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Do all secondary schools have catchment areas?

(22 Posts)
Toodle Thu 20-Sep-18 10:54:26

I've been looking at local secondary schools for DS for next September. My LA has a school distance checker from my address and shows how many km away they are and also the furthest away places have been offered for the last 3 years. None of the schools have offered a place as far away as we are. I feel really stupid when it comes to all this, could somebody explain to me how allocations work? All the schools we are looking at were oversubscribed last year. Admission arrangements state in the case of oversubscription places are allocated with priority going to looked after children, then siblings, staff at school, distance etc. Does this mean that if they get more applications than places all of the places will be decided in that order?

Sorry if this is really stupid but the way I'm reading this all is that DS has a really low chance of getting a place at any of the fairly local schools?

OP’s posts: |
Growingboys Thu 20-Sep-18 11:04:58

No. Depends on the school.

maz99 Thu 20-Sep-18 11:11:35

Most schools do not have a defined catchment area based on distance, but there are some schools do have a maximum distance - this would be in the admissions criteria.

Most schools usually order/sort children based on distance (in each ability band) - which also then gives the impression that there is a catchment area.

All the schools we are looking at were oversubscribed last year. Admission arrangements state in the case of oversubscription places are allocated with priority going to looked after children, then siblings, staff at school, distance etc. Does this mean that if they get more applications than places all of the places will be decided in that order?

Yes, that does mean the places will be decided in that order.

If you let us know what area you're in and the schools you're looking at, maybe someone on here will be able to help you.

theconstantinoplegardener Thu 20-Sep-18 11:12:38

Secondary schools do not necessarily have a catchment area as such, but yes, most places are allocated on distance. Children in the categories you mentioned above (looked after children, siblings etc) get first dibs and then the remaining places are allocated by distance so those living nearest are most likely to get a place. The most distant address a child has been admitted from tends to vary from year to year depending on the birth rate that year, number of siblings etc.

Are there any other local schools apart from the ones that you have looked at (even ones that you would not want him to go to?). If he seems to be out of distance for all the local state schools, it might be worth having a chat with the education department of your council. Sometimes schools make special admission arrangements for children who live far from any school and they are prioritised for their closest school (school A) over other children who actually live closer to school A but also live fairly close to schools B & C, IYSWIM.

theconstantinoplegardener Thu 20-Sep-18 11:16:18

Also, if you have a "superselective" school (with entrance exam) in your area, they admit pupils on the basis of exam score and so pupils come from a very wide area. That might be an option if your son is very bright.

BigSandyBalls2015 Thu 20-Sep-18 11:18:16

Varies year on year usually - completely dependent on how many applications they receive. so it goes by criteria to begin with, as you've said, then distance as the crow flies. some years it could be less than a mile, other years a couple of miles or so.

LIZS Thu 20-Sep-18 11:22:07

No catchments here, some have linked feeder schools to capture those who might otherwise miss out on distance.

RedSkyLastNight Thu 20-Sep-18 11:48:57

Some people do live in "black holes" where they are in an area where schools admit by distance, and they live too far away from any of their local schools to get a place! If this happens the LA is still obliged to find you a school place, and you can then appeal for a preferred school if you wish.

Catchment areas seem to be place dependent. All the schools near me have catchment areas and the chance of getting into most of them if you don't live in catchment is very slim (though on the flip side if you do live in catchment you are pretty much guaranteed a place).

cheminotte Thu 20-Sep-18 16:31:01

Our LA’s website let you put in your postcode and then it showed you your catchment school(s).

meditrina Thu 20-Sep-18 16:43:30

You'll know if there is a catchment, because the criteria will run something like: LAC/SEN, siblings in catchment by distance, other catchment by distance, other siblings by distance, all others by distance. So living within catchment will put you higher up the criteria (even ahead of someone who lives closer but outside the catchment, as they are not necessarily circular wit h the school in the middle), but might not mean you get a place, if all places are filled from within catchment by those living closer than you.

If you do not qualify for any of the schools you list on your form, you will be allocated the nearest one with a vacancy. This is why it's worth putting down the school you think you might get in to, even if you don't like it much, if it works logistically for you. Because otherwise you might be allocated one which you find just as iffy with the added attraction of a pig of a journey. OK that's not hugely helpful if there are none that look likely, but perhaps a historically undersubscribed school near a parent's workplace might be worth a look.

Do remember that it is possible for schools to be oversubscribed even when there are enough places to go round. What I mean it, say there are 3 schools each with 200 places. There are 600 local DC. Each parent puts down 3 choices, so there are 1800 requests, making each school oversubscribed though those 600 DC will all get a place at one of the three.

titchy Thu 20-Sep-18 16:43:34

It sounds like you could be in a black spot then yes. Have you looked around further away schools?

However the distances published are normally the distances of those places initially. They don't tend to show distances of those admitted from the waiting list. The schools usually know how far out they'll admit from including wait listers.

SassitudeandSparkle Thu 20-Sep-18 16:54:10

Admission arrangements state in the case of oversubscription places are allocated with priority going to looked after children, then siblings, staff at school, distance etc. Does this mean that if they get more applications than places all of the places will be decided in that order?

Yes you're right, they will allocate their spaces in that order.

My DD failed to get into a school that had a 'priority' catchment area despite only being a few hundred metres outside the area. She was allocated a school over twice as far away from us hmm We are on the waiting list, but always very close to the bottom due to those few hundred metres!

You can contact the Admissions Officer at the Council for advice, even at this stage I would have thought - might even be easier than after allocation day when they are mad busy!

PattiStanger Thu 20-Sep-18 16:59:19

You really need to get it right, please don't go on the replies you get here, there are so many different rules even well meaning posters could give you the wrong advice.

You should speak to someone in your area's local authority and make sure you fully understand the criteria.

PatriciaHolm Thu 20-Sep-18 17:00:42

Admission arrangements state in the case of oversubscription places are allocated with priority going to looked after children, then siblings, staff at school, distance etc. Does this mean that if they get more applications than places all of the places will be decided in that order?

Yes. That's a fairly normal set of criteria for a standard, non selective, non religious state school. Are you looking at all the local schools, or just the ones you would like?

It is possible to be in what a previous poster calls a "black hole" whereby you aren't close enough to any school to qualify on distance. Your local authority do have to allocate you a school place somewhere though, but it doesn't have to be in a school of your choice. If a further away school is undersubscribed you could be placed there, or if there really isn't a space anywhere remotely near they can force a local school to go over PAN to take another child. Again though this will be in the school they deem best placed to go over, not necessarily one of your choice.

PettsWoodParadise Thu 20-Sep-18 17:22:02

Don’t forget faith schools, they often have all or a proportion of their places for those of a particular faith or from faith feeder schools. DD’s school is our closest geographic school, now that does have a 9 mile catchment but you have to do well in a grammar test to qualify and those living on the doorstep do not have priority over someone living 8.99 miles away. The next closest school is a comp 1.4 miles away, we are too far away by about a quarter mile. If she hadn’t passed the tests she would have ended up at a school two bus journeys away.

As others have said it can be very varied and I’ve only used my DD’s options as an example.

From experience the LA often doesn’t help they will use the excuse that most schools at secondary are their own admissions authority. I’m reality it means a lot of leg work and contacting each school. When I was looking a few years ago I found the admissions officers in each school very helpful and they’d give last distance offered off the wait list and clarify any admissions priorities etc.

Some parents have been caught out as they really liked a school, thought they’d have no chance so didn’t put it on the CAF and then the school put on a bulge class and it came out very far as those on the borderline thought they weren’t in with a chance so the offers went even further out.

General advice is to have at least one school you are pretty certain you’ll get and then put the schools you really want in true order of preference.

Good luck!

Toodle Thu 20-Sep-18 17:43:26

Thanks so much for all the advice.

Our closest school and our first choice is 1.890 km away. Past 3 years furthest distances were 1.283, 1.402 and 1.166.

Second closest is 2.160 away, similar furthest distances to first choice.

The local schools are spread across 3 La's. We are viewing pretty much everything within a 5 mile radius. I'm just trying to figure out what the best options are for order of preference.

OP’s posts: |
titchy Thu 20-Sep-18 18:02:36

Don't forget they don't see what order of preference you put, so there's no disadvantage to putting an outsider first.

PatriciaHolm Thu 20-Sep-18 18:02:46

What it's also worth remembering is that those distances are usually the distance in the first round of offers. By the time September rolls round, many schools will have gone some places down their waiting list and that distance is likely to have gone up a bit.

SassitudeandSparkle Fri 21-Sep-18 09:41:20

I'd definitely put your closest and first choice at the top, then. As I mentioned earlier, the school we were allocated (which was our second choice) is further away than either our first or third choices and was oversubscribed on first choice places, so distance must have come in to the decision there for us to get a place!

Similar to you, our area covers a number of local authorities and also has grammars.

GetOnYerBike Fri 21-Sep-18 10:10:55

Don't forget they don't see what order of preference you put, so there's no disadvantage to putting an outsider first.

That is a really important thing to remember. Put the schools you want in order of your actual preference, if that means your first choice is a fair distance away still put it anyway.

My son's secondary school is always oversubscribed but takes from quite a distance away due to geography. People are put off by "losing out" on a closer school and end up putting the closer school first and then get that rather than the school they wanted.

Penguinsetpandas Fri 21-Sep-18 10:12:59

Phone your area's admissions team at the LEA for advice and may also be worth phoning schools. Only your area has to provide you a school and in our case its the nearest school in that LEA with places. Over 3 miles they are supposed to provide a school bus. There are some areas where children around here are bussed an hour away to schools. Can you ask locally? Where do children from primary who live by you go? There is quite a bit of movement after March though.

GetOnYerBike Fri 21-Sep-18 10:17:13

You can live next door to a local secondary to me, and yet unless you are looked after, a child of a member of staff, sibling, attend a feeder primary (even if you live a fair distance outside the LA) you won't get in above them because you are in a lower priority of it being your closest school. Closest school is not the highest priority.

It is all to do with the priority order and nothing to do with anything else. If they can accommodate everyone who applies they do. The priority only comes into play when they are oversubscribed. They start with priority 1 which is always looked after children. Then priority 2, they keep going until they fill the spaces. If they have 50 spaces left and 200 children under priority 5 they then take the distance from the school into account.

You need to look into what number of children they admitted and under what priority. You need to work out what priority category you fall under.

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