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Feeling anxious about secondary places - how can this be!

(22 Posts)
recyclingbag Sat 12-Mar-16 09:52:29

DS is only in year 5 but I'm already feeling anxious about secondary choices.

We live in a grammar area taking top 15/20%. He 'might' get in but not a definite.

Remaining choices are
Catchment school which is 2.5 miles away. Cut of point this year was 0.5 miles.

A church school which was in special measures but improving by all accounts. This has no catchment other than church which we don't go to. (None of us a christened)

A school which is out of catchment and just gone into special measures.

A new free school which opens in September but currently has no building. Again no catchment.

I just can't believe what has happened to our secondary system. There is no planning in terms of where the places are needed, transport etc.

We moved to this area when the children were small because it had such good schools provision. Our catchment school is brilliant but we can't get in.

I know so many families around the country are in this position but I don't know how I'm going to copy with the stress for the next 12 months

Inkymess Sun 13-Mar-16 20:25:38

How can it be a catchment school if you can't get in or get priority? We live in an area where everything is distance but that means no defined catchment areas...

FanDabbyFloozy Sun 13-Mar-16 20:50:17

It is deeply frustrating.. In theory we have choices but the reality is starkly different.

I live in a mixed but pretty prosperous area where all the schools should be good; yet the only school I get on distance is the worst in the county, and what few local parents that did use it, dropped out when they cancelled their 6th Form due to lack of interest.

So there is a bun fight for the religious schools, free schools, selective and out-of-catchment schools and the rest go private if they can afford it.

All I want is a good local school, and have no chance of getting it.

recyclingbag Sun 13-Mar-16 21:39:53

Our catchment school is over subscribed so goes on distance which we don't meet.

Every other school also has a catchment area which we don't qualify for.

The only ones left are the church school and the new free school.

tiggytape Sun 13-Mar-16 23:18:11

How can it be a catchment school if you can't get in or get priority?
Catchment schools only give priority not guarantees. If there are 300 people living in catchment one year and only 180 spaces at the school, some people in catchment won't get in (usually the ones living inside the catchment area but further from the school than other people also living in catchment).

other than church which we don't go to. (None of us a christened)
Being Christened may or may not come into it in terms of admission to faith schools. You don't need to be of any particular faith to get in to a faith school if they aren't oversubscribed. And if they are oversubscribed, some have community places reserved for anyone not of that faith.
Others require church attendance not baptism so you literally only have to turn up for the specified number of days to meet the criteria. You may not want to do this which is fine but it is worth reading all the admissions info on local faith schools since, if you like any of them, you may find you can do something now that will enable you to qualify for a school you hadn't considered.

The new Free School may change the local pattern too. You're only in Year 5 so by the time you come to apply, it will hopefully be established with a building and may be a good option or at least a good back up option.

And of course you have a chance at the grammar school too.

Very few people are lucky enough to have an absolutely guaranteed school place that they are happy with and that is also local to their home. Many people are in the same boat of having one or two possibilities that seem O.K, one option that looks less likely and one or two that they hope to avoid but which might change anyway. It is nerve wracking but try not to stress yet - read up on all the admissions criteria for schools local and a bit further out and see ow things pan out with the free school later this year.

Inkymess Sun 13-Mar-16 23:37:06

I guess it's suprising to me that a catchment school can be 2.5m away and yet distance criteria within catchment means it's only 0.5m. Sounds fundamentally flawed. In fact I'm a bit shocked. That not even a case of being just outside the cut off ?!?!?

recyclingbag Mon 14-Mar-16 06:30:46

inkymess it is really flawed l, that's the main reason for my panic!

The church school isn't over subscribed at the moment but is quite church focused which we wouldn't be very happy with. GCSE RE is compulsory etc.

You're right though, the options are not all terrible. We'll just have to wait and see I suppose.

louisejxxx Mon 14-Mar-16 08:07:39

Op have you done any research as to how many pupils are in your area in your ds's year? Look for things like total roll call numbers on your LEA's website. Usually the info will feature all the different year groups - could be useless, but could also help you see if this year's year 6s are part of a "boom year" i.e there's more of them than average.

recyclingbag Mon 14-Mar-16 08:17:18

No it's been getting worse for the past couple of years. Lots of new housing etc without school places.

Last year no one from our primary school got into our catchment school but some did on appeal as they put on an extra class.

This year the qualifying area was even smaller.

DoctorDonnaNoble Mon 14-Mar-16 08:20:00

The problem is that LEAs no longer have the power to create new schools. All must be sponsored academies. I'm in correspondence with my MP over the issue. Most people didn't realise this would be the effect of Tory Education policy.

Inkymess Mon 14-Mar-16 08:33:39

It's a housing planning issue to - building huge estates with no extra schools in the plan. It's really snookered a lot of people at primary level but this is a stark example at high school level too.. And less options if you don't want a faith schooll

DoctorDonnaNoble Mon 14-Mar-16 08:48:56

They can't put schools definitely in the plans. They need sponsors. There's one in the plans for our estate IF a certain number of houses are completed and IF it can get a sponsor. The local authorities cannot just put schools where they are needed any more.

HandsomeGroomGiveHerRoom Mon 14-Mar-16 08:52:27

The only point I disagree with DoctorDonna on is that I believe most people knew full well that removing LA's powers would lead to situations like this.

Op, a lot of non-faith schools also have compulsory RE GCSE. Schools are obliged to devote an amount of time to RE anyway, so they choose to make the most of it and use it to provide an extra qualification.

DoctorDonnaNoble Mon 14-Mar-16 08:53:42

If they did know I doubt they thought it would affect them as an individual. But then thinking like that is probably why we ended up here.

HandsomeGroomGiveHerRoom Mon 14-Mar-16 09:06:27

I think a lot of people thought it would mean a free school for their children, where they could be educated alongside other naice children, away from the oiks at the local comp wink

Op, have you thought outside the box a little and looked at schools further away but easy to get to (on a direct bus route say), possibly in another county? Be aware that not everyone is entirely open about their choices, too. IME, where people thought they'd come up with a cunning plan, they tended to keep it to themselves - don't assume discussion at the school gate will include all the options basically.

tiggytape Mon 14-Mar-16 10:52:48

GCSE RE is compulsory etc
GCSE R.S is compulsory in many non church schools too
The rationale being that it is compulsory for schools to teach R.S. in KS4 so the pupils may as well get a qualification out of it. Parents can opt to withdraw children but schools cannot opt not to teach it. Many do either the full GCSE R.S or the short course which is like half a GCSE as a compulsory subject for all GCSE students.

I suppose I am saying keep an open mind. Not all faith schools are overtly religious and not all non-faith schools sideline religion and R.S teaching. It is very much down to the ethos of each school and, normally, the feelings of the current head.

The Free School may present another option.
You are in a better position than current parents because at least it will be up and running by the time you apply and not some big unknown yet it won't be so stupidly popular that you can't get in (as it might be in 5 years time when siblings will take up lots of the places if it becomes a desirable school)

As Handsome says - research is the key. Lots of schools have admissions criteria that aren't purely down to siblings and distance. If there are any a short journey away that use aptitude tests, faith criteria, lottery systems, academic selection etc then those all open possibilities to look at.

Ideally the catchment school would take everyone in the catchment and this wouldn't be a problem but most areas are experiencing real shortages now whether they use distance or siblings or priority areas - however you shake it there are more children than there are places. Plus years of ignoring the issue and temporary measures (such as the last minute extra class you mentioned) just paper over the cracks. I don't blame you for feeling a bit stressed about it but all you can do is work with is what you have and try to explore every option available.

harryhausen Mon 14-Mar-16 11:09:30

I do understand the angst. I've just been through th

harryhausen Mon 14-Mar-16 11:13:42

Sorry finger slipped.

I do understand the angst. We've just been through the secondary school process with my dd where there wasn't a huge amount of 'choice' and we are in a non-grammar area too.

When we came to apply many of the over-subscribed schools around us had been allocated extra places that year. Also, a few of the local comps results excelled suddenly and there was a lot of interest.

Also, on the other side if our city a free school opened and within 2 years it has been very sought after.

Like TiggyT says, keep an open mind.

Micah Mon 14-Mar-16 11:27:00

Keep an eye on the "special measures" school too. Usually means the staff will be overhauled, they'll get a new, qualified head, and lots of money. When you visit, ask around, ask schools about other schools.

I had three realistic choices-"outstanding" school, which i didnt like. Felt they were to busy preening about being outstanding than actually doing outstanding stuff. Second was a terrible, terrible school, in special measures. 3rd was catholic.

On my visits (6 schools) i asked a couple of schools about entries- two heads at "good" schools confirmed my thoughts on outstanding school-in name only, and told me about the changes to failing school, told me that i should put it a a choice, as we'd definately get in, and the plans the lea had put in were incredible.

3 years later the outstanding school had been downgraded to satisfactory. Failing school had been flattened, rebuilt, new staff, new superhead, and is now the outstanding school everyone wants.

catslife Mon 14-Mar-16 11:30:03

How many preferences do you get to list on the application form?
If it's only 3 preferences that sounds like a reasonable level of choice to me.
Check out the figures from the "catchment" school over several years. Sometimes there is quite a wide variation from year to year due to the number of siblings. Do they offer places to all siblings or just those who live in catchment?
RE GCSE is taken at lots of schools (not just church ones). You don't need to practice any particular religion to take it as all it requires is for pupils to compare the viewpoints of one religion with another.

tiggytape Mon 14-Mar-16 11:37:42

GCSE R.S is also very ethics and philosophy based. It covers big questions like whether capital punishment is ever justified, what equality really means and how people view it, issues surrounding abortion, IVF and medical advances, the justice system etc.
There is the expectation that pupils will be able to state "most Christians would be against this however some believe that it is justified when....." but only as part of the broader argument and only as part of what they believe too. It certainly isn't religious instruction in any way.

KathrynL Tue 15-Mar-16 17:47:27

Op i can certainly understand why you're anxious. I'm not in the same position as you but i get how stressful it is. I have a son in year five so we too will apply this September. He is at a brilliant catholic school that is the unofficial feeder school to an amazing outstanding rated catholic secondary that unfortunately is always heavily oversubscribed so there's no guarantee he will get a place.

We do live in one of the named parishes and ds is baptised so he will be a priority but we live approx 1.8 miles away where as most of the kids are within half a mile. Ds has an older brother who is at another secondary school that is practically on our doorstep (he didn't want to go to catholic secondary) so at leasr he'll have a good back up if he doesn't get into first choice but he's set his heart on the first school and as he'd move up with 99% of his class mates he'll be gutted if he doesn't get in. My dd only started reception last year so once my ds starts secondary i won't have to do another school application for five years, thank god as it's so stressful.

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