Education lawyer advises as Secondary School Admission Deadline Approaches
A timely reminder from a head teacher
With the deadline of 31 October 2017 for secondary school applications looming large for September 2018 admissions education lawyer Clare Roberts would echo Rob’s advice on honesty but also stress giving careful consideration to the application process.
Education lawyer Clare Roberts has represented parents at many admission appeals, especially at West Bridgford, Rushcliffe and Nottingham Free School, where places are highly sought after.
It is worth spending the time now in order to get your admission application right and avoid the prospect of an appeal at a later date.
Representing parents at appeals allows us the opportunity to see where in the application process, things went wrong. We often see parents that apply to schools that they have no real prospect of getting a place, or where a second or third choice has been given that is not really viable for a family.
Our initial advice for parents who have yet to submit their secondary school applications is to consider the following points:
Which is your catchment secondary school?
What is your catchment secondary school? Does it feed on from your child’s primary school? Is it a good school? Check the most recent Ofsted Reports and go and visit the school yourself.
Some schools that have struggled in the recent past, have now been made into academies and are under the umbrella of schools with Outstanding Ratings. Those schools are likely to have vastly improved since their last Ofsted; an improvement that only a visit will show.
Think about your first choice secondary school
We always suggest looking to your catchment or feeder religious school first as that is the school that you are most likely to be offered and which you have the best chance of obtaining a place at.
Whilst it is not mandatory that your catchment school is the one you put down as your first choice, if you are given it and chose to appeal that decision, you will have to justify to an appeal panel why your child cannot attend their local school.
Only list schools you are interest in
It is advisable to apply to more than one school but only put schools as your reserve choices that you would be happy with your child attending. At appeal, we have many panel members saying to parents ‘ Well, why can’t your child go to School X. You did put it as your second choice’. It is better to not list a school than to list one that you really are not interested in.
Look up the oversubscription criteria
For every school you consider, visit the school website (if it is an academy) or the city/county council website if it is a maintained school. As an education lawyer we advise you to look up the admission oversubscription criteria. The school admission criteria will rank how places are allocated. It is important to evaluate your prospects of success by looking at where you would be placed in the admission criteria.
Most schools follow admission criteria that will look something like this;
1. Children on Education Health Care Plans with the school named, will automatically be granted a place. Looked after children will come into the first criterion too.
2. Children who are at a feeder primary school with siblings already attending the secondary school.
3. Children at a feeder primary school.
4. Children in catchment (measured as distance from the school as the crow flies).
5. Children out of catchment with siblings at the secondary school.
6. Out of catchment children, measured as the distance from school as the crow flies.
Note that this is only an example of what a lot of schools’ admission criteria could look like. It is key that you research what your chosen school’s criteria is.
Religious schools will have additionally added criterion to allow for priority to children practicing the faith of the school and children practicing a faith.
Is there an aptitude test for an Academy?
Some schools like Blue Coat and West Bridgford High School have a criterion allowing children who pass, for example, a technology or Maths aptitude test to be allowed a certain percentage of places. Please note that the wording of this criteria will say up to.
It will be for a school as an Academy to decide exactly how many places are given up to the maximum limit. In a very oversubscribed year, this could be significantly less that the maximum limit. If you wish for your child to undertake an aptitude test as part of the admission process, please ensure you make note of the deadline to make that test application and be aware that even if your child does well in that test, it does not guarantee a place.
Sibling at school but now out of catchment?
Note also that the ‘sibling out of catchment’ criterion has been re-instated this year after a two- year period where Nottinghamshire County Council had removed it. The reinstatement is in relation to council maintained schools only.
Remember that academies set their own admission criteria and many schools that are academies do not give any priority to children out of catchment who have a sibling already attending a High School. Many academies will use the City or County Council to help them co-ordinate their admissions process on admissions’ day but they will have their own set of admissions criteria, distinctly different from local authority maintained schools.
As an education lawyer (and criminal lawyer) we must advice you to be honest about where you live. Many schools are very hot on spotting applications which are not as they seem. It is sadly the case that some parents will temporarily rent in an area like West Bridgford or Glenfield in Leicestershire, where school places have to be fought for, and then move out of the area when a place has been granted. Admissions team and schools will make checks on addresses. We have known of offers being withdrawn for parents caught trying to cheat the system.
Contact an education lawyer in Nottingham
We know that school applications can be stressful for parents. If you are worried about your prospects of getting the school that you want, or you are struggling to make your choices or complete your application, please do feel free to contact education lawyer Clare Roberts on 0115 9599550 or use the contact form below.