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South London school applications - anyone else baffled and bit stressed?

(40 Posts)
Tootingbec Fri 31-May-19 22:43:43

DD due to go to secondary school Sept 2020. Sitting here feeling stressed and a bit panicky. Where we live there are several Outstanding state schools within what would appear on a map to be within catchment of our house, but yet they might as well be 100 miles away. I have realised that I am very naive - there is no concept of catchment. It is all complicated admissions criteria of academic banding along with proximity along with some other random selection process it appears. These are not grammars btw - just what I would say in old money was a bog standard comp! And they are all over-subscribed. So I am non the wiser about whether my DD has any chance of getting in to a school near-ish to home. And then in which case what is the point of the so called "choice"? She could literally end up anywhere in South London where they have a space.

And then every private school I look at also appears to be completely over subscribed and whenever I mention to other parents about X or Y private school, they all say "oh impossible to get in to", so the private option seems as unreachable as getting DD into a decent state school locally.

Just feeling completely overwhelmed by it all - almost seems pointless going to open days etc as I just feel it will raise my hopes when the reality will be DD could end up in some random school not of my "choosing".

Anyone else been through similar feelings and come out the other side? I know I can't (or anyone else!) predict the future but I suppose I am just looking for reassurance that it is not quite as dire/pointless as it seems and that a year from now I will be laughing at my doomsday feelings about my DD's education!

OP’s posts: |
LimeTreeGrove Sat 01-Jun-19 00:04:02

Could you say whereabouts you live as people who know the area might be able to help.

clary Sat 01-Jun-19 00:14:39

I don't know about London Op sorry, but here are a few thoughts:

No, you don't have a choice, no one does. If people did, everyone would choose the high performing schools and no one the less successful ones.

What you can do is express a preference. Like with primaries, it's a good idea to pick somewhere v v close on your list that you should get into (look at previous offered distances to check)

Lots of secondaries are over subscribed. It doesn't mean your child won't/can't get a place. Someone has to after all. I am not in London but most of the better regarded schools in my city are oversubscribed - probs by people who live in catchment for a less popular school.

Private schools will be happy to take your money, believe me. If you want to go private and can afford it, I am sure it will happen.

PettsWoodParadise Sat 01-Jun-19 08:10:13

You need to look at the booklets issued by your LA and nearby LAs. These usually give helpful info like last distance offered, if they need a SIF as part of the application process, dates for banding tests etc. If the don’t have the ones for 2020 entry last years will still be a guide. Distances change of course but not usually by masses. Also look on the admissions pages for target schools. You ideally need to have at least one school you are almost certain to get a place at on your CAF.

Re the banding tests they are just that - not academic - it is to ensure the school takes a broad spectrum of ability.

It does sometimes feel like you need a PhD in admissions- that is why those who’ve been through it in RL and on here will be happy to help.

prh47bridge Sat 01-Jun-19 09:58:36

It sounds like you are in an area where a number of schools use fair banding. This means children are placed into ability bands based on performance in a test with a number of places allocated to each band. The admission criteria then apply within each band, often with random allocation as a tie breaker. The idea is to ensure an even spread of abilities and prevent admissions being dominated by parents who can move close to the school. But yes, it can be confusing.

All schools being oversubscribed isn't a problem. That is fairly normal. To explain, imagine a town has 3 schools with a total of 500 places between them, there are 500 children needing places, the LA allows parents to name 3 schools and all parents name all 3 schools. The result will be that all 3 schools have 3 times as many applicants as places, so they will all be very oversubscribed. However, all the children will get places at one of their preferences.

If the schools give priority to children living within a certain distance from the school and you live within that distance it is likely your child has a good chance of getting a place. Check the information about admissions last year. That will give you a better idea as to whether you are likely to get a place.

AveEldon Sat 01-Jun-19 10:00:34

I'm guessing you are in Tooting Bec

You need to look at the distance lists for the schools as published by the council - see above

Your child needs to sit the Wandsworth test
If you want a Lambeth school you need to sit their test

Chestnut Grove may be an option depending on where you live
Burntwood too

SnowyAlpsandPeaks Sat 01-Jun-19 13:42:56

They are not your choice of schools they are your preference.

Tootingbec Sat 01-Jun-19 21:51:55

Thanks everyone for your advice and having looked at distance for each band, it looks like we live in some sort of dead zone between my preferrred schools (I now get that this isn't a choice anymore!) . We are in the Streatham area so too far for Chesnut Grove, just out of reach of Dunraven and apparently everything else except a couple of schools where they never have anyone put them as first choice or you have to be Catholic to get in. I just don't get how one of my state school "preferences" can be a school where even if I am close by I can't get in anyway because we are not Catholic.

Literally have no idea what to put on the list as it seems that Dunraven will be a pointless 1st choice and the next nearest school to us is flippin Catholic!!

Sorry just ranting now as feel like I am being asked to put 6 schools down on a list, all of which we don't appear to fit any of the criteria for - either the catchments are tiny regardless of which band you end up in so we won't get a place on proximity or we have to be Catholic.

Almost tempted to just put down ludicrious "preferrences" for and just let fate take its course as actually applying any criteria about what would be the right school for DD is a pointless exercise as we haven't got a cats hell in chance of getting a place at anything half way decent.

Sorry - should have left London 2 years ago I guess - we are in such a fantastic primary school I think I fell asleep at the wheel!

OP’s posts: |
HelloHelloHello27 Sat 01-Jun-19 22:33:47

OP- remember that the distances on that document are the ones as at March. There will be a lot of movement after that date and many pupils will get offers from waiting lists. Lots of pupils in SW London end up going to private schools but will have submitted state applications. Or some will be on waiting lists for grammar schools and if they get a space at them will release their other offer. It's like a massive cascade!

clary Sat 01-Jun-19 23:31:52

if you have six prefs you can and I would say should put a school you would like as top option, if you are just out of reach of a desirable school then put that down. Nothing to lose! Just make sure you put your local ok school on there somewhere.

Greeborising Sun 02-Jun-19 02:10:54

If you have a shot at Francis Holland, Sloane Square go for it

prh47bridge Sun 02-Jun-19 08:36:09

Don't forget you can put schools in Wandsworth on your list. It may be worth taking a look there as well.

LizziesTwin Sun 02-Jun-19 08:40:10

Gree Francis Holland is private, exams in January.

MarchingFrogs Sun 02-Jun-19 08:58:16

Greenshaw High School in Sutton admits 60 students on their score in the Sutton Selective Eligibility Test, not dependent on place of residence, if the journey would be doable for your DO? My impression is that as the SET is also part of the selection process for the Sutton grammar schools, most parents may be putting their DC in for it with an eye on a place at one of those and wouldn't be interested in Greenshaw, but I may be wrong. It would be another test yo take, though, which you / she may not want.

AnotherNewt Sun 02-Jun-19 09:15:52

Very little of London has catchment as a priority (mainly because it is unmanageable, given high and variable population densities)

Things people do in your area:

a) sIt the Wandsworth test and hope for a place at Graveney
b) sit other selective tests and hope for a qualifying score for places at those schools (you get results back in time not to waste a place on the form if miles away from required mark)

Remember you are expressing preferences of which state school (nit making a choice). So do list some genuine preferences, even if they are long shots.

Usually advice is to list a banker, but when you have no sure-fire one, then which of the nearby undersubscribed schools is least unpalatable to you?

What secondary schools' uniforms do you see worn by neighbours DC? Especially ones who look 11/13ish?

Do consider that Burntwood often goes out quite a long way, on reallocations if not on first allocation

Fudgenugget Sun 02-Jun-19 09:30:02

I found the process incredibly stressful. We were initially offered a failing school in Peckham (27% pass at GCSE A-C) which we turned down flat. So we went on waiting lists for other schools (the best ones, closest to our address, we didn't get into) and got into a school in Dulwich, but we weren't entirely convinced by it. My daughter received another offer to another school out of Borough but only a 15 minute bus ride away, which has worked out really well because they support her interests amazingly. We learned that a) it is totally random b) once the Council give you an offer they don't give a shit, their role in the process is done and c) the waiting lists are a useful way to get into the school you want.

MarchingFrogs Sun 02-Jun-19 10:11:48

We learned that a) it is totally random

No, it isn't. There are rules which have to be followed, even if schools have leeway with the precise details of the policy that they set. The random bit is allowing preferences to be expressed and not being able to predict with complete accuracy the actions of the humans involved on the demand side of the equation.

b) once the Council give you an offer they don't give a shit, their role in the process is done

The local authority has to allow you certain freedoms- to allow you to express at least three preferences, in your personal ranking - but at the end of the day, does not have to comply with any of them if your DC does not rank highly enough against any of the schools' published admissions criteria. So, you can be unlucky and be squeezed out from a previously safe bet local school by e.g. a weirdly high influx of families with DC of your DC's age. Or you can predict in advance that you won't get any of your preferences, if you choose to name only schools where no child below criterion 4 has got a place for many years, but your DC only ranks under criterion 7 and so on. The LA has to find you a place somewhere, if you ask them to, but it doesn't have to be one of your preferences, if the requests cannot be met within the confines of the relevant legislation.

and c) the waiting lists are a useful way to get into the school you want.

See a) above. smile. Once movement happens somewhere (job change leading to relocation, place coming up at indie, ecision to home ed after all etc), it will cascade. Somehow, in some direction. And if your preferences weren't total no-jopers, eventually, it may well come to you.

MarchingFrogs Sun 02-Jun-19 10:12:59

...or even, not total

AveEldon Sun 02-Jun-19 10:16:34

Kingsdale might be worth a try as they have a lottery process

Chestnut Grove have art and language places - consider taking those extra tests

If you use Facebook - Streatham Mums Network is a very active group who will give you lots of opinions on the schools

Where do the kids from your primary go to?

daisypond Sun 02-Jun-19 10:42:16

I’m not too far from you. I’m in Lambeth. I’ve been through the process and out the other end. There is a lot of movement after offer day because a large number will go to independents. Put what you want first, even if you think there’s little chance. Sit the Wandsworth test if you fancy any of their schools. Graveney or Burntwood if you’ve got a stab at the academic selection. You may be surprised. As pp suggested, languages or art test for an extra chance at Chestnut Grove. Don’t rule out Dunraven because you think you’re too far. Any other talents that your DD has, say, for music or sport or drama that might allow access to schools with selection for these? From where I am children went to a huge selection of state schools. If you are able to pay there will be a school you can access, though think hard if you want to go down this route. Places open up as well later on. I know someone who had their child in an independent but when a place became available at Dunraven they moved them.

marytuda Sun 02-Jun-19 12:54:21

Did this two years ago and like you my DC arrived in final term of Y5 without me having thought much about it at all (how hard could it be??!) Then it hit me - hard; the following months were stressful but also fascinating, and we came out of it fine as I think do most people here in London . . . There are actually a range of great comprehensive schools, most of them not "fashionable"/frequently name-checked on MN, but still well up to the job especially for any child with engaged, motivated parents, I would say. They will be delighted to have you.
Two basic rules to cling to amid the application madness:
1) Include at least one "Dead Cert" school in your list of 6, one you know you will get a place at. It can be a Dead Cert for a range of reasons, but most likely because you live well within the catchment area. People are saying here that London has no such thing, but that is rubbish; there will be several schools very local to you which you would be certain to get a place at, unless (like a certain over-hyped Dulwich school) they don't operate a catchment at all, only a lottery. But that's very much the exception. Even your local Catholic school will have to admit by law (I believe) some local children on that basis, irrespective of faith; so if you like the school and are very close by, you could probably consider that too.
You could also have been promised a "scholarship" or aptitude place at a school, anywhere, on the basis of an aptitude test. Aptitude tests (which include the Wandsworth, although that being a quasi 11+ exam is rather different in character) take place throughout September of Y6, usually on Saturdays, and you'll get the result before you have to submit your application form end of Oct - that's the point. Though do note that just because your child has done rather well in an aptitude test, doesn't make a place at that school a Dead Cert. The school will make it clear to you before end Oct if your child definitely has a place on that basis. Often, they will tell you if it's likely, but sometimes they won't know for sure.
2) Put your 6 schools absolutely in the order that you prefer them. Put your dream-fantasy, not-a-hope-in-hell choices first, and your Dead Cert at the bottom in 6th place, if you like. It won't make a bit of difference to your chances at either; the schools themselves can't and don't want to know in which order you placed them. That's your council's job, and their computers really will operate on the assumption that you want any higher-placed school over any lower-placed one (where both can admit you) and offer you that one place.
So off you go - get visiting schools, reading their website admissions pages, filling in aptitude test application forms (if appropriate) and enjoy it! (It is possible . . ) If you are doing the Wandsworth test, print out a couple of practice papers over the summer, just to prepare your DC for the 3-hour long shock treatment of it. But bear in mind that unless they are a total 11+ natural, you are unlikely to get close to Graveney (effectively Wandsworth's grammar school) on the basis. Your DC will be competing against prep-schooled kids who've been practising NVR/whatevs for years. But sod Graveney! Wandsworth has many nicer schools IMO, as has south London as a whole, and that's the thing to remember in this process. . . Contrary to what many private school parents think, there isn't just one acceptable London state school or bust. Even your original 3rd preference (as in our case) can end up absolutely brilliant.

daisypond Sun 02-Jun-19 13:06:52

In our case, we bought into the hype of how difficult it all would be and how impossible it would be to get into Graveney etc that we didn’t even put them down. But when we knew the score DC got in the Wandsworth test we realised they would have got in easily. This was a few years ago now.

jackparlabane Sun 02-Jun-19 13:34:50

If you live near BTG, then the only non-Catholics admitted in years are those with a EHCP.
However other secondaries that people near there apply for are Dunraven, Norwood, Elmgreen, Chestnut Grove, and now Woodmansterne. There's a Lambeth Test for banding as well as the Wandsworth one, but that's just a formality - low bands possibly take further distances, even. What the banding tests do is exclude the families too disorganised/uninvolved to make their child sit them on a Saturday in late Oct/early Nov...

There are kids from Streatham who are at Wilsons or the Sutton grammars, but not nearly as many as 5-10 years ago.

(I'm clearly near you and in the same boat)

TheRedBarrows Sun 02-Jun-19 13:59:19

OP, it seems daunting but you just need to take it step by step.

Go to the open days, (but don’t expect staff to be able to advise on admissions distances).

Then make a list of the schools you like, in order of your preference.

Then work out what you need to do to apply to that school

As pp have said, distances given are on National Offer Day. They are wider by the end of the summer term, with places coming up as late as September, as people move house over the summer hols.

What are your closest schools?

Does your Dd have any specific talents or aptitude?

daisypond Sun 02-Jun-19 14:12:17

In the end, it actually didn’t seem to matter much where children ended up. I know it matters at the time, but looking back I wish I hadn’t worried so much. Those children who went to schools that other people wouldn’t touch with a barge pole seemed to do well and went off to good universities. There also seemed to be a tendency for people not to like their nearest school, even though for those further away it was a good choice.

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