New website to show reception admissions info

Ed Rushton's picture
 3
We have a young son and were planning to move house to a new area (in north London). Given the experience of friends and family, we realised that our house search would need to take into account the local schools. However, we didn't realise that it would end up being driven entirely by schools.

I started researching schools and had a look at the local authority website to find information about admissions. Perhaps naively, I was surprised at how strict the criteria are for admission to faith schools. I don't have a faith, or any inclination to pretend to have one, so our options were limited. After quite a lot of effort I worked out that we would need to live on the doorstep of a good community school to have a chance of getting in.

As a result of our experience, and due to the research that I had already done, I decided to build a website to help other parents undertake the same research, i.e. work out where you might need to live to get into a school. This has turned into a more general tool to help parents find, research and compare local primary schools. The site is now live here

Its main selling point is that it takes data from Local Authorities on admissions - specifically, the furthest home to school distance of a successful applicant in previous years - and plots this as an area on a map. This is the approximate area where you would have needed to live in order to get into the school. (Obviously, there is a caveat that the distances and areas change from year to year, and so there can be no guarantees about success of admissions in future years.) I noticed in the last few days that Hackney has started to publish maps showing these areas in their primary school admissions brochure.

I have only collated information on admissions for Greater London and central Manchester so far, but plan to add more areas in the future. Also, some LAs seem to keep admissions data closely guarded, so I can't offer the service for those LAs.

The site is still being developed, so apologies if you find things that don't work so well. Any feedback on the site would be gratefully received.
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Comments

Henry Stewart's picture
Thu, 29/09/2011 - 22:13

Ed, this is a brilliant site. I typed in my post code and instantly got the catchments of my local schools. I don't know how you've done it but it is a fantastic resource for parents of pre-school children - to see at a glance which primary school they can get into. It deserves to go viral.

One pt: I'm not sure its clear enough that the schools with the yellow outline don't have a catchment area and anybody can get in. Also is the re a value added figure you can add for schools so it isn't just raw results?

And can you do the same for secondary schools (more complex, i know, because of banded intakes but still possible.)

Ed Rushton's picture
Fri, 30/09/2011 - 08:31

Hi Henry - thanks for the comments, and I hope it does go viral - please send it round to people you think might be interested, and encourage them to follow us on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/findaschoolinfo

I will certainly try to make the non-oversubscribed schools more prominent (the yellow outline was meant to be a halo...)

Regarding a value added / overall measurement figure, it is something I have thought about. Schooloscope (www.schooloscope.com) provides a good and sophisticated example of this. My reason for not going down that route with findaschool (at least so far) is that you will always end up having to rank some schools as poor. I don't deny that some schools are poor, but I don't feel that it is fair for me to offer that kind of a judgement when all I will have done is to aggregate some statistics.

Unfortunately, this does mean that the site presents you with quite a lot of raw data. I think one answer is probably to improve the user interface - so keep the initial focus on a graphic representing a small number of statistics - e.g. Ofsted + KS2 result, and then make it easy to see more detail if that is required.

It will certainly be possible to add secondary schools, and I hope to do this in the future. However, the focus for the moment is on making it work for primary admissions, and extending coverage beyond London and Manchester (unfortunately, due to the way that the data is published, this process is extremely time consuming).

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Mon, 28/11/2011 - 18:55

Hi there! Can I ask how the data gets updated and how often it is refreshed? Thanks!!

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