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Catchment areas post 'shakedown'

(30 Posts)
LittlePickleHead Tue 03-Jul-12 21:34:49

Hi, currently having a bit of a headache over catchment areas and I'm hoping that MN can help put my mind at rest (a little).

We are moving into a rented house, and before signing the agreement I checked the postcode against the catchment areas indicated in the 2012/2013 admissions book (so the 2011 catchments). It seemed we would be OK for our two closest schools, and probably our third (discounting a couple of closer church schools which we would not apply to) which is in another borough.

However I have just found out from a friend whose child is actually starting school in the area this year that the actual catchments of those schools shrunk massively this year and we would actually have been out of catchment. One of them is 2 years on from a bulge (and I think 2008 was the birth rate peak in our area) so I am keeping fingers crossed that has made the situation worse and next year we would be back in catchment.

My question is, do councils every publish a revised catchment area to take into account those that got in off the waiting list before the first day of term? We are less that 400m away from our first two schools, and 650m from the third (a 3 form entry). Surely that is close enough to get in on waiting list even if we do miss out initially?

For those that are interested we are in SE23, close to the SE22 border, so it would be helpful to hear from anyone whose child is starting school in the area this September.

admission Tue 03-Jul-12 23:49:04

Catchments are usually long standing arrangements and are unlikely to change. Being in catchment does not give you any right to a place only to be further up the admission criteria order. So you could easily be in catchment and not get a place at a school.

prh47bridge Tue 03-Jul-12 23:56:52

Lewisham does not operate formal catchment areas. If a school is oversubscribed they use the distance from school as a tie breaker. The size of the "catchment area" next year will depend purely on the number of children who apply and where they live.

Your position on the waiting list is determined purely by the admission criteria, so you will be behind any looked after children, children with special medical or social needs, children with siblings at the school and children who live closer to the school than you. You will get a place off the waiting list only if there is a vacancy and you happen to be at the head of the waiting list for that school at the time.

LAs only publish the distance from school of the last child admitted in the initial round of offers. They do not adjust this distance for any children admitted from the waiting list. But that does not have any effect on you. Whether you live nearer to or further from the school than the last child admitted the previous year has absolutely no bearing at all on whether or not you get offered a place.

EdithWeston Tue 03-Jul-12 23:59:30

Do you actually mean catchment (ie priority admissions area) which should be clearly defined and well publicised at each admissions round? You will still get catchmentpriority, but if there are more children in catchment than the school can accommodate then, as admission points out, you Xan still miss out.

Or do you mean admissions footprint (ie distance within which children were admitted in any particular year)? This information should be really available from the school and/or LA at admissions time. And if you are going to appeal and are querying distance, they should tell you last distance admitted in your category and your distance, and what method they use to calculate them. If you can prove a measurement error, you will win your appeal and should get a place.

LittlePickleHead Wed 04-Jul-12 08:05:01

Yes I know that the distance of the last child placed differs every year and there isn't much we can do about it, I just wondered if there was some info on approx how many places end up not being taken up and going to those on waiting lists instead.

There is a massive problem with oversubscription in my area and its really disheartening to realise that in 2011 we would have easily got into our 3 closest schools, in 2012 we would have got into none (based on published distances). I suppose I just want even anecdotal evidence that a place is likely to come up in one of the 10 schools within a mile radius from us, so I can relax a little in the next 9 months before we find out!

I suppose another question I have is are bulge classes announced before the admission deadline? In which case I would be sure to put that school on my list. I'm not fussy which school she goes to (they are all good) I just really want it to be part of the local community and not miles away sad

RueDeWakening Wed 04-Jul-12 09:16:03

Bulge classes are usually only announced once the council has a) counted up how many kids have applied and haven't yet got places allocated b) spoken to schools to see who can take a bulge ie who has a spare classroom/room for a portacabin classroom and c) agreed it with the governors/headteachers.

DD's school took a bulge class into her year, it wasn't announced for a couple of months after the initial allocation date and afaik that's normal.

pinkdelight Wed 04-Jul-12 09:25:03

Catchments for the renowned primaries in SE23 are notorious tiny and shrinking. We tried (and failed) to move next door to one, just to be certain of a place. A few streets away wouldn't have been worth the risk. Lewisham will publish the new distances in its applications booklet in Sept, but it doesn't mean that those distances are a catchment, just the info from this year's allocations, so it could shrink again or it could grow. I'm not sure 400m would be a safe bet for Fairlawn, but it might be okay for Horniman or Stillness. There's lots of chat and info about these things on se23.com. Good luck!

pinkdelight Wed 04-Jul-12 09:27:17

The staff at Fairlawn school office are also really helpful if you want to grill them for info on distances, numbers of places that went to the waiting list etc. But I expect they're still doing this year's allocations so may not know just yet.

sparkle12mar08 Wed 04-Jul-12 10:16:09

Sadly 400m would put you well outside effective non-sibling catchment for our local school in most years - this year in particular it was approximately 160m shock. Oversubscription is a massive problem in many areas but with 10 schools within a mile there's bound to be a place surely? That's a huge number of schools. Whether it's somewhere you want is another matter though I suppose. Have you called the LA to find about about last place distance offered in each of the past 3 years for each of those schools? That might give you an idea of what's likely to happen.

LittlePickleHead Wed 04-Jul-12 11:47:43

Yes I looked up online the last three years for the closest schools and we would have been fine for at least one of the schools every year until this year (though it seems those figures are not final). We are closest to fair lawn (about 350m), horniman (380) and Goodrich (650). Horniman had a bulge class 2011 though so I think that's really going to affect the distance as I think it's likely all the places will go to siblings. That will probably have a knock on effect with the other schools. This is really depressing. There must be so many people like us, do close to loads of schools but probably not quite close enough? We moved to upsize but also because our flat was in a 'blackspot' and now it seems we are in the same position.

Rosebud05 Wed 04-Jul-12 11:51:20

It's grim, isn't it? There's predicted to be a short fall of 70,000 reception places in London over the next four years. It would be helpful if the government were doing something to address that, rather than allowing their cronies to set up secondary schools where there is a surplus of places.

LittlePickleHead Wed 04-Jul-12 12:28:21

So what do people do if they get a school miles away because they can't get into any close by (I'm going to go for the 6 closest in the vain hope one has a bulge)?

Do they just suck it up whilst waiting on the waiting list?

It's silly that I'm getting so upset about this. We ruled out moving out of the area (and out of London) as we have built a network of friends both for ourselves and our DD and I love it round here. I wanted the best for DD but now I feel like I'm failing her by possibly having her go to school in an area too far away for her to easily play with friends, and possibly subjecting her to a massive commute each day. But I suppose it's exactly people like us that have caused this problem in the first place.

There must be some kind of permanent plan other than bulge classes every year (which then have a knock on effect in the following years)? It seems a crazy situation to have children all crossing paths whilst travelling miles to get to school, whilst passing closer school in the process.

This is thouroughly depressing.

prh47bridge Wed 04-Jul-12 12:59:09

To repeat something I posted on another thread, we don't have enough primary schools. We have slightly more primary school pupils than we did 30 years ago but 3,800 fewer primary schools. Just looking at the last 12 months, the number of pupils has risen by 77,000 but the number of primary schools has fallen by 66. The pupils per school ratio is the highest it has been since at least 1977 and the number of children in infant classes of more than 30 has doubled in the last 5 years.

Over the next 6 years the forecasts suggest the number of primary school pupils will go up 100,000 a year. It is, of course, better in some areas than others. Roughly half of all LAs already have enough spare capacity to cope with the next 6 years. But we need to be opening around 160 new schools a year for the next 4 years - that is 2 per year for each of the 82 LAs that doesn't have enough spare capacity.

A lot of LAs have failed to plan for the increase in primary school children. Most of those with shortages do not seem to have any long term plan to fix the problem and are simply coping from year to year. Part of the reason Gove wants free schools is that these can be set up quickly, helping to alleviate the problem. The need to get planning permission for change of use for the premises significantly delays (and in some cases completely blocks) the setting up of these schools. Gove originally proposed that free schools would not need planning permission to use existing buildings but that part of his proposals was dropped. It is therefore unclear if there will be enough free schools to take up the slack.

Note that I am not expressing a view on this. I am not saying that free schools are the right answer, nor am I saying that they should be allowed to set up without planning permission.

pinkdelight Wed 04-Jul-12 13:05:16

Are you up the hill (towards Dulwich) from Honor Oak Road or down (towards Forest Hill)? I remember the Fairlawn office telling us that if we were further than halfway down Benson Rd it'd be unlikely that we'd get a place, and things may have shrunk since then! But they thought we'd still have a chance with Horniman or maybe Dalmain. I would have thought you'd get a place in one of the FH schools via the waiting list, even if it's not one of your closest. We ended up getting offered two waiting list places - not in SE23 but in a similarly oversubscribed area and in schools where we thought we had no chance, so these things do happen and you might have to just hold your nerve and hope. What about St Francesa Cabrini on the corner? Are they totally restrictive with their admissions or is it worth having them on the list too, rather than discounting them for the religious aspect. It is a good school and nearby.

Rosebud05 Wed 04-Jul-12 13:39:00

That's unfair on LAs, prh. Pupil predictions couldn't possibly have foreseen the effect that Housing Benefit cuts (implemented after predictions were made) would have on areas in London.

I still maintain that it isn't a good use of public money for new schools to be set up where there is a surplus of places whilst financially crippling LAs so that they can't open new schools in areas where there's an acute demand.

LittlePickleHead Wed 04-Jul-12 13:46:33

We up the hill from Honor Oak Road - not far from the SE22 border (hence that we will probably also apply to Goodrich)

I did read on SE23.com that some people got into St Francesca Cabrini when it wasn't one of their 6 choices and they are not catholic. To be honest I'd be fine with that as it is so close. I just wouldn't waste any of my 6 applications as we are not religious so are really far down the criteria to get into the school.

Reading more on the se23 forum it seems there were a large number of people who didn't get any of their 6 choices this year so I think this may be something we have to resign ourselves to. It is heartening that you did get offered a place in some good schools eventually though pinkdelight.

tiggytape Wed 04-Jul-12 14:18:54

In London it is the loss of pupils from the private sector and the higher birthrates that are crippling local resources. No doubt high cost areas will see people moving into lower rent areas to comply with caps but even in high cost areas, there is no escaping the school place shortages.
There are simple more children everywhere in London and a lot less families willing / able to pay private than once did. In some area this has an enormous impact on local state school application numbers because expensive houses tend to be near sought after schools (huge generalisation there but it is quite often the case) so if occupents of posh houses nolonger use the independent sector, they are at the front of the queue for state schools (by virtue of living so close) which means catchments shrink and people can nolonger get in to their most local, or 5 most local schools.

Our areas long term plan is bulge classes as far as I can tell. Dozens and dozens of bulge classes for as long as is needed.

tiggytape Wed 04-Jul-12 14:25:24

MEant to add for OP - if you ring the schools themselves they will have the info you want and they will have it much sooner than waiting for September. Our local schools can tell you the last distance offered on offer day and the distances that the waiting list went out to eventually as well.
As others have said, you will get a place offered but sometimes you have to wait a bit longer than everyone else and sometimes you have to accept one you're not so keen on whilst waiting on the lists for others.

Rosebud05 Wed 04-Jul-12 15:16:43

tiggytape, good points. And LAs aren't telepathic - they couldn't have predicted a global recession years in advance and, even if they could, they can't plan 'just in case'.

prh47bridge Wed 04-Jul-12 16:39:37

I agree that LAs can't possibly get it right all the time. Of course it is made worse by the fewer people using independent schools and sometimes by the impact of other policies. But many LAs (of all political colours) ignored predictions of rising pupil numbers in their area and continued to close schools.

I have frequently defended LAs where there is a shortfall on the grounds that they do not know exactly how many children will apply each year. But some LAs are better at planning the number of primary school places they need than others.

Rosebud05 Wed 04-Jul-12 17:15:48

I agree, although the unregulated free-for-all that is the Free School Agenda is hardly a sensible solution, is it?

BlueMoon1084 Wed 04-Jul-12 17:49:08

But if the LAs won't take the sensible solution of building more schools then there doesn't seem to be much choice except the Free School option.

tiggytape Wed 04-Jul-12 17:57:50

I don't think it's won't I think it's also can't. There are lots of areas where LAs fully acknowledge that there aren't enough places and that hundreds more are needed but without funding for new schools (not to mention huge local hostilities to any form of school expansion, campaigns against new school buildings because of traffic, unpopularity of super sized schools etc), what can be done?

When it gets to the stage that 250 children are without a place and there's only 8 weeks left until September, money suddenly gets found for bulge classes, temporary buildings and staff. But there doesn't seem to be the same ability to access funding just for knowing in advance that a huge problem is on the horizon. It is all very much a sticking plaster approach.

BlueMoon1084 Wed 04-Jul-12 19:23:41

True. It does seem from reading on here over the past few years that this has been a problem every year for the past few years and it seems to be the same LAs that crop up every year.

At some point there is going to be a physical limit to how many bulge classes each school can take if the numbers keep rising. There has to be a better option for children, schools and parents.

3duracellbunnies Wed 04-Jul-12 19:43:33

You can also try ringing local schools in a few months and see if they know how siblings they are expecting. Some won't know, but parents already in the school will have a fair idea. Sibling numbers can have a big effect on catchment size.

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