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School Admissions - last minute changes to waiting list?

(15 Posts)
Lattjo Fri 21-Aug-15 14:23:55

Hi, my ds didn't get in to our first choice of school and so we put him on the waiting list and was at no.4 the last time I checked. Yesterday I received a letter from the LA saying

"the school(s) you are on the waiting list for are currently full and we are not able to offer any further places at this time. All school waiting lists are now being cleared to assist with a new system upgrade which contributes to the continuing improvements to our service... If you would like your ds to be placed on the waiting list for any schools, please complete the in-year application form...Places may become available at the beginning of the academic year, however no offers will be made and no waiting list positions will be available until 14 September 2015"

This an abridged version obviously! I cannot believe that an LEA would be updating their system at this time of the year and that we can't find out what's going on until a week after term starts. It comes across to me as though they just want all the children on the waiting lists to go the schools they were allocated.

I did find the following in the Schools Admissions Code today

"Each admission authority must maintain a clear, fair and objective waiting list until at least 31 December of each school year"

"For in-year applications (ie, September onwards) there is no requirement for local authorities to co-ordinate applications but they must, on request, provide information to a parent about the places still available in all schools within its area"

I'm confused tbh and would be grateful for any advice as I'd like to make a complaint. Thanks! (and apols for such a long post)

netballcrazy Fri 21-Aug-15 14:24:58

We've just had the same letter from Harringey

Lattjo Fri 21-Aug-15 14:49:29

Is your child on a list for primary or secondary school? My ds is on a waiting list for secondary - I don't know about you but I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I first read it the letter.

admission Fri 21-Aug-15 15:43:49

The two statements are actually correct. The first one about a waiting list being maintained until at least the 31st December, refers to the year that pupils would normally enter school, so reception or year 7. The other statement about not needing to co-ordinate waiting lists etc is specifically for in-year applications in other year groups other than reception or year 7 in the first term.

The statement that has been put out, seems to me to directly contravene the requirement for maintaining a waiting list. My reaction would be to reply in writing and say that you believe that this contravenes paragraph 2.14 of the School Admission Code. Further that you require confirmation that there will be continuity as you are fully aware that places may well become available in the period from 1st September to 14th September and that this may adversely affect your childs chances of being offered a place at the school.

As you say the timing could not be worse in some respects, though I am assuming it is because they are upgrading for the 2016 admission session, which is also starting very shortly.

Lattjo Fri 21-Aug-15 16:44:53

Thank you, that is very helpful!!

Just to be clear, the two statements I quoted were from the government Admissions Code, not from our LA. There is nothing on the LA website other than in the admissions booklet which says

"Your child will remain on the waiting list until the end of the autumn term and we will write to ask you to complete a new application if you wish to extend this further"

Doesn't this contradict what they say in the first line of the letter (as well as the Admissions Code) and where they say we have to complete an in-year application? Also, isn't it not "clear, fair or objective" or would you say just unacceptable that we have been given such little notice of these changes? Dp phoned 3 or 4 weeks ago to check where ds was on the waiting list and no mention was made of this.

Blu Fri 21-Aug-15 19:07:07

The LA is required by law to comply with the government Admissions Code.

If 'In year' applications are from September, and they are require3d to maintain 'year of admission waiting lists until Dec, they are breaking the law, surely? As Admission says. They have closed down the Yr7 entry lists too soon.

As well as resulting in kids starting schools and not hearing of new places until Sept 14th, having bought uniform, been through the daunting process of starting a new school etc, I would have thought that this could actually result in you LOSING a place that would have been available to you had they kept the waiting lists going until the start of the new term.

Say 4 people declined places today - you would not be offered your place because the waiting list is suspended until Sept 14th.

Say that then 5 new people move house over the next couple of weeks , having been trying to exchange and complete in the summer hols, or have used hol in between jobs and are now moving into rented houses, and all live closer than you. When the lists open again on Sept 14th they will all be ahead of you in the lists.

Since there is not time to go through all the layers of complaint etc I would write immediately to the Admissions Authority at the LA, and copy in the Cllr who is chair of the education committee, and your local MP.

Good luck - this sounds outrageous!

prh47bridge Sat 22-Aug-15 00:11:00

As Blu says, the LA must comply with the Admissions Code. If there is any disagreement between their admission arrangements and the Admissions Code the Code wins every time.

I agree with Admission that this appears to contravene the Admissions Code. I would write to them as Admission suggests. If they go ahead with their plans anyway and you miss out on a place as a result you will, in my view, have a strong case for appeal.

Lattjo Sat 22-Aug-15 10:41:11

Many thanks everyone, this is very helpful. It's much appreciated.

Lattjo Tue 01-Sep-15 17:16:10

I've still not had a satisfactory response from the Admission Service, and I've heard nothing from the 2 Councillors I emailed.

Does anyone have any advice as to the next step?

Thanks.

admission Tue 01-Sep-15 17:40:44

To be honest I am not sure that in the short term there is anything else you can do. The system will be back up and running on the 14th (according to the LA), so if you complain to anybody else like the Ombudsman then it will all have happened by the time anything could be done.

Assuming that you have filled in the in-year application to ensure that you are put back on the waiting list my inclination is to do nothing till after the 14th with the LA. You have written to them and laid out the issues and they have for their own reasons declined to reply.

If they reply with anything sensible by the 14th fine. If they do not reply then after the 14th I would again email them and ask them for a categorical assurance that no school places were offered from the 20th August until the 15th September in that school year group, that the school and the LA did not become aware of any vacancies in the year group in this period of time, when the waiting list was reformed and where you now are on the waiting list. Make them confirm everything in writing, not verbally.

What I would do in the interim is go direct to the school on the day that it opens and ask them whether there have been any no-shows. If there are find out when they knew as a school that they were a no-show. The probability is however that any no-shows will not have informed the school and the school and LA will have to go through the process of trying to contact the parents before they can release the place. So I would contact the school middle of next week to check what the situation is again, even if they say they are full the first time you ask.

Lattjo Tue 01-Sep-15 18:05:36

Thank you so much!!

So I can speak to the school direct even though the LEA co-ordinates in-year admissions?

admission Tue 01-Sep-15 22:35:08

From your original post I assumed that you were applying for a place in year 7, so as such it is not officially an in-year application. If it is any year group other than year 7 then it is classed as an in-year application.

The LA is as you say co-ordinating the in-year admissions but in reality they are only doing the paperwork and they will always refer back to the school before taking action on anything, once the original year 7 list of pupils has been issued.

So I would not have a problem contacting the school, though they may say you have to go through the LA and not give out any information. Going to the school and asking whether places have become available I am using as a means of checking up on what the LA are saying has happened in this period where there is no waiting list.

Lattjo Wed 02-Sep-15 10:11:13

You are right, I am applying for a Year 7 place but have been told to complete the in-year form so they can compile a waiting list.

pushingthroughthemarketsquare Thu 03-Sep-15 08:28:38

I live in a neighbouring borough (Enfield) and they also clear the waiting lists before the start of term. I don't think clearing a waiting list is the same as not holding one? As I understand it it is an attempt to free the lists up of all the annoying time wasters to have asked to be placed on several waiting lists but who in reality will either hold out for their first preference only, stay with the school they have been allocated once they start, or (worst of all) have gone private and completely forgotten about the request. Doesn't it make sense to have waiting lists that are filled with parents who genuinely want a place at the school? This saves time for the local authority and for genuine parents who the LA don't have to write with offers to only to be told the family have gone private or moved away or are happy at the school their child is now attending. Just a thought...

By the way, I agree with Admissions that the "no shows" aren't a simple case of reallocating the place to the next child on the waiting list. The LA has to go through the rigmarole of tracking down the parents to see if they are going to turn up and, if not, where their child is (a safeguarding issue) and this can take several days or weeks. In enfield there are lots of schools and this can take some time to do, even if there is only one no show at each school. If all parents acted responsibly and told the local authority promptly if they didn't want a school place, and were sensible about putting themselves on waiting lists where they have at least some chance of getting into the school at some point there would be one beneficiary - the genuine parents who are waiting for a school place and so who can be offered it quickly because the LA hasn't had to waste lots of time contacting the non genuine parents.

admission Thu 03-Sep-15 18:14:16

The problem is that the LA is doing something that is illegal by shutting down the waiting list and starting again. They have to hold a waiting list from the point where the initial allocations are made and a waiting list instigated to the end of December. The key wording in 2.14 is MUST maintain. MUST makes it a legal requirement and maintain means keep all the time, not when the LA feels like it.
I agree with the LA that they need to clear out all the people on the waiting list who are not serious about their application, but they need to do that whilst keeping the waiting list in operation not shutting the list down and making everybody re-apply.
In this particular instance the LA are not apparently doing it to clear out "deadwood" but for a system upgrade. If they are in fact just doing a clear out they are using slight of hand of what most sensible people would expect system upgrade to mean.

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