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Can someone please explain to me 'catchment area' etc?

(10 Posts)
HyperThread Wed 28-Jan-15 12:18:15


We live close to an excellent free school that has recently opened. We are very close to it but live in a different borough. Should we relocate inside the borough to get a better chance of getting into the school?

How does it work? Who is given preference? How can we best guarantee DD gets a place at the said school?

Seeline Wed 28-Jan-15 12:23:28

You need to look at the schools web site to see exactly what the admission criteria are. These are often different for each school these days.
If they have a distance criteria, check how far up the list of criteria it is ie is the first thing that they use to allocate places, or the fifth?
Are there other criteria higher up the list that might give you priority?
even if they have a distance criteria, this can vary - eg priority to children living within a specified area, or priority given to those closest to the school. This second one can vary from year to year depending on the number of children that apply, so if you speak to the school, they should be able to tell you what was the furthest distance admitted each year.

meditrina Wed 28-Jan-15 12:34:42

Catchment (in the sense of priority admissions area) means something drawn on a map whcih gives you priority for admissions. In Scotland it means a guaranteed place in your catchment school. Elsewhere it defines a category which gets priority over those who live elsewhere. You need to look at the actual oversubscription criteria for the school you want - it might not have a catchment in this sense at all. And even if you live within the area, you are not guaranteed a place if the number of places is filled by other children within the catchment who live closer to the school (or have higher priority for any other rrason specified in the published criteria).

Catchment is also said when referring to the actual footprint of how far from the school pupils were admitted from in any year. The distance can be either as the crow flies or by safe actual route (again, this should be clear in the criteria - either method is permissible, but it should be clear which).

Schools are not allowed to give priority simply for being a resident of the borough in which it stands. But catchment areas may well have part of their perimeter defined by other demarcation lines such as parish boundaries or the borough boundary, and those can be permissible (as they are just how the local geography works).

Living very close to the school, and within the formal catchment (if it has one) should maximise your chances of securing a place. But be aware that formal catchments can be redrawn, though there must be a public consultation on any new arrangements.

HyperThread Wed 28-Jan-15 13:21:20

Thank you! smile

I've had a look at the documents on the LA website and it says pupils were taken with half a mile of the school! shock

elfonshelf Wed 28-Jan-15 14:00:46

Some places have formal catchment areas which can be odd shapes, so you could live perhaps half a mile from a school but not be in the catchment whereas another child might live a mile from the school but be in catchment. Even they live further away they would have priority.

Other places - like London - don't have catchments. They have admissions categories - normally looked-after children, children with medical or other needs who have the school specified in the relevant documents, siblings, distance from school gate.

Faith schools often have categories for children whose parents attend x church, then children who attend other churches, then children of other faiths who attend a place of worship, then distance (and various combos of those categories for siblings).

The distance can alter year on year. Sometimes, if a school has taken a bulge class in the preceding years there can be no places for anyone except siblings (and sometimes there are even more siblings than there are places)- ditto in some very high birth rate years. A few sets of twins can also reduce the distance, as can new housing in the area. It's all a bit of a lottery even if you live very close.

In London you can apply across boroughs and iirc, it is based on distance rather than having to live in the borough.

Check how the distance is measured - my borough is 'as the crow flies', one of the neighbouring ones is 'shortest walking route'. There are schools that are close to us by straight line but the walking route is so long that we'd never qualify for a place, whereas others that are further away by straight line, we would.

Blueundies Wed 28-Jan-15 16:25:14

No be can answer for definite without looking at the specific school and LA admissions criteria.

PenguinsandtheTantrumofDoom Wed 28-Jan-15 18:11:36

Half a mile is not uncommon as the effective catchment area of a popular school. Of course it can vary by year. How close are you?

Phoenixfrights Wed 28-Jan-15 18:19:31

Yes, important distinction between being 'in catchment' and 'near enough for a place'.

You can be in catchment but outside the maximum distance offered that year.

If it has just opened, it may be taking a bigger intake this year than last but you would need to check. If so, the distance offered might increase provided there's not hundreds of siblings.

You being in a different borough makes no difference at all. Free schools have nowt to do with local authorities in any case.

Phoenixfrights Wed 28-Jan-15 18:22:17

qualification ....

The admission process for free schools, after their first year of opening is co-ordinated by the LA. But that's where the involvement of LA ends.

admission Wed 28-Jan-15 20:22:30

You need to look on the LA website for the admission criteria for the school. It will certainly start with pupils who are looked after children having the highest priority but after that it could say lots of different things. What it will definitely not say is that pupils living in the LA where the school is get priority because that is illegal.
However the priority order may have a circle of 0.5 of a mile around the school as one of the criteria or their could be a catchment area priority. There will be some kind of distance criteria but that could be measured as straight line distance on a map to the school or it could be on the shortest walking distance.
You need to have a careful look at the admission criteria for the school, which will give you a good idea where you stand on possible admission to th school.

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