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London Secondary schools - could you help me understand application process?

(41 Posts)
solittletime Thu 02-Mar-17 07:03:17

Thank you!
We are moving back to London after some time overseas. I went through application process for reception some years ago and it was very straightforward - catchment area and distance. Being in West London catchment area for good local school was less than 0.5 miles for reception entry! At least it was quite clear what chances you'd have.

When we move back Dd will go in to year 6, and I guess we will quickly have to suss out local schools and make an application.
But from reading threads and remembering about children in dd's old primary it seems like it is not as straightforward as just catchment?

I thought if we moved within a mile of local good state secondary we'd have a good chance of getting in, but do secondaries take other factors in to account? They can't be selective can they? Do they interview students, look at grades?
For example there is a great secondary not far from where we want to move, it's about 1.2 miles but out of catchment area. Would there be any point putting that as first choice?

Would welcome any advice and clarification on this... thanks!
For the record private and grammar are definitely not options for us. Dds are averagely bright children, no learning difficulties but not geniuses either.

Could push one a bit on music and art and the other looks like she'll be quite sporty, if that helps at all!

I guess my main question is whether it is all about catchment or if there are other factors involved.

thanks again

solittletime Thu 02-Mar-17 07:06:40

Sorry - quick bump, but also to add that my main concern is that we might well move within catchment of two good but oversubscribed girls schools. They are good schools but I would prefer for dds to go to a mixed school.

Thanks!

AveEldon Thu 02-Mar-17 07:11:13

For most London school there is no such thing as catchment

You need to download the school application guides from the relevant local council and go from there

There may be a test to sit for entry to all the schools
There may be supplemental art or language ability tests
Some schools have banded entry or a set number of places for people who score highly on the main test
Some have religious entry criteria

Lucy7400 Thu 02-Mar-17 07:17:22

You need google 'secondary school admissions' for whatever borough the schools of interest are in. There is normally document with a list of admission rules for each school and how far out in terms of distance they go each year. Or you could ask here.

Some are selective - there are grammars in Kingston and sutton for example. Some have a few places based on selection for a particular talent..

Some are religious with very strict church attendance criteria

Most seem to prioritise Looked after kids, siblings and then distance (normally as the crow flies but you need to check its not walking distance).

If your DD is already in yr 6 then you have missed application s. The results came out yesterday. If not, forms have to be in by october 31st and you get the results the following March 1st.

Mary21 Thu 02-Mar-17 07:24:57

How old will your child be when you move back? If they are just starting secondary school it will be different to joining the school mid way through.
This is called in year admissions.
If joining mid way you are looking at schools with space. It doesn't matter if you are next door to the. School if it full you are unlikely to get a place without appealing.
The good news is the lea has to find your child a school place. The bad news is it doesn't have to be at a good school.
However london does have a fluid population and just because a school as over subscribed age 11 doesn't mean it is higher up the school.
If you look at areas on right move it will tell you if the local schools are oversubscribed and what there foster is.
Best to pick an area with lots of good schools nearby so you have the best chance.
If you are coming back for the start of secondary it's best to be in the uk by 1october the year before.this is to go through the normal admission round. Do you know where you would like to live

solittletime Thu 02-Mar-17 07:25:13

Thanks. Sounds like a minefield! Luckily dd going in to year 6 after we move this summer. Trying to be strategic as to where we buy on a smallish ( for London) budget! At least it will give us some time to get our head round it and hopefully primary school will be able to advise.

Just found local authority info booklet online and must say its very clearly laid out with admission criteria for all local schools. However never know if these brochures that make everything seem so clear cut actually reflect the reality!!

We'll likely be near border between two local authorities which complicates things a bit...
Thanks again

solittletime Thu 02-Mar-17 07:32:54

Thanks Mary. West london as in hounslow / ealing boroughs, but not chiswick or richmond- too expensive and too many private schools we cannot afford. we know that part of London so very aware of plus and minuses..

SoulAccount Thu 02-Mar-17 07:59:49

'Catchment' is used for shorthand for distance. The vast majority of secondaries use distance as the main criteria after looked-after, social and medical, and siblings, so in that it is just like primary.

Faith schools and selective schools have their respective criteria,

Occasional schools use Lottery,

Some schools have additional categories: a few places for music or sport or art.

Some regular schools have an additional process: all applicants sit a banding test, and using the admissions criteria (distance etc) they take equal number of students from each ability band.

1.2 miles sounds quite a distance for London.

The LA will publish an admissions booklet which gives details of each school and a table which shows 'last distance' from last year's admissions.

The last distance shown is the offers made on National Offers Day (1st March). It gets a bit wider once the waiting lists have been worked through.

Look at the admissions criteria for the schools you are interested in.

There is no disadvantage to putting a 'long shot' school as your first preference. What matters is that somewhere below it you can put a school you will almost certainly get into and will be happy enough with.

SoulAccount Thu 02-Mar-17 08:11:28

It really isn't a minefield if you are arriving in time to submit your application in time for the October deadline.

You will be able to go to the Open Days in September (look on the schools websites , they may even publish dates in the summer), and submit your form, called the CAF.

And if you are in the doorstep , you will get in on distance.

It is unlikely that your primary will be able to offer any advice on your chances of getting in and in fact teachers, even heads, can be sources of misinformation, especially understanding the Equal Preference System. (The system which ensures that schools compile their admissions lists purely on their published admissions criteria, and not on where you placed the school in your list. If more than one school can offer you a place, The LA will allocate you the school which is highest on your list. That's why it is no disadvantage to put a long shot first)

Are you buying or renting?

lacebell10 Thu 02-Mar-17 08:17:01

Think you will find 1.2 miles is way out for any decent London school.

tiggytape Thu 02-Mar-17 08:24:53

I thought if we moved within a mile of local good state secondary we'd have a good chance of getting in, but do secondaries take other factors in to account? They can't be selective can they? Do they interview students, look at grades?
Some are selective. Parts of London have grammar schools and other schools are partially selective with 15% or so of students chosen on their performance in a test. Interviews and past grades aren't used for selection in those cases though. The process isn't subjective in anyway - it is all done by passing an 11+ or other selection exam.

For example there is a great secondary not far from where we want to move, it's about 1.2 miles but out of catchment area. Would there be any point putting that as first choice?
Yes, put it as first choice. You get offered the highest school on your list that you qualify for so if you qualify for number 2 but not number 1, you get number 2. There is no penalty for having not listed school number 2 as your first choice. There's no need to be tactical when you fill in the form - put your true order of preference.
As to whether 1.2 miles is too far for a place, you can look at the data from previous years and use that to help. If it is a single sex school with an intake of 240 for example, it is more likely to offer places well over a mile away than a small co-ed comprehensive in an area where it is the only school for miles around that people want.

As others have said, it isn't always distance that counts though - faith schools often have faith criteria for admissions, some schools have a defined priority area so you have to be careful that you're inside that area even if you seem to be living close enough, some have a random allocation system. It is important to read the criteria for each school therefore.

averythinline Thu 02-Mar-17 09:07:32

Solittle - I live in that area and 1.2m can be no use for catchments for 'desirable' schools-however a number of free schools are opening and others expanding - there is a massive boom starting this year in numbers of kids and lots of schools have expanded over the last couple of years.....most of the schools are at least good if not better than that - so keep an open mind...
If you haven't got a substantial church record you can pretty much rule out any of the church schools..they are all massively over subscribed..
the borough borders don't count in London admissions its mainly distance lots of kids go from Ealing to hounslow schools as is so residential
Its generally all about distance so buy as close to the school you want...or maybe rent for a couple of years before buying-
Primary schools will not advise about senior schools in my experience ....
look at last years data but catchments are getting smaller all the time

underneaththeash Thu 02-Mar-17 09:13:15

Just to add, some schools now select on things like musical/DT aptitude.

Also, there is a massive amount of movement within London schools, people move out of London all the time, so even if you don't get your first choice straight away you have a good chance of getting it eventually.

averythinline Thu 02-Mar-17 09:14:34

Sorry meant to add - the areas of selection are 'faith' although Twyford in Acton offers a few music places but the competition is fierce

I think the west london free school does some language? again kids will have been tutored for that since birth grin or be bilingual
other than that it is generally the standard - special needs/looked after children/sibling /children of staff- distance although check in the brochure - Hounslows is particularly clear I think ...

meditrina Thu 02-Mar-17 09:23:46

'Catchment' has a precise meaning - it is a defined priority admissions area (and living within it puts you in a higher category than non-catchment, but does not mean you get s place if there are more catchment children than places and they are all filled by families living closer) Some London schools do have them, and it's becoming rather commoner in schools with sibling priority.

The actual admissions footprint (sometimes, and rather confusingly called effective catchment) varies from year to year and is generally shrinking because of the demographic bulge. Councils publish information about admissions, which would include both what admission category a school reaches and the greatest distance in the final category. Have s look at those for both the boroughs you are considering.

When it comes to applications, you apply to the borough in which you live, but you can list schools in any borough (up to the LEAs to co-ordinate - something they do all the time in London)

skippy67 Thu 02-Mar-17 09:37:05

Ask your local authority about their fair access protocol. When we moved back to the uk after 3 years abroad, fair access protocol was invaluable in getting the dc in to our preferred schools. Ds was going in to year 8, dd in to year 4. We couldn't apply for places via the usual route because we were outside the UK. So without fair access protocol I don't think we would've got places.

tiggytape Thu 02-Mar-17 09:52:08

skippy - that's a good point for in-year admissions but OP is moving house at the start of Year 6 so luckily arrives just in time to submit an application at the same time as everyone else.
FOC is very useful though where people move area outside of the normal timeframe for school admissions when all places have been allocated.

solittletime Thu 02-Mar-17 10:17:12

Thank you to all of you for your wise words. smile

Avery I am keeping an open mind and very happy as I think there are lots of schools in that area and none of them are awful. Looking at very south of ealing borders with Hounslow, so Twyford quite far.

Wish I could be more specific but I feel the Guardian and DM beady eye on me (bit like the eye of Mordor, but more nosey).

We do have a religious background but will prob struggle to provide strong paperwork apart from baptism and communion certificates because of all the moving around we've done.
I just have a thing about single sex schools and would much prefer a mixed school, however that is my personal hang-up and I think I need to work on that in terms of opening my mind to other possibilities.
Possibly better a good girl's local school than a mixed school half an hour away just for the sake of it being co-ed.

Anyway I'm happy I've found the local authority info and it is very clear.

Off to book intensive music lessons for dd1 then... ;)
(No chance given the zero pressure overseas environment she's been brought up in so far!)

solittletime Thu 02-Mar-17 10:19:03

Are free schools and academies any good? My gut instinct is to stay away from them but they are a recent development so an unknown quantity for me!

tiggytape Thu 02-Mar-17 10:24:25

Some are brilliant and highly sought after. Some less so.
It stems in part from how they came about. Some academies are academies because they were judged to be so good they could go it alone. Others are academies because they were doing poorly and needed a sponsor to oversee them. That's not quite the legal structure of it but that's basically the two main categories they fall into. Most of not all of the highly regarded grammar schools in London for example are academies now as are many top performing non selective schools.

FiveHoursSleep Thu 02-Mar-17 10:28:50

Don't worry about which Borough you are in in London.
None of my kids have ever gone to a school in the same Borough that we live in, although we are only 5 minutes walk from the primary.
Distance is much more important.

dinkystinky Thu 02-Mar-17 10:36:12

It will be fine given the timings you're talking about. Make sure you look at the school websites you're interested in and go along to open days/book tours before the October deadline. We applied for independent as well as state schools and I think will be taking the independent places up - the state school we've been given a place at is out of catchment in another borough and I only put it down to fill the list up as suspected there would be no chance we'd get it, so its all abit of a mystery to me!

strugglingwithmaths Thu 02-Mar-17 10:37:21

I live in West London (in between Ealing and Greenford). It's great but very over subscribed. We are fortunate where we live that pretty much all the schools are good or excellent but it's still advisable to move close. Most LA schools work on "distance as the crow flies" but one ofsted 1 rated secondary does "walking distance on lit roads!"

Morena40 Thu 02-Mar-17 10:43:03

Secondary school offer dilemma!!
wondering if anyone has experienced this in the past. I have applied for 4 schools, one of them is outside my catchment area which I understand why they didn't offer it to us, but the other 3 are in our catchment area and they still didn't offer us any! instead they offered us a not very good school which was not on my list. Can anyone advise what to do next please!

dinkystinky Thu 02-Mar-17 10:53:53

Morena40- my understanding is you should be on the waiting list for schools on your list. Call the LEA up to check and then call schools to check position on waiting list - decline the one you've been offered and then keep fingers crossed for a waiting list place to free up...

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