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Argh school admissions - WIBU to just put one option?

(32 Posts)
TheElementsSong Fri 09-Nov-12 10:11:59

We have twin DDs due to start Reception next September so it is time to fill in the dreaded school application form.

We have 4 potential schools nearby. In order of distance:

1) A very highly-rated VA RC school.
2) A good non-faith infant school, which is our "priority area" school.
3) A very highly-rated VA CoE school.
4) A non-faith primary which has been in trouble for several years and is now in special measures.

Apart from school #4 all are oversubscribed. We are not at all religious, so our DDs basically have no chance at either of the faith schools. I've read on MN a lot that we should use all 3 choices on the form, but I can't see any reason why I should put anything other than school #2. Maybe school #4 as a backup?

We are in the process of visiting all the schools but already I didn't get a good vibe from school #4 (they seemed genuinely chaotic in various ways).

DH and I have discussed this over and over, but still can't decide what to do. Opinions much appreciated!

Fuzzymum1 Fri 09-Nov-12 10:24:08

There is no benefit to you in just putting one. Not having a second choice doesn't make it any more likely that you will get your first choice. If you only put one and don;t get it then you will end up with whatever no-one else wants.

coppertop Fri 09-Nov-12 10:26:33

We were advised to put in alternative choices, even if you were sure that you would get your first choice.

Otherwise you way well end up with a school on the other side of town that's a PITA to get to and that no-one else wants.

I would use your 3 choices because you never know what is going to happen in each round of admissions.
I would probably put either 2,3,& 4 or 3,2 & 4 as your choices.
Check the admissions criteria of the CofE school as it may only be a % of the places that go to faith applicants. I would expect the RC school to have all places going to faith applicants which is why I have excluded it but check their criteria too.

If you would prefer 2 or 3 over school 4 then put them down. Remember you can also put your DC on the waiting list for the school if you don't get a place in the admissions round.

ChippyMinton Fri 09-Nov-12 10:31:07

Have you read the admission criteries for the faith schools? Unless they ask forms signed by the priest, you may stand a chance of getting in. The school admissions information pack should list how many got in under which criteria.

TheElementsSong Fri 09-Nov-12 10:35:46

Thanks everyone! Yes we have looked closely at the criteria for both faith schools, in both cases our DDs are in the bottom category (and both have no catchment so can take children from Mars over our DDs as long as they have a letter from a priest).

At the moment I think we will put 2 and 4, and leave the last slot blank.

mam29 Fri 09-Nov-12 10:36:34

Ok- check the admissions policy of school no 1

Our local rc school was

1)children in care
2)child baptised catholic and living within parish
3)child with leat one parent baptised catholic
4)baptised children from outside parish
5)siblings
6)other- non rc whos parents support a rc education.-supporting letter from minister of other faiths.

dd1 went to nearby rc va primary school

I would say less than 50%of her class were catholic.
Some other faith kids sikh/muslim families attended.
Her year for some odd reason was undersubscribed -We thought most parents look at struct criteria and think lets not waste and option we stand no chance.

With faith in decline there may not be many rc kids in area.

Is church next door wonder if you could enquire how many kids go church.

can you look at last years admissions and see how they were split.

2nd just moved my dd to coe school but its not va.

va is voluntary aided-which means its can decide its own admissions.
vc-voluntary controlled which all our nearby coe schools are admissions is decided by lea by distance /catchment so check if its va or vc as will be distance as crow flies.

3rd-infants-which juniors does it feed into?
does it have alinked school with guaranteed place at juniors,
personally I prefer primary as have 3kids but the too nearby infants here are very good and juniors not too far away.

4th school-somestines schools in special measures can get more help and quickly turn themselves around. have you visited?
my 3rd choice was a special measures primary.

5th? depends how you commoute but any other schools slightly out cathment you want to look at?

We city suberb and had choice of 12 which was overwhelming I looked at 3 and applied for 3 but some looked at 6 -8schools here.

good luck.

scootle Fri 09-Nov-12 10:37:33

You would be crazy to just put one option down. Obviously put school 2 first. I would then investigate schools that are slightly further afield in case you might get into any of those.

The likelihood is that you will either get school 2 or school 4, whatever you put down but you never know - if it is a very high birth rate year, you could end up without a school place at all. So to be on the safe side, I would go for school 2, one of the church schools (probably the CoE one) then school 4.

TheElementsSong Fri 09-Nov-12 10:38:32

Oh, and our LA does not provide info on how many got in and what criteria. My fear is that we may not live close enough to school #2 even though we are in the priority area.

TheElements
If you would be happy with them going to one of the faith schools then I would stick one down anyway. You don't lose anything by putting them on the form. Put the school 4 at the bottom of the list so you will only be allocated that one if you don't get your first or second preference choice.

TheElementsSong Fri 09-Nov-12 10:45:21

We have visited school #4, it was not terrible but as I said the atmosphere was quite chaotic and they were flummoxed when I asked them for details on how they communicate with parents etc. This was one of the areas specifically criticised by Ofsted, so a bit worrying that they still haven't addressed it.

We are visiting the other schools in the next couple of weeks but it all feels a bit pointless.

The infants feeds into a linked junior school but apparently we have to reapply at that time?!

learnandsay Fri 09-Nov-12 10:46:14

Admission to a faith school will be based on the school's admission policy and the local authority rules. You don't necessarily have to be religious to go to a religious school.

We had four local schools
1) Catchment, nice but academically underachieving
2) Local massively oversubscribed non-faith outstanding
3) three miles away tiny village school lovely academically ambitious
4) three miles away faith school very well thought of

Ideally I'd have chosen #3 because my daughter can be shy but having spoken to the headmistress we came away with the impression that the school would be full for the foreseeable future. Next we'd have liked #2 but thought the same way about that school as the previous one. #4 wasn't that different from #2 and was an ideal substitute. #1 was out of the question although the advice is always to add your catchment school. We were allowed 3 schools.

So we did
#4 first choice
#3 second choice
#1 last choice

Then we went on the waiting list (in our area you can prioritise your waiting list.)
waiting
#2 first choice
#3 second choice

But our daughter loves it so much at her school that after a few weeks we cancelled our waiting list. Our LEA would have allocated us a new place and cancelled our existing place without notifying us, apparently. So you have to keep an eye on the policies and procedures if you use waiting lists after school has started.

ISeeThreadPeople Fri 09-Nov-12 10:50:44

I only put one but my situation is v different! You need to use all of your options.

Blu Fri 09-Nov-12 10:50:57

Assuming you are in England (Wales and Scotland have differnt admissions codes), put them down in the genuine order in which you prefer them in terms of a school for your DDs.

If you prefer one or both of of the faith schools over school 2 then put them first - you never know, you might get a place, and having those schools high on the list will not prejudice your chance of getting into your priority area school. Then, if you get offered your priority area school, you can still go on the waiting list for the other schools.

If you are seriously worried that you might not get into school 2, then would it be worth looking a bt further afield for a 'back up' option that you would stand a good chance of and using that as one of your choices?

Or put the 4th school down, because having a nearby option may be better than being turned down for the other 3 and then being allocated an equally dubious school even further away. The other things to bear in moind is that often schools in sp measures get a very swift turnaround - new head, new management and new energy, and can be transformed very quickly, So may well be a good back up in the long run if you get refused by your preferred schools.

TheElementsSong Fri 09-Nov-12 10:53:50

Thanks again for all the advice!

I think we're genuinely uncomfortable with DDs going to an RC school, from what I've heard (some neighbours' DCs go there) it is very religious. We feel a bit better about them going to the CoE school because it feels a bit more familiar to DH at least (he was raised CoE).

After reading all your comments I'm now thinking we wil put the CoE school as our second choice so all the slots will be filled.

redskyatnight Fri 09-Nov-12 11:19:44

You should only put one if you are guaranteed to get in. Otherwise at least 1 of your choices should be a school that you are reasonably likely to get into. I think you need to decide what other schools you "least dislike", perhaps looking at schools further away as well?

We've only put 1 choice down for DD's 7+ transfer to junior school, but that's because as a catchment child with a sibling already in the school she is top of the priority list, and anyway the school has never been oversubscribed in recent years. So totally different situation.

admission Fri 09-Nov-12 11:57:33

Please put down you genuine wishes in terms of admission preferences and fill in all the preferences, even school 4. Every year I sit on far to many appeals where parents have just put down one or two preferences, assuming that they will get a place and end up with an allocated place miles away and end up devastated that they did not get it. With the infant class size regs applying in a majority of primary schools, the ability to get a place at appeal is limited
You must exercise your preferences or potentially suffer the consequences of getting allocated a school that is worse than school 4 and miles away.

tiggytape Fri 09-Nov-12 12:30:53

You should only put one if you are guaranteed to get in.

Even then it is not advisable to put down just one choice. You might think that the 'siblings' criteria is safe because it is the top category and you have a sibling at the school. But this might be the year that 57 siblings apply for 30 places.
Maybe the school took children from 700m last year so you feel safe at 300m but this might be the year that the catchment shrinks to 250m because three sets of triplets live nextdoor to the school!

You just don't know who else is applying and whether they beat you on admission criteria or not.
There is virtually no circumstance when it is safe to list only 1 or 2 schools. The only case might be if you are absolutely certain that you will go private (and have an offer and have paid the deposit and have 7 years of fees sat in the bank) unless you get the state school you want. In that case maybe you wouldn't bother considering back up plans as you already have one but if you definitely want a state school, you need to list your ideal schools first but also list a realistic one as well else risk being allocated a terrible one miles away.

redskyatnight Fri 09-Nov-12 13:27:57

I agree with tiggytape in principle that you should be aware that circumstances may change from one year to the next.

However in our case there are 120 places in DD's year group and normally only 25-30 catchment siblings in an average year (area with defined catchment areas). Barring an unprecedented number of multiple birth families moving into the area, DD is guaranteed a place. We also don't have any other realistic 2nd option - every other local school is oversubscribed by in-catchment children (we're not), so we'd have even less chance of getting into any other school we might list.

PanelChair Fri 09-Nov-12 14:36:51

Especially as you are applying for two places, you would be foolhardy to name only one school on the applciation form.

As Blu and Admission have said, use all your choices and put them in your genuine order of preference. You should be able to check very easily whether the faith schools have community places (ie places with no criteria attached about church attendance); if they do, that boosts your chances of getting places.

People often name just one school, (wrongly) thinking that that gives additional priority for a place there, and then come badly unstuck when the LEA allocates them a place at a school miles away because that is the one with spare places.

TheElementsSong Fri 09-Nov-12 14:46:12

Don't worry, I don't think that naming one school gives me priority grin Just feeling like I'm not desperately thrilled with 3/4 of the available choices!

I just got off the phone with the council's admissions helpline and they were about as much use as a chocolate teapot. I wanted to ask advice about what order they might suggest - e.g. Should I put school #3 (CoE) first. I was told that if I don't put school #2 (our catchment, non-faith school) as our first choice, it will be counted against us in the admissions process and my DDs might not get a place at either school!

It's a bit worrying that we have read the criteria more thoroughly than they have.

Blu Fri 09-Nov-12 14:48:49

Are you in England, OP?

If so the advice they have given you is based on a situation that would be illegal!!

TheElementsSong Fri 09-Nov-12 14:53:12

Yes I'm in England. I was so gobsmacked by that gem of misinformation (and a load of other useless stuff she said) that I just politely said thank you and hung up!

PanelChair Fri 09-Nov-12 14:53:20

That 'advice' about putting a school at #2 is highly suspect.

It doesn't 'count against you' if you put a school at #1, #2 or #6 (if your choices go that far). All schools and all LEAs have to operate an equal preference system, ie schools don't know where they stand in your order of priorities.

Each LEA (or school if it is its own admissions authority) considers all applications against the published criteria and makes a yes/no decision accordingly. The LEA then collates all the decisions. If more than one school is able to offer your children a place, the LEA will pass on the offer from your highest-placed school. That is why it is so important to place the schools in your genuine order of preference - if (say) school #2 and school #3 can offer you places and it is school #3 that you most want, you will miss out because it is the offer from school #2 that will come back to you.

It is worrying that some schools/LEAs still seem to be peddling the (false) message that schools give added priority to people who place them first on the preference list.

PropositionJoe Fri 09-Nov-12 14:54:24

You are over thinking it - put down your genuine preferences until the form is full. What are your reasons for NOT doing this??

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