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Local school is a poorly performing faith school...

(22 Posts)
JimbosJetSet Wed 29-Jan-14 19:22:12

We will be applying for a primary school place for DD next year. Our local school is a Catholic school, performing badly according to Ofsted.

How does the admissions process for faith schools work? Are we likely to get allocated that school even though we are not Catholic?

Thanks in advance for any advice. I realise we can't just go on the Ofsted report, but it seems a reasonable place to start?

NotCitrus Wed 29-Jan-14 20:04:47

Go to your council's website and find the primary admissions bit - there's usually a booklet which explains the admissions criteria which will apply for each school, and for oversubscribed schools, the last admitted distance - ie the furthest away that a child lived last year who got a place.

If you're in a city where most schools are oversubscribed, then if you don't list it you're unlikely to get assigned it if you list some you have a chance at, but all depends on local criteria and spaces.

itsahen Wed 29-Jan-14 20:28:45

Catholic schools prioritise catholic children so unlikely. You need to consult LA web site etc

Meita Wed 29-Jan-14 20:48:32

probably the school website has their admissions rules available for download.

you'd only get allocated that school if
1) you didn't get a place at any other school which you listed higher in your order of preference, AND
2) you WOULD get a place at that school according to their admissions rules, AND
3) you put that school somewhere on your preference list

OR you could get allocated a place at that school if you didn't get a place at ANY of your choices, and it so happens that this school was undersubscribed, so you'd get a place there on the basis of 'nearest school with available places'.

MrsKCastle Wed 29-Jan-14 21:02:00

Yes, you could be allocated that school if it is undersubscribed.

I would find out about all your local schools, and visit those that would be a possibility for you.Underperforming in Ofsted terms doesn't necessarily mean it's awful- it might have lots of advantages that you wouldn't find in a 'better' school. Also, schools can go from outstanding to fail very quickly nowadays- or vice versa!

midweekGandT Wed 29-Jan-14 21:41:18

OP, there's nothing to stop them allocating you to a faith school, but you would have strong grounds for appeal if you could show that it wasn't suitable (e.g. if you follow a different religion, or if you are an atheist). More information here; question 4.

prh47bridge Thu 30-Jan-14 00:15:34

I'm afraid midweekGandT is wrong about grounds for appeal. Note that the BHA has only won one appeal on these grounds. To be honest, I think they were lucky (or maybe the appeal was really won on other grounds). You appeal for a school, not against the allocated school. And most Reception appeals are heard under infant class size rules, which basically means you can only win if a mistake has been made.

RiversideMum Thu 30-Jan-14 06:41:12

Catholic schools tend to have large catchment areas to serve their parishes. So their catchments sit on top of other local school catchments, if that makes sense. So you should be in the catchment for another school despite the catholic school being the nearest. All that bring said, depending on the applications to your "official" catchment school, you may not end up with a place there if it is oversubscribed. There is a possibility of you being allocated a place at the Catholic school if it is not filled via its admission criteria.

tiggytape Thu 30-Jan-14 09:03:52

How does the admissions process for faith schools work? Are we likely to get allocated that school even though we are not Catholic?

Yes it is possible you will get allocated the Catholic School even if you don't put it on your list and even if you inform them you do not want a faith school

It depends if any of the other schools you list can take you - if not they will give you the school closest to home that has a free place.

Catholic schools prioritise catholic children so unlikely.

That would only be true if this was a school that Catholic children were desperate to get into. If this was a popular and outstanding Catholic School, the chances are there wouldn't be any spare places to hand out to non Catholic families but, as it is performing badly, there may be lots of spaces left that can go to children who don't meet any faith criteria

If you want to avoid this, find another school that you qualify for to put higher on your list (either because it is also very close to home or because it is not popular and gets fewer appliacnts).

you would have strong grounds for appeal

prh is right - not wanting a faith school but getting allocated one is not strong grounds for appeal. You appeal for a school you want not against the one allocated and the faith element is not an example fo something considered to make a school unsuitable (in the way for example a school with lots of stairs is unsuitable for a child in a wheelchair). Faith is just seen as part of parent preference for schools not usually a "need" And anyway, in schools with 30 per class for YR-Y2, all appeals that aren't based on a admissions error are almost certain to fail because of the law on class sizes.

Look around for other schools that you qualify for on distance (just because a school isn't your nearest doesn't mean you won't qualify on distance - it depends how many others apply)
Then look around for schools slightly further away that have low numbers of applicants and hopefully you will find another school you can aim for instead.

midweekGandT Thu 30-Jan-14 09:13:03

Prh47, anecdotally I think some councils deal with non-suitability issues voluntarily, meaning that its not necessary to appeal formally. That's probably why the BHA only get a few cases coming their way.

Councils have a statutory duty to provide families with a suitable place, not just any place. The word suitable is open to interpretation, and therefore councils can be challenged in these circumstances. (Though you're right that it doesn't mean OP can demand a place in her nearest community school if it is already full. She may be allocated an alternative place much further away).

tiggytape Thu 30-Jan-14 09:54:15

The admissions code 2012 covers statutory obligations on the schools, councils and admission bodies and no such suitability clauses exist.

The only obligation regarding suitability comes in 3 forms:
1. vulnerable children eg refugees and disabled children must be found suitable schools (but that is in the sense that they cannot be left without a school even if they are hard to place)
2. councils need to make sure children don't travel unsuitable distances (there are emergency measures to use if every school within 10 miles is full for example). The council definition of unsuitable is likely to be 2 - 3 times the distance of the parents' definition of unsuitable
3. Children must be placed in the suitable (correct) year group for their age

Religion definitely does not come into this at all. Apart from anything there is no such thing as a non-faith schools except in the private sector - all English schools must provide religious worship for example by law.
Neither does a poor school count eg a parent cannot argue a school in special measures in unsuitable - even though logically it may be!.
All of those things are linked to parental preference and the law if very clear - parents have a right to express a preference but no rights at all to have those prefences met.

You are correct in one sense though about councils trying to help.
If a parent absolutely refuses to accept a place at a religious school and wants to turn down the offer, legally the council has every right to ignore them from then on even if that means there is no school for that child. The council found them a school and that's their obligation finished. It becomes the parents' problem to educate the child from thn on.

However most councils are nice and, if they can, will find another school even though legally they don't have to. However this won't be a popular school. And it won't be a very local one either - it is likely to be either a very poor school or miles from home or both. At which stage the parents must decide whether a faith school locally is better or worse for them than a poor school a bit further away or a poor school miles away. That might be about as much choice as they can have and it isn't because the council agree the school is "suitable" but because councils don't want children with no school to go to and will try to find a solution. However this won't enable the parents to get what they really want (a good school close to home).

tiggytape Thu 30-Jan-14 10:01:10

And if, as a parent, you plan to go through all the hassle of refusing a church school, asking the council for another allocation (and hoping they agree even though they don't have to by law), you may as well list alternative schools on your form in the first place!

If you know the only school you can be offered is a local faith school you won't accept, then start researching unpopular schools miles away from home that would happily take you instead.

You can of course still list the schools you genuinely like as well but, if you have no hope of getting into any local school except a faith one then you have to be realistic:
You can move home.
You can find schools further away that don't get full up.
You can visit the faith school and see how they deal with children not of that faith (some faith schools are less overtly religious than other state schools - it can depend on the Head and all state schools have religious worship daily)

Starballbunny Thu 30-Jan-14 10:27:38

I'd have made it my mission in life to get expelled from a Catholic school

midweekGandT Thu 30-Jan-14 10:36:08

Yes tiggytape, I agree with all that. I was trying to say the same thing, but you said it more comprehensively.

midweekGandT Thu 30-Jan-14 10:44:06

Except to add that just because its that way now doesn't mean it can't change. The more people who kick up a fuss, about being allocated to schools they consider unsuitable (on faith or quality) the better, whether that means writing to the council, your MP, posting on Mumsnet, or more. Tides of opinion bring change.

tiggytape Thu 30-Jan-14 10:45:36

Not all Catholic schools are overtly Catholic though starballbunny especially if they fail to attract lots of Catholic applicants.

In some areas of the country the "left-over school" i.e. the one people get allocated if they cannot get a place anywhere else is a Catholic School but isn't as religious in practice as some schools that have no direct church links.

There are non-church schools that take the act of daily worship very seriously eg morning prayers and saying grace and visits from Ministers. And there are catholic schools that do the bare minimum the law requires with regards to worship eg thinking of ways to be nice to each other assembly.

It doesn't follow that a school officially linked to a faith will be very religious (especially if it cannot attract many people of that faith) and it doesn't follow that a "normal" state school will have little religion as part of the daily routine. A lot depends on the Head at the time and how far they choose to interpret the laws about daily worship.

tiggytape Thu 30-Jan-14 10:51:26

midweekG&T - absolutely. Parental choice in most areas is non existant and the main reason for this is lack of school places. That's what needs addresssing. By next year London alone will have 100,000 more children than places - and that's just for primary schools and only for London! Areas like Bristiol, Birmingham and other big cities aren't far behind.

In years gone by, if you weren't religious, you could decide to go to a non faith school 900m from home instead of a church school 400m from home. But now school places are in short supply, few people have that option. Some people cannot even get into schools 400m away from home let alone have a genuine choice of 2 or 3 schools in the local area.

So I would turn it around slightly and rather than campaign for the right to turn down schools that perform badly or are not of the parent's faith, I would want to see more school places created so that most people don't just automatically get sent to the only 1 they qualify for, they get a geuine choice of at least 2 at the start of the process.

Starballbunny Thu 30-Jan-14 11:06:44

Perhaps, I managed to bite my tongue just at my CofE infant school, but I think I'd have got in trouble at a Catholic school. Even a fairly mild one.

I found myself in the corridor during senior school RE a couple of times and I wasn't trying to be annoying.

tiggytape Thu 30-Jan-14 11:09:51

Most schools welcome children who question and challenge - it is a major part of R.E in fact to do just that.
The daily worship thing is presented as fact of course because it is worship (but the child doesn't have to take part) however R.E is much more like philosophy and ethics nowadays. You'd probably have been star of the class!

midweekGandT Thu 30-Jan-14 15:35:53

OP, if your child is allocated a place at the faith school, its worth keeping an eye on the sibling policy (if you have younger children). If the school improves and becomes more popular in future then it may begin to prioritise churchgoers over siblings. People in other areas have been caught out by that.

brettgirl2 Thu 30-Jan-14 18:06:07

personally I would be very worried about sending a non-Catholic child to a Catholic school.

I used to teach in a Catholic secondary, that is a different story. The time I spent in feeder schools it was like brainwashing. Definitely if you are thinking about it then visit and get a proper feel for it.

OFSTED add someone said you hear people going on about 'Good' schools 'outstanding' schools but another inspection and that all changes.

JimbosJetSet Thu 30-Jan-14 19:31:23

Thank you everyone, there are some very interesting things to consider here. I appreciate everyone's advice grin

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