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Sibling rule to be restricted to those within 800m of school?

(16 Posts)
LocalEditorWandsworth Tue 16-Sep-14 08:31:12

From the Council's press release (plan highlighted in bold):

The council is set to consult parents in Wandsworth on proposed changes to school admission rules that should make it easier for children to attend their local neighbourhood community school.

Education chiefs are expected to announce a public consultation into plans that would change the current arrangements that give preference to siblings.

The change is being considered in a bid to make the schools admissions process fairer and to give greater priority to children who live closest to schools.

Education spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey said: “There has been a growing clamour from parents asking us to look at this rule because of mounting evidence that local school places are being offered to children living some distance away simply because they have an older sibling already enrolled there.

“There are growing signs that some parents are enrolling a child in a popular Wandsworth primary school and then moving out of the area, safe in the knowledge that their younger children are virtually guaranteed a place at the same school solely because of the sibling rule.

“What this does is deny that place to a child who lives much closer to the school, sometimes only a stone’s throw away.

“There have been cases where schools have had to offer almost all their places to siblings, some of whom may live a considerable distance away, while a child who lives literally a few yards away from the school gates cannot be offered a place.

“We don’t think this is fair which is why we are proposing a solution that will strike the right balance and better meet the needs of parents who live close to our schools.”

Under the existing admission arrangements priority for a school place is given to a younger sibling regardless of where they live.

The council is proposing that sibling priority should only apply in future to children who live within 800 metres of the school. Siblings residing further away would no longer have priority over children living closer.

Data from the 2014 round of admissions show that of 712 children who were offered a place at a community school on the basis of sibling priority, 174 lived more than 800 metres away from the school

The council believe the proposed approach would strike a fairer balance as the majority of families with siblings would not be affected by the change.

If, after consultation, the change is agreed, the council will urge church schools and other state schools responsible for their own admissions, like academies and foundation schools, to consider similar changes.

The council is also tightening up the rules that allow parents to use temporary addresses to obtain a school place. There has been growing evidence that, despite the council’s rigorous checks on where people live, some are using this tactic to secure a place ahead of families who have lived in an area for a long time.

The address used on an application must be the family’s normal permanent address. Parents will not be able to move into a property on a temporary basis to increase their chances of gaining a school place. Nor will they be able to use a relative’s, a childminder’s or a business address.

If the family own a property but make their application from a different address, the council will assume that the second address is a temporary one. Similarly if a family is renting somewhere because their main home is being renovated, then the latter will be considered their permanent address. And if the family own more than one property additional checks will be carried out to determine which one is actually their main home.

Temporary addresses will only be considered if the applicants are able to prove they have sold or permanently moved out of their normal address.

Councillors on the education and children’s services overview and scrutiny committee will be asked to endorse these proposed changes for public consultation at their meeting on September 17.

Any changes to the admission rules would come into effect for the 2016/7 academic year.

There is huge demand for primary school places in Wandsworth, partly due to an increased birth rate, but also because of sustained improvements in teaching and learning at local schools.

School standards watchdog Ofsted currently rates 95 per cent of Wandsworth schools as good or outstanding, ranking the borough equal second nationally behind the City of London. In comparison only an average of 80 per cent of schools in other parts of the country, and 85 per cent in London, have been given the same quality rating by Ofsted inspectors.

The council has already taken a range of steps to provide extra classroom places for four and five-year-olds.

Over the past four years more than 28 additional reception classes have opened in schools across the borough to meet the growing demand from parents, while three new free schools have opened in Tooting, Balham and Roehampton.

The council has also drawn up proposals for two brand new academies - which could each accommodate up to 420 pupils. These are for the vacant Putney Hospital site and on land formerly occupied by the Atheldene Centre in Earlsfield.

I can imagine this one might generate a fair bit of, ahem, discussion.

What do you think? Would it make it easier to get your child into your nearest school? Do you have a sibling who'd suffer?

CaptainNjork Tue 16-Sep-14 08:40:31

Very silly idea.

First off, we all know that the schools where significant catchment area gaming actually happens are Belleville and Honeywell. The council can only control the admission policies for it's own schools, not for foundation schools, voluntary aided schools and academies, which both BV and HW are. So it wouldn't apply to them anyway.

Second, what about families whose houses have fallen out of catchment between their children reaching school age? Not because they've done anything but because the school or area generally has grown in popularity.

mumbleema Tue 16-Sep-14 08:43:07

Good point njork and both BV and HW have been very resistant to any previous attempts by the Council to persuade them to reconsider their admissions policy.

mrsmum1 Tue 16-Sep-14 08:50:04

I live on Belleville Rd but DS didn't get a place so think restricting the sibling catchment area is a great idea. With fewer siblings being ferried in by 4x4 from their big houses out of catchment, we might have avoided the 2 mile school journey we have now.

mumbleema Tue 16-Sep-14 08:51:45

Um, Mrsmum1 read the replies to the OP. Belleville won't be affected as it sets its own entry criteria.

LocalEditorWandsworth Tue 16-Sep-14 08:57:58

The Council's head of Education and Children's services, Kathy Tracey, touched on this in her webchat with us earlier in the year.

" Belleville School has converted to an academy school and now responsible for their own admissions. Honeywell School is a Foundation school and also responsible for their own admission criteria. Confusing I know, we have been talking to both schools for sometime now about catering as much as possible for local children. At Beatrix Potter they also have a criteria that says casual vacancies, those children that enter the school at a time other than reception class, do not have the right of sibling entry. This means that parents must decide whether moving their child to the school without a guarantee that a sibling would gain entry is something they want to do. It means local children have application rights over those that might live out of the area. I have tried unsuccessfully so far to persuade both Belleville School and Honeywell that adopting this criteria would free up a few places for local children."

CaptainNjork Tue 16-Sep-14 09:06:21

Hate to say I told you so... wink

MillionPramMiles Tue 16-Sep-14 14:03:06

Putting aside BV and HW (there are other oversubscribed schools in Wandsworth...) the policy seems a sensible start. It makes absolute sense for children to be allowed to attend their local school. If you choose to move away, you're free to move your child to a school closer to your new address where they can attend with their sibling.

I can see how this might be a problem in rural areas where schools are further apart but (though there are undoubtedly blackspots) you'd be hard pressed to move to an address in Wandsworth that was over 800m from a primary school (and you'd hardly choose to move to an address that wasn't near any school).

This isn't about parents being left with no school place. It's about parents not being permitted to bend the rules to ensure they have the place at the school they want (and not the school closest to where they live).

Although where faith schools fit into all this I don't know...they might have to prioritise distance over faith...

Wandsworth aren't the first LA in the country to select school places this way, it's not so unheard of.

tiredofwetsheets Tue 16-Sep-14 18:36:07

I do think this isn't going to be as simple as it sounds.

Take Ravenstone in SW12 as an example. Historically very over subscribed and until this year would have had a catchment of well under 800m. But with a slightly iffy OFSTED and competition from a new free school this year it's admissions distance was 1,200m+. This won't last though as the new free school's catchment is shrinking as it's take up improves and the school has remedied the OFSTED points.

However, assuming I'd applied last year I could have got my DC in totally legitimately living 1.2km away. But under the proposed 800m rule, when the catchment area shrinks again (as it undoubtedly will) I would then fail to get a place for my DC2.

Now you may say I must have had closer schools to choose from but that fails to take into account that those schools could well have tiny catchments well under 800m meaning a school 1,200m away could conceivably be the nearest my DC could get a place at (again looking at SW12 this is the case).

Also, won't this just put people off applying to schools that are more than 800m away but may well have places causing those places to be untaken which would be insane in an area where the over-demand for schools is concentrated in one or two places - Earlsfield, BTC...

BrixtonMortar Wed 17-Sep-14 21:30:15

"At Beatrix Potter they also have a criteria that says casual vacancies, those children that enter the school at a time other than reception class, do not have the right of sibling entry. "

What on earth is the justification for this? Why should people who have moved house, re-located from Manchester for a job, for example, be discriminated against like this?

Quite shocking.

Greydove Fri 19-Sep-14 12:46:59

That info re BP is not correct - if you are in the priority area you get sibling priority
BP admissions policy pdf

Overall I think this proposal is poorly thought out. Priority areas would be more clear

BrixtonMortar Sat 20-Sep-14 14:04:57

That makes more sense!

LocalEditorWandsworth Sat 20-Sep-14 18:56:14

I have had a bit of a dig with the Council about how many families they expect this to effect and got some statistics for you.

Last year 1,136 children were offered sibling places, of these 424 were at schools which already have priority areas. Of the remaining 712 siblings 174 lived more than 800m from the school which equates to about 6% of the total number of school places available. But some of those were at schools whose catchments stretch beyond 800m anyway, removing them takes it down to a total of 70 children who wouldn't have got their places under the new rules so about 2.5% of the total. Not a huge number.

Looking at how this breaks down by school is interesting.

As expected, Belleville and Honeywell had most children who'd be affected (with 16 and 13 respectively).

Belleville - 16
Brandlehow - 1
Broadwater - 8
Chesterton - 5
Earlsfield - 5
Honeywell - 13
John Burns - 2
Riversdale - 5
Swaffield - 7
Tooting - 0
Wix - 8

Greydove Sat 20-Sep-14 21:30:42

But as pointed out already Belleville & Honeywell set their own admissions criteria so won't be affected by this

Without them we are looking at 41 places - is this really worth the hassle?

Splitting siblings across different schools will just increase hassle & local traffic

CaptainNjork Sat 20-Sep-14 22:22:38

Yep Greydove - pointless and political.

SouthLondonDaddy Sat 18-Mar-17 15:09:17

@tiredofwetsheets , my understanding is that sibling priority still applies if:
the family has not moved since the other child got a place, or
the family moved but is still within 800 metres of the school

Is this correct?

If it is, it means a sibling would still get in even if the catchment has shrunk in the meanwhile, as long as the family hasn't moved.

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