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Are catchment areas just for one school?

(12 Posts)
DitaVonCheese Wed 14-Nov-12 10:58:57

And am I a terrible parent if I only go to look at one school?

Navigating the primary school applications maze for my PFB.

She is at preschool next to school A, which has strong links with the primary school eg they have lunch in the school hall every day and make efforts to ensure that when the preschool children go up to big school it won't be new and scary. A large proportion of the children she knows from preschool will go to school A. I've just been to look round it and really liked it. Have spoken to other parents and they're all positive. So I think school A is my first choice.

Discovered with horror the other day that we're not actually in catchment for school A, despite the fact it's our closest school. The one we're in catchment for has a bad Ofsted report and bad review from the only parent I know whose child goes there. School A is undersubscribed though and from looking at the stats I think DD has a good chance of getting in.

Other local schools are "better":

- school B is the other one in my local town, much less diverse than school A (ie 95% white middle class, no special needs, no traveller children etc). Ofsted is good/excellent I think but I found it a bit offputting. AFAIA it's oversubscribed.
- schools C and D are both rated excellent by Ofsted and reports sound really nice. Bit further away. Both very small country schools. Have looked at the stats and the chances of DD getting in are laughably small (80 applicants for 10 places, need to have a sibling there or live next door) and she wouldn't know anyone.

So school A looks like the obvious choice. When I went to see it this morning, the head said "Of course you'll be looking round lots of schools". Er ... no. Should I be? If realistically this is the only one she's going to get into? And as far as I can tell from the council's baffling website we're only in the catchment area for one school - does that sound right?

Thanks for reading if anyone got this far blush

redskyatnight Wed 14-Nov-12 11:11:30

I think it's useful to look at least 1 other school if only for comparison purposes. I know you're not keen on your catchment school but it could be worth a look - Ofsted and 1 parent are not a lot to go on. If nothing else, it's probably wise to put it as your 2nd choice - otherwise if you don't get your preferred school you may end up being assigned an even worse school that's miles away.

Whether you are in multiple catchments depends on your area. Where I live, each school has a defined catchment area, and they don't overlap so you can only be in 1 catchment. In other areas, schools don't have formal catchments but generally take, say children within a certain distance of the school - so in this case you may end up being in a place where you would be within "the distance to be accepted" for many schools, but equally might happen to be in a year group where this distance is much smaller than usual.

tiggytape Wed 14-Nov-12 11:24:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

prh47bridge Wed 14-Nov-12 13:00:38

Whatever has happened in the past school A may be oversubscribed this year. As you are not in catchment you will be low priority if the school is oversubscribed. If you name school A as your only preference and you don't get a place the LA will allocate you a place at the nearest school with places available. This will be an unpopular school and it may be miles from your home.

Every year appeal panels have to deal with parents who only named one school on their application form, wrongly believing that they were certain to get a place or that naming only one school increased their chances of getting an offer. Due to infant class size regulations the chances of parents winning appeals for Reception are generally very low. The appeal panel can sympathise but they cannot give a place.

I would always recommend using all your preferences and including at least one unpopular school that you find acceptable (or at least, more acceptable than the others) where you have a good chance of getting a place. That way you are less likely to end up being offered a place at a school you really don't want.

DitaVonCheese Sat 17-Nov-12 00:12:28

Many thanks for all the info, I really appreciate the time you've spent helping me out smile

Still confused ... have revisited the Ofsted reports and actually school A was only rated as satisfactory (in 2009 and inspectors acknowledged school was affected by having to absorb other local school which had closed) though 2011 SATs seem fantastic, with 92% or something getting Key Stage um thingummy (Level 4?). And actually the school we're in catchment for was rated good by Ofsted (in Feb this year but I think the head has left since then). Have taken your points on board and will go to see it anyway smile

School A might become oversubscribed but class sizes are fairly small there - there are two primaries in our nearest town and A is the less popular one as it has a higher proportion of traveller children.

Final question - does which primary school a child attends affect which secondary they then get into? <planning ahead>

BackforGood Sat 17-Nov-12 00:18:46

Not in our authority.
However, I've heard people on MN talk about 'feeder schools' as if they do.
Here, the secondary schools have admission criteria much the same as the Primaries..... LACs, Chldn with Statements of SEN, (sometimes faith) , siblings, then distance from school. The Primary school they attend doesn't come in to it, just as the Pre-School, or Nursery class they attend doesn't affect the Reception places.

prh47bridge Sat 17-Nov-12 10:53:16

You need to check the admission criteria for secondary schools. If there are feeder schools then yes, as BackforGood says, it makes a difference. If they do not operate a system of feeder schools it makes no difference.

SunflowersSmile Sat 17-Nov-12 11:03:38

So sad that people are put off by traveller children. Glad you are not being op; it is so insulting and narrow minded.

stinkinseamonkey Sat 17-Nov-12 11:08:17

The catchments for state schools and church schools are different and overlap

there is such a thing as feeder schools, in our area there are no such thing for the state secondaries but the church secondary does have a priority category for children who went to certain church primaries

It IS worth looking around all of them, reputation and ofstead can be bollocks and if its anything like here you put down more than one preference

stinkinseamonkey Sat 17-Nov-12 11:12:38

ETA the council sets the criteria for the state schools, so criteria/priority may be different for state schools in different areas.

Church schools can set their own criteria so each one is slightly different. Church schools' catchment goes by parish. We are in catchment for a church school that is right beside a state school which we are not in catchment for.

admission Sat 17-Nov-12 21:53:22

OP made the point over one school that they had 80 applications for 10 places. That does sound bad but actually it may not be as bad as you think.
As a parent you will have the opportunity to express three (as a minimum) preferences for schools, even though you only want one. So if all parents do record three preferences then there will be three times more requests than are actually a need for places.
The key is to look back at previous information from the LA admission booklet. That usually has info on how many preferences were expressed for the school and is split into 1st, 2nd and 3rd preferences. Obviously if there were 80 first preferences for the 10 places then that means it is an incredibly popular school. However it is quite possible that actually there are only 5 first preferences for the school and 75 2nd or 3rd preferences. That is 75 parents actually want another school, that they put down as first preference and may well get those places.
Ideally what should happen is that the available spaces at a school are the same as the number of pupils wanting a place who are in catchment for the school, bu then there would be no need for me to sit on school admission appeal panels!

DitaVonCheese Sat 17-Nov-12 23:48:04

Thanks admission, that's helpful. Have just looked again at the figures and for the one I mentioned it was actually just first choice for 14 applicants (10 spaces available); for the other village school 50 applicants put it as first choice, for 30 spaces! Feel like I'm starting to get my head around the tables, thanks smile

Have also looked at secondary school admissions and school A is a "partner school" for local decent high school so would increase DD's chances of getting in there (assuming we are still living here, it's still a good school etc).

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