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The Sibling Rule

(104 Posts)
knitcorner Thu 20-Dec-12 15:49:48

It's unfair right?

Primary schools should be for local kids not for those with older brothers and sisters who used to live in the area (or rented to get the school place) and are now driven to and from school, creating a 3.15 rush hour.

I just heard that my local school (700m away, not a cat in hells chance of getting a place) has 40% of pupils who live more than 1km away (ie somewhere much leafier and greener than where we live!)


Surely it is fairer that if you move out of a catchment area, you go to your local school? That's how it works in Scotland, so why have we got different rules down here?

teacherwith2kids Thu 20-Dec-12 19:09:45


To plan how many places are needed at a given school (for a 'take all children in catchment every year, adjusting the size of the school to suit, while keeping class sizes at the infant class size maximum or below' approach) you are going to have to have really good, house by house data on the number of children in that catchment.

I am not certain that we have that data at that level of detail? Where do you think that it exists? Birth data is 5 years too early, census is only every 10 years, not every child attends pre-school, some are not registered with doctors - and in, say, a school which is set up for a single class of 30 in each year group, it only takes a few new families to move into an area, or 5 or 6 houses to be built, or a large house divided into flats etc etc for calculations which said 'yes, 1 class is fine' to suddenly be faced with the need for an extra class because there are 5 or 6 new children requiring entry.

To be able to run an 'in catchment guarantees a place' system, then there either has to be overcapacity built into the system - so there is always an extra classroom and extra teacher available should a cohort prove to be larger than expected - or a flexibility about maximum class size, so if there are 5 or 6 extra children, the class size just goes up to 35 or 36.

In areas of low mobility and with schools always running at slight under-capacity, it would work. In areas of higher mobility (in the Year 3 class I teach, 1/3 of the class have joined within the last 12 months) it would be harder.

anothercuppaplease Thu 20-Dec-12 19:17:33

DH works in a primary school in East London which was originally built to educate 400 pupils now has over 900 pupils. They have temporary buildings in the playground, no library, no ICT suite as they have been transformed into classrooms. The authorities have known for years that there was going to be a shortage - and the shortage is much worst than predicted - but they have not been able to 'build' or 'find' new school places to respond to the demand. It's the same story for many schools. And now with academies which get lots of money for very little school places, the problem will get worst.

admission Thu 20-Dec-12 22:25:46

The problem of school places has been recognised for the last two years by the government and they have actually put quite a lot of money into the LAs where the problem is worse to try and alleviate some of the problem.
However it is not quite that simple. There is now no possibility of any new school being built that is a community school as the diktat is that all new schools must be academy or free schools, so they sit outside the LA. The LA has a legal duty to manage the number of school places, which they have always had but that is difficult when they don't really control where free schools spring up.
So the extra funding is going into more classrooms in existing community schools, hence mobile cities on the playground etc. That is fine if there is plenty of space but sods law says that where you need school places the facilities are not there to allow such expansion.
Not sure what the answer is other than every space available in London area needs to be used for new schools - maybe that is something that Boris ought to be getting his teeth into rather than other more fanciful ideas.

steppemum Thu 20-Dec-12 22:42:55

One of my friends lives in a space about 2/3 mile away form 3 schools. She can apply to any of the 3 schools, but because there is no catchment system, she has equal chance of getting or not getting inot any of them.

So she applied and got dc1 into one of the schools. (luckily, as she could easily not have got a place in any of them) But next year dc2 will need a place. So, as all the schools are oversubscribed because there is a birth bulge at the moment, what should she do? If there was no sibling policy, she could easily be denied all 3 schools, and then be taking 2 kids to 2 different schools, each 2/3 mile away (or further)

bubbles1231 Thu 20-Dec-12 23:41:55

teacher I think you're right about the mobility thing. I live in a rural environment and though children do join the local primary (200 children) in years other than p1, it may only be 4-5 children a year and most of those will start in August.
The population in many rural parts is on the decline, so schools are more likely to be running under capacity and councils have a programme of closure for some. The local PS lost a teacher a couple of years back due to falling roles.

bubbles1231 Thu 20-Dec-12 23:44:55

We are lucky, I guess, to have max class sizes of 33, or 25 for composites.

Megan74 Fri 21-Dec-12 00:30:15

It's a tricky one as I dont think it will ever be fair when you have a shortfall of places to children. My Dcs go to a very good school out of my catchment. We lucked out in that by some fluke we got into one of the most desirable schools in the area one year. My nearest schools were not good so I had added my name to the waiting list for the desired school and thought nothing would come of it. It turns out the LEA added a class two months before the start of term and we got a place. As a result my younger child got in too. Yes we drive the 2 miles to school 4 days a week (walk on the 5th day).

I know this year for example the catchment only went out as far as 500m from the school. It must by annoying for those parents to see the likes of me driving too and from school and my children taking a place at a school they feel they have more right to. But, I just got lucky. I wasn't going to let the opportunity of my children having a better education as I perceive it, to pass me by just because I can't afford a house within 500m of the school. There is also an argument to be had for the view that if someone who lived closer to me had wanted a place at the school and gone on the waiting list when I did then they would have got it ahead of me. I can only take from that no one nearer the school wanted to be at that school at the time so there was space for my children instead.

Megan74 Fri 21-Dec-12 00:32:32

and to the point of the sibling rule - I can see why its seen as unfair but it really wouldn't be practical trying to be in two places at once which is reason enough for the sibling rule to remain.

Violet77 Fri 21-Dec-12 19:16:27

Personally i thonk it should all be down to distnace, fairest way.

Lots of people here rent then move on and its appalling that local children are excluded from their community.

tiggytape Fri 21-Dec-12 22:01:35

Schools are clamping down on the 'renters and movers' in areas where this has become a problem.
Lots of LAs and individual schools with their own admissions now refuse to use a rented address if the family also own a home elsewhere unless they prove the move to a rented house is irreversible.
So you can rent in London whilst trying to sell your house in Yorkshire because it is fairly obvious you won't be moving back to Yorkshire and commuting everyday if they allocate you the London school you're asking for.
But if you live in London and then rent in London suspiciously a tiny bit closer to a fantastic school and your 'poor catchment area house' is unsold, the admissions authority can refuse to accept the rented address and insist on using the mortgaged property address instead.

The shortage of places has led people to feel driven to extreme measures but equally it has led to a lot more checking up on applicants and a lot more tip-offs. Every year parents get caught, and whilst they aren't prosecuted anymore, the council either alter the application to show the 'real' address and use that or (if the parents get caught late), the council withdraw the offer of a school place.

PrincessScrumpy Fri 21-Dec-12 22:08:43

A friend of mine had to move or of catchment. Dd1 starts secondary, dd2 is in reception and since move dd3 will start september but as out of catchment it is unlikely she'll get into over subscribed school as siblings do not get priority here. As a single mum she cannot get3 children to 3 different schools on time, so unfair for her too, surely?

tiggytape Fri 21-Dec-12 22:26:43

Yes - but it is always unfair to somebody PrincessScrumpy - that's the problem.

Getting 2 children to 2 different schools is a nightmare.
But it isn't much fun being allocated a school 4 miles away and spending 45 minutes on the bus each way with a 4 year old and a newborn baby either.

People who don't have sibling priority for a local school place can easily face nightmare journeys, 3 hours on a bus everyday with a screaming baby or their children expected to have long commutes by car to another town that does have a school space.
Those parents would probably argue that this is impossible to do with toddler or newborn siblings and impossible to do if you have to work and need to get there on time.

Izzyschangelingisarriving Fri 21-Dec-12 22:32:12

There is always going to be an exception - I am sure people in my sons school are gossiping about our place - but they wouldn't if they knew why they had to go elsewhere.

Well they may gossip - but no-one would begrudge their place.

knitcorner Sat 22-Dec-12 09:49:58

Thanks for all the replies, i didn't mean this post to attack individual families on how they have managed to get places (congratulations if you are happy with your school!), more an attack on the SYSTEM and how unfair I think that is.

If there were fixed boundaries (and yes, there would need to be flexibility on class sizes and a phased introduction so as not to disadvantage current families with siblings). I don't think siblings should be split between primary schools but if a family deliberately moves out of an area, their younger siblings shouldn't get priority at the old school.

I don't see that this system would be any more admin-heavy that the current Sibling Rule - especially since the siblings are now having to fight for closest place as well (a school nearby had 35 siblings apply for 30 places).

Did you see the article in the Telegraph this week? (will try and post link), The journalist was all self-righteous about renting a bedsit in order to get a primary school place. So basically, if you have a few spare ££, you can get the school you want and the rest of us have to lump it. This is not a fair system!

Unfortunately our LA have not implemented the 2nd home rule that would prevent this happening.

tiggytape Sat 22-Dec-12 10:00:36

There can't be flexibility on class sizes though - at the moment the law says 30 per class upto and including Year 2. Even if you had fixed boundaries, they wouldn't be allowed to have 33 per class. There is no discretion on this as it is a national law not a guideline. And sometimes you do get 35 siblings for 30 places, in which case no local people without siblings get in and 5 families have 2 children at different schools. Common sense says, this shouldn't happen but the very strict law on class sizes means there's no way around it. There's simply more children than there are school places in many towns.

Renting for school was very common in some areas and still is in others. It takes a while for policy to catch up with reality.
In some famous London schools, renting for a place was something a handful of parents did every year. They got away with it because the practice was rare and anyway, there were enough spaces at other good schools that not much of a fuss was made.
Then it gets to the stage where more and more appliations seem dodgy. And other schools have less spare space. And people living 700m away aren't getting in anymore. And other parents furiously inform on anyone they suspect of cheating. At that point, clamp-downs tend to happen and address histories are taken, council tax records checked, child benefit history is looked at, Dr's address is noted and councils follow up tip-offs and withdraw offers. It is a slow and frustrating process but up until a few years ago, some LAs had never even heard of this as a problem. Now they are getting better at being strict as more as more pressure is put on them. The key is to make sure they know it is happening - they have a duty to make sure admissions are run fairly.

HoratiaLovesBabyJesus Sat 22-Dec-12 10:23:33

About the "no more than 30" thing...

... our R class is 31. The last two (twins) got in from the waiting list. I gather this is permitted because Y1 is not full, so it's actually a rule about totals in R/KS1 averaged over the number of classes or something.

Yes, I was shock and hmm too but there it is.

teacherwith2kids Sat 22-Dec-12 10:25:12

Should say that a move to a 'siblings in catchment' rule (from an 'all siblings' rule) plus a few highly-publicised removal of places for fraudulent applications from 'renters and movers' and others has turned round the situation at local school - have been able to take every child within their 'priority application area' (siblings or not) plus all siblings up to a wholly reasonable distance.

teacherwith2kids Sat 22-Dec-12 10:28:02

However, fixed boundaries for our local primary school last year (2 form entry) would have meant 2 classes of 48...

As it was, they put in a bulge class and still had to disappoint 6 children. Even with the bugle, furthest admissions distance was TINY, certainly not half way to the next nearest school.

RandomMess Sat 22-Dec-12 10:31:38

I think if you move further away from the school then you should lose your right to a sibling place.

teacherwith2kids Sat 22-Dec-12 13:56:31


The point is, how much further away?

The way the very popular secondary school locally works it is that they have defined a 'priority admissions area' [not called a catchment, presumably to alert people to the fact that it does not guarantee admission even from this area].

After the usual Looked after / Statemented children criteria, their over-subscription criteria are:
- Siblings living in this area [so you can move within the area, but not outside it to get high priority on admissions]
- Others living in the area.
- Siblings outside the area
- Others outside the area.

If you were penalised for just 'moving further away', without any limit (so you could move from 3 doors from the school to 4 doors and have your sibling place denied....) that would be a bit silly, but having a definied area where moving outside it removes your advantage over other children living very close to the school seems a good idea.

Myliferocks Sat 22-Dec-12 14:27:02

tiggytape My DS is year 3 now but in yr 2 he was in a class of 32, yr 1 31 and reception 31.
My older DC spent more time in infant classes over 30 than under as well.

tiggytape Sat 22-Dec-12 16:34:10

Myliferocks - it can happen in exceptional circumstances but the LA or school has no power to make it happen. Any child above 30 is an 'excepted child' and it can only happen if a child either wins an appeal (virtually impossible in Year 2 or below unless the council messed up their application which is possible)
or unless FAP had to be used (Fair Access Protocol is when no school within a 7-10 mile radius has any spare places at all - not even the bad schools - and the council has to use special rules to place a child in a full class because otherwise they would be without an education).

Otherwise the law is very clear. A school could not for example allocate 33 places just because 33 siblings applied. 3 of them would have to go to appeal and without good reason (transport, childcare and logistics don't count as a good reason at appeal) they still wouldn't get in.

tiggytape Sat 22-Dec-12 16:41:09

... our R class is 31. The last two (twins) got in from the waiting list. I gather this is permitted because Y1 is not full, so it's actually a rule about totals in R/KS1 averaged over the number of classes or something.

No this is not correct. The correct definition is no more than 30 children per qualified teacher. So you can have a class of 60 with 2 teachers or a class of 90 with 3 teachers (not TAs - they must be fully qualified) but you cannot have 32 in Reception just because there are only 28 in Year 1.

They can mix it though over year groups eg 30 children in one class all Reception age and 30 children in the other class with 5 of Reception age and 25 of Year 1 age. But it has to stay that way - they can't sneak the 5 extra reception children back in with the 30 others - each class must be a 1:30 ratio.

As of Feb 2012, twins and same year siblings are a special case. If the 30th child admitted to a class is a twin, then their sibling is allowed to be child number 31 and legally go above the limit. This is quite new. Until this year, if place number 30 was allocated to a twin, the mother had to decide which twin got the place and which one got sent to another school.

DoesntTurkeyNSproutSoupDragOn Sat 22-Dec-12 16:48:33

I don't think the sibling rule should apply to secondary schools - the children should be able to travel independently by then.

RandomMess Sat 22-Dec-12 17:39:37

Honestly, any further away.

Problem with any admission area is how does the school cope with fluctuating birth years?

Reception at our primary school this year had 27 siblings so 3 spaces - so if a further 15 children lived in the priority admission area and the school had to have them where on earth would they have fitted in 15 extra children, meanwhile plenty of other places at other nearby schools...

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