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Virtual school point for admissions - effects?

(8 Posts)
gallicgirl Sat 22-Jul-17 11:53:34

There is a consultation in the borough I live in, which is looking at changing catchment areas for some primary schools.

One of the proposals put forward is removing catchments for 5 or 6 schools in the most populous and popular area, and having a priority area. There will then be several assigned virtual school points and admission to a given school will be assigned according to how close a child lives to the virtual school point.

Does anyone live in an area where this already happens? What has been the effect and are there any major disadvantages?

My children won't be affected by this model so I'm just curious how it works. Obviously the parents who live within the proposed catchments will definitely have opinions!

OP’s posts: |
meditrina Sat 22-Jul-17 12:14:21

I'm a bit confused - a priority area is a catchment

So it sounds as if catchments are being introduced for the first time, and they are a bit odd-shaped in order to spread the population round the schools.

Having an admissions point for measuring distance (which is other than a point on the school) is permissible. And as long as the maps outlining the catchments are clearly drawn and the point from which distance will be measured is also clear, this counts like a very workable system (I'm assuming the criteria will be something like SEN, LAC, siblings in catchment, other catchment, siblings outside catchment, other siblings; with distance as tie-breaker for each category).

It'll be a bit uncertain for parents int he first admissions round, as it will be hard to know what the effective distance for their category is. Which is very unfortunate if you are in theta year, especially if it is your eldest. But that wouldn't in itself be a reason for the change not to go ahead.

The thing that might be sufficient reason is if the catchments are drawn in a way tingerrymander the demographics of the admissions (eg excluding, shall we say, challenging post-codes). But it does sound from your description as the intention here might be exactly the opposite.

One detail that might be worth checking is how they will handle younger siblings if those who entered the school before the changes.

gallicgirl Sat 22-Jul-17 12:20:37

Sorry, perhaps I've not been clear.
There are 6 schools with clear individual catchment areas which border each other. These individual catchment areas will be removed and there will be one large catchment area which encompasses all 6 schools. Within that area there will be several VSPs which are used to measure distance from home.

I think the proposals have made arrangements for the siblings but there is a very real chance that siblings will go to different schools.
Personally I think it sounds like a good idea because at the moment, 2 of those schools are VERY popular and vastly over-subscribed so this should even out the admission areas a bit. I think all the schools tend to be over-subscribed apart from one.
I suspect some families will worry about the effect on house prices because there is definitely a premium paid if your house falls into the catchment are of at least one of the schools.

OP’s posts: |
admission Sat 22-Jul-17 18:02:37

This is one of those consultations that unless you know the local are and the dynamics of the area you really cannot talk knowledgably about it.
In general terms resetting the catchments to a larger zone would seem sensible. Having virtual school points that are on the actual schools will not be any different from the current situation whereas if the VSPs are not on the schools it will clearly alter the dynamics and some parents will loose out. Having a VSP away from the school is allowed but there needs to be very clear reasons for doing it and it must be fair and reasonable. I am sure some will say doing this is neither if you are not measuring to somewhere on the school site. The other question for me is what is the connection between the schools, if they are just 6 schools within the LA that are maintained schools that is OK, if some of them are connected as in they may be in the same Multi academy trust then I would immediately be wondering what was at the back of this consultation.

gallicgirl Sat 22-Jul-17 21:20:06

Yes, the VSPs are away from the schools. A couple of the schools are right on the borders of the borough so this kind of recentres the catchment area.
I don't think there's any connection between them. Some are maintained, some are in a MAT with other schools in the borough and I think one is part of a bigger MAT. interesting point though, that I hadn't considered.

I don't think there's any ulterior motive. The borough has been quite resistant to academies at primary level and although there has been a recent spate of conversions, these have mostly been kept within the borough.

The main reason for the reordering is over subscription. It's the kind of area where being in the catchment for a certain school can add tens of thousands to the value of your house and families from London move here stating the schools are a reason for the move.

I suspect it will work quite well but I'm curious as to whether you get areas where you could not be a priority for any school. If there's a lot of young children in an area and you only admit 60 or 90 to a year then the required distance from the VSP will shrink, surely?

OP’s posts: |
shortgreengiraffe Mon 24-Jul-17 20:29:47

This is a very interesting idea. I imagine it is to address two issues which can occur in densely populated areas with a mix of power and under subscribed schools (1) pockets of no-mans-land which sees some children send to the furthest away school and incurring the LA transport costs and/or (2) huge variations in the social make up of schools in a small area.

CruCru Thu 27-Jul-17 22:58:10

I heard that this had been done or was to be done in the area I grew up in. Basically, there's a whole bunch of streets which fall into a black hole for primary schools so a new school was going to have a virtual school point in the middle of those streets (despite being some distance away as there was nowhere to build a school in that particular area).

It's had a mixed response, partly because the area is full of nice houses so there are grumbles that the people setting up the school are looking for middle class children. I don't know whether that is actually the case.

smellyboot Tue 01-Aug-17 18:57:09

Trafford LA has some schools with joint catchments. I think the recently idea below is a good one. It would make things miles easier in our area of Manchester

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