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Pls help figuring out in-year school admission when moving from abroad

(49 Posts)
frenchcanadianmom Fri 20-Sep-13 00:24:16

Hello mumsandpals
We're moving from Canada to Clapham and I need help figuring out how to navigate the Wandsworth council admissions process. They say the children need to be physically in London or the UK before we can apply for a school. But then the kids will go through 3 schools in a 3-4 months period. They're in a school in Canada now, I pull them out mid-term, we go to London, place them in a somewhat local school which doesn't have a waiting list... until we place them in the school we really want which is oversubscribed but right next to our new house.

A bit more detail: 2 kids in Year 1 and 2. My husband is in London and is about to sign a lease within spitting distance of Belleville. Is it possible to keep the kids in Canada while the husband applies for schools in Wandsworth? We'd give our new address on the form. But then when they offer schools we don't want to go to, we decline and then the Council would say, You are legally obligated to put them in school so choose one until the school you want has a spot... (correct?)

What I'm wondering is, Is there any way around these requirements? I see that Belleville has just converted to academy status. I read they want to keep their old admission procedures, but would they have flexibility to have us on their list, waiting for "our turn" from Canada rather than from a local school?

Sorry so long!! If anyone has experience with in-year admissions from abroad, I would really appreciate it.

Pachacuti Fri 20-Sep-13 15:06:08

How close are you going to be moving to the school(s) you are interested in?

frenchcanadianmom Fri 20-Sep-13 16:30:27

Holy cow. This is a minefield!
Would an independent school that has 2 places accept them for one term only?
The new term starts in Nov. So we take places for one term and if we don't get places in the state school, beg the independent school to keep u on for the Spring term... Am I delusional?
(imagining these schools want the fees if they have a free space)

frenchcanadianmom Fri 20-Sep-13 16:32:56

We are 115m from the state school we want. 375m from the next closest one. We signed the lease today.

Pachacuti Fri 20-Sep-13 17:30:55

You could certainly ask. Realistically, a private school that has places right now is unlikely to become full later in the academic year, so a policy of giving notice and then saying "oh, can we stay for an extra term after all?" might well work. That might be less successful if you still need the place(s) into the next academic year, though.

115m is pretty good. It seems fairly likely that your DC1 would get a Y3 place for next September (when some current Y2 pupils move to private) if not before; harder to predict for DC2.

LIZS Fri 20-Sep-13 17:37:47

A full term would be one starting Sept, January or April. So if you join in November you can't give notice until Jan so are committed to attending/ paying until Easter.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Fri 20-Sep-13 17:41:50

115m is pretty good.

As you probably known most (non church) schools have admissions criteria that start with special categories (like children with a statement of special needs that names the school), then siblings, then some form of distance criteria.

The parents who move to private often do it at the end of year 2 (to go to prep schools - there is a horrid phrase 'state til 8' that some people use). If this happens a lot at the school you want, you might well find some places open up. At 115m you'd have a fair chance of being towards the top or at the top of the distance group. If you get DC1 in, DC2 is probably going to be top of the list for siblings when a space next opens up in that year.

The bit that is harder to predict is when a space will open up for DC2. Worth finding out how much movement there is pre year 3. The school office probably has a vague idea if you ask them - ask a specific question that makes it clear you are not looking for reassurance that you will get in (as, rightly, they are careful about that). Something like 'Could you tell me how many places became available in year X during the year this year and last? I realise it is no indication of what will happen in the future, but it gives me an idea of past patterns'.

Odd as it sounds, 375m could be quite far from the next closest school to stand a chance of getting in... Particularly if it is a church school and bumps church children above siblings and any distance criteria.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Fri 20-Sep-13 17:43:17

Yes, the language of terms is a mess in this country. Terms used to be Christmas, Spring and Summer - 3 per year. Now officially state schools have six terms, but for some purposes we still talk about three.

frenchcanadianmom Fri 20-Sep-13 17:55:20

Thanks everyone. Very helpful.
AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters I like the way you suggest asking the state school about movement on the list...

Re. terms, we'll need to arrive at Christmas then and hope to find 2 places in independent schools for 1-2 terms. I've contacted a few, but from the websites it sounds like these schools have people registering at birth!

LIZS Fri 20-Sep-13 18:08:00

You can join mid way through a term assuming there is space, just not issue notice until just before the next one starts . Yes some may have registered at birth and independent waiting lists may not be subject to strict rules - some will be first come , first served , others give sibling priority, some may even squeeze the odd extra child into a class if that means 2 sets of fees. However bear in mind if you say you are just tiding yourselves over until a better state offer comes up, some independent schools may think you are wasting their time.

frenchcanadianmom Fri 20-Sep-13 18:36:48

Understood, LIZS. I would think the same in their place.

Jenny70 Sat 21-Sep-13 07:28:17

For clarification on the turning down of LEA places, we were offered 2 diff schools for yr1 and yr3 children - one our closest "best" school, other an underperforming school 1.5 miles away. Was impossible to do logistics and had younger child in tow, so we turrned furtherest one down, registered as home educators with second child on wait list. She jumped from 1-3 on waiting list, that year group had 7 siblings waiting for a place at one stage ! Noone left for 2 ac years, and 2 places were given above us, but she did get in after 2 yrs of waiting.

After 1yr of HE we approached a faith school and was given a place - I am still not sure how, I think they have more discretion about list management? But essentially, we refused aschool place, then got onto new waiting list after 12m, then accepted preferred school after 2yr.

mummytime Sat 21-Sep-13 09:31:49

The LA is not being obstructive in not telling you about "vacancies". If a school has a vacancy it has to be offered to the top of the waiting list, first applicant immediately. So there is no point in telling someone who doesn't even qualify to apply, because that vacancy will have gone by the time they can.

Also be wary of advice from people who are talking about "what usually happens". There has always been a pressure on places in London and the SE, but this has accelerated massively in the last few years. Schools are getting bigger and new ones opened, but there is still a lot of pressure on places.

Finally, in England unlike the USA and I think Canada, once you have a school place it is yours, you do not lose it even if you move away. In fact you could apply to a school at the other end of the country and if they had a vacancy they would have to give it to you, it would then be your responsibility to get your child there.
So there is little difference in applying for a school place now, or at the end of term or the end of the school holidays.

BTW some areas have 3 terms a year, others call them 6; private schools pretty much always work on 3 terms (like the law courts and the church).

bonjourlondon Sat 21-Sep-13 15:07:56

Hello all,
This is just to thank you all for your time and feedback, very helpful indeed.
We think we'll go towards Bromley, specially as the Bromley Bilingual school is opening next year.
Thanks again and best of luck frenchcanadianmom with your move.

frenchcanadianmom Sat 21-Sep-13 22:02:11

Merci bonjourlondon! Toi aussi!

Jenny70 That's a terrible thing to happen. It must have been stressful!
(Hopefully that wasn't in Clapham?)

Jenny70 Sun 22-Sep-13 09:07:21

It was stressful, but I now look back with rose coloured glasses... not Clapham, but not far from it either ;)

Mutley77 Mon 23-Sep-13 09:06:02

jenny70 thanks for sharing - you have given me some hope as we will be in a similar position potentially - 1 junior, 1 infant and a younger child in tow (plus ideally I will also be working p/t and DH will def be working f/t!!)

I am kind of hoping that eventually DC2 will get a place at the school and I have some confidence of getting DC1 in fairly quickly, even if by appeal. I think we would have to take the non-preferred school in the meantime though as DS and I would drive each other mad if home edding plus ideally I will be working. I have visions of getting a school miles away and him being offered a taxi sad - 1.5k doesn't sound absolutely awful although I appreciate it is far from straightforward esp with traffic taken into account.

frenchcanadianmom Mon 23-Sep-13 19:38:50

I just read the council's manual for choosing a primary:
Everything is fully explained in it. And it specifies the catchment for each school and any specific admission processes. Very helpful!

LIZS Mon 23-Sep-13 20:06:12

But do bear in mind that is really aimed at those applying for a Reception place for next September. You are having to use In-year procedures which will differ. The council can only allocate you places at schools with vacancies on your arrival so you do not have the same choice and catchments will only give you an order to be placed on the waiting lists.

Pachacuti Mon 23-Sep-13 20:20:51

It's not the catchment for each school as such, though -- it tells you how many pupils were admitted into reception last year in each priority category, and how far away the furthest pupil who was admitted into reception last year lived. In some/many cases (depending on school's admissions criteria) siblings will have been admitted from further away than that (it's not unheard of to move near to a school, get your first child in on distance, then move further away and get your younger children in on sibling priority). And the exact distances will vary from year to year (and it's more useful when applying for Reception than for in-year admissions -- but it does at least tell you which schools your DCs would probably have got into had you been living at your address at the relevant point.

It is instructive, though -- for example one of the church schools near me makes a big deal out of having some "community" places for non-churchgoers, but looking at the figures shows that there was precisely one non-sibling community place last year, which went to someone who lived virtually on top of the school.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Mon 23-Sep-13 20:37:56

I agree. Effective catchment areas will be of limited use to you - because you aren't applying in the normal reception admission process, you are waiting for a space to come up at a school. It does, however, give you a vague idea how long the waiting list is likely to be and how close you need to move to the school to be at a decent point in the list. If the effective catchment is 0.2 miles, moving 1.5 miles away will be likely to put you waaaaay down the distance criteria group on the waiting list. If the school (probably a village school for this example) regularly goes out 5 miles, moving 1.5 miles away might not put many people ahead of you.

Also do bear in mind that effective catchments can vary wildly, even if you are applying in time. One school near me was 0.7 miles one year, and 0.2 the year after. Lots of siblings and some new houses.

Saracen Tue 24-Sep-13 09:21:24

Hi frenchcanadianmum,

If minimising change for your kids is a high priority (especially for the child who finds change particularly stressful), then you might want to consider home educating while waiting for a place at a school you want. Your chances of getting into your desired school while home educating are just the same as if your children were in another school.

Obviously places might never come up at your preferred school. If you get fed up of waiting then you might eventually decide to accept another school. But you won't have lost anything. You might be better able to assess the situation once you are living here and can check schools out more thoroughly. If you remove the urgency from finding a school, you'll have more time to look around and make the right decision. Your son's behaviour problems make it particularly important to find a school which will work for him.

Home ed would also give you a chance to settle your children into their new environment gradually. They could adapt first to the new house and new country, and then later to a new school. Meanwhile, if you and your children enjoy going out and about then you could learn quite a lot about your new country that way!

frenchcanadianmom Wed 25-Sep-13 14:39:02

Thanks all. You are quite right to point out all that useful data was for reception. Though it is helpful for figuring out what criteria puts you on top of the list while you wait for a child to leave the school.

Saracen Thanks for your thoughtful suggestion. I was hesitant about home schooling because my son acts out at home, not at school. He may be very resistant to sitting down and learning with me. On the other hand kids thrive with parental attention. And I think it would be a nice way to transition to a new country. Probably the right solution if the 'right' school for him isn't available.

Saracen Wed 25-Sep-13 14:51:30

Well, there are lots of ways of approaching education. I don't know many home ed families who do much formal sit-down work at all with young children. One-to-one attention at exactly the right level gives so much benefit that it takes far less time than whole-class instruction with a standard curriculum.

In my family, we don't do any formal work at all unless the kids ask for it - which they very rarely do! Their learning is more hands-on and is directed by their interests. You can choose any method that seems right to you.

Many kids act out at home but not at school. It may be that there are aspects of the school environment which work well for them. Alternatively, it may be that school is stressful for them but that they only feel able to express this in the safe environment of home. Tales abound in the home ed community of children whose behaviour at home improved dramatically upon leaving school. On the other hand, some parents find that it's helpful to replicate some features of the school at home, such as having a timetable.

Here's a good email list for parents home educating children with special needs:

See what you think after you have found out what the school options are.

frenchcanadianmom Wed 25-Sep-13 15:26:45

Interesting. Thanks for that. Not quite what I imagined... I would need to prepare! I will look at the resources on that website.

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