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Lots of questions about out of catchment admissions

(50 Posts)
HiDBandSIL Fri 31-Mar-17 14:05:27

PFB DS starts primary school next year (2018). Our catchment school has a bad reputation and really awful results and I'd like DS to go somewhere else. I'm trying to work out which out of catchment schools to apply to but it's a complicated picture. Can you help by answering some questions?

1. There's a new primary school opening nearby which we won't be within catchment for. Are new schools popular with parents? Are they generally a good/bad idea? It's a single form entry and he would be the very first year. They don't even having planning permission yet! We can apply.

2. I've looked at the admissions statistics for the last few years and there isn't any one school locally that we'd have got into every year (except the catchment school). They're all pretty full. With only three preferences, how do I work out which ones to apply to?

3. Is there any point at all in putting down either of the two top performing and most popular (and oversubscribed) schools? I think we'd have got in one year in the last six when there was a bulge class. The other is our closest school we're not in catchment. Is there any way of knowing whether there'll be a bulge class?

4. If there's an admission number of 15 or less presumably it will be a class of mixed ages. I would have thought that wouldn't be a good idea but some of those schools get good results. Is there a consensus on the ideal class composition? At the other end of the spectrum, two schools are 3FE. That seems so huge.

5. Is it a complete nightmare to have siblings in different schools? I don't know whether to choose an even less popular school to try to get a place for DS2 there too.

Thank you for any advice. gin

CakeCultureIsAMYTH Fri 31-Mar-17 14:32:21

I can only offer input on 1-3.

1. Only based on one school mind, it wasn't initially popular because of the risk of the unknown. It has developed into a fantastic school that is now oversubscribed. Siblings of 'founder children' get priority regardless of if they're in catchment. If you can meet with the head and like them/their philosophy it's a good bet I think.

2. Are you sure you only get 3 choices? We got 6.

3. If you have enough choices then putting the down means you will go on their waiting list which gives you a possible plan B. But do also list realistic choices or you may end up having to travel far to an even worse school than your catchment one.

RedSkyAtNight Fri 31-Mar-17 14:42:41

1. I think new schools are genuinely reasonably popular. The children will obviously have everyone focusing on them but it may be opportunities are limited at first. They will of course always be the oldest children which gives them a rather different school experience. Though beware the lack of planning permission at this stage may mean it is late opening.

2. I would say pick your 2 favourites and put catchment school last.

3. Depends how desparate you are to avoid catchment school. Bulge classes tend to be last resorts so that is quite a long shot.

4. Small schools are nice when your DC are younger. By the time they are older you may well find a bigger school is preferable. DD's school is 4FE and they have a yearly influx from about Y4 of children migrating in from small local schools, as the DC find them claustrophobic/parents worry about move to huge secondary.

5. Not a nightmare, especially if both school are reasonably close and you can share school runs with other parents (or can run between 2). But obviously not as easy as both in same school! Is there sibling preference at your preferred schools?

RedSkyAtNight Fri 31-Mar-17 14:44:06

I would also say please go and look at your catchment school with an open mind. To hear local parents talk about DD's school you would think it was the school from hell, but in reality she has thrived and done well there.

HiDBandSIL Fri 31-Mar-17 14:46:08

Thanks cake

Definitely only 3. This would've so much easier with 6! I could easily choose 3 and not get into any of them.

Also - forgot to say - no sibling priority here anymore shock

HiDBandSIL Fri 31-Mar-17 14:55:26

Thanks red .

Catchment school has a good ofsted rating but really poor exam results. Something like 13% achieving expected standard vs. the other local schools' 50-70%. I should visit but I can't get past those numbers.

Any idea what would happen if the new school didn't open on time? Would it be a portacabin in a car park?

HiDBandSIL Fri 31-Mar-17 15:01:47

I forgot one:

6. One of the good local schools is an infant with a linked junior school. Having looked at the stats, it looks as though, while the infant school is oversubscribed, we would have got into the junior school in the last few years. That seems too good to be true and I think I must be misunderstanding it somehow but in any case I'm guessing it wouldn't be good for DS to change schools at that age because he'd lose his friends and would have to make new friends. Is that right or is there a degree of movement around schools at that age? This is actually our nearest school so it would be nice to get in there.

RedSkyAtNight Fri 31-Mar-17 15:51:08

There can be movement at 7, yes. I imagine it depends very much on the area. I live in an area with lots of mobility so many of the children that started in Reception with my DC have left by Y6!! Equally if you're in a pushy middle class type area there may be movement out to private schools. If a lot of children move from the infants to the linked juniors I wouldn't worry about the friendship thing - in fact I think that's the best scenario, as they can retain old friendships and make new ones.

Re the school not opening, when it's happened round here the DC have been squashed into local school(s) generally taking over a "spare" room though I guess portacabins could be used.

RedSkyAtNight Fri 31-Mar-17 15:52:09

Re results - last year was the first cohort of Y6 children to take "new" KS2 SATS. Lots of schools did badly/worse than expected. I would keep an eye out for this year (or talk to the school) to get a better idea.

Splinters6 Fri 31-Mar-17 15:56:59

If it's graded good but the results are very poor compared to other local schools are you sure it's not a resourced school meaning a higher than usual number of children with additional needs. Have you read the ofsted?

admission Fri 31-Mar-17 15:57:20

If the nearest school is one of your preferences but you are not in catchment, the temptation would be to put that down as first preference. If this is the infant school then I would not bother too much about the need to change at 7, most schools will give preference for being at the infant school and most pupils will simply transfer from infant to junior. I would put down the catchment school (which you have most chance of getting a place at) as the third preference.
That leave you one school to decide on and I would for the school that is easiest for you to get to. I would echo what others have said, go and take a look at the catchment school as it is frequently the case that results and parental attraction lag well behind the school having changed for the better.

Wh0Kn0wsWhereTheTimeGoes Fri 31-Mar-17 15:58:44

WRT mixed age classes look for admission numbers between 30 and about 40 too, as that means too many for one class but possibly not enough for two. My DCs primary school is like this and has mixed classes through KS1 but it seems to work fine.

Boiled7Up Fri 31-Mar-17 16:01:50

while the infant school is oversubscribed, we would have got into the junior school in the last few years. That seems too good to be true and I think I must be misunderstanding it somehow
The junior school will have bigger classes and possibly more classes too. It's very difficult to go over infant numbers.

I was just about to ask if you had any mum friends who would know about siblings, but no sibling policy. Hmmmm.

What are the admission criteria for the six local schools? Do you think it will come down to distance alone?

I would double check how exactly your council measures distance (from which gate, using what footpath etc).

I do think you should include a banker. Better the dodgy school on your doorstep than dodgy school an hour away.

ThatsNotMyMummy Fri 31-Mar-17 16:05:35

Go and look at your catchment school with open eyes. I second what the other posters have said, exam results can be because of a lot of reasons. The curriculum has had a massive jump which has caused results to look bad, when actually before they would have been good.
My kids are in one that when i applied there were a lot of turned up noses at it, now its the one everyones fighting to get in. It too has poor exam results because of a high intake of one group of children which pulls its average down. If you visit or actually fully read the ofsted, it becomes clear why. I liked it because it felt warmer and more nurturing than the alternative schools. They also do a lot to produce more rounded children instead of concentrating on reading, writing and SPAG I also liked their attitude to exams and not pressurising the kids.

I have also seen new schools squished into existing schools in portacabins, thats crap for all involved. So i would be wary of that, there is also one near me that opened on a trial basis for planning?!? The uncertainty can't be good for teachers or kids. So again its things to consider.

HiDBandSIL Fri 31-Mar-17 16:45:47

Here are the 11 nearest schools sorted by distance:

1 - CofE school. Very popular and oversubscribed. Ofsted good. 60% expected, 5% higher. We wouldn't have got into infants in the last 5 years but we would have got into the junior school. Class size 60.

2 - Catchment school. Ofsted good. Pretty much guaranteed to get in. 13% expected, 0% higher. Class size 60.

3 - Catholic school. Ofsted good and decent results but no chance of getting in due to lack of faith. Class size 30.

4 - Ofsted requires improvement. Would have got in in 2014 and 2016. Class size 45. 52% expected, 0% higher.

5 - Wouldn't have got in here in the last 5 years. Ofsted good but 33% expected, 0% higher.

6 - New school. Class size 30.

7 - Would have got in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Ofsted good. 55% expected, 0% higher. Class size 30.

8 - Ofsted good. 56% expected, 0% higher. Would only have got in in 2015. Class size 30.

9 - Class size 90. Would have got in 2012 - 2015 but not last year. Ofsted requires improvement. 57% expected, 3% higher.

10 - Class size 14. Would have got in in 2013 and 2015. Ofsted good. 45% expected, 0% higher.

11 - Very popular and oversubscribed. Class size 60. I think we'd have got in in a 2013 bulge class. Ofsted good. 66% expected, 10% higher.

HiDBandSIL Fri 31-Mar-17 16:51:01

Admission criteria for community and voluntary controlled schools:
Looked after children
Children with exceptional needs
Catchment area pupils
Non-catchment siblings
Other non-catchment

New school (6) is:
Looked after children
Children of staff
Everyone else

angeldiver Fri 31-Mar-17 16:51:47

I was told by my council admissions team to put down
1. The school I would really like (out of catchment)
2. Catchment school
3. An aspirational choice.

I don't know how solid this advice is but I did get the 1st choice.

Boiled7Up Fri 31-Mar-17 16:53:21

Good grief.

Are there any children in your street? Where do they go? 2?

Looking at that list, you really have to put number 2 down. It's the only one you're likely to get a place at.

I think I would apply for 2, 6 and maybe 9.

HiDBandSIL Fri 31-Mar-17 16:56:57

The catholic school (3) has a hierarchy of religions starting with catholic and ending with any religion whatsoever and then everyone else. We would fall under "everyone else".

The CofE school (1) is:
Looked after children
Catchment siblings
Non-catchment siblings
Everyone else.

I don't think they even get through the catchment siblings.

HiDBandSIL Fri 31-Mar-17 17:04:02

There are very few families with young children in my street!

Those I've asked with older children said that no-one here sends their children to #2. Both sent their children to #4 but the family with younger children took their child out and went private when the school took a downturn.

Interestingly I was also thinking 6 and 9 boiled but I really don't want 2.

ShowOfHands Fri 31-Mar-17 17:08:11

You really, really need to go and look round the schools. The stats should not be the deciding factor.

ThatsNotMyMummy Fri 31-Mar-17 17:08:40

What schools have you physically looked at?

ThatsNotMyMummy Fri 31-Mar-17 17:09:51

You'll get a gut feeling about what's right for your child if you look at them.

ShowOfHands Fri 31-Mar-17 17:10:22

Not that stats aren't important of course, but you're likely to end up with 2 and you need to visit it and make up your own mind.

HiDBandSIL Fri 31-Mar-17 17:13:10

splinter - I have read ofsted. Would it say it is a "resourced" school? It says that the proportion of pupils receiving the pupil premium is much higher than average. The proportion of disabled pupils is slightly lower than average. The proportion with a statement of special educational needs is much higher than average. I'm guessing that makes it a "resourced" school? What does that mean though, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It says something that really puts me off which is "the most able pupils are not always given work which is challenging enough". I know my child might not fall into that category but I went to a rubbish secondary modern (is that the right term? - not the local grammar) and was basically bored stupid most of the time. I got average results and went on to do much better post-GCSE (not at that school).

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