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how state secondary school admissions work

(10 Posts)
blouseenthusiast Tue 04-Oct-11 12:54:16

Can anyone help with this query? does it matter where on the list you put a school, so if you don't get first choice school is there less chance you will get second choice than if you had put second choice first? tia

AyesToTheRight Tue 04-Oct-11 12:57:35

All schools (as far as I know) operate the equal preference system so it doesn't matter where you put the school in your preference list. You will get a place at your highest preference school for which you meet the criteria.

blouseenthusiast Tue 04-Oct-11 13:04:30

Thank you Ayes. I was hoping that was so but was struggling to think how they could admininster such a system in practice - I guess it's some very complicated computer programme!

Blu Tue 04-Oct-11 13:21:37

The school has an admissions authority, which is either the governors or the LEA, depending on whether it is Academy / community school or whatever.

The admission authority gets all the applications, but does not know where in the preference list each application was placed.

The admission authority informs the central borough sorting office of all the offers it can make. The central office automatically gives each applicant the offer which is highest up their list of preferences, declines all offers which are below that offer, and puts the applicant on the waiting list for any higher preference, if there is one.

then the whole process happens again until everyone has an offer on offer day.

Except for thoise who have not put down a preference for which they have received an offer. They get whatever places the borough has left.

prh47bridge Tue 04-Oct-11 13:35:32

Just to confirm, the "equal preference" system is compulsory. It must be used for all state schools. That means your chances of getting in to a school are the same regardless of whether you make it your first choice or your last choice. You will be offered a place at the highest preference that has a place available, so if there are places at your first and third preferences you will be offered your first preference.

The beauty of this system is that you simply put your schools in preference order. You don't have to worry about gaming the system.

Blu Tue 04-Oct-11 13:41:47

Does the computer just keep whirring and whirring until all the offers have been allocated to someone's preference?

prh47bridge Tue 04-Oct-11 15:03:20

Sort of.

In broad terms the process is:

- Sort out a list of people who have applied for each school. Include everyone regardless of whether they have made the school their first choice or their last choice

- Put the list of applicants for each school into order using the admission criteria

- Draw a line below the admission number for each school. Everyone above the line gets a place

- Some people now have more than one place. Remove them from the list for all but the highest choice for which they have a place. Repeat until no-one has more than one place. It doesn't actually matter which order you do people in at this stage as you will always end up with the same result, which makes it all a bit simpler

- Some people still don't have a place at all. Give them a place at the nearest school with places available

That is a gross oversimplification but it gives a reasonable idea how the process works.

blouseenthusiast Tue 04-Oct-11 16:26:25

This is tremendously reassuring, especially the explanation of how it all works. Was a bit bamboozled by a head teacher who seemed to be suggesting that would have to put her school first to get it - she may have meant that otherwsie you might be offered your actual first choice, but it was a bit ambiguous.

Mico62 Tue 04-Oct-11 17:25:18

I would still list the schools in order of preference. If you're offered a place at the first school you list you can't change your mind and say you prefer school No3 when they've allocated their full quota of places.

We initially allocate based on distance, then factor in siblings before adding preferences to the mix. The LA schools are easy but we have to wait for the faith schools to notify us of which applicants meet their admissions criteria.

prh47bridge Tue 04-Oct-11 18:13:17

I'm afraid a lot of head teachers don't know how admissions work and give very poor advice. One of the most common forms of poor advice is to say that you won't get into their school unless you make it your first choice. Until recently a lot of schools and LAs did use "first preference first" which meant you probably wouldn't get into a popular school unless you made it your first choice. However, that changed a few years ago when the government decided that everyone had to use the "equal preference" system. Unfortunately a lot of head teachers haven't caught up with the change.

By the way, just to match up Mico62's description to mine in case anyone is confused, "allocate based on distance then factor in siblings" is what happens in my "put the list of applicants into order" step, "adding preferences to the mix" is what happens in my "some people now have more than one place" step.

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