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are ranked preferences ^really^ all equally considered in the mix?

(26 Posts)
fothergill Wed 30-Sep-09 09:00:31

I can't get my head round the idea that you are not scuppering the rest of your choices if you put a school that you are unlikely to get into as 1st choice! Give me confidence to do it please!!
Our nearest school is an excellent but quite full on cofe. To cut a long story (dull dull dull) shortish, I really love a school that is much further away and doubt that we will make it as its oversubscribed. But want to try for it as first choice as there is always a chance!
BUT IF I put the (nearest) cofe one 2nd choice will I really still have as good a chance of getting in as if I had put it 1st choice? As it stands we are in their parish and stand a good chance of getting in and I would hate to ruin this chance by putting the other one over it. But would hate to miss getting the other school out of fear....

I couldn't find this on the board so guess I am the only one paranoid and suspicious here.

katiestar Wed 30-Sep-09 09:28:55

No the admissions authority have to follow their own procedure to the letter.If not they have to admit the child who should have got a place as well as those they have already given places to.This is a legal right

katiestar Wed 30-Sep-09 09:31:30

Oh and they are audited on how ell they follow their rules too.

bruffin Wed 30-Sep-09 09:45:35

If it's the way it works in our area, the LEA just tells the school that they have an application from you, not whether it's 1, 2 or 3 .

Schools then go back to LEA with their list. LEA then looks at your acceptances and offers you your highest ranked school.

thedolly Wed 30-Sep-09 09:45:56

fothergill you are not alone in your fear.

I hear what you are saying katiestar but what I don't understand is that if you are not guaranteed a place at your catchment school, how do they decide who does get a place there. I assumed it was on a first come first served basis i.e. those who have put it as first preference are offered a place in the first round of offers.

If there is no 'first round' as such and everyone who has put it as first, second or third are considered equal in the one and only 'round' of offers then how do they decide?

I know there is different criteria wrt siblings and distance but surely those who live further away from a catchment school are being unfairly penalised.

I would be very happy to be enlightened about all of this. As you can probably tell, I am quite confused.

captainpig Wed 30-Sep-09 09:57:11

Assuming you are in England, this is the site for the Schools Admission Code here.

Madsometimes Wed 30-Sep-09 10:39:58

I have heard that schools are not informed about if they are 1st choice or 5th choice. However, at a secondary open day I attended last week, the head recommended that if you were serious about getting a place at her school, you need to put it as first choice!

I have no idea if she is out of date, or if things are different for this particular school because it is a faith school. In this instance, we will be putting the school as first choice, but I was a little hmm when she mentioned rankings.

MadBadandCoveredinSequins Wed 30-Sep-09 10:40:50

Take a look at the admissions code.

It isn't 'first come first served'. Each school that you name will consider your application against its admissions criteria (which should be on the school's website and/or in the LEA's schools admissions booklet). For most schools, the criteria are (1) looked after children (2) children with documented special needs which that school is best able to meet (3) siblings and (4) distance to school. For foundation places in church schools there will be additional criteria about church attendance. Not all LEAs operate "catchment" areas - mine doesn't. The distance to school at which places are awarded varies from year to year depending on the number of (say) sibling applications. Again, the LEA should be able to tell you the farthest distance at which a place was awarded at a particular school last year.

So, once the applications have been considered, the offers of places are then sent back to the LEA, which will pass on the offer from the school which you placed highest. So if there are offers from schools 1 and 3, they will pass on the offer from school 1. If there are offers from schools 2 and 3, they will pass on the offer from school 2, etc. Where it can go badly wrong for people is if all three of the schools they name are ones where they are highly unlikely to get a place. They may then end up with no offers from a school which they have named and will be offered a place in whichever school has a space.

thedolly Wed 30-Sep-09 10:44:56

Thanks captainpig - that was very comprehensive.

frogs Wed 30-Sep-09 10:56:41

Mad -- the headteacher said that because if you put a local community school first as 'insurance' and qualified for a place there, then you wouldn't also be offered a place at the church school.

They're simply telling you to think very hard about which school is actually your first preference, and to put that down first on the list. If you try to play a clever game by putting a school first that you are sure you'll get into (perhaps cos you live on the doorstep) you're effectively removing your chance of being offered a place at other schools which you might have preferred over teh 'safe' one.

The only thing that counts is for YOU to decide what your preference order you would place the schools in if you were to be offered places at all of them. That's the order you should put on the form.

We've done it at both primary and secondary with a mix of church and non-church schools, and I know as a matter of certainty that under the new admissions code your chances of getting in to any given school are not affected by the order in which you list the schools on the form. It simply comes down to how you match up with each school's admissions criteria (church, distance, whatever).

paisleyleaf Wed 30-Sep-09 11:06:21

The school near me says that they only really want people who have put them as first choice.
It's so difficult - it all depends on how many other people apply where and where they are in the criteria - and there's no way of knowing this.
So you could not get the first choice and the catchment school have filled up their places with people who've put them as first choice.
I think frogs is right, you just have to chose your order in order of preference.

katiestar Wed 30-Sep-09 11:08:22

What they have basically done is taken the 'gamesmanship' out of it.You just list the schools in the preference you would prefer. Makes it much more straightforward.The downside of couse is that it means lots more competition to get into popular schools because people have nothing to lose by putting it at first choice.

Pinchypants Wed 30-Sep-09 11:13:41

This is a really useful thread - I've been wondering about how the teams of Oompa Loompas they must have working at the council to deal with this actually make it happen.

Anyone have any experience of what happens if you put down your 2nd, 3rd and 4th nearest schools (all of which you'd be happy with) but not the 1st? The school that is 'as the crow flies' nearest to our school-free village is less than 100m nearer than the 2nd nearest, but we don't want to put it down for various reasons. I suppose it's a lottery depending on number of school starters in the area, siblings etc.

Pinchypants Wed 30-Sep-09 11:16:08

One head of a very popular local school last week told me that he thinks the new system where the authority knows your ranking but the school doesn't is much fairer for everyone. Agree?

paisleyleaf Wed 30-Sep-09 12:10:06

PP, I don't know......I didn't get my first preference, which is our nearest. So again, I guess depends on who else is applying.

I didn't know schools didn't know where you ranked them in your preferences. Learnt something new today.

frogs Wed 30-Sep-09 13:32:14


<phew, that's better>

Schools USED to be able to give priority to people who put them as first preference. This meant you effectively had to gamble on your child's chances of getting the school you really wanted before deciding which school to put as top choice. THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE.

Put the schools you'd like in the order that you'd like them. If you really wouldn't consider your nearest school under any circs, then just don't list it on the form.

frogs Wed 30-Sep-09 13:33:10

Oh sorry, misread your post.

All that shouting for nothing. blush

Clearly our 3rd bout of secondary transfer has addled my brain. grin

thedolly Wed 30-Sep-09 13:39:07

OK what about this then -

Do faith schools have a number of reserved places for non-faith kids?

becstarlitsea Wed 30-Sep-09 13:44:45

Glad I read this thread. It's convinced me not to apply to the school I toured a couple of weeks ago where the Head told us categorically 'we will not consider you unless you put us 1st choice' and when I said that the council advisory had told us the schools couldn't do that and don't know where we've placed them, the Head told me that this was not the case and that they only consider applications where they are first choice.

So she was lying, right? She did look like someone who was lying (loud, overemphatic, bit sarcastic)

Well, I don't want DS to go to a church school where the Head tells lies. We're christian, but would obv prefer a secular school where the head tells the truth to a church school where she tells lies. So that's that one crossed off our list then!

This is so flippin' stressful, and made worse by such misleading people (what exactly did she have to gain by lying btw?? I don't get it...). Over thirty kids in our borough were left without any school place last year, I'm just hoping DS isn't in that crowd this year...

captainpig Wed 30-Sep-09 17:09:27

becstarlitsea a school nearby told me the same about priority being given to those who name it as first preference, they even stated it in their prospectus (it was a church school), I was furious that they were telling people this and reported them to the County Admissions Department.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Wed 30-Sep-09 17:13:55

Thedolly - It varies. At the C of E VA school where I'm a governor, a third of places are "community" places, ie nothing to do with church attendance. For the other two thirds, the admissions criteria are based on church attendance (local church, church within 2 mile radius and so on). Actually, more than one third of the places are (in effect) community places because when there aren't enough children fulfilling the criteria for foundation (ie church) places, those places become community places.

But not all faith schools do this - other C of E dioceses have different approaches, and catholic schools have no community places (or so I have read on MN but don't know anything more). So check with your local faith school if you want to be sure.

frogs Wed 30-Sep-09 18:23:37

Thedolly -- as said above, it varies. You need to check the admissions criteria for each school. If they don't have a set number of places for each criterion including non-faith places, you need to find out how many places were allocated under each criterion in the previous year -- some LEAs have this on their website, or in the 'Starting School' booklet.

It will depend at least partly on how many people applied in each category as well -- if they can't fill the faith places with practising catholics/anglicans there will be more places available for non-religious entrants. Some church schools are overwhelmingly Muslim, for eg., while in others you have to be the Pope's first cousin to stand a chance.

No substitute for reasearch. smile

fothergill Wed 30-Sep-09 19:25:19

Wow, I can't believe there are schools actually saying they only accept 1st choice. Scary. Definitely report them I say.
So, our LEA categorically tell me that the schools will not be told the ranking on your form. Whilst I did know that info', I suppose I was just worrying about the school filling up whilst I was being rejected at another one. I think I am accepting now that we should be allowed to fail on 1st choice and get into 2nd or 3rd choice on equal merit of criteria...
So why am I still scared to do it this way!!
Designed to "Take the stress out of applying" Ed Balls reckons. At least I would have been certain of failure before.
Dolly, faith schools will each have their own criteria - as far as I can tell (although word on the street is a different and very bitter story) our local one has us getting in on nearest school above attending church and last year everyone in the parish got in. But yes, there is a big subversive question mark about whether or not you will get in unless attending their church. None of this is easy is it, trying to read all the local whispering that you hear. Its all still a bit medieval somehow.

GrungeBlobPrimpants Wed 30-Sep-09 19:36:22

The only schools that will only accept first choice are private schools I'd have thought. Even faith schools - although they have faith criteria - have to follow the equal preference system if they are state funded in any way - because you apply to them via the LEA.

The only reason I can think of for a head saying this is to jump up and down and say 'we're xTown's first choice'

For one local faith secondary you can get in by occasional church attendance. For another high-performing one you have to bang a bishop hmm

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Wed 30-Sep-09 19:38:25

If you find that any school has admissions criteria which are incompatible with the admissions code - or is misleading parents about what its criteria actually are - then report it in the first place to the LEA and take it from there.

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