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Help - council have moved the goalposts for admissions

16 replies

furrycat · 16/03/2009 11:23

We're trying to get our 4-yr-old into the local infant school in Sept. We have applied but don't find out till May if we've got a place.

The school has a linked junior, and applicants get priority if they have a sibling in either infant or junior.

Ridiculously, the junior school has a smaller intake than the infants so every year some kids from the infants can't transfer to the junior. So the council decided to expand the junior school for the 2010 intake onwards.

Most of the kids who missed out on the juniors this year got sent to school B. And because it was before the deadline for infant school applications, many applied for younger siblings starting in Sept to go to school B too.

A few days ago the council announced that actually they would make the extra places available from THIS September.

This has happened after the closing date for infant admissions. My worry is that many of the extra kids have siblings - and as we're on the edge of catchment we could miss out.

Can anyone with experience of getting kids into school enlighten me about this - if parents have applied to infant school B as first choice, and school A as second choice, shouldn't they give them school B if there's a place available? Or would the sibling link take preference over that?

OP posts:
nametaken · 16/03/2009 12:34

I think you're a bit ahead of yourself actually. Is your 4 year old going to go to this particular infant school regardless of which junior school accepts her?

furrycat · 16/03/2009 12:38

I'm not worried about him getting into the juniors at this stage - just trying to get an infant school place.

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rolledhedgehog · 16/03/2009 13:32

Depends on the arrangements that the LEA have made - bit unfair on the parents whose juniors could now have places at school A if their infants are stuck in school B. They might be nearer to school A than you also.

GreenEggsAndSpam · 16/03/2009 16:14

Hi Furrycat. I think I know which schools you are referring to, but am still confused by your post. Have you applied to Bf as your first choice, or D's?
Junior applications are dealt with first anyway, so any sibling decisions will stem from that. The sibling count only works if a child is already at school, so someone applying for a Yr3 place and a reception place at the same time will not be guaranteed both. The Yr 3 place will be decided first, depending on relevant criteria, and then the Yr R child will most likely get the same school as their sibling. If a child is already in reception, then the sibling link will work for the Yr 3 place.
Does that help at all?

furrycat · 16/03/2009 16:43

GreenEggsAndSpam we've applied to Bf. (D's second, lovely school but a bit further away)

My point is that junior applications have already been dealt with but reception places haven't been allocated. Suddenly 30 extra kids will be going to Bf juniors instead of D's. Any siblings will therefore, I assume, get priority for reception, even though their parents might have put a different school as first choice.

It's great that they are extending the juniors, but seems crazy to me that they have suddenly changed the rules for this year.

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GreenEggsAndSpam · 16/03/2009 16:58

I get you now furrycat!
I assume the reason they passed the extension approval now is so it is done before they allocate the extra 30 places for the new Jnr intake in Sept.
My understanding though is that they take the first choice first, and then see if the sibling link applies, rather than seeing where the sibling is and automatically assigning the same school. They must do it that way, as there will be instance where parent don't want the same school for their children.
In previous years, my understanding is that even if you weren't sure you would get a Jnr place at Bf, you put it down as a first choice and a Bf reception place first too. Thus, people who are now fortunate for their child to continue at Bf in Yr 3 would have put Bf as their reception first choice anyway. This is, as I said, because the sibling link only works if you have a going into yr 3 and going into reception child, once the Yr 3 place is sorted. I didn't hear any anecdotals of people at Bf putting D's as first choice - they all put Bf and hoped!
Nonetheless, you are right - more siblings will get places at Bf than before, meaning that the distance criteria will be tighter than previous years (if the level of demand is as high).
Nail-biting time till May then? D's is just as good though if it comes to it.

katiestar · 16/03/2009 18:23

Legally they have to comply with parental preference if they can.
However as the council have changed the rules as it were and I think it might have to let people chang their preferences

furrycat · 16/03/2009 20:23

But if that happened and we didn't get a reception place as a result, I'd assume we'd have a pretty good chance at an appeal...

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GreenEggsAndSpam · 16/03/2009 20:42

I think to win at an appeal, you have to show that they council didn't follow their own guidelines. I suspect they would argue that they followed their guidelines for aloocating infant places, just with extra spaces for the Jnrs. I an not sure they would accept that people chose differently because of the potential for the extra 30 jnr places. They are extremely unlikely to withdraw the offer of a place to anyone, so best case scenario would be that you won an appeal, and a place then became available. Success rate at appeal is pretty low though.
If you had known that Bf Jnrs was defintely going to have the extra 30 places, would you have put D's down as your first choice? Tbh, it doesn't matter whether it would be your first or second choice, places will be judged on distance anyway.
Tis a tricky one.

katiestar · 17/03/2009 21:47

Green eggs and spam
I know Maximum admission limits can not be changed after the bumf on school admissions has been published.In our LLEA I think they print details of linked junior schools in the brochure too.

If the council are found not to have followed their own procedures (and in doing so have caused a child not to be admitted who would have been if they had followed procedures correctly) then that child has to be offered a place.It is one of the very few circumstances in which more than 30 can be admitted to an infant class.

Personally I think the LEA are creating for themselves a mammoth and probably very costly headache and the most pragmatic thing to do would be to allow parents to change preferences in the light of the new development.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow · 17/03/2009 22:24

I can't see what grounds there would be for an appeal if OP's child doesn't get a place at the first choice school.

The admissions criteria haven't changed - all that's changed is the number of places in the junior school and, therefore, the potential number of siblings seeking entry to the infants school. Presumably, the LEA will fill the new places at the junior school with the first 30 children on the waiting list (at least, this is what our LEA did when a local school created an extra class). So that means there will be more siblings eligible for YR places at the infants's school but - unless the LEA invites parents to revise their choices - there will be the usual process of allocating according to parental preference (ie each child is offered a place at the highest-choice school which has a place for them).

Has the LEA commented publicly on how it will handle this?

furrycat · 17/03/2009 22:32

No they haven't commented.

So MadBad if what your saying is correct, that means that many of the reception place siblings won't actually be able to go to the same school - because the parents put a different school first, believing that was where the older child was going.

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MadBadandDangerousToKnow · 18/03/2009 14:52

Furrycat ? Sorry. I posted a long reply earlier but my PC crashed and it?s vanished.

Anyway, that?s how it sounds to me. It seems the LEA has two options (1) the original infant school preferences stand ? in which case the younger siblings of children who get into school A on the rebound (so to speak) could be left at school B, which could give rise to lots of complaints and requests to change schools or (2) parents are allowed to amend their preferences, which could bring in more siblings to infant school A. But I wonder how many children would fall into this category, as I imagine that most parents who wanted their children to attend school A would have made it their first preference from the start; I doubt that many would have opted ?tactically? for school B if that really wasn?t their first preference (at least, that?s what happens around here where even those with no earthly chance of getting into the most popular school nevertheless make it their first preference).

Neither of those scenarios is ideal, which is why I would have expected the LEA to make some statement about what they intend to do. Have you been in touch with your councillor? They may be able to find out what?s going on.

But the very specific point I was trying to make earlier was about appeals. As someone else said, the basis of an appeal is usually that the LEA mis-applied its own admissions criteria. There doesn?t seem to be any suggestion that that is happening here. For infant admissions to school A, all that?s changed (perhaps) is the number of infant places likely to be awarded to siblings. As I understand it (and forgive me if I have misunderstood), you (or another poster) were suggesting that the increase in the number of siblings might give you some grounds for appeal. I am not a lawyer but I do not believe that it does. You haven?t said what your LEA?s admissions criteria are ? and I?m not sure whether you are just inside or just outside the catchment area ? but I?m assuming that your LEA is one that gives priority to siblings, immediately after looked-after children and those with documented special needs. What you?re describing here with the extra class may be an extreme case, but it always happens that in schools which give priority to siblings, the number of places available to non-siblings fluctuates from year to year (rumour has it that at my child?s school next year there will be 4 places not taken by siblings). I don?t think you can argue that you had any ?legitimate expectation? of a place at the school; there is never any guarantee (outside the criteria of looked-after children and documented special needs) that a child will get a place at the parents? first preference of school, which is why the process is always described in terms of preference rather than choice.

I don?t want to be gloomy but if you are thinking of terms of appealing against not being allocated a place at the school, you need to be clear about what your grounds for appeal would be. There are solicitors who specialise in this area of law.

Apologies for the long post. I hope I haven?t muddied the waters.

furrycat · 18/03/2009 15:31

MadBad, I would imagine there would be grounds for appeal if your scenario 2) happened because certain parents would have been allowed to change their preferences after the closing date.

However, you are right, there would be loads of complaints by parents in this situation if they are NOT allowed to change their preference and their younger child had to go to school B - and quite rightly because they would have two children at different schools which is exactly the situation they were hoping to avoid.

Yes the LEA prioritises siblings and this is what I am trying to get to the bottom of - what happens when people put school B on their form as first choice, even though their sibling is now at school A? (assuming they are in catchment for both)

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MadBadandDangerousToKnow · 18/03/2009 16:11

Furrycat - You really need a lawyer's opinion on this! My own (amateur) answer to your final question would be:

If parents have put school B as their first choice, the LEA (or school if it's a foundation school which does its own admissions) will work its way down the admissions criteria (looked after children - documented special need - siblings etc etc) to see whether the child qualifies for admission. If s/he does, a place will be offered. If s/she does not, the process starts again at the second preference school and on and on until the child is offered a place at the highest preference school for which s/he qualifies.

If the end result of this process is that, after all the places have been allocated, siblings are at two different schools, then either can apply to swap schools. They would presumably then qualify for a place as a sibling but if the school does not have a vacancy they would have to join a waiting list. As far as I know, schools can manage their waiting lists however they choose, but most put them in order to match the admissions criteria. So siblings would go onto the waiting list behind (say) any looked-after children who had joined the list after places were allocated.

As far as I know, places aren't withdrawn once they've been offered (unless there has been fraud with (eg) parents giving a false address to pretend to be within catchment).

So, what I think this means is that - if the original preferences stand - then parents who have children in two schools are in a fairly strong position when it comes to applying to swap schools (depending on whether there is a vacancy and how many are above them on the waiting list). But things might be different if they are allowed to change their preferences before places are allocated, as that might make it less likely that siblings would be at different schools.

Anyway, all of this is conjecture, which is why I think you need to press for an explanation of how the LEA intends to handle the situation.

furrycat · 18/03/2009 16:48

A friend in the same position has written to council to ask so I'll wait to hear what they say.
It just seems they have (with all good intentions) acted too hastily.

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