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Not got siblings into the same primary school?

(37 Posts)
mrscostello Tue 23-Apr-13 14:37:17

We are a group of parents who have set up a support forum for affected families. Take a look at our FB page for more info. 'Siblings at the Same School'. We're also on Twitter @SibsSameSchool

sukipoo2 Mon 24-Jun-13 15:16:18

This is an interesting debate. Stripped right back I think most people would fundamentally agree that young siblings should be together at primary level. The rest is detail. Important detail, but detail nonetheless.

The siblings movement - which is based from Warwickshire - was precipitated by a sea change in admissions here over the last two years. With capacity in the system there were few casualties of the current admission policy. However, increased numbers of children starting school combined with particular schools becoming popular left a number of shocked families high and dry with siblings not accepted. In Warwickshire it hasn't been a case of 'cake and eat it' because this simply hasn't happened before so until now there's been no need to fight over crumbs; Schools actively encouraged all applications and their attendant funding - from out of catchment houses as well as in.

Even as recently as for 2012 intake, schools have been actively encouraging and welcoming applications from all families. Those very same schools this year have had a number of catchment children and siblings displaced. Neither school staff or parents have seen this coming. The goal posts have shifted.

New school starting families now know the scrap. Existing school families are largely ignorant and unprepared for the fallout. In this situation we felt compelled first of all to raise awareness - so that other families did not face the same shock and panic, and had time to make informed decisions. But we also feel compelled to appeal for a full and wide reaching public consultation by the authority, in response to the fact that the climate for school admissions is now very different in Warks to the way it looked more than 12 years ago when current criteria were decided.

So far this authority has resisted all appeals for legitimate public discussion and debate on the topic.

The game playing that happens in other authorities already happens in Warks. That kind of behaviour will never be limited by one rule or criteria over another. It needs to be tackled as its own issue, and authorities need to be given the power to be able to effectively deal with this fraud (for that is what it is) so that parents are not tempted to try it. A very good start would be to insist on proof of address at point of application as if you were applying for any other thing where proof of residence was paramount. And yet in so many areas - not least Warks - no proof of address is required! Fairness and trust in the integrity of the system must be there for people to buy into it wholeheartedly.

What happens when a catchment school is oversubscribed with catchment children? What happens when a school suddenly becomes the popular choice so that new families flock to move in area? What happens when housing estates are built, displacing otherwise in area families? The fact that predicting need for places and location of need is such an organic thing gives all the more weight to an argument that allows for fluctuation without leaving families at risk. Because if a first born cannot get a place at a 'catchment' school, they know that having settled into the community of another school that they are not a priority for [even the terminology is divisive!] - they do have an assurance that they won't be at risk with further siblings. Sensible checks, balances and limits will obviously need to be in play but in essence the most pressing needs of families and social cohesion are respected. That young children be together at the same school during these first few crucial years of their young lives is the most important factor. We believe this is the most 'right' way to address the issue.

The definition of local is different to our understanding of it a generation ago. People are generally more mobile and within urban areas there are statistically 11 schools that are considered local (according to this Government) which are available to most addresses.

A child is part of the community of a school he or she attends. As is his/ her family- siblings and parents. This is the community that we should be concerned to protect. Let’s not forget too that the children attending a school contribute to the success that attracts new applications.
It isn’t just one school affected within Warwickshire – there are more and different schools affected each year across the county. The same pattern is repeated across the UK in other counties that don’t prioritise existing school families. A growing number of people are calling for change and proper public debate and that is what SiblingsattheSameSchool is driving towards. We also offer ‘layperson’ advice and support, and a voice to affected or potentially affected families, and have seen increasing numbers in need of this outlet when they experience the blank wall of the authority response to their situations. Please visit the page if you want to get in touch or find out what we are up to.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 24-Apr-13 16:04:28

Mcgilly, as they have mixed classes, it's possible (I guess) that they had one too many (because of an appeal) in year 1 already and therefore took one less in the reception year, so the reallocation might be redressing the balance. I don't know if that's how it would work though.

tiggytape Wed 24-Apr-13 15:35:50

Appeals don't cause conflict. It is a perfectly legitimate part of the admissions process and every parent has the right to go to appeal.

People do win appeals on lesser grounds than the extreme definitions of 'unreasonable' given but that's because they are either appealing for a Year 3 class upwards or because there aren't 30 per class in the infants.

The reason appeals are so hard to win in the specific YR-Y2 bracket is that laws not regulations apply to limit class sizes. By law the panel cannot direct the school to have more than 30 per class except for really specific cases whereas, for older children, they can if they feel the parents have a good case.
You would certainly be well advised to appeal for a Year 3 place after the end of this term.

PeterParkerSays Wed 24-Apr-13 15:24:06

McGillcuddy, in answer to your other questionthough, the school can't use a vacant Yr 2 place to provide an extra place in Reception. If a child leaves Yr 2 and there's only 29 left in the class, your DD should get it if she's top of the waiting list.

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 15:12:02

I'm sure you are right tiggy, but I feel it must be worth a shot anyway. I have known someone to win an appeal on lesser grounds. But the other side of it is that I don't want to be in a conflict with either of my children's schools. It feels weird to be appealing and essentially trying to force them to give a child a place. Worst comes to worst I suppose I have one nightmare year of two different schools and new baby and try again for year 3 place. 25% of children in our county did not get their preferred school, so there must be lots of other parents in this situation.

tiggytape Wed 24-Apr-13 15:00:09

But I think it might be considered unreasonable to expect to be able to get two children to two different schools on time, especially given the mileage involved with rural schools?

No - I am afraid not. If one of the children had a medical condition - say something that meant they could not travel long distances and if you had made the LA aware of this at the time you applied with letters from consultants to verify but the LA ignored this and allocated a school miles away, the parents could complain this was unreasonable and may win at appeal.

If it is just 2 children at 2 schools a long way apart the LA will say it is reasonable for parents to employ a childminder, use breakfast clubs or somehow sort out the logistics.

As an example, parents have gone before the LGO (ombudsman) and proved that the allocated school will create such problems that they will lose their job as a direct result of being late everyday and the LGO has not found in their favour. Transport and sibling problems apply to so many people that they do not hold sway at appeals.

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 14:54:47

Guess the government will just have to build more schools then!

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 24-Apr-13 14:52:59

Mcgilly, it's not unreasonable enough! Certainly not to overcome infant class size rules.

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 14:50:03

Anyway, did not mean to hijack this thread with my own problems! Obviously there are good arguments on both sides and everyone just wants what is best for their families.

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 14:48:39

But I think it might be considered unreasonable to expect to be able to get two children to two different schools on time, especially given the mileage involved with rural schools?

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 14:44:49

Thanks Tiggy, I will do just that. At least that way we will be on a waiting list at the same time as the kids waiting for Year R places. The whole process is so stressful but I am trying to be as sanguine as possible and tell myself that things will work out in the end, one way or another smile

tiggytape Wed 24-Apr-13 14:44:08

In terms of appeal, I have to say, it is unlikely you would win either a Year 2 or YR appeal just on the basis of siblings and travel. Even appeals that are not subject to Infant Class Size laws tend to give little weight to logistics, travel or childcare.

To win an ICS appeal (YR, Y1 and Y2 where there are 30 children per class) you have to prove a mistake on the part of the admission authority that cost you a place, that the admissions criteria were illegal or the LA is unreasonable (in the legal sense that no rational person with the same facts could ever reach the same decision - this usually applies to serious things like Child Protection issues that cannot be ignored).

If there are less than 30 per class, you might be able to build a case that mentioned siblings but relied on other things too.

tiggytape Wed 24-Apr-13 14:39:26

McGilly - I would push to be allowed to apply (and be rejected) now not in June.
It is true admissions are busy right now but they cannot prevent other parents from making applications until they feel a bit less busy! Fill in the forms and formally ask that your application is considered.
The Admissions Code says that it must be processed without delay (which is why I suspect they are trying to put you off submitting it just yet - if you submit it they can't just ignore it until June)

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 14:37:51

tiggytape - but I have been told that although there is at least one child leaving in my daughter's year group, they may use that to grant an extra place in Year R. Is this right? Given that we are also in catchment? It's a rural school with mixed year group classes which also complicates things.

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 14:35:18

Not yet. I have been told that they can't consider 'out-of-rounds' applications until June as they are busy with Year R/Year 3 applications. We have been told that they do not have a place but have to wait until our application is formally rejected until we can make an appeal.

Meanwhile DS is automatically on a waiting list for his sister's school. I have to decide whether to appeal for a place for DS at his sister's school, or a place for DD at our catchment school where DS has been allocated a place.

I think I may be more likely to win an appeal for our catchment school in that we have a stronger case: ie catchment AND sibling.

tiggytape Wed 24-Apr-13 14:34:29

Appeals for extra places can only really start (or be possibly successful) in Year 3.
Year 2 is subject to the same class size laws as reception and Year 1.

tiggytape Wed 24-Apr-13 14:33:23

McGilly - to be honest, it isn't your fault that things turned out that way but it isn't the LA's fault either. There's just no slack in the system - every place at the school is accounted so people wanting to move have to take their chances along with people who have never moved but have seen catchment areas shrink around them.

As as Chimp says - whatever criteria they use, people with very genuine reasons for wanting a school will lose out whether it is people with a sibling at the school who can't manage 2 school runs or people who live metres from the school gates who don't want their children put in taxis to travel 3 miles to another school instead.

TheChimpParadox Wed 24-Apr-13 14:29:11

Have you appealed against the decisions that they have no room in Yr 2 ?

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 14:28:52

Mind you, our catchment school would be more practical given that we may have to go through this again with DC3 a few years down the line.....

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 14:25:36

I understand that Jedward, I'm not really asking for special treatment, I would just really like both my children in the same school, whichever way round. Either DS gets in to DD's school, or DD moves out of her school to join DS at our catchment school, but it is physically impossible for me to have them in two separate schools. This is where I think there has to be some flexibility. As soon as we knew we were staying put we did try and get DD into our catchment school, but it was too late.

TheChimpParadox Wed 24-Apr-13 14:24:08

The upshot is there is a shortage of school paces and it is going to get worse. Successive governments and LEAs have sat on this for years.

There is always somebody who loses out with admission priorities and when schools changes their admission areas 5 years after you have moved into an area thinking you would get into a certain school.

Sadly nothing in life is guaranteed and school places is in that list sadly.

JedwardScissorhands Wed 24-Apr-13 14:16:45

There can't be exceptions in the rules for people who 'thought they were moving'. Everyone would just say that. It may be TRUE in your case McGilly, but how would LEA's assess that?

McGillycuddy Wed 24-Apr-13 14:03:48

Without passing judgment on the rights and wrongs of sibling preference generally, I want to describe my situation to highlight some of the problems families can have. DD is in Year 1 and when we were making our application for Year R, we believed we were moving house and made an application accordingly. As it happens, we ended up staying put, and so made a late application to our catchment school which was unsuccessful. We were then offered a place at a good out-of-catchment school which we gratefully accepted as we were just desperate for a school place.

Fast forward a couple of years. We have been unsuccessful at getting a place for DS at DD's school. We have instead been offered a place for him at our catchment school which I would happily accept if they had a place for his sister in Year 2 for September, which they don't.

We live in a rural area and have only one car. I am expecting DC3 in November, and so for obvious reasons it would be a nightmare for me to have my two older children in different schools. I accept it was our mistake that DD did not originally get a place at our catchment school, thus saving us all this hassle, but it was a mistake that we made in good conscience. Our catchment school have also told us that even if someone leaves Year 1, they may use that as an opportunity to allocate an extra place to a child waiting for a Year R place. What on earth do I do?

Sorry for extra-long post but this is doing my head in!

ReallyTired Wed 24-Apr-13 11:40:57

I think the system of "preferential sibblings" that radicalsubstitution's LEA has sounds good. However I think that you need to have a realistic size of catchment area a family can move within. (Ie. prehaps 1 km as opposed to 200 metres.)

We need more schools so that the older sibbling can transfer to a local school if the family moves.

tiggytape Tue 23-Apr-13 23:09:23

I can see both sides too.

If you are forced to attend a school out of catchment because your local schools are full, it is only fair you don't then suffer twice by having your younger children denied sibling places at that school in future years.

However if you take a calculated risk and it doesn't pay off that's different. If you apply to a really popular school, out of catchment, in a low birth-rate year knowing all future siblings risk being denied a place, then that's a risk you accept at the time. It is a bit cheeky years later to start campaigning that the risk you voluntarily took hasn't worked out so well and you want the rules changed so that siblings get priority afterall.

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