanelMember Tue 21-Jun-11 11:04:31

The PAN is the Published Admission Number. It is where the PAN is 30/45/60/75/90 that the infant class size regulations apply.

Scrappy - You may well get some snippets of information from the school, but as it is the LEA that holds the waiting list and allocates places, cultivating a relationship with the school won't get you a place any quicker. As you say, if two more children have been admitted because they have a statement naming the school, they will be 'excepted pupils' (ie the school won't need to bring in an additional teacher) for one academic year, but numbers have to drop back to PAN before anyone else can be admitted. You are still no2 on the waiting list - unless someone who is a higher priority has joined the list above you - but the wait will be longer.

Mumwithadragontattoo Tue 21-Jun-11 11:13:12

I think I would be ringing the LEA and maybe the schools every week to find out what is going on. Your position is not sustainable and the squeakiest wheel gets most grease. Is there another school with a place within your LEA? It might not be as close as the local school but could be closer than the one you DS is currently going to?

scrappydappydoo Tue 21-Jun-11 11:17:47

erm - can't remember exactly what it stands for - something like published admission number or something like that - its basically the number set by the LEA that the school can admit into one year (essentially the thing that is keeping our kids on the waiting list). If there are very exceptional circumstances (like specific special needs as an example) the school can admit above that number. If the number is NOT divisible by 30 you may have better chance of appealing to get a place as it means that their classes may not be at the legal limit of 30.

So for example in DD1s case - the PAN is 90 which means that they have 3 classes of 30 in reception - because an infant class can't be over 30 then we have to wait till someone leaves before we get in. However the LEA has placed two children in the year who have exceptional circumstances (I don't know what they are - I think one has complex physical disabilities) so at the moment there are 92 children in reception. Two children will therefore have leave before they are back down to the original 'legal' 90 and then if more kids leave they can start admiting from the waiting list.

This is my view of how it works - happy to be corrrected by someone more in the know!

scrappydappydoo Tue 21-Jun-11 11:21:08

Panelmember - Don't worry I'm not expecting to be admitted to school earlier based on my relationship with the school - what I meant was that when my child does eventually start the school I will at least know and be known by the school as a way of easing transition - sorry wasn't clear on that. smile

PanelMember Tue 21-Jun-11 11:57:19

Sorry for any misunderstanding, Scrappy, it's just that it's so often suggested on MN that if you buy the school admin officer a bunch of flowers every week, your child will get a place more quickly. It isn't so!

QueenJulian Tue 21-Jun-11 12:54:29

mumwithadragontattoo I called the LEA yesterday and checked all the schools that I could think of and none of them had a place! I called the school where DS is (for now, at least) first on the list, had a chat and they said they would call me when a place came up just so I was aware but obviously that wouldn't guarantee that he would get the place if another, nearer family had applied in the meantime. See the thing you said about the noisiest wheel gets the grease, that's the thing that concerns me. Surely if the LEA follow the set proceedure, that wouldn't make any difference?

I've also checked the number of places each of the schools take every year and they are all multiples of 30 which isn't particularly good news. And now need to check that we've made a formal application and are not just on the waiting list. I don't know why I'm finding it really difficult to grasp this whole thing, it's probably not as complicated as I'm imagining it to be!

whomovedmychocolate Tue 21-Jun-11 13:05:13

You have my absolute sympathy. We have just been given a place at an excellent school, having been told there were absolutely no places available nor any likelihood of one becoming available and I have to say I reckon it was pure persistence on my part, asking lots and lots of questions, which kept me in their mind so that when a place came up unexpectedly they remembered me.

I feigned absolute ignorance of the process, apologised a lot for not knowing and being late in applying and perhaps I charmed them into submission. Quite honestly I'll never know. I'm just enormously grateful that we got lucky.

Have you considered withdrawing him and home educating him till you can get a place nearby - this was our approach if we didn't get a place? Actually not accept anywhere till we got one within walking distance. We are actually moving house so we don't have to drive to school. Might put the cat among the pigeons admissionwise? I'm not an expert on this though, just a thought.

enidroach Tue 21-Jun-11 13:27:19

You have my sympathy when we moved city a few years ago all my children were offered different schools, nowhere near our house etc and I patiently waited etc and then found out that other people had got their children into local schools who lived further away and had arrived after us.

I became much more proactive - I started phoning the LA every week to see where we were on the list and pushing on numbers. Policies were opaque - eventually someone at the LA told me newcomers and recent movers had priority (as an excuse about why other families had got in before us) - as we had been on list so long we were no longer "new"!!. Now and September is a good time to start pressing - I was told I would have to wait years for the local secondary but in September 13 places became free (non returners after the summer)- I think places were held for 4-6 weeks for returners and those allocated places and then they are "released" - so my child was able to start in October. Places also became available in the primary - although my DD swelled her class size to 32 (not popular)in year 5 - the head said he had beeen told by the LA to take my DD - she was an extra not a replacement - so why could that not have happened in year4?
The LA also claimed that they did not know we were home educating rather than take places at the far away schools - if we had told them we could have got places sooner - but we did tell them! it was written on the form. I felt the LA made the "rules" up as they went along. I was alos told "oh glad you phoned today - you can have this space - it won't be around long" - so if you wait on the list and are not keeping in touch a lot, I guess I could still be waiting.

Basically - hassle,hassle now to see if the LA have been notified of leavers and in September to pick up non-returner places or push for Junior school to add to class.

Good luck

QueenJulian Tue 21-Jun-11 14:02:28

I have considered home educating him but I think he would hate it. He loves seeing his friends at school and I work part time so that would be difficult too. I'm feeling really flat about it at the moment - just called the Admissions Office and the person I spoke to didn't seem to want to give me any information at all and seemed personally put out by the fact that I had called. I asked if the admissions form was a formal application for a place or just to go on the waiting list. She paused and said 'Both.' I asked about making an appeal, she said what grounds, told her about the journey etc. She put me through to a different department, they said we don't know why you've been put through to us and put me back through to Education to speak to someone who wasn't there. I need to find out their secret (!) email address I think so there is a written record of all this.

Mumwithadragontattoo Tue 21-Jun-11 14:06:28

You are of course right that being persistent shouldn't make any difference to what happens. But if there is any scope for flexibility and they can remember you calling a lot and mentioning how long it is currently taking you to get you son to school you might find out about something that might help. I would start making noises about their statutory duty to provide school place if they continue to be unhelpful.

whomovedmychocolate Tue 21-Jun-11 14:16:20

I would write formally to them outlining your concerns and asking for the correct forms for application frankly, send it registered post and ask in the letter that they respond in writing within 10 working days. If they are being difficult then you need to be very clear with them and get everything in writing.

My experience has been that the admissions departments are incredibly helpful but when they don't think they can help they go all evasive on you.

How flexible are you about your choice of school, is there just one school or several that would be better than where you are now?

QueenJulian Tue 21-Jun-11 14:31:08

whomoved I am flexible I think - I've put our 4 nearest schools down (all between 0.5 and 1 mile away) and yesterday I asked about 4 other schools which are slightly further away. Ideally I'd like one within a 30 minute walk though and obviously one I feel DS would enjoy etc. Also most of the boys in our immediate area go to the same secondary school and I'd like him to make some friendships in primary that will go with him to secondary. Re. the admission department, most of the people have been lovely, perfectly helpful etc but there are one or two that I've spoken to who are quite..er... brusque. But I think the letter is a good idea and I've just got the department email from the main reception so I think it's written communication all the way from here!

whomovedmychocolate Tue 21-Jun-11 18:15:55

Good plan. Fingers crossed for you then. Sometimes miracles do happen you know smile

QueenJulian Tue 21-Jun-11 18:17:25

Thanks smile

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