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We didn't get any of our 4 reception choices in Hackney...

(75 Posts)
ShaznaB Sun 26-Jun-11 00:35:09

Hi everyone
My husband and I are tearing our hair out. We applied for 4 schools within a mile of our house and got none of them. They gave us a second list and the nearest one was 30 minutes walk away (no public transport connection) and now we don't know what to do. My husband made a film about the situation. You can see us walking 3 mins to our local school (it's a faith school and only take 5 open places a year but other people from our street (less than 3 mins walk away) have gotten in before. There are 9 schools nearer than the one they've forced us into (in the end, they've told us no other schools were available -some choice). One of the women at the Learning Trust told my husband we should keep paying for her in nursery another year. Apart from the fact she's outgrown it, it's a bit rich that everyone else gets a place for free!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnNuPAEI71A
It's difficult to know what to do next. I guess we'll end up homeschooling through her reception year.
What has anyone else done in this position?

ShaznaB Sun 26-Jun-11 00:39:04

PS our local councillor has intervened on our behalf - he points out that a lot of funding has been moved from our area to some of the cooler places the borough has marked out for redevelopment.
I think they think they are treating everyone fairly but if there are no schools near our street and the main criteria used in schools is distance the system is loaded against us from the start. We visited schools, looked at Ofsteds, spoke to other parents and drew up a list of local schools (none further than a mile away) and still got nowhere. One of the women at the Learning Trust told us last week there was one school we "would have gotten into" if we applied for it. It's a few hundred feet nearer than 2 of the other schools. What she is admitting is that there was only ever one school we could have gotten into. Why not tell us that in the first place! It's full up now anway.
What a shambles.

Northernlurker Sun 26-Jun-11 00:59:40

I appreciate your anxiety but quite frankly I am horrified about the way you have talked to your daughter about this. Your job is to be as positive as possible about her schooling when you are talking to her. Your current stance as portrayed on the video is just setting her up to feel very, very negatively towards the school she has been assigned. I think it borders on cruelty to take a child to a school you know she has no chance of getting in to and stand outside it talking about how lovely it would be.
Your options are to keep her in nursery, to homeschool, to move or to explore private education. Using your child's distress and exhaustion is not going to work as a lever and it will actively harm her. Please keep your anxiety about this issue away from your (beautiful and obviously bright and sensitive) daughter.
Regarding distance - have you thought about cycling with your dd on a trailer bike behind you? You might want to walk across some of the busier roads but the residential streets would be easily negotiated by bike in that way and it would be much quicker and easier on your dd. That's how I took my dds to school - 20+ minutes walking. Even hopping on and off the bike at junctions we found it was much, much quicker and easier cycling.
I hope you can get something sorted out that you are all happy with but please don't poison your dd's experience of school before she's even in the door.

ShaznaB Sun 26-Jun-11 01:07:43

Well she knows nothing about any of this of course. She walks past the other school every day and has always thought it's where she would be going cos it has a wendy house. She loves nursery and she'll love school.
All we did was take her to the other school to illustrate the inequity of the situation. If the sound was up you'd hear us at the other end saying "this looks nice" etc. I'm afraid she was miserable because of the distance not us -despite frequent offers of cake en route - fine for that day, but hardly a long term solution. But I take your point.
There's no way we'd cycle those streets. I've never been a bike rider and we have terrible accidents round here all the time.

zipzap Sun 26-Jun-11 01:27:45

sorry, haven't watched your video as my sound's not working at the moment.

But...
Are there waiting lists? Get her onto the waiting list for every school closer to you that you can, starting with the one that you most want her to go to.

talk to the head and make her like you and think you would be an asset to the school/pta etc grin Also bond with the school secretary as they can be useful in controlling access to the head, providing info if people have to withdraw etc

look into the proper appeals process and make appeals

It's Hackney so hopefully the population covered by those 9 schools nearer to you is not completely static and somebody will have moved by the time your dd needs a place. Try and keep her on the waiting lists for the good schools even into reception year and be prepared for her to start at one school or home school her and then move her to a different school that you like and is closer /on better transport routes during the year if a space comes up.

Not sure if it is worth asking the learning trust what their complaints procedure is to complain about the fact you weren't given relevant info about effects of choice on school thus causing detrimental effects to your daughter. Might help, might hinder if you need further help from them...

Northernlurker Sun 26-Jun-11 09:43:04

Shazna - tbh I think she does know about it but I can see you are trying very, very hard to get a good result for her and I wish you well with that.

Re cycling - the more assertive you can be when cycling the safer you are. There is a theory that London has quite a lot of female fatalities on bikes atm because women are not being assertive enough and are trying to use small space - where they then run in to trouble. Personally I take up as much road as possible if necessary and always, always stay BEHIND large vehicles at junctions where they could turn left. However I can see that if you've never cycled now with your precious little girl literally in tow is not going to be the time to start.

Isitreally Sun 26-Jun-11 11:34:30

zipzap - unfortunately the Head has no influence on admissions at all. He or she gets told by the LA who will be allocated and who is top of the waiting list etc. There's no harm in showing you're keen but realistically in a single entry form, the chance of a place coming up now will always be lower. Staying on the waiting list though is good as is staying in touch with the school - people move around a lot and living so close will mean you should be near the top of the list but that may not lead to a place until September or beyond.

Also get on the waiting list for the school that you would have got into if only you had known the local catchment areas in advance too. By definition you should be near the top of that list as well. The lists are kept in order of eligibility. It's not first come first served so it's worth your while getting onto every local list possible.

Check and appeal. Check that they were correct to turn you down for the local schools you wanted (ask the furthest distance that the last pupil admitted lived from each school. If you live closer than them then check why this happened (could be SEN admission). Appeals are hard to win at this age but if you get a sniff that a mistake has been made in admissions at any of the 4 schools, pursue it and appeal. You cannot realistically win an appeal due to preference of one school over another even if the travel situation is dire but you can win if they've made an error somewhere.

Good luck – I really hope something comes up from the waiting lists for you. We know so many people in the same boat and it’s just a horrible black cloud to have hanging over you as you feel you’ve let your child down and worry how on earth you’ll all manage such horrible long school runs, less local friends and a delayed journey to work every day. Many people do eventually get places from waiting lists though so join as many as you can (you don’t need to have originally applied to a school to now be added to it’s waiting list)

ShaznaB Sun 26-Jun-11 13:54:59

Thank you everyone for your comments. It's a tough time.
As far as waiting lists go and our distance from the schools:
St John and St James (the faith school) 0.1 miles 3rd on list
Berger 0.4 miles 27th on the list
Orchard 0.5 miles 20th
Lauriston 0.8 miles 57th
In the second round of choices the nearest school was London Fields at 0.8 miles but we are also 24th on the list
As our councillor points out, there just aren't enough spaces being provided.
We are appealing of course but have only found one discrepancy to base that appeal on and not hopeful.
The reason we have decided to publicise our case a bit is that the system is unfair from the beginning - not the individual decisions made and the way they deal with the appeals. That seems to be as fair as they can make it.
We know other people in the same boat and I'm angry for them too. The kids in our street are geographically further from schools than other children but no weighting is attached to that. One of our friends has 3 within 0.3 miles. Geographically we were unlikely to get into any. They've also given us the distance from the school the last chosen pupil for each school lives from the school. In all our choices it was half the distance we are.
I think the children around here deserve better planning for that eventuality.
At the moment, it looks like we will have to skip reception and opt for homeschooling (we know 3 people within 0.2miles of here who already do that) even though that will have a pretty drastic effect on our finances. We are staying on waiting lists, and wait for a place to come up but the figures speak for themselves.
It's quite a scandal really.

Isitreally Sun 26-Jun-11 15:45:04

ShaznaB - you are right and that is the case in many areas of London. It is possible for one family to live close enough to 2 good primary schools (not normally secondary schools as they are often further apart) to have the pick of either of them whereas other families don't live close enough to even one single school to get a guaranteed place. In high sibling years, it is perfectly possible not to be close enough to your very nearest school to get a place even if that school is literally a minute or two from your house. It is crazy but where equal preference exists, it limits how to fairly distribute places.

Is there any chance of a bulge class at St John and St James? In many Boroughs so many children are left without places at all or with a place miles from home that, in those instances, the local council sometimes instructs or prompts local, popular schools to open up an extra reception class just for one year. In reality many more schools that can expand need to expand but that's for long term planners to worry about. Your immediate concern is this year's intake and parental pressure for a bulge class at St John and St James, Berger, Orchard or Lauriston might be the way to go.

Riveninside Sun 26-Jun-11 15:49:29

Whats wrong with the one 30 mins walk away? Cant you start off there and stay on lists for closer schools?

veritythebrave Sun 26-Jun-11 15:53:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

veritythebrave Sun 26-Jun-11 16:05:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Isitreally Sun 26-Jun-11 16:07:15

30 mins is do-able but isn't ideal - 1 hour walking a day for child and 2 hours walking a day for parents is draining. That's a lot of time to spend commuting for a 4 year old and a lot of time to take out of a parent's day if they also have to get to work. It will limit local friendships as well (other children in the class could live upto an hour's walk away) and make after school clubs harder eg Rainbows and swiming that start straight after school and will be hard to get to on time.
verity - an hour each way! That is not fun at all!

bibbitybobbityhat Sun 26-Jun-11 16:12:54

I live in a popular area in the south of Southwark and we have had very similar problems with a lack of primary school places in this area. In the last three years all five of the closest primary schools to me have had to take a bulge class (one class, shared out amongst the schools) including the local faith school. There has been a population boom since 2001 and I have a feeling that more people are keeping the faith with London and staying put rather than moving out to the suburbs when they have children. Sympathies to you.

veritythebrave Sun 26-Jun-11 16:14:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ShaznaB Sun 26-Jun-11 16:32:29

Veritythebrave - it's not gated it's open to the street but you can do a back exit through a gate! Our daughter lives in Hackney. I'm afraid she has heard the words guns, knives, drugs everywhere from nursery to the cafe.

Riveninside - well the school they effectively chose for us is one of the most unpopular schools in the borough and was the only school with lots of spare places after round one of the lottery. I can see they are really trying and I wish someone would give them more resources to help further, but as my husband explains in the film it's not had good Ofsteds, the MAJORITY of kids have English as a second language, it's in the middle of a really bad estate with very serious gang and drug culture. Its class sizes are above average and it has twice the national average of students with learning difficulties. We know parents who've pulled their kids out, our nursery school team who know it really well advised us against it and it's an hour round trip (or more) each way walking for me to drop her off and pick her up. There are 9 primaries closer. The combination of the two things - a tired child arriving at a school with low achievement isn't tempting - especially with so many 9 - nearer. As things stand, it's homeschooling and hope for the waiting list places to free up in time for primary school proper.

veritythebrave Sun 26-Jun-11 16:38:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nenevomito Sun 26-Jun-11 16:42:57

Shazna, I feel your pain! Last year my DC didn't get into any of our choices and was placed in the one school in the local area that still had places, which was in the middle of a deprived area, with a very fluid population, poor ofstead (although to be fair they scored well on helping students with low skills levels) and lots of problems.

We put him on the waiting list for the 10 local (i.e. within 10 mins walk) schools where he was anything from 3rd in line to 75th in line. It was bonkers. It had got to the point where I was going to keep him in Nursery till he was 5 and then try again when we finally got him into a school which is over 30 mins drive away, which is not what we wanted at all, but its a fab school, just in an area where there wasn't such a boom in numbers.

I always thought I'd just go with the flow and get along with wherever he was placed, right up until he was placed in the first school when I suddenly realised the lengths I would go to to not send him there blush. The drop off and pick up is a pain, but helped by having a minder pick him up.

Riveninside Sun 26-Jun-11 16:44:31

I just watched the video until the mention of SN children. Sorry, but it comes across as snobby and superior. My dd has severe SN and is in mainstream and i reckon the other kids are lucky to have her in their class.
Youd best home educate or move.

ShaznaB Sun 26-Jun-11 16:57:22

Riveninside - I don't think we are being snobby at all. My niece has severe SN too. I haven't spoken to anyone with local knowledge who disagrees with us - including teachers, councillors and parents - apart from the Learning Trust of course! Though of course, if you talk online you will get a divergence of opinion and I respect your view even if I don't agree with it.
Our point is only that the system is set up to pretend you have a choice when you don't. As we said, if the school was nearer we'd be happy to go there even though we didn't choose it. We've already given up on the system's ability to deliver a place for our dd that's nearby. We didn't just apply for outstanding schools etc - just the local ones we visited and thought would fit our dd best - just as they advise you to. Like all complicated things in life, you have to stack up the positives and the negatives. You get offered a job for £50k a year but it's another country, you have to move, you can't leave your parents behind....you turn it down.

Riveninside Sun 26-Jun-11 16:59:51

What is The Learning Trust?
Home Education is fun. I did it for years and London has a great HE scene. Id give my right nipple to be able to live in London!

ShaznaB Sun 26-Jun-11 17:07:33

Riveninside - For years Hackney had a terrible education system and it became the first local authority to lose control of its education services and the Learning Trust took over. It's done a brilliant job in the past 7 years of improving things and we have at least one of the best secondary schools in the country in Mossbourne. We love where we live and have no desire to move. It's just such a shame that the funding is allocated the way it is so that, as isitreally points out, not everyone gets a fair crack of the whip.
Yes - currently looking into HE. I hope I have the patience! What was your experience of it?

Riveninside Sun 26-Jun-11 17:15:06

I loved it. Had to take ds1 out qhen he was 6 as the school (30 mins walk) had no facilities to deal with a child with aspergers. Back then the services were even crapper than now. First tried the workbook mistake then after 2 weeks of tears relaxed and did cnild led ,earning. It was so great i took the other two out, dd was 7, and ds2 was 5.
Did unschooling for years then at 13, after number 4 came along and her hospital appts and stays ruled our lives, dd chose to go back to school. The boys also chose as they eCh turned 13. Hour on the bus it was too. They are now 19, 18 and 16. Dd2 is 7 and in a school 45 mins walk away as i needed one with hoists. You get no choice with a child with severe disabilities.
Home Education is fab though and there salways lots going on in London

Isitreally Sun 26-Jun-11 17:30:44

Yes the notion of choice is entirely false.
The system is geared up to allocate you one place at a school you are eligible for by virtue of distance or siblings or whatever permitted criteria they are using.

The "choices" you make only become relevant if it turns out that, because of where you live or because you have other siblings at local schools, you are eligible to be offered places at more than one school. Nobody is allowed more than one school place offer so they then consult your list of choices to see which one you’d prefer most and offer you that one. Any other places that you are equally eligible for get passed on to somebody else at this stage and everyone ends up with one school place offer (if they’re lucky!)

There is nothing about the choices you fill in (or preferences as they are termed) that gives you priority for a local school or a certain school just because you put it on your list. If you don't match the criteria of the school to get a place, it does not matter one bit that you list it or which position you put it on that list on your list. So if you live in a house that has 9 over subscribed schools all within a 1 mile radius but you happen to live just a tiny fraction too far from each one to get a place, you will be rejected by all of these schools regardless of which ones you decide to list or which order you put them in.

Preference lists are tie-breakers for parents lucky enough to be eligible for places at more than one school. For parents who only live close enough to one school (or no schools) to be realistically offered a place, they are irrelevant and offer no priority at all.

ShaznaB Sun 26-Jun-11 18:39:05

Riveninside
I hope I have the same commitment you have shown. I'm sorry to hear you've had such an up and down experience. It sounds like you're doing a great job to me. 45 mins walk away? Don't you get any help with that?
This is the kind of thing that really upsets me. There's a baseline inequality in the system. One of our friends - and I'm really pleased for her obviously - lives two minutes from an "outstanding" school. So she got in but could just as easily have gotten into at least one other because once they get the ruler out she lives close to them.
We are in a bit of a black hole so don't come high up on anyone's list and literally got shunted into the only school left. In your case too, that's a long way to go. I can't believe there's not help? Or have I got the naievete of a first time parent finding out that it's not so good out there for the first time. I wish you and dd2 all the best.
Isitreally - you have hit the nail on the head.

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