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Catchment areas -mn wisdom please

(23 Posts)
Wishiwasanheiress Tue 16-Apr-13 09:03:18

Hello I'm appealing to mn as my local gov website is very hard to follow... We are trying to buy a house this year. We have areas picked out of where we can afford. I'm doing research into schools so I can hopefully get decent options. Dd is presently 2. (Born dec 2010 so I think enters school at 5 in sep 2015?)

I'm basically trying to look at catchment areas and then see what we can afford. According to the website they don't exist. I am either dumb and missed them (possible - but on every school I've looked up?!) or they don't publish them but do exist or they don't exist at all. Are there such things in reality or is it fiction?

Is there a rule of thumb I can follow? Say 1-3 miles radius = def in, 3-4= good chance, 4-5= pigs might fly?

Sorry if I sound thick, just all very new to me. Not been involved with schools really since my own days.... Thanks a lot

DeepRedBetty Tue 16-Apr-13 09:05:15

It all depends on your LEA, and the boundaries move sometimes anyway. Sorry, not much help...

DeepRedBetty Tue 16-Apr-13 09:06:08

And by the way, yes, dd will start school Sep 2015.

tiggytape Tue 16-Apr-13 09:11:34

In most area there are no defined catchment areas at all.

Each school has a priority list to explains how it will hand out places if more people apply than it has places for eg:
1. Children in care
2. Special Medical / Social Needs
3. Siblings of a child currently at the school
4. All other applicants with those living closest given priority

So if your child is in category 1,2 or 3 they will almost certainly get a place. If there are 10 such children for a class of 30, that means there are 20 places left over.
These 20 places are given to people in category 4 with those living closest getting in first. So the person who is the 21st closest to the school won't get a place.
The 'catchment' area for that year group will be the distance from the school to the house that the 20th closest person lives at.

As you can see the 'catchment area' therefore changes every single year depending on number of siblings and how many apply overall. This system applies to most schools who get more applicants than they have places. If however you apply to a school that has less applicants than places, the school takes all who apply no matter how far away they live.

DeepRedBetty Tue 16-Apr-13 09:12:50

The 'catchment' for dtds rural school was shaped like a banana, fifteen miles long but only five miles wide and curving round the outside of the local town. Of course most of the children from the far end of the banana went to the nearby school that wasn't catchment. Whereas our school families were over half out of catchment trying to avoid the school in the centre of the local town.

I suspect equally odd things happen with town schools.

Just to confuse the issue further, a school can change radically in the space of a year or two, especially if there is a change of head teacher.

tiggytape Tue 16-Apr-13 09:14:07

And if you want to know hwo close you had to be last year to get a place, you can ask the local council for the 'last distance offered'

They don't call it a catchment area because of course, it changes each year. But you can make a guess. Eg if the last distance offered was 800m last year, 780m the year before and 820m the year before that, you know that if you buy a house 1600m away you probably won't get in.

AuntieStella Tue 16-Apr-13 09:21:13

Not every school/LEA has catchment areas (ie specified priority admissions areas). If they do, they should be readily discoverable alongside admissions information (and the working for sme criteria will be something like "siblings in catchment, by distance" "other children in catchment, by distance". Without information on catchment boundaries,a nd criteria worded like that, you can be sure there is no catchment system.

If you are trying to find out the actual footprint showing distance within which children were admitted in any particular year, then that is what you need to ask for - often published on websites, if it isn't then try emailing LEA.

Bear in mind - especially given how young your DD is, that catchment systems can be introduced, abolished or boundaries radically redrawn after a set annual consultation period. Also that admissions footprints are susceptible to change (eg new housing, bulge class sibling legacy, just plain bad luck).

So you will not find certainty, even assuming unchanging school performance, continuity of HT, no closures, mergers, take-overs or expansions.

Wishiwasanheiress Tue 16-Apr-13 09:53:45


Not often this happens but I'm speechless. Firstly at speed of answers and also at the detail. Rather daunting. I have an awful lot to learn then don't I.....? Heavens to betsy.

MmeThenardier Tue 16-Apr-13 09:57:20

There is no rule of thumb. In densely populated areas the catchment areas may be less than a mile as there are many schools near to each other. Of course the opposite applies in rural areas.

Also the catchment may not be a uniform shape but may take into account main roads/rivers for eg. So you need to find the catchment maps. (If they exist, I appreciate all areas may not have them)

Where we are (urban) catchment areas are available from school websites and from the council website.

I would ring your local admissions but bear in mind they may be very busy today...

mummytime Tue 16-Apr-13 10:07:11

Also do remember that Faith schools may select on member ship of that faith; although not all do (I know a C of E school outside London which is predominantly Muslim).

For my LEA, the 4) criteria is "children for whom that school is the nearest school" and then we have a fifth based just on distance. This means for my DCs secondary, children who live about 4 km away in one village, get priority over children who live where I do (about 2 km away). As for my children there is another school which is closer, where as for the village children it is the closest school. It also means the furthest admitted distance data can be a bit misleading.

The best thing to do is to start to think about where you need to be able to get to, and the kind of area you want to live in. Then to narrow down using schools you like (but don't just rely on OFSTED).

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate Tue 16-Apr-13 10:56:21

If your LEA isn't keen on publishing distance information, you can use a Freedom of Information request. I did it for ours through Whatdotheyknow, which is a website which made it easy.

Didn't help though. Despite having ascertained that every year for the last five we'd have got into our first choice school easily, today I found out we got third choice.

poodletip Tue 16-Apr-13 11:04:58

You really need to find the admissions information for your LEA. They are all different so while the information people are giving on this thread may be correct for where they are it may be different where you are.

Here the schools do have fixed geographical catchment areas. The LEA publishes a list of all the roads and which school catchment they belong to. However there is still a list of priorities to negotiate (looked after children, SEN, siblings). They just work through that list for children within catchment before they look outside so for eg a non-sibling within catchment would take priority over a sibling from outside. There have been some awful situations in recent years where children within catchment were not allocated places at the school though!

crazymum53 Tue 16-Apr-13 15:34:46

Unless you are a VERY rural area, the distances you have quoted are very large. In my LEA - city with very oversubscribed schools, you have to live within 250m or so of the most popular schools. By the way the distances are metric now so usually in metres rather than miles!
Some LEAs may call catchment areas something else e.g. Areas of first priority.
My main advice would be not to believe an estate agent who tells you that "this house is in the catchment area for xxxxxx school" but to check for yourself how close each house is to potential school.

Wishiwasanheiress Tue 16-Apr-13 15:44:41

Amanda, sorry to hear that. Hope ur all out enjoying the sun anyway.

Crumbs. Lots to think about and some great views and tips. I knew it wouldn't be as simple as it sounded. Never is, is it? Re estate agents, that's what got me thinking as I know out area very well and when one estate agent said we would get x school (which I know to be very unlikely) I thought I'd better have a nose at this.

Feel like I need a WW I I style map with long poles etc to push our advancements around on!

DeepRedBetty Tue 16-Apr-13 16:28:55

It does feel a bit like a military campaign sometimes!

Best of luckgrin

Fuzzymum1 Tue 16-Apr-13 18:06:24

Our, rural village, school has 6 categories: Children in care; children with the school specified on their statement of SEN; siblings of children at the school who live within the priority area; other children in the priority area; then siblings from outside the priority area; then anyone else outside the priority area. As a small rural school it's rare actually unheard of in the 17 years I've had a connection for a child who lives in the village not to get a place. Year group sizes vary hugely - biggest one year was 28 children and the smallest was 8. The class arrangements vary year on year to accommodate these huge change.

Mandy21 Tue 16-Apr-13 20:38:18

I agree that you need to contact the Council and ask for their policy for primary school admissions. Here, the council produce a little booklet (available on line) which lists every school in the LEA, with details of their over-subscription criteria and a copy of their catchment (a map). We do have catchments here.

You need to look at individual schools - even if you see the LEA's primary school admission policy, individual schools differ i.e. here, all non-faith schools have the usual initial criteria (looked after children etc) but then it is down to children within catchment before siblings.

For local faith schools (which are allowed to set their own over-subscription criteria) after the initial criteria, siblings have priority over children in the catchment. That is important because if siblings get priority at a school, you can generally expect about 50% of the places (or more) to go to siblings. This means when you're trying to get in with your 1st child (i.e. no siblings), you're going to need to be next door to the school to get in wink.

In my experience, the catchment areas don't change very often (certainly if your child is starting in Sept 2015 you'll be applying at the end of 2014/beginning of 2015 so its only 18 months away).

Good luck

freetrait Tue 16-Apr-13 20:54:08

Hello! It really depends on area. We moved out from London to Hertfordshire. Where we are now we got in on distance (at 0.5 miles) from school no problem. HOWEVER...if we'd stayed in London the nearest fantastic school (about 0.2 miles from us) we may not have got into as they were heavily oversubscribed and gave preference for siblings.

When you are feeling up for it, you need to trog through your LEA website and somewhere there will be stats published on how far away they accepted as last "closest school" criteria. Of course this is different for each school and each year, but often is very similar year to year. If it's not on the website somewhere then if you contact the LEA they should give you the info or point you towards it.

By the way, we didn't really do this, we just thought, oh half a mile, not such a busy area, must be ok. Luckily it was smile. Although as others have said, they change the criteria all the time. Between us moving and applying they changed ours from shortest walking route to how the crow flies- which was a bit scary as we were then almost as near to a different not desirable school!

Wishiwasanheiress Thu 18-Apr-13 14:12:40

Free trait, I'm inside m25, that's precisely why I'm nervous! ;)

And it's just getting worse with us new baby boomers bouncing in....

HilaryM Thu 18-Apr-13 14:23:42

Quite a lot of areas don't use catchments. In Surrey, community schools use the 'nearest school' criterion. ie if this is your closest infant/ junior/ senior school you come in a higher priority group than someone for whom the school is NOT the closest school (even if the latter child lives closer to the school). This is because Surrey CC want children to go to their closest school.

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Thu 18-Apr-13 21:02:32

I'm going to bookmark this thread for October next year (2014) for DS3.

Periwinkle007 Thu 18-Apr-13 21:08:35

I think you would be best trying to get hold of the sheet they tend to send out with the offers which lists how far they went to this year for non siblings etc. near us most schools were between 0.4mile and 0.8mile but one school went up to 1.4mile and another was a little as 0.14miles!

ChippyMinton Thu 18-Apr-13 21:23:32

If you can find the LEA admissions booklet (online)for the current year, it should list all the schools, all the oversubscription criteria, details of any catchment areas, and, crucially, how they were applied in the previous year ie how many applied, how many were admitted under each category, the last distance offered etc.

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