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Admissions Question(29 Posts)
Hi I have a preschooler so I am not savvy with the admissions process but realise it is looming. We will be moving house soon where there are a lot of schools in the area, compared to where we are now where there is one.
I have been told that catchment areas don't count anymore and you can apply for a school across town and have a good chance of getting it.
Surely this can't be right? I thought you get an admissions pack with a list of the schools and a map of the area they cover? Thanks!
Schools will have a set admissions criteria and is based on a priority system.
Priority 1 is looked after children
2 is SEND
3 is siblings
4 is distance from school.
Some academies will have an extra priority for staff members.
The 'catchment' area will vary each year depending on how many children in the first 3 priorities are offered places. My son attends a school 8 miles away (through choice).
No admissions pack sent in our area either. You have to do the research etc yourself.
Neither is quite right - assuming you are in England. Schools in England don't have a specific area that they cover, but equally if a school is across town you don't necessarily have a "good chance" of getting in - you may have a chance though.
Schools must publish their admissions criteria - you'll find them on the website for each school. The first priority will always go to children who are "looked after" or "previously looked after" (i.e in foster care or have been adopted) and children who have EHCPs naming that school. After this there will sometimes be an additional medical/social category, often a sibling category. The final category will usually be " all other children" or "nearness to school". (Church schools will have additional requirements based around faith.) If your child falls in the "all other children" category, this will be decided on distance from the school and how likely you are to be offered a place depends on how close you are to the school and how many people live nearer. Schools will also publish (or can tell you) the distance that the last admitted child lived from the school which will give an indication of how close to the school you need to live to be likely to secure a place. (However, be warned that areas can change dramatically from year to year for a variety or reasons. For example, sometimes there will be a lot of siblings, which will reduce the number of places available for children in the distance category. Sometimes there will be a lot of 4 year olds living very near to the school in a particular year.)
When you apply you need to put schools in your true order of preference. There is no way to "cheat" the system. What happens is that schools effectively get a list of everyone who has applied for their school, with no indication of how you ranked the school. They will then rank those applications against their admissions criteria and the top 30 (or 45, or 60, or whatever the published admission number is) will be offered a place. If you would be offered a place for more than one school you have applied to, this is where the preference comes in and you will only be offered the one you ranked highest.
If you want to apply to schools some distance away, it usually pays to put at least one "banker" on the application form - the school you are most likely to get in to. This is because if you are offered none of your choices you will be allocated the nearest school with places, which is likely to be an unpopular school and could be some distance away. Better to put a school you're not super keen on but could tolerate at the bottom of your list of preferences than have the Local Authority allocate one for you.
Some areas do still have catchments, so you will need to check the rules for the area you are in. For example, the admissions criteria for DD’s school is:
1. Looked after children.
2. Children in the catchment area with siblings at the school.
3. Children in the catchment area.
4. Other siblings.
5. Other children.
My council has the admissions criteria for all the schools on it’s website.
Some areas do still have catchments,
True, but "catchment" doesn't generally mean what many people think it means. A catchment in the old sense was where all the children living in that area would be guaranteed a place at that school. In the example you give it effectively defines inner and outer areas as a way of excluding those living further away just because they are siblings. (A potential issue this addresses could be a year where the school is undersubscribed so people from a wide area get in, this may lead to to a year group a couple of years later which fills with siblings from a similarly wide area whilst more local children miss out. Another issue would be people living close to the school just to gain a place for their oldest child and then moving away, but securing places for younger siblings, again at the detriment of more local children.) Within each category, the distance rule will still apply though. So simply living in catchment will not guarantee you a place if many others live closer.
Also schools are not allowed to not consider applications just because they fall outside a defined geographical area. They must consider any and all applications against their published criteria.
I think a key problem is the idea that parents 'choose' a school. My friend looked at all the schools in the town where she lives and put the four down she liked. Unfortunately she did not get any of them and instead got her nearest school which she really did not want. If she had done her research, found out about the varying admissions criteria she could have put down at least one 'sure thing' that she wanted.
The best thing to do first is to visit your local council website. They should be a list of all the schools in your council's area, together with the admissions criteria for each, and the way places have been allocated for Sept 2020. That should help you see which schools are near you and which you are likely to get into.
It really depends on your area and the schools. Each school may have different over-subscription criteria. For my DC school, there is a catchment.
They have the usual priority for Looked After children, then its
1. Children of staff (various criteria)
2. Siblings in catchment
3. Others in catchment
4. Other siblings
5. Other applicants
You will realise from the responses so far that this is not as straightforward as you might like. What you need to do is make sure that you have moved house in plenty of time to be registered as an on time application. That will be 16th Jan 2021 for starting in September 2021. This is really important because so many people do not realise the significance of your application being on time. An out of time application means that you will be at the bottom of the queue and likely to have to accept a school that is not on your list of preferences.
You then need to research the schools near to where you will be living. The first priority is to establish the admission criteria for each of the schools. That can come either by looking on the school website or after September 2020 the LA will publish the definitive list of admission criteria for each school.
From the admission criteria you can work out which schools you might have a reasonable chance of getting an offer of a place at. Then it is visit the schools and go with your gut feelings about which school you think will suit your child. I have to say the attitude of some schools to showing prospective parents around the school would actually make me decide not to consider some schools. Also try not to be swayed by the fancy playground equipment. It certainly helps give a positive impression of the school but you should go on what the school is like when the children are in class. Ideally there should be a hum of activity - not deathly silence and not total chaos.
In all honesty you will probably know what is your favourite having been inside the school for 10 minutes but you do need to be realistic and visit schools that you have a reasonable chance of getting in. Just visiting the Ofsted outstanding schools in the wider area may give you 3 or 6 schools to put down as preferences but they are useless if you have zero chance of being offered a place at the school.
When we were looking to move, I looked up 'school admissions local council' and was able to get information for the current year as a guide, although distances will obviously change.
DD got into our second nearest school (nearest is Catholic). There are another 2 schools nearish she would have got into and 2/3 further away in the borough. Most of these schools are 'good' but less popular. Obviously with the most popular schools you need to live quite close. In reality, although there are lots of schools, there was only one school we really wanted, as the others were too far to walk or not great.
In normal times most schools show parents round, usually a tour by the Head or Deputy. They publish the dates on their website, so have a look.
Each school or local authority has different criteria. Check! In mine, distance to school us a higher priority than of siblings. Also, check what distance means - as the crow flies, closest walking route. If the school has two entrances, check which entrance counts.
Thank you taking the time to respond! Definitely more complicated than I thought!
I had a look on my local council website and the criteria is:
1.looked after child
All the schools in the area are good ofsted rated.
Some say they require a SIF?
I guess I will get the vibe when going round the school which one feels right and weigh up whether the school run will be walking/driving.
Are you sure thats for every school in the LEA? Or do you mean every school you'd be interested in? Some schools e.g. faith schools have different criteria and some schools here have abolished any sibling preference.
I personally would always go for ease of walking to school. It is so nice for older children to be able to walk to school by themselves. I would also look at the availability of before and after school care (not necessarily provided by the school but sometimes on school site)
We are lucky that all the schools around us are 'good' so as well as the general feel if the school all those extra details really helped with our decision making process.
A SIF is Supplementary Information Form. These are usually required by schools with a religious affiliation for you to prove that you satisfy the religious admissions criteria (e.g. your child was baptised, you regularly attend x church)
The other useful thing you will find on your council website is historic information about the criteria under which children were admitted in previous years. So, for example, you may find that school x typically only admits children in catchment or only from within a 200m radius. That will potentially inform where you move to or where you apply. Although you can name any schools you like, it is a very good idea to make sure you include at least one school that you have a good chance of getting into, rather than simply schools that you like but have very little chance of getting into. Although there are several schools in the area, you may find that (depending on where you move to) there is only a realistic chance of getting into one, and a small outside chance of getting into a second. So "choice" is somewhat of an illusion.
Schools that require a SIF are likely to be religious in nature, and the SIF is the evidence they need that you follow that religion (evidence of baptism, church attendance etc)
The main thing is to look at how places have been awarded in previous years and make realistic choices. Selecting a school you have to drive to on the other side of town because you like it may be a wasted choice if no one from your distance ever gets in.
The other thing to understand, is despite what people tell you, you cannot " play the system". Every year there are people who try things like only putting one school down, or putting the same school 3 times, thinking that this will force the LEA to give them what they want. It won't. The allocations are made strictly according to the published criteria and if you are not high enough up the criteria to get a place at the school/s you have listed, the LEA's only obligation is to offer you a place at the nearest school with places remaining after everyone else has been allocated. This is usually an unpopular school and could well be a long way from your home.
If anybody tells you "I only put one school and I got it, so it worked for me" don't listen. If they got a place, in that school then that is because they were entitled to that place anyway, and they would have still got it if they had completed the application fully.
Oh, and cheats generally get caught out so don't be tempted to try something like renting another house nearer to a popular school or giving a relatives address instead of your own. LEAs in heavily oversubscribed areas are wise to this kind of thing. They do checks, and if you are found to have obtained a place fraudulently then you will almost certainly lose it and could be prosecuted.
Just do you research, complete your application fully and honestly, and make sure that at least one of your preferences is a school that you stand a high chance of admission to and is at least acceptable to you. And then hope for the best. Good luck.
You can look at previous admissions data to see how far away from the school previous admissions have been. At our school while in theory any one can apply, they won't get in unless they have special needs or live within 400m of the school.
@Africa2go the ones in the area I've looked have that criteria.
Yeah worth knowing about putting one on that id be happy with in the worst case scenario rather than let the LA pick one.
Also I will look into the before and after school care aswell.
There is a chart on the councils website to show the furthest distance offered for the school too.
The SIF for one school is for religious purposes the other is if I am a member if staff at the school (which I am not).
Do watch out for OFSTED ratings though! Check when the last inspection was made. I know several local schools rated outstanding where they have had an almost complete change of staff in the nearly nine years (yes honestly, nine years) since they were inspected. In one school I think the grading is still justified, it is a lovely school, but the others ????
Look instead at the school's published data. This is up to date information that will tell you for example how well FSM children, who often underperform , are doing. Will also give you insight into other areas of the school's performance compared to other schools. Also look at the school's school improvement plan, what are they doing to rectify any weaknesses, if the SIP isn't published then ask why.
Most importantly though, ask around, what reputation does the school have locally for how they cope with special educational needs, do they have a wide ranging curriculum, are music and the arts seen as important, are they involved with the local community, do they have an active and supportive PTA, and is this encouraged by the senior management team.
And also consider how you are going to get to the school, imagine the journey on a cold snowy January evening with a tired five year old, a quick walk along a safe road, or two changes of bus .
Hi OP, when the chart shows the furthest distance offered, that means on offer day - in practice children are likely to be a bit further if places are offered from the waiting list but clearly you wouldn't want to count only on getting a place from there. Depending where you live, some areas have quite a bit of movement on waiting lists, others far less.
@GU24Mum for example the school we like is 0.55 miles from our house (according to google maps) and on the chart the further distance offered was 1.4 miles - is that good?
Yes - nothing is guaranteed but unless there are huge amounts of siblings, the allocations would have to be very different for you not to get in. But apply to others schools too just in case as you never know!