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Can someone advise me how they assign a school place if it's out of catchment area?

(4 Posts)
Katnisscupcake Wed 24-Oct-12 14:45:10

So, we're looking for our DD's first school as she will start next September.

Her pre-school are concerned about her shyness and the fact that she doesn't seem comfortable in big groups and we've taken this on board and instead of assuming that she will go to the school in our village (which is big for a village school 350 kids, has an outstanding Ofsted also, but I just don't think would be the best fit for DD), we have looked at three much smaller village schools.

All are within a 5 minute drive but still classed as 'out of catchment' area.

So, we understand that we are out of catchment but all three have said that they are not expecting to get a full uptake.

But how will the LEA decide how to assign?

My plan is to not put our closest school as an option at all and to put the other three village schools as our 3 choices. The closest one (2 miles away) is our favoured one.

So, if we were to put that as our first choice and someone 5 miles away also put it as their first choice, but there was only one place, would we get it because it's closer to us, or does it not work like that? Either way, we should be Ok because two of the schools we love (one with Outstanding Ofsted and only takes 15 into reception class, which would be great for DD and the other with Good Ofsted and a lovely feel to it) and the third choice would also be Ok.

I would just like to understand how it's done...

crazymum53 Wed 24-Oct-12 14:59:08

If out of catchment the deciding factor is distance i.e. how far you live away from the school. If the schools are oversubscribed then you need to check the "last distance offered" in your admissions booklet. If you live nearer than this published distance then your dd is very likely to obtain a place.
If you have other children you do need to check the admissions criteria for siblings as well. Some LEAs do not give sibling priority for families living out of catchment.
A child living 5 miles away would only be offered a place instead of you if they were in a higher priority admissions category e.g. Looked after children, SEN, medical & social and siblings may all come before distance!
I would recommend having your catchment school as your third choice however. 350 pupils in a school is still smaller than average.

redskyatnight Wed 24-Oct-12 16:40:23

Every LEA clearly sets out admissions criteria. You will be able to find these on their website/admissions book. The tie-breaker is usually distance (sometimes siblings give priority, sometimes not).

Something to bear in mind is that you are not bound to get one of your three choices. It's good news for you that they are not normally oversubscribed as it makes it more likely. However you might want to use your third choice to pick a school that you could just about bear if the worst happened. You may not be keen on your catchment school, but would it be better for DD to go there than random other school assigned by the LEA that might be miles away?

admission Wed 24-Oct-12 17:30:44

The way the system works is called equal preference. So for every school a list is drawn up of every pupil who expresses a preference for the school in the order according to what is in the individual schools admission criteria. These lists are submitted to the LA and the school does not know the preference order you have decided. If you are high enough up the list, depending on the admission number of the school, then you can be offered a place. Up till now all schools have equal preference and it is only if from the lists you can be offered more than one school then the order in which you have put the preferences down comes into play. You will get an offer of a place at the school you have ranked the highest.

You have said that the three schools you are considering are all small village schools and not in catchment so there is a fair bet that at least one could be a faith school, which may well have a different set of admission criteria to what the one is for community schools. That is usually cared for children, then siblings, then those in catchment and then those out of catchment. So you are choosing three schools where you are bottom priority because the schools think they will not be full. Most schools say they will not be full because they want the maximum number of applicants. The birth rate has been increasing for the past 10 years and unless the school role shows categorically that the school is not full, I would assume it will be full, especially the good and outstanding schools.

You also say that one of the school only takes 15 in the reception class.It could well be with that admission number that it does have 15 in the reception class, but I expect that the year 1 and year 2 will be in one class of 30, which is actually the maximum allowed by law in infant classes.

The safe option for you is to put the local catchment school as your third and bottom preference, as being in catchment and relatively close in distance, you should get a place at this school. If you put down your two preferred schools as 1 and 2 then if there are places you will get one, but you should as a backstop get the local school. The danger of not putting the local school is that you get no place offer initially which will mean eventually an offer of a place at an even farther distance school and probably no a good school.

I would also question whether you are making too much of your daughter's shyness. Playing devils advocate forget what the pre-school has said and consider whether your daughter is going to thrive in a small school where cliques can develop, where she will have no friends she can play with in the early evening (as they live too far away) and ask yourself whether the local bigger school is actually a place where she could come out of her shell, given the class sizes will be the same.
Have you actually been to the school and seen it on a normal days teaching?

One final point that will start to impact from next April is that there are changes to the funding schemes for schools. What this will mean in all probability is that small schools will have less funding and less funding means bigger classes. To be brutal, a class of 15 is not sustainable and is currently being sustained by pinching money from elsewhere in the school's funding. After next April I think that there will be a lot of small schools with a financial headache, which will get worse in the future. Expect changes to class organisation from next September.

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