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Are there enough community school places in your area?

(49 Posts)
bananaAddiction Fri 14-Nov-14 11:43:43

I live in an area of London where most primary schools (community as well as faith schools) are Ofsted Good+, very popular and oversubscribed. The one or two schools that 'Require Improvement', are less popular, but even they are filled on allocations, as there are no surplus places. Usually temporary bulge classes are needed to accommodate everyone. Many families are left without a place until late August, and as it is a relatively affluent area, some families end up going private to escape the systemic stress, when they would have preferred a state school.

The situation is complicated by the fact that there are a very high proportion of CE and RC faith school places, which have selective admissions. It makes the system more difficult for people who don't have highest priority in the admissions criteria (i.e. who haven't attended a named church regularly for a number of years).

Our local MP is sympathetic to the situation. He gets many letters from unhappy parents who find themselves at the back of the queue because they aren't churchgoers. If they can't get into one of the oversubscribed community schools locally they are allocated places a long way from home that they find logistically very difficult to accept (and of course, as they are allocations, they tend to be in the RI schools, which is no compensation). He has spoken out to try and persuade local church schools to relax their admissions policies and provide a greater number of community places, to ease the situation.

However, he has also made clear he thinks this situation is very unusual - a local problem that needs a local solution - rather than something that needs to be tackled at national level through changes in the Admissions Code.

Is he right? Or are other areas experiencing similar problems? Interested to hear where they are.

RueDeWakening Fri 14-Nov-14 12:19:26

We live in a similar (different) area of South London. At least one local faith school I know of has now increased its PAN and the extra places are (mostly) community places, so it's now a mixed intake of churchgoers and very local children. I think it's a good mix tbh.

There aren't enough primary places though, and we also need 2 additional high schools in the next 5 years, neither of which have a site confirmed or acquired, let alone any work done on building/consulting about them.

noramum Fri 14-Nov-14 12:22:42

I personally think that all state schools should have the same admission code, religious or not. I find it very strange that a school can claim state funding and add their own admission criteria on top like RC or CoE are often doing.

If I want a religious education I would say, then go private. The daily act of worship all state schools are doing should cover all religious base requirements.

We actually moved to an area to avoid church schools, we are lucky, we had 4 non-religious ones to choose from and would have gotten into 3 without problems, the 4th one depended in each year's fluctuation.

SapphireMoon Fri 14-Nov-14 14:00:57

I think all schools should be Community Schools.
Religious schools, paid by the state, not on in my opinion. If parents want a religious school they should pay for it.
I went to a Cof E school myself. Only school in the village I grew up in.
Its admission was for all in the village. However, I could do without knowing all the words to 'Onward Christian Soldiers' and 'To be a pilgrim' etc.
Good luck op in your search for a school.

RiversideMum Fri 14-Nov-14 18:37:38

Yup all schools should have the same admission criteria. Until that happens, surely its only fair that schools without a religious affiliation give priority to families without a religion?

bearwithspecs Fri 14-Nov-14 18:49:29

We have three schools within walking distance. One CofE. Have to attend specific church for ages. People get in then move. Have to go to church and live almost in the playground to get in. RC school never had places for non RC. The community school is busting at the seams. If you live more than 0.4 miles away or ten min walk you have no chance if getting in. Loads of families end up travelling miles

Barbeasty Fri 14-Nov-14 19:39:26

We have one over subscribed community school, one which usually has spare places, then 2 CofE schools which also usually have spare places. All equally good.

My DD goes to our parish Catholic school, 5 miles away. Again it's a good school and in 10 years only 1 class has been full.

The problem near you isn't that some schools select on faith, it's that there aren't enough places. If you stopped the schools selecting on faith grounds then there would still be just as many people being bussed out, going private, or biting their nails before being offered a bulge class place in August. It would probably just be a slightly different group of people.

Changing how places are allocated doesn't create more places, it just changes who goes without- and if you changed to a 100% distance based system then people could buy their way out of needing the private system and you'd have even more people without places.

nonicknameseemsavailable Fri 14-Nov-14 19:47:01

here all schools are overflowing except the private ones. doesnt matter if CofE, Catholic, Academy, Community, whatever sort they are, there just aren't enough places in the town. The Church schools have all had to expand too, in some cases this may have filtered through to non church going children but as most of the extra births here seem to have been in from immigrant Catholic families you will find that even with a catchment area reduced to as little as .6 of a mile, the Catholic schools are full and overflowing.

addictedtosugar Fri 14-Nov-14 20:28:52

We are very, very lucky.
Our catchment school, which we didn't get into Sept 2013, has just doubled its PAN to 60.
2 years before, the school we started at in 2013 went from PAN 60 to PAN 90.
A couple of years before that, another school went from 60-90.
And 10 years ago there was also a 60-90 increase.

Now, if we could just have another secondary school, or a massive extension to the one we have, half the secondary kids in town wouldn't need bussing out to three different secondary round the county....

GritStrength Fri 14-Nov-14 20:35:30

I live in a different part of London to you butthe same fact pattern applies with us. I think it is a particularly London problem, perhaps not exclusively but the growth in population has been a key factor.

SophieBarringtonWard Fri 14-Nov-14 20:42:40

I don't live in London but there is a shortage of schools where I live too. It is a real issue. There were over 100 children left without a school place last year in the neighbouring borough.

catkind Fri 14-Nov-14 21:23:44

If we were RC we would be able to use an Outstanding school. There's a CofE school but that mostly gets allocated on community places as it's failing so very few people apply under the religious banner. That really rankles for me - clearly it's not people choosing a religious education, it's people choosing a better education and being allowed to because they're religious.

Until last year we'd probably have been stuck with the CofE against our will. In DS's year even that was full up and he'd have been going to the next town or something. Luckily for us a new community school opened near us so DS is there.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want DS to have a catholic education anyway. It just seems bitterly unfair that we could have been stuck with a religious education anyway and the worst regarded school as well and no choice at all. I guess the problem is you can't prove a negative, so there would be no fair way of prioritising places at non-religious schools for non-religious families. Long standing membership of the British Humanist Association maybe?

CrispyFern Fri 14-Nov-14 21:31:53

No shortage here, our five closest schools are outstanding.
One is a big C of E and two are Catholic, one very small, one medium. Then two are not religious, one big, one medium... and so you can usually get the type you want.

We aren't London though.

CrispyFern Fri 14-Nov-14 21:34:35

Oh and my next paragraph was going to say, before I accidentally posted!

The big C of E seems to always have 28 or 29 per class because it's not quite full, and the small Catholic is the same, slightly undersubscribed.

As far as I have heard the others are pretty full, but nobody has to be bussed out of the area or anything.

ReallyTired Fri 14-Nov-14 21:41:30

My daughter's community school is far more religious than any of the C of E schools I attended. There are no secular state schools in the UK.

We have a terrible shortage of places. Even our nearest shite school is over subscribed inspite of being "OFSTED inadequate"

iseenodust Fri 14-Nov-14 22:35:28

No shortage of primary places in most of our county. Can only think of one school where they built huge new estate on the doorstep & didn't expand school, so some children were bussed to different villages but an additional primary school opens next Sept.

JassyRadlett Fri 14-Nov-14 22:44:30

I'm in a next door borough to you. There aren't enough places full stop, places in faith schools go to kids from out of borough (and then their siblings) and the way the schools are located mean that you can get a cluster of faith schools that means local kids whose parents aren't churchgoers can't go to any local schools, and they don't have a monkeys of any community schools either because the competition for them is so fierce.

Most are good, but one 'needs improvement' is still heavily oversubscribed.

pyrrah Fri 14-Nov-14 23:22:09

Loads of schools round here (part of SE London) have added bulge classes or switched to 2 or 3 form entry in the last few years and still not enough places. We are fortunate that almost all the schools are Outstanding.

However, out of our 6 nearest schools, 2 are CofE and 2 are RC (no places every allocated on distance and all oversubscribed - large number of children from well outside the local area). Of the community schools, we were 20 metres inside LDO for one and not a hope for the other.

Fed up with faith schools. Was explaining the other week to a faith school supporter that you could end up with a faith school even if you were Richard Dawkins daughter if it was the only school with places. She hadn't realised that the non-religious could be forced to accept a place at an RC or CofE school and was horrified.

Turned out that her views were based on nice fluffy village schools that happened to be CofE but had nothing more religious than Harvest Festival and a Nativity play!

lougle Fri 14-Nov-14 23:33:58

Very lucky here. 5 schools within 6 minutes. 8 schools within 10-15 minutes. All good-outstanding. Only 2 are full because they are so tiny. All others have spaces.

noramum Sat 15-Nov-14 09:06:36

Barbeasty - there is a link. I know one RC school where children are admitted living at a further distance due to being RC and attending church then non-religious children living virtually on the doorstep. This child now has a bus journey in commuter traffic twice a day.

This is why faith admissions are not fair. Yes, you do not create more spaces but spaces would be allocated by distance, SEN or council looked after children taken out of the calculation, and everybody would be in its neighbourhood school.

PrincessOfChina Sat 15-Nov-14 09:20:59

I'm not sure this is a solely London problem - perhaps a city problem.

We have four schools within walking distance, two of them CoE or RC. All are full with waiting lists by summer. The Outstanding non-religious school takes 90 children at reception and has 270 applications. There are 2 years in the last 4 when 60+ sibling places have been offered.

bananaAddiction Sat 15-Nov-14 09:36:03

Thanks for all the comments everyone. It sounds like the following people all have similar problems: bearwithspecs, nonicknameseemsavailable, GritStrength, SophieBarringtonWard, JassyRadlett, pyrrah

It would be great if you could tell me which Local Authorities you're in (by PM if preferred) so I can work out whether we're talking about 6 different areas, or you're all in the same place. I'd like to send our local MP some examples of other areas that are affected because, as I said, he thinks the problems we're experiencing are rare. Personally I think they're the thin end of a wedge - the inevitable consequence for any area with good schools, an increasing population (often attracted in because of the good schools), and a high proportion of faith school places. Anecdotally it's also an issue in some rural areas, where many village schools are faith schools.

bananaAddiction Sat 15-Nov-14 09:37:13

And PrincessOfChina it sounds like you're on the list too!

bearwithspecs Sat 15-Nov-14 10:42:21

Look at South Manchester schools shortages. Lots of articles on it although school expansions have eased it this year

SophieBarringtonWard Sat 15-Nov-14 11:09:29

I'm in south Manchester smile

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