Parents not getting any of their first 6 choices?

Rosemary Mann's picture
 5
I am aware of several families who have not got any of their 6 primary school preferences but instead have been offered an unpopular school 3 miles away which requires either two bus rides or a 30 minute drive in rush hour traffic however there is no parking near the school to speak of so they would have to park in a local supermarket car park and walk for another 10 minutes at least. Their 6 preferred schools in all cases were their nearest schools calculated as the crow flies. It seems to be unprecedented in this area especially in a borough which claims to have catered adequately for demand through the creation of bulge classes and permanent expansion. Its the journey and the fact that its difficult to manage with their commute and other childcare that they are concerned about rather than the school itself which is being stated as improving, also the fact that their childs friends would not be particularly local. It seems that the schools own catchment area is extremely wide so realistically other children could live 4 miles away from them. They feel that this will from the outset remove them from the immediate school community and result in their isolation.

In addition to placing their childs name on various waiting lists for their preferred schools ( is there a limit or can they put their names down for all of these?) what action can they take and who should they approach? It does seem to be policy to put unplaced children in this school- is it done deliberately to provide a greater social mix or simply because there is space? Either way it throws up some odd geographical placement decisions.

Any advice would be appreciated. Generally families in this area dont have a lot of spare cash for cabs or time to take kids on long journeys to school, or the cash or inclination to place their child with before and after school childminders as the only way to getting the arrangement to work. I know some who are preparing themselves for a January start or indeed delaying entry for a year and keeping the child in nursery. Either way it is a situation that is making some very distraught. It does seem inexplicable in the circumstances.
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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 27/04/2012 - 06:40

Get them to set up a Facebook group so they can communicate easily with each other, share all the information they've got and work together. It sounds like another bulge class is needed and the faster and more effectively they work together the more chance they have of getting a solution rapidly.

Also by working together they will establish a support network and a social network for themselves and their children which will help them through this - especially if their children end up starting late in the Autumn. And - of course - they may end up with their children in the same class.

They will need to start petitioning their LA. Ideally they should be able to work with their LA to compile information about the problem and proactively contact the parents affected.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 27/04/2012 - 09:08

It's also probably wise for the parents involved to start sounding out the possibility of their children staying with their current nursery/child care provision or finding another local alternative in the Autumn term.

They should be able to find something as nurseries are much emptier in September than in the summer.

If they can take some of the pressure off themselves to find a school solution by September by planning a back-up position like this they are likely to be able to find a much better solution for the long term - especially if they work together.

Sarah's picture
Fri, 27/04/2012 - 11:11

Your friends should contact the local authority serving the area they live in and talk to someone in the school admissions team. The LA coordinates admissions for all primary pupils and makes the offers - it also holds the waiting list for any schools for which it is the admissions authority. They should appeal against the decision not to provide a place at any school they actively want for their child - a goodly proportion of appeals are upheld every year. Appeal panels do listen to arguments about children being split from their peers and having to travel long distances and have the authority to overturn the original decision. They should also check the home to school policy - primary aged pupils are generally entitled to free home to school transport provided by the local authority if they are not offered a place within statutory walking distance (2 miles) - they may also be eligible if they are on low incomes. The policy will be published on the local authority's website. They shouldn't give up hope of a place at one of their preferred schools yet because there is a lot of movement between offer day and the beginning of September as parents withdraw from places to send their children to private schools, some move, some change their mind, some get offered places at higher preferenced places. This then creates places which are offered to those on the waiting list.

On a broader level Rebecca is right - they should be asking the person in the LA with the responsibility for school place planning how they are going to make provision longer term for all the children in the area - that's their statutory duty, although it is a very challenging one right now. Good luck.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Tue, 01/05/2012 - 20:39

Thanks for all the responses. Its particularly striking that the key concern seems to be not that the school in question is improving rather than improved but the location and distance making it impossible to join an established local school community and associated friendship networks. The community link seems to be very strong no doubt making it easier to establish the networks and contacts with the immediate neighbourhoold that we all generally and eventually lose touch with. Seemingly primary education is the only real opportunity our children have for this.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 02/05/2012 - 00:25

I understand this completely Roslyn.

It's probably the first time mums who are affected as those with elder siblings at schools get priority.

In my experience it's often when your child starts school that you 'step up a generation'.

As a mum of a baby you're very still more a daughter than a mother and it's when your child goes to school that that changes. Primary school time is so lovely because you experience it with your children. By secondary school you're more taxi driver than a fundamental part of who they are.

It's easy to say you can establish a network of parents through facebook but it just doesn't work like that in practice - the process of networking is fundamentally embedded in practical issues of jointly raising children and in the geography and wider community beyond the parents' network. We primary school parents are the network of adults who support each other in practice - looking out for each others kids at and beyond school and sharing our journey through life over decades to come through chance encounters in many places. The children may lose touch with each other but the parents won't unless they move away.

Also, at primary school, your children study their immediate locality again and again from different perspectives and with different levels of maturity and a great deal is lost if it's not their community they are studying.

The parents whose kids do not get a place at a local school miss out on so much.

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