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Primary school application angst - support thread?

(127 Posts)
Lozario Tue 01-Jan-13 21:40:59

So I'm lying here attempting to have an early night as can hardly sleep for worrying about our primary school application for DS1. But of course I can't sleep. Again sad

We live in a borough of south London where small children seem to outnumber adults about 20 to 1. Found out last year that we might no longer live close enough to our closest primary school - a 3 form entry approx 580 metres away. All other schools are a drive away. It's going on our list as number 1 but looking unlikely.

DH is one of those lucky people who can tell himself "you have no control over this, worrying won't achieve anything, so don't worry and see what happens". I am not one of those people; am self-confessed control freak and struggling with the basic concept of my PFB starting school in Sept at all, let alone which school it might be!

April seems a long way away, especially if I don't sleep between now and then, and so I wondered if there are any other insomniac mums out there with kids (supposedly) starting primary in Sept 2013 who might like to join me in a virtual wine or brew ??? DH is sick of my constant anxiety!!!

prh47bridge Thu 03-Jan-13 18:38:50


1. Assuming these are VA schools, the LA (borough council) sends a list of applicants to the school along with any information from the common application form (CAF) the school needs. There is some information on the CAF they are not allowed to share with the school, e.g. what other preferences have been named, where the school is on the list of preferences. The school then checks it has supplementary forms for all applicants then puts them into order according to their admission criteria. They send this ordered list back to the LA who determine who will be offered places. Those at the top of the list will be offered places unless they also qualify for a place at one of their higher preferences.

2. The CAF has to allow you to explain why you've chosen the schools but it is of no value. The admission team should check anything you write to see if it gives evidence that moves you into a higher admission category but there is probably somewhere else on the form for that anyway. You might as well leave it blank.

3. I believe most LAs do the work themselves but there may be some that outsource. It shouldn't affect the outcome.

tablefor4 Thu 03-Jan-13 19:12:42

prh47 many thanks for that. The VA school set up sounds sensible.

DH figured that we had nothing to lose, so wrote a bit of an essay on the schools. Someone should have a giggle over it!

The outsourcing question is more because we are in London where it is usually easier to go north-south than east-west, so a school could be easier to get to even though it is further away. But offers we given on distance only - although I understand why.

Itspardonnotwhat Thu 03-Jan-13 20:47:28

Can I join the stressing/trauma/sleepless nights / over reliance on alcohol please?!?

We are in a very odd situation (which will no doubt out me). Our two local catchment schools are oversubscribed and we are very unlikely to get into either. A local outstanding secondary academy has agreed with the LA to run a new primary literally on our doorstep, to supposedly open for the 2013 intake. However it still needs planning permissions, secretary of state approval etc etc and we cannot choose it as an option in our admission forms. We are therefore left with the two catchment schools, let's call them A which we definately will not get into, B which we have a slim chance of getting into but very slim as large intake of siblings due and then well, nothing, as all our other local good schools are all oversubscribed too. Past years have seen children in the village diverted to poorer schools 5m+ away.

LA is hoping that there will be a secondary admissions process later in the year for parents wanted to choose the new primary as and when it is secure enough to offer places for the 2013 intake. Sounds like an admin nightmare to me!

And notwithstanding all of this we still have to submit forms and "choose" (in the loosest sense of the word) schools sad

I get that horrible sick feeling in my tummy just thinking about it

Good luck to everyone, it's a horrible process for so many.

Lozario Thu 03-Jan-13 21:22:13

itspardon what a nightmare! So when are they doing the second application process? Sounds like the new school, if it gets the go ahead, would sweep up the people who don't get into A or B? What would your first choice be if the new primary was included in the initial decision?

DH and I have had a bottle of wine. He was easily persuaded!!! winewine

Itspardonnotwhat Thu 03-Jan-13 21:33:29

Yep, I've had wine, and am polishing off the left over Christmas cheese and crackers!

They haven't said for sure when the secondary application process will be. They are hoping that it will run before the decisions are made and sent out in April and that they can somehow combine the two. But they are now sure of this and have said that we may end up going through two application processes and having (potentially) an offer from both which we will then have to choose from.

Yes I definately think that the new school will be a mop up for those who don't get into a and b and because our village is equidistance from the two it should, in practice, mean that it is a local school with local children. However there are a number of local parents who will not consider it all as they don't want their children to be 'guinea pigs'. I was unsure about it but am more confident now the provider has been chosen as the local academy school as they have an excellent reputation (albeit no primary experience). So the short answer to your question (!) is that yes, if it was an option, I would choose the new school (and then spend months worrying about that decision!)

My DH is very much like yours and of the "why worry you cant do much about it" school of thought. I am however a control freak and hate this smile

Lozario Thu 03-Jan-13 22:01:51

That is pretty much why I started this thread - compared to DH I felt like I was actually going mad. Now I am starting to feel a little more assured that I won't be sectioned any time soon! although DH might book me in for rehab

I'm sure new primaries starting in the vicinity of good established primaries can only have things to prove, especially as those starting them have good reputations to protect. They'll throw everything at it.

Lozario Thu 03-Jan-13 22:04:14

By "things to prove" I mean I think they'll work really hard to be a viable alternative to strong neighbouring schools, just wanted to clarify!

admission Thu 03-Jan-13 22:25:33

Itspardonnotwhat, it is actually a nightmare all round, the situation that you have. Apart from the parents concerns, there is the concern that a late decision to get this new school up and running will actually cause major turbulence in other schools in terms of low admission numbers, after they have organised staffing levels for September. Based on a similar situation locally a couple of years ago, the chances are that the new school will be massively over subscribed and be a source of problems for a considerable time.
There is also the concern by the secondary school that this could be delayed and fall flat on its face for 2013, causing embarrassment and damage to the secondary school and cause a major headache for the LA around finding places for all the applications. I would be really concerned if there are still short of planning permission, presumably for work on buildings to make it fit for primary school kids. If that is not available now, will they realistically have them in place for September?

fairydustallover Fri 04-Jan-13 08:18:17

Well I spent yesterday afternoon stressing so last night I researched every single localish school and added two more. So I have put six now, just need to visit the last two next week and finalise the order of the last three confused

Lozario Fri 04-Jan-13 08:26:59

fairydust is it easy to amend once you've submitted the form? I might have to add a docs note for DS's wheezing but the doctor still hasn't done it and I'm stressing about getting the form in, so might do form this weekend and then add GP letter if and when we get it.

Itspardonnotwhat Fri 04-Jan-13 09:41:27

Lozario - I agree, I think that they will very much want this to work and be as strong, if not stronger, than the other local primaries. And a healthy element of competition is never a bad thing! Re your forms I think they re pretty easy to amend online before the deadline but not sure about once paper copies have been submitted. I can't see why if the additional info was provided in time it should be a problem but my concern would be ensuring that it was all matched up on receipt.....

Admission - interesting points, thank you. From the number crunching I have seen I don't think low admission numbers will be a problem for the other local schools at least initially as we are around 30 places short in the area anyway so the school should, theoretically, house those children. The existing primaries don't have space to expand so no chance of bulge classes and the associated additional resources. The planning permission is a huge stumbling block in my opinion. However the site has been identified, it is LA land so no issues around purchase etc, and building designs have been shared. It's a kind of flat pack ikea jobby but looks surprisingly good. The application was supposed to have been submitted by the end of the year with building work starting in March. The other major permission to be granted is secretary of state approval to vary the academy's current status but I'm assuming as academies are "fashionable", for want of a better word, then this won't be an issue. Only slightly unusual thing about it is that the primary is on a different site to the secondary and a good couple of miles apart.

goodtoesnaughtytoes Fri 04-Jan-13 14:11:21

Does anyone know if there is a way of calculating the distance from the school to your address in the same way the LA do, ie. in a straight line? On Google maps it does it via the road.

prh47bridge Fri 04-Jan-13 16:09:32

Google Maps will do it for you. Click on the Map Labs link near the bottom of the page and enable the distance measurement tool. A ruler icon will appear near the bottom left hand corner of the map. Click on this and then click on the two points you want to measure and it will tell you the straight line distance. Note, however, that it will not be as accurate as your LA's measurement.

admission Fri 04-Jan-13 16:16:56

I have seen some innovative "classrooms" go up in a matter of days, so maybe it is possible but I would have some concerns on the other bits like a hall, a kitchen and office accommodation being as easy to put up.
I would agree that getting permission from Mr Gove is going to be the least of the school's worries. I am sure with the magic word academy attached to it, there will be no problem about it being signed. The problem when my school went academy was not Mr Gove signing it, it was the slowness of the Department officials in getting things organised that was the holdup. As Mr Gove is quite happy to allow grammar schools to expand in different towns from where the original school is, I can't see a couple of miles being a problem.
As for the planning permission from the LA, not wanting to be political but that is going to depend rather a lot on whether the Council want this new school to happen. If they do then I am sure that it will. However there will be a minor issue to negotiate over the land. As an academy the LA will need to lease the land to the academy on a very long lease, which again has not been a problem, providing there is a willingness for things to happen. In many instances this has happened after the academy has been agreed.

notcitrus Fri 04-Jan-13 16:33:48

I'm trying not to be stressed here - was bad enough with dn applying in SE London last year but he's managed to be one of 4 non-siblings in his year of 60, squeaking in at 120 metres away.

At least in my area the two nearest schools are both expanding, one permanently and one for another bulge class and 99% probably permanently, for the 2013 year. Looked at those two and decided I preferred the closest one, so have put the nearest 6 down in order. Thankfully I applied online a while ago as I hadn't realised that for one school, which allocates 50% of places to Christians and the rest to anyone, you have to fill in a supplementary form even if applying only for a non-Christian place, but the website alerted me when I submitted it. And the form has to be in earlier than the main app deadline. So I gave it to the school office before Christmas.

My borough was over 500 places short last year despite opening 4 new schools, so I find myself twitching every time I see small children moving in between me and the nearest school! And being relieved when local families turn out to be Catholic!

Quenelle Fri 04-Jan-13 17:31:48

I've just submitted an updated application adding our catchment lower school (three-tier system) as 2nd preference because of advice I've seen on here that it is always in your interests to list it.

Our first choice for DS is in a different LEA, the school is usually undersubscribed and his year at the pre-school on the same site is very thin on the ground, but obviously DS will be last in if there are places available, and there might be a load of twins and triplets applying or something.

DH and I both work in towns the other side of our preferred school. We plan for me to change my part time hours to allow me to drop DS off and collect him. If I have to drop DS at the catchment school I will have to cut my hours more at work. It will cost us a lot of money.

And even more importantly to me, DS goes to the pre-school on the same site as our preferred school, he went to toddler group with most of the class, his childminder's children who are like older brothers to him go to the school. He would have no friends at our catchment school so it would be a really hard transition for him.

I know he would probably cope but I don't want him to. He'll only be almost 4.3yo when he starts, it's going to be a big change for him, I don't want it to be harder than it has to be.

Also, the current catchment middle school is closing next year and the proposed new one has been shelved. Next year's intake will have to go to a middle school miles away in the other direction.

If we could move house and solve this problem we would. Sadly that's not looking possible for a while.

Lozario Fri 04-Jan-13 23:17:34

quinelle mine will be just under 4.3 when he starts too; it's so tiny!

Submitted the form today. Felt quite unceremonious in the end but I guess that's because our "preference list" will have little bearing on the eventual outcome!

Lozario Mon 07-Jan-13 10:15:12

Thinking of changing our order now. 1 and 2 are definite in order but 3 is a larger primary school with an impressive head and great outdoor space, but we were concerned that its size would be intimidating (it kind of felt like a secondary school) and the academic standard for the high achievers wasn't great (not saying DS is going to be a high achiever but you never know!). Number 4 is the new school I mentioned up-thread; it's attached to a local very good secondary and so he'd be guaranteed entry to secondary. DS would be in the first year of entry so the numbers would be tiny for the first few years! Additional upside is that we'd potentially avoid this stress in 7 years again (assuming secondary doesn't go downhill), but downside is there is nothing to see or judge as the primary currently doesn't exist!

So what do you think - I'm tempted to swap 3 and 4 around?

Lozario Mon 07-Jan-13 10:16:35

(should add that 4 is a bit further away than 3 but both are a car journey anyway do doesn't make a massive difference)

greensnail Mon 07-Jan-13 20:04:25

I think I'd be tempted to swap them Lozario as I don't like the idea of really big primaries so that would put me off 3. But that's just a personal thing. What is your gut feeling?

I'm worrying that I should add some more choices to mine. I've only put 2 choices down. 1 is local catchment school, undersubscribed, more or less a dead cert that we'll get in. 2 is second closest school, is oversubscribed but we have a reasonably good chance of a place if for some reason we didn't get in to 1.

So I was thinking we were sorted, as we have a dead cert and a back up. But what if school 1 suddenly becomes oversubscribed and we don't get into either, I'd feel really daft for not having used up all my choices probably. What do you think, should I choose another or stop overthinking it!

Itspardonnotwhat Mon 07-Jan-13 21:45:58

In terms of putting down more than two choices greensnail my understanding is that you are better to use all your options as then you have at Keats some control over the choice if you don't get into one of your two highest ranked preferred schools. The risk of all them is that if you don't get either of your first two you'll be diverted to the nearest local school with places, which may not in fact be very good or very near. Better to try and have some influence over it I think?

I submitted our form last night - for what it's worth! And there's a meeting later this week at the secondary academy who propose to run the new primar so hopefully we shall know more than. Still feel sick and it's not just because I just finished off a selection box

notcitrus Tue 08-Jan-13 13:44:26

Question for prh47 and admission - are schools which require a Supplementary Info Form allowed to have earlier deadlines for them than the LA does for the Common App Form, and is there any guidance about how these are publicised?

I filled in the CAF online in mid-December, which was lucky as I hadn't realised I needed to fill in a SIF for a non-church place at my chosen school, and the link to download one didn't work. Thankfully had the one given at open day so handed it in before end of term - but the deadline on the form is 10 January, not the 15th like the CAF.
I also wanted to put a 4th, 5th and 6th choice for completeness, so went back to my CAF online, followed the links to the SIFs for choices 4 and 6 so I could post them this week to arrive by the 15th, only to find that not only are the links broken (one leads to the secondary version, the other is totally broken), but when some googling led me to the correct forms, the deadline was 7 Jan, publicised nowhere except on the forms themselves! Given many people will have been away for Christmas until schools started on the 7th, this has excluded people who thought they would apply as soon as term started.
I'm planning to send the forms anyway and there's over 99% probability I'll get one of my first 3 choices, but is this allowed?

prh47bridge Tue 08-Jan-13 19:00:42

There is nothing specific in the Admissions Code or the relevant legislation but in my view it is poor practise. I suspect the LGO would be unhappy if someone lost out through not submitting the supplementary form in time. The fact they have not publicised the deadline for the supplementary form just makes it worse. If I were you I would be tempted to lodge an objection with the Schools Adjudicator to see if they will stop them from doing this in future.

Lozario Tue 08-Jan-13 22:43:38

greensnail I agree with itspardon, you might as well add more schools but only if you feel like they are ok - the Head at one school we saw said done put down any that you wouldn't be happy with, there's no point. I know what you mean about the uncertainty - the catchment areas could go up or down I guess! So stressful!

notcitrus we have had a similar experience with the SIF for one of our schools - the deadline for it on the school website said 7th Jan but on the LEA application site it says 15th, like the general deadline. We got it in on for the 7th but I am sure they can't reject any that come between 7-15 Jan what with the contrasting information!

Still can't decide order of 3 and 4 though. Keep thinking the new school (currently 4) could be amazing and I'd kick myself for not putting it higher, but then again it could be total cack! Arghhh my head is hurting hmm

Pyrrah Wed 09-Jan-13 14:14:51

Lozario - I'm in a bit of central SE London that is indie-free, so if DD doesn't get a place at my 1st choice (and I will sit on that waiting list till she does!) then she will need to sit the 7+. If she gets into 1st choice then she will do 11+ anyway, but the others it will be weighing up whether to go for 7+ or stick with them and spend a fortune on tutor for 11+.

I'm seeing round my first choice tomorrow and then sending the form in. In a way, knowing that I won't get a place without a waiting-list wait makes April more of a case of 'thank goodness we got somewhere' rather than a celebration.

Considering the dire secondaries in the area I am resigned to angst over education for the next 14+ years whether it's getting them in, exams or whatever...

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