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School Admissions - designated "safe routes" for distance calculations

(7 Posts)
elementararial Sat 07-Oct-17 09:34:40

Schools in my area (including the one where I work) all use shortest distance by road or maintained footpath in their admissions criteria, measured by the LA using their Geographic Information System. I understand they apply a layer of "safe route" information, though this isn't explicitly mentioned in the policies, which just say all routes need to be calculated by the LA.

In the past certain routes have been controversially excluded. Usually it is alleyways or routes through parks, but it's not something that they advertise - from what I've seen parents only find out when all of a sudden they don't get places.

A prospective parent at our Open Evening asked whether they might get a place. Nobody from their area has got in previously. They are out of borough but it looks like they're closer to the school than other people who regularly get places. They have to travel through some parkland - but it's a safe route used by commuters - I can't see any reason why it would be excluded from the "safe route" layer other than the fact that it leads out of borough (which shouldn't matter). I did tell the family to check this with the LA, and it has got me thinking as to whether they would have good grounds for appeal if they didn't get a place.

Teddygirlonce Sat 07-Oct-17 10:50:41

I don't have an answer OP but we had the same issue when we were applying for a primary school place for DC1 many moons ago. We didn't get our closest school (our second choice) because the local council recorded distance by a convoluted 'safe route' (which didn't include the park cut-through that all the local families with DC at the school used/still use). I remember being outraged that the long route effectively added on about another 700 metres (to our journey) and meant we didn't get offered a place initially (or subsequently as it transpired).

In the end we got our first choice school but only after we'd been on the waiting list (without any school place allocation) until well into the summer hols before DC1 was due to start in Reception. We would easily have got our second choice if this silly rule hadn't applied.

PanelChair Sat 07-Oct-17 14:14:19

They might have grounds for appeal if the LEA overlooks a route which meets its own definition of safe. The important point here is that all applications have to be handled consistently and the LEA (or the panel at appeal) can't decide that a particular footpath or whatever is safe for that child if it hasn't for other children.

I was once on a panel where several families were arguing that their distance to school was shorter than the LEA had measured, because it overlooked a paved, lit footpath. The panel and the LEA agreed that the footpath should have been included in the calculation, and all the measurements for that school were recalculated to include it, but it wasn't enough for the families to win the appeal because the new calculations still left them outside the distance at which the last place was awarded. They couldn't win the appeal because, although it was an error, it hadn't cost them a place. It did mean, though, that they moved up the waiting list.

This wouldn't happen now because our LEA has switched to straight line measurements.

CamperVamp Sun 08-Oct-17 21:36:13

Charter School in S London was the subject of a big 'safe walking route' issue.

They had been excluding a path that the school itself used to get to sports fields, or something. And after years of individual appeals from parents on an estate the other side of this path they were finally forced to include the path.

But have now moved to Straight Line.

permatiredmum Sun 08-Oct-17 23:22:16

Our council uses 'as the crow flies' for admissions but available safe walking routes for transport eligibility.

CamperVamp Sun 08-Oct-17 23:39:21

That's surprisingly sensible, Perma!

tiggytape Mon 09-Oct-17 07:42:00

In the past certain routes have been controversially excluded. Usually it is alleyways or routes through parks, but it's not something that they advertise
This is usual. Many councils who use "safe walking route" specifically exclude short cuts across parks (where it is not an official road), unlit alleyways, shortcuts across non-public spaces (eg some exclude allotments), roads without pavements etc.

There should be a definition that the council hold that you can ask for.

If you find a route that is shorter than the one they assign you that meets their own criteria, you can ask them to use it /appeal on that basis.

However you cannot insist that they use a shortcut across a park or down an alleyway just because you intend to walk it anyway or becasue it is a well used shortcut that shaves 500m off your distance to school.

They have to treat all applicants the same so they have to have a specific policy on what they will allow - there will be other people in other parts of town who will be similarly prevented from using their own alleyways and shortcuts for the calculations even though they walk that route daily.

But of course, it does not harm to ask for the definition of "safe" and then see if that applies to any shorter routes from your home to school.

Our council uses 'as the crow flies' for admissions but available safe walking routes for transport eligibility.
All councils are supposed to do this to ensure that children allocated a school beyond 2 miles away from home (for under age 8) or over 3 miles away (above age 8) can qualify for free transport and don't miss out as they might if the often shorter as-the-crow-flies distance is applied. Whether the council choose to use as-the-crow-flies or safe-walking-route for the actual admissions process shouldn't change calculating distance for transport criteria by walking route.

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