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Someone help me get my head around the order of "preference" for admissions.

(32 Posts)
phnarphnarphnar Wed 15-May-13 23:38:35

Right. I just can't get my head around this.

Let's say you can put down 3 preferences, 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

School X receives 22 first preferences applications, 10 second and 3 third. It has 30 places.

I have put it down as my first preference. Will I get priority over those who have put it as a second preference even if I live further than some of the second preferences? Or, have they effectively had 35 applications for 30 places and the five who live furthest away will lose out?

How on earth do you predict whether you have a good chance of getting into a school or not if you don't know how many of those who put it as a second pref will end up getting their first pref and therefore not need an offer from their first pref. Bloody hell it's like a MENSA problem.


racmun Wed 15-May-13 23:42:09

As far as I know it's now done on what they call equal preferencing so it doesn't matter whether its your third or first choice you get an equal opportunity depending on the admissions criteria. Otherwise yes you have to second guess what everyone else is doing.

Round here first preference first is only used in a tie break situation which is v v unlikely to happen!

prh47bridge Thu 16-May-13 00:06:51

You do not get priority for putting a school down as your first preference. In the scenario you describe the five who live furthest away will lose out even if they all put the school as their first preference.

They must not use first preference first even in a tie break situation. If that is happening in Racmun's LA they are breaking the Admissions Code.

You figure out your chances of getting into a school by looking at what happened in previous years. If they got down to the admissions category that your child will be in and the distance for the last child admitted was further than you live from the school you have a reasonable chance, but note that the distance for the last child can change dramatically from year to year so there are no guarantees.

phnarphnarphnar Thu 16-May-13 00:25:09

The admissions booklets ive downloaded for the last four years don't state the distance and the admissions department won't tell me!

AbbyR1973 Thu 16-May-13 06:43:34

The other thing to bear in mind is that whilst all 35 applications will be treated equally under the admissions criteria regardless of preference position stated by parents, a number of the children giving second and third preferences might get their place at their first or second choice schools, thereby freeing up some places.

soapboxqueen Thu 16-May-13 08:09:19

It is all fairly complicated isn't it. As other pp have said, the preference you give to a school has no effect on whether you get that school place. Putting a school as your only option does not affect your likelihood of getting a school either. I know a few people who think that putting one option means the LEA have to give you that school. Not true though.

Best way to think of it is that your choices will only come into effect if you qualify for more than one school.
However, the system essentially creates long lists of all the children who applied to each school and then ranks those children according to the criteria set by the school or LEA. Then a line is drawn under the last admission, say 60th child. Any children above the line that have put a school as a first choice will be 'locked in' and their 2nd and 3rd choices are removed from the other lists if there were any. Thereby allowing children who were below the cut off initially to move up and potentially get a place.

LEAs publish details on how many children were admitted on each criteria. Some don't give out actual distances though. Decide which criteria you would qualify under and then look at the numbers who qualified under the same criteria, then criteria above and below. if you are in catchment and 20 children were admitted by distance which usually comes after catchment then you would probably be fairly safe. if however in the same scenario no children were accepted on distance and a bulk of the class was admitted on a sibling link then it may mean that not all catchment children that year got a place. It does take a bit of problem solvinggrin

tiggytape Thu 16-May-13 09:08:43

Will I get priority over those who have put it as a second preference even if I live further than some of the second preferences?

The simple answer is no.

Try to think of your list as something the council uses in case of a tiebreaker situation if you would otherwise get too many offers:

- Each child can only get 1 school place offered.

- Some people are lucky enough to live very close to 2 of the schools that they've listed plus meet the faith criteria for the 3rd so those people could potentially end up with 3 offers if it was allowed.

- Getting more than one offer isn't allowed so when a child qualifies for more than one school (by living close enough or meeting faith criteria) the council uses the list to decide which offer to give them. They give them the one highest on their list. The other two potential offers go to someone else.

- So your list is used to make sure you only get 1 offer out of all the schools you qualify for. There are no tactics you can use to change whether you qualify for a school or not - you either do or you don't and putting it first or last won't alter that fact.

- Wanting a school very much doesn't carry any weight at all if other people qualify for it more than you do. Even if you want it desperately and they don't fancy it at all and only listed it as a back-up option, they will always have priority over you for a place.

Farewelltoarms Thu 16-May-13 09:42:12

I'd also add that it's actually a good system and one that benefits parents. If it didn't exist, you'd get a situation where you'd have to try to second-guess which schools would be over-subscribed. For example, someone I know who didn't understand the system, put an under-subscribed school first and the popular one she liked second, because she didn't want to 'risk' not getting either. This way gives you a shot at a great school you might not have a guaranteed place at without risking your place at a banker.

nlondondad Thu 16-May-13 10:01:19

Farewelltoarms is right. The essence is that you should rank up to six schools in order of your genuine preference without concerning yourself unduly about whether you will get in.

You will, on the first round only get one offer; even you were eligible for more than one school the one offer out of the several possible will be for your highest preference. So it is crucial that your preferences are your real ones.


A practical effect of this is that as everyone who gets an offer gets one for the highest preference possible for them is that schools will tend to fill with parents who, in some sense, preferred that school to others. Good thing all around.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Thu 16-May-13 10:29:45

The advice you have had about preferences is good - you should genuinely list your schools in order of preference. There is no advantage or tactical benefit to listing them in any other order.

I assume you are being super organised and thinking about Sept 2014 admissions (otherwise you are already late!). If so, and your LA isn't keen on releasing distance information, you have plenty of time to make a freedom of information request and force them to do so. I did it through the website 'whatdotheyknow'. You might even find someone has already done it for your area.

It's all pretty self explanatory on the site and, if you have a look, lots of people have done it for school distances in the past and you can crib the best wording to get the exact information you want. One tip I would give- which I didn't do- is to ask about distances both on offer day and in September. This will give you an idea of how much the effective catchment area grows through waiting lists.

Feel free to PM me if you have questions about the process as I don't want to out myself. I found it really useful.

phnarphnarphnar Thu 16-May-13 10:59:28

Wow thank you everyone for the exceptionally helpful advice.

I cant find anything on which criteria were used to refuse applications so a FOI request may indeed be necessary.

It's all a bit of a headache isn't it!

soapboxqueen Thu 16-May-13 13:11:33

You should find the admissions criteria in the admissions handbook. Go on your local authority site and look for this year's copy. It will most likely be a pdf.

When you actually apply next year you will be given your own copy anyway.

phnarphnarphnar Thu 16-May-13 15:27:08

I have the criteria - I mean I can't find any info on the basis some applications were refused.

Shattereddreams Thu 16-May-13 17:11:50

You don't need to force a FOI to your council, you can just phone them and ask for all the schools distances over the phone. There is no reason for them to not give you the information. After they give it verbally, ask for it to be sent via email. If they can't manage this, then they are useless! It is a busy time of year for them however, dealing with 2013 starters. But just be polite and persistent and ask for someone who can give you this info over the phone.

I think faith school may hold their own data though so you need to phone them individually.

tiggytape Thu 16-May-13 17:18:24

If the admissions criteria is siblings and then distance you can ask the council "what was the last distance offered last year to a child without a sibling?"

If they say 300m and you live 3.2 miles away, you know you're very unlikely to get a place.
If they say 700m and you live 400m away, you know you'd probably get a place as long as not too many siblings apply in the year you want.

There is no hard and fast rule. If there are 3 sets of triplets all the same age as your DC living in a block of flats nextdoor to the school, they will qualify over most other applicants and take up 1/3 of all the places available.
If it is a high sibling year, most of the places might be taken by siblings of children already at the school and no matter how close you live, you can't beat that.
The admissions details from previous years will act as a guide as to who was accepted and, from there, you can guess which schools you might therefore be accepted for.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Thu 16-May-13 17:39:20

You shouldn't need to FOI a council Shattered, but some are famously tight lipped. Mine included, and from the OP saying already that the admissions people won't release distances, a FOI might be the lowest hassle option - stick it in, and just wait for all the answers, in writing, without a million pleading conversations, and then a million more for an email. Thankfully most areas are more open.

tiggytape Thu 16-May-13 18:11:14

I wonder why LAs are tightlipped about it? It would save them endless hassles and conversations if people only applied to schools that they had a realistic hope of getting into (or at least if one school on their list was a realistic one based on admissions patterns of previous years).

I suppose in some areas the last distance offered is expected to shrink (eg new housing or baby boom) so they are trying not to let people get their hopes raised by looking at last year's data, but even so, it is usually better for parents to know as much as possible.

AmandaPayneNeedsANap Thu 16-May-13 18:29:33

I suspect that historically they didn't give it out because most schools weren't under much pressure and not many people asked. Now, with my conspiracy theory hat on, I'd suspect that a big table showing catchments shrinking for every school (bar a few in special measures) might raise some interesting questions about the council's forward planning for the birth rate bulge and about allowing so much new building without infrastructure. Because they way things are going, many areas of my leafy-non-London town are going to become black hole areas in a few years.

ProudAS Thu 16-May-13 20:15:07

It is in the LA's interests to publicise successful applications from the previous year against the criteria to avoid a barrage of FOI requests. I work in an LA and am slightly but not overly surprised that some don't.

As regards them not publishing distances check how relevant this information would be. Where I work most schools have catchment areas and only use distance as a tie break so it is not so important as it may be in some cases.

Before putting in an foi request check that the info isn't readily available in literature from the school or LA and make your request as specific as possible. A lot of requests are so vague that the info provided is unlikely to be what the requester wanted.

mam29 Thu 16-May-13 21:04:20

I too was wondering this.

as have firm 1st choice.

but 2nd /3rd choice struggling with.

2nd choice possible anyway need to look.

within mile of my house.
no area of prime resposability,
near la border but la told me that diffrent la if nearer in distance gets priority.
Im guessing siblings do too.

if its oversubscribed as usually is

and its mty 2nd preference.

but someone further away than me puts it as their 1st preference.

i dont get my 1st as im too far away out of catchement despite having sibling.

would i get offered school b as 2nd choice purly due to distance?

prh47bridge Thu 16-May-13 21:13:25

Yes. As has been said above you don't get any priority for making a school your first preference. If you are higher up the admission criteria, e.g. because you live closer, you get the place.

phnarphnarphnar Thu 16-May-13 21:23:48

So really am I right in thinking the best way to look at it is if there are 20 first pref applications, 10 second and 7 third then the school has had 47 applications for, say, 25 places BUT 5 of those offered may fall away as they would have been second/third preferences.

If a school as more FIRST pref applications than places and you live far away then you have a low chance of getting in as all the offers made would have been to first choicers who are most likely to accept (unless they go off to private instead).

phnarphnarphnar Thu 16-May-13 21:24:11

37 applications sorry*

mam29 Thu 16-May-13 21:50:08

Sadly one im thiking of think we still be so far away as lots applications for 3rd choice so of put it down be wasted choice.

When we looked at nearby popular infant school less than half mile head said if dont put it down as 1sct choice we stand no chance.

we put as 2nd but got offered 1st,

then last year one mum said there was some odd choices with people putting it as 1st prefernce not gettig but people putting down as 2nd did.

but this years admissions was oversuscrobed as someone I know who lives closer than me put as 1st and did not get.

also people who lived very close to school due to high sibling intake dident get any of the 60places.

Im so confused what to put down as no 2 or 3 now.

if dont get any can i go on wait list for schools

1 and 2 at same time?

guess my 3rd choice has to be safe one-school dont really want or risk ringing round and asking whois got vacancies not sure which is better gamble.

tiggytape Thu 16-May-13 22:12:28

When we looked at nearby popular infant school less than half mile head said if dont put it down as 1sct choice we stand no chance.

This is incorrect. Putting it 1st choice does not make you more of a priority for that school than the people who put it as 2nd choice but live closer than you do (or in some other way beat you on the admissions critera).

Some Heads have been known to tell parents this but more often the case that parents get the wrong end of the stick:
If (and it is a very big IF) you qualify for 3 schools you will get offered whichever one you rank most highly so it is important to list them in the order you really like them not play games to try to be tactical.

If a school as more FIRST pref applications than places and you live far away then you have a low chance of getting in as all the offers made would have been to first choicers who are most likely to accept (unless they go off to private instead).

Yes that is sort of true - because everyone gets the highest school that they qualify for. Of course a school can have lots of applicants from miles away who rank them 1st but have no hope of a place. Or it can have lots of people who list them 2nd living close by who end up getting most of the places because they beat the applicants who listed them 1st by living nearer. As a general rule, if a school has lots of applicants and you live a long way away, your chances of a place are reduced and sometimes virtually zero.

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