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Is the school application system open to corruption?

(30 Posts)
Sweetasstevia Tue 06-Jan-15 19:49:34

Please help settle an argument for me: DH says that it would be relatively easy for a school sector council worker to allocate favourable schools places to friends and family without much investigation. I disagree and say (hope) there is adequate scrutiny in place to stop this happening. Am I right?

DandyHighwayman Tue 06-Jan-15 19:52:39

Not likely to be successful

There are checks and measures in place to ascertain correct procedure has been adhered to

overandoverand Tue 06-Jan-15 19:53:14

Yes, you are right, at least in my area! They use clear criteria, and you could fairly easily check whether they have been followed (siblings, distance, etc)

LIZS Tue 06-Jan-15 19:54:18

Schools do the rankings based on priority criteria from all applications, LA then look at the highest preference for which a child qualifies. Not sure how he thinks it could be manipulated.

Sweetasstevia Tue 06-Jan-15 19:55:20

Thanks -I win! grin are checks undertaken by the council or an external regulator?

auntpetunia Tue 06-Jan-15 20:06:40

There are in my la 6 people who do the allocation on to one giant spreadsheet each covering an area of the city. This is overseen by s senior person. I can't see how anyone could fiddle it.

clam Tue 06-Jan-15 20:09:39

And can you imagine the outcry if people discovered that they'd lost out on a place to someone further away? In over-subscribed areas, people are watching allocations like hawks. There'd be carnage, with the LA then having to give places on appeal to those who'd missed out on places that were rightfully theirs.

noramum Tue 06-Jan-15 21:42:15

I have been told (no idea if this is how it really works) that out council uses a PC program. So all information are input and then the computer allocated a school.

Only special circumstances like looked after children or SEN are handled separately.

OmnipotentQueenOfTheUniverse Tue 06-Jan-15 21:47:56

What clam said.

The criteria are set out and in over-subscribed schools people seem to know vast amounts of information about the other families and trying to work out who will get the places over who. Any child in there against the criteria would be reported by other parents immediately!

Also, this was all tightened up on a lot a few years ago after investigation found that many schools were taking things into account that they shouldn't (illegally) and they made it so the criteria have to be absolutely clear and they have to stick to them like glue.

So you win smile

OmnipotentQueenOfTheUniverse Tue 06-Jan-15 21:53:09

If your DH is interested these were the problems found. Not to do with his idea of council people up to no good, but the schools themselves were quietly using illegal selection criteria.

This is part of the reason that anyone trying to commit fraud in the way he says would be caught very quickly, as it all has to be super-squeaky-clean now.

OmnipotentQueenOfTheUniverse Tue 06-Jan-15 21:54:04

Illegal may be a bit strong grin they were breaking the rules in place at the time which led to a tightening - which may have been put into law dunno on that.

noramum Wed 07-Jan-15 07:16:53

I think it is shocking that the majority of the list are church linked schools. It is another topic but I personally think admission based on faith is always wrong for state education.

AuntieStella Wed 07-Jan-15 07:19:35

The list is 8 years old, though. And there has been a whole revision of the Admissions Code since then.

AuntieStella Wed 07-Jan-15 07:20:08

Sorry, 6 years blush

Maidupmum Wed 07-Jan-15 18:46:12

If its done on a 'lottery' system to allocate places then I think it is entirely possible wink

YonicSleighdriver Wed 07-Jan-15 23:05:51

Many areas have central application systems and the computer does the ranking.

prh47bridge Wed 07-Jan-15 23:22:47

If its done on a 'lottery' system to allocate places then I think it is entirely possible

If a school uses a lottery it must be independently supervised for this very reason.

JaniceJoplin Thu 08-Jan-15 12:38:08

IME in a lot of church schools you just need a nod and a wink from the vicar. Records of attendance are not required nor properly regulated etc. I think this is the biggest grey area.

I was looking at a schools admissions policy this morning and it had as category 1. Baptised catholic looked after children, when I am sure that the current law states that any Looked after child should be the first priority. Ridiculous that a church school would only accept a baptised catholic looked after child and reject the others. I must remember to send it to the OSA, makes my blood boil.

There is another local school that took 20 children last year out of 60 from a fee paying linked nursery, also against the code. That problem has been fixed by the OSA but what of the children that this rule has displaced? Restrospectively stuffed!

There is a huge amount of unfairness in the system IMO.

elfonshelf Thu 08-Jan-15 13:00:34

Faith schools where they can set their own admissions policies are where the most scope for 'less than totally fair' outcomes are.

If the local churches don't kept attendance lists then being pals with the local vicar could get you ticks on the forms that you might not otherwise have got.

The faith schools round here also allocate extra points for children in their affiliated nursery to put them below church goers, but above purely distance applicants.

Community schools aren't allowed to give preference to children attending the nursery.

In general, a computer does the allocations - hence why just putting one school down, or the same school 3 times doesn't work. No-one is sitting there saying 'Oh Mrs Jones must really, really want this school so we'd better give her a place as she doesn't want anywhere else, unlike Mrs Smith who obviously doesn't really care as she's put 3 different options!'

Same goes for preferences - computer looks at how many schools Child A qualifies for and allocates the highest preference one. So Child A may qualify for all 3 options and is given their first preference - the fact that it's their first preference doesn't affect whether they are eligible or not.

Meita Thu 08-Jan-15 13:59:47

Janice,
I believe faith schools are allowed to restrict first preference to LAC/FLAC of the faith, as long as LAC/FLAC who are not of the faith come before any other not-of-the-faith children. Eg. LAC catholic, other catholic children (with whichever tie breaks they choose), all other LAC, any other categories.

They are equally allowed to widen the first category to include all LAC/FLAC children. And IMO it is not particularly Christian to choose to e.g. give random catholic children preference over a LAC who happens not to be Catholic. I could maybe just barely understand if this would concern masses of children - catholic schools have the explicit aim to provide catholic children the chance at a catholic education. If most catholic children couldn't get into the school due to all places being taken up by non-catholic LAC children, the school would not be serving its purpose. But in reality, there would be maybe one non-catholic LAC/FLAC applying to the school every 5 years or so. It really wouldn't hurt the schools, nor the communities, to show some Christian spirit.

Anyway my point is a different one, I am not entirely sure but I believe that whereas they are allowed to give LAC preference to LA Children of the faith only (rather than to all LAC), I believe they are NOT allowed to restrict that access by qualifying the 'faith' by something such as baptism or church attendance.
It wouldn't make sense either. In fact they were taken into care because their parents/birth parents didn't care for them adequately, and now the school admissions is to further 'punish' the children for their parents'/birth parents' actions?! If they were adopted into a catholic family, the adoption order may not yet be through at the time of school applications, hence the family couldn't have legally had them baptised yet. If the child is recently taken into care, you 'punish' the child for the parents' unstable lifestyle which included no church attendance. Etc.

So if you were to write to the OSA (please do!) then I'd focus on that 'qualifier' that restricts LAC preference to 'baptised' children. Which is definitely nonsensical, and AFAIK probably not legal. Whereas the restriction to 'catholic' children is, sadly, perfectly legal.

meditrina Thu 08-Jan-15 14:05:04

I cannot imagine why a vicar would write a reference for an unknown family. You'd need to be a sufficiently frequent member of the congregation to be in the vicars goes books. And of course known to other congregants, for one very common way for investigations into potential fraud to be launched is by other parents spotting something that doesn't add up.

And the stakes are high. If an application is found to be fraudulent, the place can be removed even after the pupil has started at the school. And I doubt very much that a whole investigations team would be easily suborned.

PumpkinRain Thu 08-Jan-15 16:15:14

I reported a school to the OSA. The school was made to change their policy. They had LAC from other religions lower than the main faith of the school. It didn't affect me but I knew it wasn't right.

sleeplessbunny Thu 08-Jan-15 16:24:30

A bit off topic, but I have just put in our form for DD who starts reception in September and was alarmed to see that, of the 5 nearest schools (all of which went on the form), 4 are faith schools that will prioritise practising C of E kids. Each school has it's own form/criteria for doing so. I think this is the norm in rural areas, and as such I believe the system is wide open to abuse. I know so many families who are "churchgoers" just to ensure a school place. It's just another barrier to keep these schools naice and MC, not many deprived families would be willing or able to jump through the hoops.

footallsock Thu 08-Jan-15 16:37:38

Sadly near us lots are faith schools and loads just go to church to get their tickets - all a farce. The main two schools in question are totally white MC in a multi cultural mixed area and have people driving to them. The community school is busting at the seams and unless you live with a few min walk you have no chance

elfonshelf Thu 08-Jan-15 17:06:19

Where I live in London, there is a geographical anomaly that massively reduces the potential number of schools we could realistically apply to. Out of our nearest 6, 2 were RC, 2 were CofE, 1 was a no-hoper on distance and we scrapped into the 6th by 20m.

Had we been 21m away, we would have had no school at all - and given the number of faith schools in the next batch and the over-subscription of the community schools, I dread to think where we would have ended up.

It appears that UK equivalent of the road to Damascus is the average hospital's maternity ward. Religious fervour also has a funny habit of vanishing around a child's 5th birthday across the country.

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