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Admissions Myths

(96 Posts)
TheRobberBride Wed 20-Nov-13 10:25:56

I have a friend who is applying for a Reception place for her DD this year.

She lives fairly close to an Outstanding primary. Her DD may get in on distance but there's no guarantee (based on info on LA website she would have got in last year but not the year before).

The other schools she lives near are not as popular. Special measures in one case and the other has a poor reputation locally-though it gets consistently good Ofsted reports.

My friend has told me that she is not prepared to let her DD attend anything less than an Outstanding school. So has put the closest Outstanding school first on her form. Her other 3 choices are comprised of the best schools in the rest of the County. There is absolutely no chance her DD will get into any of these 3. Their catchments are tiny and her DD has no special circumstances (no Statement not a previously looked after child etc).

I have tried explaining that if she doesn't get any of her choices then her DD will be allocated a place in the closest school that has space. I have pointed out the section in the admissions handbook where this is spelled out.

But she still persists in the belief that the LA will look at her form, see she is a 'discerning' parent and place her DD in one of the Outstanding schools.

I can't get through to her at all.

It's very frustrating. Talking to other parents, it really is amazing how many myths regarding school admissions still exist.

OddBoots Wed 20-Nov-13 10:28:55

Oh gosh, I hope it works out for her but she is taking a huge risk. The system isn't that complicated but is seems so many parents feel like they can be an exception to the way it works - probably because of governments talking about choice.

lucysnowe Wed 20-Nov-13 10:45:08

Hmm yes I know a mum who did that - just chose three good/outstanding schools in the general area rather than any in catchment. She didn't get any of them - got the nearest school instead (actually a perfectly nice school). It's a real risk. I think it really needs to be made much clearer.

sharesinNivea Wed 20-Nov-13 10:45:34

You could try explaining to her that by the time she is allocated a Reception place for her preferred school the Ofsted report could have downgraded it and then she's stuck with it!

This happened to me, although I didn't apply for Reception because it was Outrstanding graded, it just happened to be the closest school literally at the end of my road. I'm not bothered about the grading, the school is fantastic. It was only downgraded because of multiple staff changes in one year (maternity leave, retirement, 2 transfers) so hardly a siginificant factor). I've really learnt to take Ofsted grades and local reputation with a pinch of salt, you really do have to tour a school first and see for yourself. I'm convinced Ofsted grading brings out the inner snob in mothers hmm

She should get in on proximity but if she doesn't, Admissions like to fill up the lowest Ofsted graded schools next in line, so she could end up with the 'worst' school before the others in the rest of the county she also chose.

Sounds like she will learn the hard way though if her mind is already set. School Admissions is the most complicated red tape I have ever come across in my life.

tiggytape Wed 20-Nov-13 10:48:08

You know what will happen don't you? - she will get a place at the outstanding school close to her house just because she lives so close to it.

And for the next 7 years she will tell every other parents that they should only list oustanding schools because that's what she did and it worked (totally ignoring the fact that she would have got a place anywhere just based on her address)

Galena Wed 20-Nov-13 11:09:29

She should get in on proximity but if she doesn't, Admissions like to fill up the lowest Ofsted graded schools next in line, so she could end up with the 'worst' school before the others in the rest of the county she also chose. Is this not just another myth?

Our county now has a 'common admission myths' section on the school admissions website.

DeWe Wed 20-Nov-13 11:09:55

I know someone who did similar to that. Despite living next door to a "good" school, they listed three schools which were 2-3 miles away, all of whom the furthest distance was around 1/2 to 3/4 mile.

They then had a nice sad face picture in the local paper saying it wasn't fair they didn't have a choice of schools and they were being descriminated against.

Council did point out that there were three schools, other than the one they were next door to, that they would have got into had they listed them as one of their choices.

PastSellByDate Wed 20-Nov-13 11:31:03

Hi TheRobberBride:

This is the epitome of the problem with 'choosing school places' - it implies there you might have a free choice but the reality is there are catchments.

I will add that here the LEA here has started to explain that the catchment is <800m from school entrance for highly over-subscribed schools (primarily outstanding) in this area in their booklet/ webpage listing all primary school options. It has helped to make parents understand that it is unrealistic to think living 3 miles away is any advantage.

However TheRobberBride - the one thing I will say is that this kind of thing (people getting crazy ideas about the system) always happens and probably is a product of 'stress' - and starting primary can be very stressful/ worrying for parents for all sorts of reasons, including quality of school.

admission Wed 20-Nov-13 11:48:05

You will never stop these kind of assumptions.
If I had a pound for every parent at admission appeal who says their situation is different or unique or special and their child must be admitted to their choice of school then I would be rich. Parents want the best for their child and it is not unreasonable to expect that, but far to many parents have unreasonable expectations not only of the schools but also what they can do as a family but not then expect it to apply to everybody else.
OP you can only just keep telling them they are risking everything and that the sensible option would be to put down as their lowest preference the local school that they would find the most attractive and then allocate to the top three preferences the schools that she would really like.

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Wed 20-Nov-13 12:13:38

I know two parents who did this last year. Both didn't get the outstanding school, both got allocated schools miles away that they were both unhappy with.

One was high enough up the waiting list that she got in in the end. The other is at another local school (previously discounted as not being outstanding) and adores that school and thinks it is far better for her child than her original choice. Mind you, the only reason she got in is that she lives on the doorstep so was no. 1 on the waiting list when she realised her error after allocation day.

prh47bridge Wed 20-Nov-13 12:50:49

Is this not just another myth?

Normal practise is to allocate a place at the nearest school with vacancies if you miss out on all your preferred school. The Admissions Code doesn't insist on that approach so the LA can do something different if they want but I would be very surprised if one was using Ofsted ratings as part of the allocations process. Of course, it may look like they are to parents because the vacancies will be at unpopular schools and a low Ofsted rating tends to make a school unpopular. So if you don't get one of your preferred schools there is a good chance you will get an underperforming one.

it really is amazing how many myths regarding school admissions still exist.

As Admission says, this is never going to stop. Every year there are parents appealing who only named one preference (or named the same school several times) in the mistaken belief that this meant the LA had to give them a place at this school. Then there is the continued belief that those who name a school as first preference get priority along with a whole host of other myths.

pyrrah Wed 20-Nov-13 13:40:46

The biggest misunderstanding is that it is an actual person doing the allocating...

Ah, well we can see Mrs Smyth-Jones is REALLY interested in her child's education and has listed all the Ofsted Outstanding schools so we must make a real effort to get a place in one of them for her. Now Mrs Bloggs here has just listed the 6 nearest ones so just plonk her in any old one - probably doesn't really appreciate Outstanding so see if there's a good one...

Instead of which a computer calculates siblings/statements/looked after etc and then computes distance from each school and churns out a list of the top 30/60/90 names for places. It doesn't even care what order your preferences are in.

There is always the waiting list if you're disappointed - but, better to have a nearby school that you don't care for while you hope for a place to come up than one miles away. I got an Ofsted Outstanding allocation in the initial round, but 3 weeks into term I was offered a place at my first choice school. I felt no guilt in moving as I knew another family would be totally thrilled at getting DD's place at the school she was leaving just as I was.

SteamWisher Wed 20-Nov-13 14:31:57

So is your child at a disadvantage if their surname is near the end of the alphabet if the computer just churns out a list?

meditrina Wed 20-Nov-13 14:38:31

Does anywhere do it by alphabet.

Most LEAs, as they want to minimise the school transport spend, will look at the list of childen with no offers, the list of schools with unfilled vacancies, and rank by distance to those schools and make offers on that basis.

SteamWisher Wed 20-Nov-13 14:39:48

I guess they wouldn't have to as that would assume you had two children who lived the exact same distance.

trikken Wed 20-Nov-13 14:42:41

Shouldnt make a difference with surnames if done on distance surely?

tumbletumble Wed 20-Nov-13 14:46:18


A friend of mine went to an open day at a secondary school recently, and in her talk the head teacher said "if you don't put us first you won't get a place" or words to that effect. Was she talking rubbish (based on your earlier post)?

DuckToWater Wed 20-Nov-13 14:49:03

I don't think a school being outstanding is "meaningless". It means it will probably be over-subscribed so fill its class size allocation, and therefore get more resources per child. While I like classes of 23-25 the optimum number in terms of finances is 30.

You do have to go and see it and make your own mind up though.

So is your child at a disadvantage if their surname is near the end of the alphabet if the computer just churns out a list?

They do it by distance (all other things being equal) starting with the nearest - or that's how it appeared to have been done locally. As then the emails seem to be generated in reverse order, so a parent I know who was further away from the school found out before DSIL who was much nearer. And we were one of the last to find out as we had a sibling place, but they would have been allocated first.

The best thing you can do is work out which are your nearest schools on the Ofsted website by putting in your postcode. Then have a look at the data on your local authority website about schools admissions. On ours there is a .pdf document listing all local schools and (among other things) how far away the furthest away pupil lived who was allocated a place in the previous year. Then find out from individual schools if they are expanding (many are at the moment) and may be accepting more pupils in your year. If they are and you are on the border line for distance then you may well then get in for your year.

prh47bridge Wed 20-Nov-13 14:58:14

So is your child at a disadvantage if their surname is near the end of the alphabet if the computer just churns out a list?

No. The list is sorted using the admission criteria. They will specify a tie-breaker - typically the people living nearest the school get priority and there will be some method for breaking the tie if two people live the same distance away. The list is never sorted alphabetically.

Was she talking rubbish

Yes she was. The school will not know whether you named them as first choice or last choice. They have to put candidates in order based purely on their admission criteria. If two children are in the same admission category the one living closest to the school will get priority even if they made the school their lowest choice and the one living further away made it their first choice. Your preferences only come into play if you get a place at more than one school. The LA will only offer you the place at the higher preference school and will offer the place at the other school to the next person on the list.

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Wed 20-Nov-13 16:09:09

The Head may not have been talking rubbish. It depends exactly what she said. I have heard of people reporting that Heads have said 'you must put us first to get a place' when actually what the Head said was words to the effect of 'if we are your first choice, put us first because you'll only get offered one place ' (i.e. was trying to discourage admission myths and weird ideas about tactical listing).

Duck - Do you mind me asking if you live rurally? In all the towns and the couple of citites I know, pretty much every class is full. The idea of any of our local schools having 5-8 spaces in the year (and therefore popularity affecting finance) would be met with blank stares. In fact, once they have finished allocating school places, my large town had one spare place in the whole town for reception (hence why they are panicking and expanding a number of the local schools).

Totally agree with your postcode finder advice smile

DuckToWater Wed 20-Nov-13 16:54:53

Yes it is rural, DD1's class is only 23, DD2s is similar I think. But they have just gone from taking 50 a year in two classes to 60 and some local schools -outstanding ones- are full, some having three classes of thirty each year group. DD's school has spaces I think mainly because it only got Satisfactory in Ofsted a couple of years ago, and most other local schools are at least Good and a number Outstanding. And several other local schools have expanded.

pyrrah Wed 20-Nov-13 17:16:59

The list is based on distance not surname. In my LA if there is a dead heat on distance then the child with the lower door number gets it - so child at No.2 gets the place over child at No.25.

Although I'm intrigued to know how that works with houses that have names not numbers.

IHadADreamThatWasNotAllADream Wed 20-Nov-13 17:25:36

I heard a mother screaming at primary school reception that they'd returned a supplementary form to her all scrunched up and therefore her PFB wouldn't get a place at his chosen secondary school because the form wasn't neat enough. I chose not to reassure her because she was a lot bigger than me and really quite cross.

pyrrah Wed 20-Nov-13 17:28:44

Going to visit schools is one of the most important things to do - I saw 5 and put the 'Needs Improvement' one above three 'Outstanding' schools. Even among the 4 Outstanding ones there was a world of difference between what I felt was the best and the one that ended up last on my list. Choose the school that suits your child and where they will be happy over the 'good on paper' school that won't.

Another thing to take account of in city schools is the FSM percentage which can be a huge positive and not necessarily something to be put off by.

The latest figures show that DD's school has 71% FSM - this means that the school are getting a vast amount of £££ through the pupil premium and much of that money benefits all the pupils in terms of the extras that the school can now afford to provide.

crazymum53 Wed 20-Nov-13 18:04:41

What about the one that schools keep back "spare" places for children moving into the area who apply late. They don't!

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