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Admissions advice please - Returning from overseas - applying for twins to start reception 2013

(32 Posts)
Mrsfudgecake Sun 04-Nov-12 00:19:01

Hi. Can anyone shed light on the following for me please:

We are returning to the UK from Australia around Easter 2013 - after the closure of applications for primary places. We have twins due to start in September plus a son to go into YR2.

We do not own a property in the UK so will need to rent in the catchment area of our chosen school until we find somewhere to buy

I understand there is an extra month (Till mid Feb) allowed for overseas applications which will then not be treated as late.

To have the best chance of getting our twins into school - should we rent a property (unseen) before the deadline whilst still overseas?

mummytime Sun 04-Nov-12 07:21:49

I wouldn't rely on an"extra month" for overseas applicants. It doesn't apply in my LA, Surrey. I am assuming you are returning to England as each country in the UK does things differently. In England living in a catchment area does not guarantee a school place.
What you do is apply to the LA, for all your children as soon as you have a UK address (signed rental agreement for 6 months or more). You eldest will go straight onto the waiting lists, unless there ISAs vacancy at oneofthose your preferred schools, and then within"reasonable time" should be offered a place at a fairly local school, although not one you have expressed a preference for.
Once the initial round of offers have been made, your twins will be slotted into the waiting lists of your preferred schools at the place they should be from the entry criteria.
Bad news in a lot of places there is a lot of pressure on places. Good news there is often movement on waiting lists.

weegiemum Sun 04-Nov-12 07:26:08

If you're moving to Scotland, you're guaranteed a place at your catchment school.

stella1w Sun 04-Nov-12 07:34:58

My la also requires utility bill and council tax bill to show u r actually living there.

tiggytape Sun 04-Nov-12 10:06:25

You cannot apply to a school until you are physically living in the UK. Simply renting a house is not enough - you need to be living in it and have utility bills / Child Benefit letter / address of current primary school or similar to prove this.

Once you have moved, you will be able to apply but will have missed the deadline for on-time applications and will be treated as a late application. You may be lucky and still get places at your chosen school but in many areas there is a shortage of places and the school you want may be full up already. In that case the council will still find you a school but perhaps not one you listed and you can wait on the waiting list for places at your preferred school to come up.

The only way around this is to move to the UK a few months earlier than you had planned, in which case living in catchment will enable you to apply on time and be more certain of getting a school you have chosen. It depends where you are thinking of moving too - some cities have a real crisis level shortage of places whereas other towns and some rural areas always have spare places no matter what time of year you apply.

tiggytape Sun 04-Nov-12 10:09:36

Your son going into Year 2 will be a late (in-year) applicant no matter when he applies because Year 2 is not a natural point to move schools so all the Year 2 places go automatically to Year 1 pupils moving up.
That said, the council will still find him a place at a school somewhere (again not perhaps one you have listed) and you can add his name to the waiting list of other schools you would like.

Again, you cannot submit his application until you are physically living in the UK at the address the council has for you. And again, in some areas you will have your pick of schools but in others may be forced to travel further from home as places nearby are full.

Mrsfudgecake Mon 05-Nov-12 09:49:03

Hello I am Mr Fudgecake. Maybe we have mislead the forum a little. We are moving to rural English location - so not a dense area. We plan to return around April but we will have a rental property in place by Jan, and with all of the document evidence required. We are not moving from another school area in UK of course so that is not relevant. So we will be able (we think) to apply by the Jan deadline (or Feb if the LA allows a month's grace). We dont think this is an issue for our YR2 son but for the twins going for Reception does this work? We are not trying to circumvent the system as this is a genuine situation but I dont see there is anything wrong with this approach. Any comments appreciated very much.

tiggytape Mon 05-Nov-12 10:39:55

It is specifically against the rules to apply from an address that you do not live at. Renting a home and having paperwork may enable you to circumvent these rules because the LA may assume you are living at the rented address already but if the LA find out that you are not in the UK, your application will become invalid.

Many people face the same problem moving from one English county to another (they have a property lined up but aren’t actually living in it before the deadline). They too are not allowed to apply from the new address since they don’t yet live there permanently. Your options would be for the children and one parent at least to be living in the rented home by January to make an on-time application for schools which would almost certainly result in a local school place being allocated (assuming you meet the other criteria eg faith if it is a faith school or living close enough if distance is a tie breaker).
If the children cannot be living at the rented home before the deadline, you will have to apply as late applicants. If there is no issue though with population density and school places, this won’t be an issue. If you are applying to a school that always has spaces available then applying in January or at Easter won’t make any difference. It only becomes crucial if you are moving to an area where schools have more applicants than vacancies and places are in short supply.

You can of course take the risk of applying in January even though you don’t live at the rented house but if you get caught, your whole application will be invalidated since it is specifically against all admission rules to do this.
Ways that the LA may find out include: council tax history (presumably your rented house has a council tax discount if unoccupied or is in someone else’s name if currently occupied by them), Dr registrations (most local children are registered with a local Dr and the LA can ask to check this), the address of the current primary school (you are required to give this on the application form itself), another parent informing on you (if school places are hotly contested parents keep an eye out for people dodging the rules) or a letter you don’t respond to i.e. a phone or letter from the LA to the rented address where a lack of response may prompt investigation.

prh47bridge Mon 05-Nov-12 12:30:53

As Tiggytape says, you can only apply using the address where you actually live. You cannot rent and apply from that address whilst continuing to live abroad. If you do and the LA find out they will not process your application so you will not be offered a place at any school. If they find out after you have received an offer the LA can withdraw the place even if your children have already started attending the school.

If you are in Australia on Crown Service there are special rules that apply which may make your situation a little easier. If you are not on Crown Service you should not apply for a school place until you have actually moved to the UK.

Mrsfudgecake Mon 05-Nov-12 21:37:27

thanks tiggy and prh - very useful advice. We will not take a risk on invalidity. You are right it could have wider impacts. The frustration is that the rules do not clarify what is meant by residence (we are tax resident in UK, for all purposes other than physical presence we still "live" in UK. We are not "resident" anywhere else as we are expats) and there does not appear to be anything in the rules preventing what we are proposing to do. We can secure all the paperwork for sure. We are certain to come into the catchment, its a question of physical presence. I understand the rules are designed to stop folks hedging their bets or targeting good schools in the hope they can move to the catchment, but our position is completely different. The fact we are overseas with a UK company earning revenue to help dig the UK out of recession is another matter! I will get off my soap box now and reconsider our strategy. Perhaps a letter to the DoE is in order. Or we should just stay abroad! No wonder the UK is in such a mess.

mummytime Mon 05-Nov-12 22:36:46

You are in the same position pretty much as anyone living anywhere in England. You can only hold one offer of a school place where ever you live. If you were here on application day, you could apply for a school somewhere else (if you were planning on moving) even if you live so far away you are unlikely to get a place.

Resident for school places is clear that you have to live there. Tax resident is a totally different thing. If you we're returning to University education you might find it even more of a shock.

Yes there is a problem that moving into an area it can be stressful to get school places. But this is because schools operate financially best in England by being full. There is also a maximum class size in infants of 30, so they can't take more than this, but if there are less than 30 and someone applies for a place then the school has to give it to them.
If the schools where you are moving are not full, then there is no problem. If places become available then if you are top of the waiting list you will get them.
Regardless the LA has to find you a place somewhere.

tiggytape Mon 05-Nov-12 22:50:02

I do feel for you but resident for admission purposes means physically living in the house at the time of application (in shared custody cases it is defined as the address the child lives at most weekdays at the precise point the application is submitted)

A similar situation might be someone in Norfolk buying a house in London. The price is agreed, the paperwork is with solicitors and everything is moving through the legal process. The exchange is due before Christmas but last minute hitches and the Christmas break means a delay and the exchange doesn't happen until Feb 1st. That family then misses the deadline for schools. They cannot use the London address as their address even though that's where they'll be living in 6 weeks and a school in Norfolk is going to be no use to them at all. The fact they know for certain they will be moving and have proof of this is no good. They have to be living in the house at the time the application is made.

It is very frustrating but primary school places in so many areas are in short supply and admissions teams have a legal duty to ensure they go to those who qualify for them (according to the published criteria and the law). The rules state you must be living at the address you use and the councils cannot bypass this.

You say though you are looking at a rural area where places aren't in short supply. If that is the case, all of this won't affect you. If it is a school that always has places spare / less applicants than places, when you apply in Easter, you will get offered a space (the council cannot refuse to let you have a space if there is one free no matter how late you apply). It is only a problem if you are moving to an area where there are more applicants than places at the schools close to your new home

tethersend Mon 05-Nov-12 22:50:12

If I were you, I would go to the LA's website and have a look at the primary admissions booklet or guidelines. In it, there should be some information about how many applicants the school had for the places available for the last intake.

I would also contact the LA school admissions team and ask whether there are currently any places available in reception (and Y2) at your chosen school.

Whilst none of these actions give you a guarantee of a place, they may give you some indication of the popularity of the school and some idea as to how difficult it might be to secure places for your children.

Good luck smile

Mandy21 Tue 06-Nov-12 09:06:11

Just one other point to add - in my LEA, if you rent rather than own your property, they will only class your rental property as your permanent address if you have at least a 12 month tenancy - if you just have a 6 month AST, then they don't class that as a permanent address and set out they will process your application based on your last permanent address. If that is the same in the LEA you are moving to, you wouldn't be classed as within catchment. Better to check the criteria.

tethersend Tue 06-Nov-12 10:44:37

shock that's outrageous, Mandy. How does that affect people who have moved to the borough or are in temporary accommodation?

mummytime Tue 06-Nov-12 10:49:03

I would think it is probably illegal, but you would have to refer it to the schools adjudicator for a ruling.

Rotkehlchen Tue 06-Nov-12 11:17:04

Have you spoken to the local authority? Are you sure you aren't allowed to apply from an overseas address for your yr 2 child? We applied for mid term admission from our overseas address a year ago and found our council really helpful. In our case they even advised us if they had any other applications for that school that week which would have stopped our application being successful. Obviously they have to apply the rules, but they can advise you on the likelihood of your application succeeding.

tiggytape Tue 06-Nov-12 11:40:28

In many London LA's now they will only accept a rented address as your home address if you don't also own another home locally (or if you do you have to prove why you don't live in it eg it is a one bedroom student flat that you rent to students for an income). Unfortunately too many people cheat even if cheating means moving out of their house for 10 months and changing their address on everything and councils have a duty to try to stop people dodging the rules to beat other people to a school place.

Not that OP is dodging the rules of course but other people doing it is the reason why admissions get tighter and tighter each year. In areas with a shortage of places, councils get stricter, do more checks and late arrivals find they have no choice of places.

In areas with no shortage of places, you can apply from anywhere you like as late as you like and, if the school always has places free, they will give you a place. All the timing / deadline / proof of address / being physically present in the county etc only become important if you are moving to an area where the schools you might want are all over subscribed. If you are moving somewhere with empty seats in every class, you can apply late and from miles away and still get in.

Mrsfudgecake Wed 07-Nov-12 02:35:50

Thanks everone for your input. DH and I are still in discussion as to the best way forward.

Mandy21 Wed 07-Nov-12 18:49:27

tethersend - as someone else has said, where we are, most of the schools are outstanding and massively oversubscribed so I think there has been a fair amount of blatant cheating of the system stretching the rules to get places - people from out of catchment were signing up for a short AST, keeping their own property out of catchment but having bills etc registered at rental address, getting place at the school having never actually lived there. I should have clarified that you can been in a short term let if you can demonstrate that you've exhanged contracts on a purchase, otherwise its 12 months (and proof of disposal of previous property too).

prh47bridge Wed 07-Nov-12 20:29:39

Mandy21 - The LA should be investigating any cases of the behaviour you describe that are reported to them. If they find that this is happening before offers are made they should disregard the address used. If they find out after offers are made they should withdraw any offer that has been fraudulently obtained. If the LA are not doing this any parents who lose out as a result may be able to use this to win an appeal.

Mandy21 Wed 07-Nov-12 23:16:46

prh Dont get me wrong, I think they do / have investigated, I think the cheating of the system was a few years ago and that was the reason for increasing the requirement to have a 12 month tenancy. I think they are one of the LEAs who do investigate / take action rather than pay lip service to it.

roadkillbunny Thu 08-Nov-12 01:00:09

This has me thinking, what would the position be if the children and at least one parent came to the uk and moved into the house before the application deadline and then after a month went back overseas and called it an extended holiday? This wouldn't work with the older child as if a place was offered they would be expected to take it streight away but with the reception admissions I wonder if this could be an option or would the LEA see it as a fraudulent application?

I think it is also worth looking carefully at the indeevidually LA's rules. We live in a rural location but our village school is extremely good and do very over subscribed on paper however when you look closer you see that due to the small size of the village and surrounding hamlets that make up the catchment area (fixed catchment) the school has always been able to take all in catchment children and also, most years, out of catchment siblings. It is the demand by people out of catchment scrapping over any places left over (there are only 20 places to go round, as I said, small village lol!) that makes it seem so very oversubscribed.
It is a CofE V.A school so sets it's own admissions critera which states that if you are moving into the catchment (or just moving even if you are out if catchment) they will use your new address if you can show either you have exchanged on a purchase or you have a signed rental agreement. I would read that for the OP if it where our school they were after, having a signed rental agreement that started before the change of address cut off in February then they would be eleigable to apply as in catchment even if they have not yet moved into the property and taken residence.
I know of one family who got a reception place as they exchanged a day before the January deadline but didnt become resident until the summer. That was in the year that places were at the most tight, to the point that for the first time ever (and so far, 4 years on, has never happened again) one catchment child and no out of catchment sibs got places on allocation day.

I would be interested on what the admission bods thank of all this when applying it to the OP's situation.

steppemum Thu 08-Nov-12 01:24:44

actually, when we moved we were allowed to apply to our new school from our OLD address. That wouldn't help if the school is oversubscribed, but for an in-year admission, if there is a place free in the class, they gave it to you based on your OLD address, even if it was 500 miles away.

So you can apply from a different address, but won't get a reception place unless the school is undersubscribed and there is a free place.

Our LA took the exchange date not the completion date for address. We could apply on the date of exchange from the new address, there was a space I think to say at what date we would move in. The new school place had to be accepted within 2 weeks, and then taken up within 2 weeks, but the school had descretion to hold the place for longer.

Our old school was a rural school. The max in each year group was supposed to be 8 (mixed classes) But the head had discretion to waive the limit. So eg in infant class, Y2 only has 5, but 11 children apply to reception. She can choose to take all 11, as the total in the classroom won't exceed her limit. In fact they took in both of mine over the limit in that way.

prh47bridge Thu 08-Nov-12 09:08:23

roadkillbunny - The address given when you apply must be the permanent address of the child. If a parent is living there without the child it doesn't count. If there are suspicions the LA may try observing the property to see if it is occupied by the family. So, like all such approaches, it may work but, if caught, the parents could end up in a worse position than if they had been honest.

steppemum - You are always allowed to apply for any school from any address in the UK through your LA. Some LAs insist on completion before accepting a new address, others will accept exchange. If the old school you describe was in England I would be seriously concerned as there are a number of rules being broken which should lead to a lot of successful appeals.

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