gerrymandered school catchment

(14 Posts)
strawberrybubblegum Sat 23-Apr-16 22:12:04

Someone mentioned on another thread that a catchment area can be fought against if it can be shown that the catchment is set to effectively be covert selection.

Didn't want to derail that thread - but does anyone know whether that is true, and how you would go about challenging it?

There's a highly regarded school in our area for which this definitely applies. The catchment is a rectangle with the school in one corner - and entirely going in the 'nice' direction. No natural boundaries which would explain it.

What makes it more galling is that there are 2 other excellent schools in that direction.

We're too far for this school to be an option for us, but I have friends this could benefit if we could challenge it by next year.

titchy Sat 23-Apr-16 22:21:05

Office of schools adjudicator:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/schools-adjudicator-make-an-objection-appeal-or-referral#objections-to-and-referrals-about-determined-school-admission-arrangements

The catchment may have been decided in conjunction with the other schools though so their catchment covers the other areas meaning no area falls into a gap.

maven45 Sun 24-Apr-16 08:47:54

Para 1.14 of the Schools Admissions Code says "Catchment areas must be designed so that they are reasonable and clearly defined".

If you don't know the history of why this catchment are was defined as it is then it's worth trying to find out, because so long as the school can present a rationale for it that stands up to the adjudicator's scrutiny then it is legal.

If you do want to raise an objection to the 2017 admissions criteria then (as per clause 1.50 of the code) you have until 30th June to do so. You will need to give clear reasons for why you think the catchment area isn't "reasonable".

You can't be anonymous to the Adjudicator but you can ask the Adjudicator to keep your identity from the other parties in the case.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sun 24-Apr-16 08:58:49

I agree with titchy If it's the only school in the area to have a catchment you might have a point. Although sometimes priority areas can be drawn up for specific schools to cover a black hole.

If all schools have a catchment area, then the map is likely to have been drawn up based on a number of criteria. The school doesn't have to be in the middle of the catchment area so just being in 1 corner of it and the catchment area being 'nice' wouldn't necessarily be unreasonable.

PonderingProsecco Sun 24-Apr-16 09:40:12

Mmm- do see ops point.
Feel state schools should be inclusive and not cherry pick areas for 'easier' children.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sun 24-Apr-16 10:57:11

It isn't that simple though. If the school has deliberately picked that catchment it isn't fair. But in most cases that hasn't happened.

Schools aren't necessarily evenly spaced within an area. If you just drew a rectangle round them with each one in the centre of it's catchment, you'd end up with overlapping catchments and gaps where there is no catchment school. Similarly school size, capacity to expand and population density varies. And distance to next nearest school also needs to be taken into consideration.

Also, 'good' schools tend to attract 'nice' families to an area. So if the catchment boundaries were drawn up some time ago it may not have had quite the same demographic.

Without knowing the type of system that is used in the OP's area it's impossible to know whether she has a strong argument, or any argument.

DrWhy Sun 24-Apr-16 11:10:49

One of the 'nice' schools in our area has a fairly elongate catchment and it sits very much at the end of this which seems odd when you look at it in isolation. When you put all the catchments on a map though you see that it's because it's on the edge of the city, there are several schools in the city that cover the city. This one then takes a very small way into the city (high population density, mainly covered fine by other schools) and a long way out of town where the population density reduces, the next school in that direction is 12 miles away.
You need to look at it in conjunction with the other school catchments in the area initially to see if it really does seem unreasonable.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sun 24-Apr-16 11:14:33

Some of ours look very weird, regardless of intake, until you look at the whole map and see the boundaries and the position of the schools. 'L' and 'C' shaped catchments aren't particularly unusual, particularly those with schools on the boundary.

soapboxqueen Sun 24-Apr-16 11:36:41

Most catchment areas are odd. I know of two schools that are actually in each others catchment areas. LEAs make sure that every home is in a catchment area. Schools can't be built or magically moved to make sure the are always equidistant from each other and in the middle of their own catchment areas. Therefore you end up with schools at the bottom of their catchment or catchment areas that look like they've been drawn by a crazed cat.

Most schools and LEAs would be able to show why they have drawn their catchment areas as they have. Either for complete coverage, reducing distance for outlying homes etc.

The rules are to avoid schools drawing catchment areas that deliberately bypass less desirable areas (due to income, race, religion etc) in order to admit more children from 'desirable' backgrounds.

teacherwith2kids Sun 24-Apr-16 14:51:30

I agree that you should look at all catchment areas, and also whether they have changed it recently. I am aware of a school that hit the headlines trying to change a quite long-standing, LA-brokered catchment area singlehandedly, cutting out a 'relatively deprived' area and enveloping lots of surrounding naice areas.

However, the same school's previous catchment is not a 'logical' shape looked at in isolation - a couple of straight edges, a long rather wiggly boundary, some edges closer than others to the school. You have to know the area, and the other local schools, to know that it has a basis in town and borough boundaries and the placement of different schools around the town.

strawberrybubblegum Mon 25-Apr-16 07:12:08

It definitely isn't to do with other schools' catchments, because the other schools in the area go entirely on distance and there's another school 250m away in the direction the catchment stretches. I suppose to be fair, the furthest distance for both those schools is about 200m - but that does still leave quite an overlap.

In the non-catchment direction the next school (which is not so well regarded) is about 700m away.

I don't know what the history is. I'll have a look at parish boundary maps, but after that I'm not really sure how to start researching!

soapboxqueen Mon 25-Apr-16 07:25:49

It could be that while the other schools have removed their catchment admissions criteria, this school hasn't so is left with an odd looking catchment.

You could ask at the school or call the LEA and ask why that catchment is the way that it is. We can't tell you, only give possible reasons.

The school my youngest goes to has a very small catchment that would look odd but it's because it only includes a large set of flats, nothing else. That's because many moons ago when the flats were built as part of a charity project, the school was built as part of that, so residents of the flats very priority.

If you didn't know the history, it would seem odd.

AChickenCalledKorma Mon 25-Apr-16 07:40:36

There is a school very much like that around here. It's the only one with a catchment and the boundary takes in lots of naice villages and excludes a more urban area. The history is that kids from the villages used to be in a black hole and got sent miles away because there is such a high density of population in the urban area. Urban families got in on distance despite having other choices. Village families were stuffed.

maven45 Mon 25-Apr-16 08:27:16

OP one option for finding out the catchment area history is to simply ask the school. If you call up and talk to the admissions secretary you might find them really helpful. The admissions team at your local authority might also be able to answer the question. Or you could try querying it on your local Mumsnet thread to see if there's anyone with historical knowledge of the school.

If all that leads nowhere then you could put in a FOI request to the school (either just by email or, more visibly, via Whatdotheyknow.com). You could simply ask for documentary evidence (e.g. governors' minutes) that the catchment area has been reasonably defined in line with clause 1.14 of the Schools Admissions Code. If they can't respond to that then you have good grounds to raise it with the adjudicator.

Of course you could just go straight ahead and raise it with the adjudicator, who will ask the school for that same evidence as part of their consideration of the case.

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