No – it’s not fair but it is!

I read a post yesterday from a very distressed Mum. Her son is due to change schools in September and he has not been given a place in the school they choose. As with all situations like this (and there are many thousands each year) there is an appeals process. This allows the parents to put a case for their child and to hear the reasons from the school as to why a place was not given.

It is heartbreaking when, even after this, the answer is still no. The writer was distraught and wrote that the authority did no care for her son and in a way she is right. They cannot care about the individual because they have the mass to consider.

School admissions are always difficult because there never seem to be enough places in the schools that parents want. To cover this, all authorities have to have admissions procedures and most are set down by statute. Certainly in my experience there are usually 3 categories. Firstly, if the child has a statement of special needs which states a particular school. Then places will be given to children who have a sibling already at the school but the bulk of places will be allocated by distance.

Now this measure seems very cold and cut throat but it is totally objective. It is not possible for authorities to compare one appeal against another.Who can say that your circumstances are more urgent than the next? If the place is being decided mid-year and there are only one or two children seeking places, then it is possible to look at individual circumstances. When you have hundreds applying at the beginning of the school year, such subjectivity is impossible. Sadly schools do not have elastic walls so have to put a finite number on places.

So to the Mum I say – yes, you are right. They don’t care for your son as an individual because they have to care for all the children and are trying to make a very difficult situation as fair as possible.

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  • I’ve been a school commissioner and in many cases we would love to expand the popular schools but it is incredibly difficult to do so. First, in some cases, the site itself cannot accommodate further building so the expansion is impossible. Second the site can accommodate the expansion, but the school itself does not want to expand (and recently schools have said that they will convert to academy status if asked to expand so that LA can’t force the issue. Third the site will accommodate expansion, the school is open to expansion but either the parent body or local residents or both object to proposals (parents because they like the size the school is and once their own child is in, don’t want it to get any bigger and local residents because they fear the traffic that will become impossible and they have experience that parents are inconsiderate users of the road, and park dangerously when they are in a hurry). Finally there are often objections at the planning stage.

    A new one form entry school (intake of 30 children) costs £3-4 million to build, excluding land costs; expanding an existing school by 30 places can cost £2million plus depending on how clever the building needs to be to adapt to the existing spec and meet planning requirements, and even putting a portacabin classroom on the site for a ‘bulge’ class can cost a couple of hundred thousand.

    One of the biggest issues is that developers still do not provide enough S106 contributions / CIL to cover the impact of their developments. Lots of houses, not enough schools.

  • I couldn’t get into any of the primary schools in our catchment when my son was 4. One is a 5 minute walk from our home. All I wanted to do was walk my kids to school, but instead I had to find another one we liked and which could fit us in and it was a 10-minute drive away. He has been there for 5 years. Consequently we put our daughter there too so I could take them both to school.
    Now I have a situation where it is physically impossible for me to get both of my children to school because my 9 year old has been refused a place at the middle school attached to the first school he was at, and has also been refused a place at our catchment school which he could walk to. He has been given a place – once again – at a school we didn’t choose for him.

    It’s a fabulous school, we have no complaints about it at all. And he’ll be fine because kids just are. But how am I supposed to get my children to school – and pick them up – every day?
    Well I can’t. So I’m either going to have to pay out £150 a week on before and after school club (yes I worked it out) or put upon someone else to help me take *my* kids to school. I want to do that. That’s why I gave up a career so I could do that every day.
    At 9 he’s not old enough yet to make the 40-minute walk through a busy town centre on his own. Sure it will come as he gets older, but with no bus or public transport, it’s car only.

    I get that there have to be rules and they have to stick to them. But they keep building building building houses and they fill up with children and yet the school provision isn’t expanded to match, so this issue is only ever going to get worse, surely?
    Also, the authorities don’t make the decisions at appeal?

    • Growing populations in some areas is causing major problems because of lack of finance for building new schools. I do think it is odd though that councils spend lots of money ‘busing’ children around. Surely this money could got onwards more places in the right places? Thanks for commenting Tara & I hope you do get to the top of the waiting list soon & get a place where you want one.

  • About to go through this with one of mine and not looking forward to it. Plenty of schools, good, bad and ugly, nearby but it will be pot-luck which one he gets. I hate seeing the scrabble, panic and pushing of parents – the justification for why their child deserves a place, the disparaging remarks about other schools, the heavy coaching for grammar school places. The important thing is to find a school that your child feels good about (without hearing your thoughts first). Imagine being forced to go to work every day with people you dislked, doing a job you didn’t want to do in a place you don’t want to be just because someone else thinks it’s the best business in the region.

    • Thanks for your thoughts ~Fiona. It is so difficult because as Tara says, she cant get the one they want. Governments give parents the idea that they have a choice when it is more ‘you can offer a preference’.

      • All the LA officers I have heard in my area are very particular about calling it a preference form now but you’re right, initially this was marketed as parental choice which it most definitely isn’t.

  • In my city there are so many schools closing down that this adds to the problems parents face.


  • With the right support from home, a child will shine in any school.

    Isn’t it a great idea to support any school that your child goes to, and help the not-so-famous school to flourish with all you can?

    • I agree entirely. It is such a difficult situation though for some parents to understand. Thank you for visiting!

    • No matter how much support you give your child, if the teachers are not teaching to the required standards within the school, ultimately, the children will not reach the level of their peers that are in ‘good’ schools.

      As an example, we have a school just around the corner from us that I would point blank refuse to allow my children to go to due to the fact that only 50% of the children there reach the required levels in English and Maths (easily checked out on the school rankings). What good is getting a place at a school like that? None whatsoever.

      I understand school places are competitive but let’s be realistic, we all want our children to go to a good school. I feel so sorry for people with no choice but a bad school they are forced into. I can’t think of much worse.

      I have to say that if I do not get one of my two choices (yes, there are just two I would accept in my area and the nearest is 5 schools distance from me – so you can imagine I’m not likely to get it), I will home educate or move. I feel that strongly about my children’s education. I wish we could afford private school throughout as then we’d not have to worry about which road we lived in! Sad isn’t it.

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