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Councils to start restricting sibling priority for primary school places
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Posts: 116
Joined: Nov 2014
Post: #1
16-04-2015 11:44 AM

Wandsworth council are removing sibling priority from Sept 2016 for anyone who moves 800m from the school their first child went to.

Sounds absolute fair and is needed across London and especially in Forest Hill! Half the places in Forest Hill are taken by siblings. I wonder how many of those don't live close to the school anymore or are just people renting flats within proximity to the school to get the first child in.

Disclaimer - I don't have kids. But overheard some guy on the Overground who lives in Forest Hill who has to catch a bus towards Catford to take his kid to school which is a nightmare, even though he only lives 500m from one of the ones in Forest Hill.

What does everyone else think? I might write a letter to the council to ask them to look in to a policy like this.

This post was last modified: 16-04-2015 11:45 AM by Decker.

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Posts: 216
Joined: Oct 2011
Post: #2
16-04-2015 12:41 PM

I'm not sure I'd agree with it.

If the idea is to restrict people moving into the area to get a place and the moving out once obtained, ok in principle though would be people just stay for 2 years?

in practice however what would happen? The first child remaining at school a and the second child going to school b? Getting them to school would be a nightmare for the parents.

Or you could try and move child a to school b, causing unneeded disruption.

I expect this won't work and perhaps need further thought as people do have genuine reasons to have to move.

The answer to this really is better town \ council planning, reducing the extreme shortage of places and bringing up the standard of schools generally (admittedly very good already in SE23).

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Posts: 1,111
Joined: Jun 2008
Post: #3
16-04-2015 12:53 PM

The question is: how does getting your child into the school then moving serve as an advantage to you, the parent? A small minority might do it for selfish reasons (such as reducing their housing costs), but moving is expensive and disruptive, and having to travel to get your kids to school really affects the family's quality of life. Having two kids at one school far from where you live is not much better than having one close and one not.

Moving if you don't have to is going to make your life more difficult, not less, so I don't see how this counts as rigging the system.

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Posts: 203
Joined: Feb 2008
Post: #4
16-04-2015 01:16 PM

Yes, for example, what if you are forced to move such as we were when our landlord sold the flat we were renting?

The supposition here is also that if you are renting, the place you live in isn't really your home. Rents in SE23 are now extortionate and I doubt that anyone would really rent near a school because of catchment area as it just wouldn't be cost effective.

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Posts: 135
Joined: Jan 2011
Post: #5
16-04-2015 01:44 PM

All fair comment but we have a new neighbour who is renting for a few months just to get a place for their daughter at a particular school. They will be gone when their tenancy expires. I also know a good friend who used a grandparent address to get their child into another desirable local school (the child told me!). Once the place was secured I expect they "moved back" to their old home. Not something I would do but I expect it happens all the time. Of course if the standards in our local schools were higher it wouldn't be such an issue.

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Joined: Jun 2008
Post: #6
16-04-2015 01:47 PM

I suspect the new policy has more to do with councils finding it difficult to place children, and the rights of siblings places a restriction them they could do without. If they exclude siblings where the family has moved out of the catchment, it gives them a few more places to play with. Assuming that the policy is designed to penalise parents that are playing fast-and-loose with the system by deliberately placing themselves in this position might be a false one.

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Posts: 490
Joined: Jul 2010
Post: #7
16-04-2015 01:50 PM

I know for a fact that the MP for Tooting lived in Balham and moved when his daughter was 10 - just so they would be near Graveney school and he could get her a place from the distance criteria

Living in the distance should be ok for siblings - yet not for children who get in on passing tests, no way should there younger brothers or sisters get on due to them being brighter

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Joined: Jun 2008
Post: #8
16-04-2015 02:30 PM

There's a whole lot of issues there, foresthillier.

Did that MP subsequently move away again once he got his daughter in but continue to send his younger children there? Because that's the behaviour we're discussing here. Moving into a catchment area is fine as long as you stay there if you are able. And was it a good idea anyway? Schools go up and down - some would argue that Graveney is on the down slope at the moment.

When you talk about kids getting in because they pass tests - that only applies to private and grammar schools and as far as I know they don't have any policy about taking subsequent siblings no questions asked (as it were).

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Post: #9
16-04-2015 02:39 PM

Yep i believe he has now moved AGAIN

FTR - graveney school in wnadsworth take in children via passing test and it is not private or is it a grammer school

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Post: #10
16-04-2015 03:11 PM

I've just looked at Graveney's admission policies and they are bizarre. They take up to 63 children into Year 7 on ability (according to a test done just in Wandsworth) and the rest on the usual state criteria. But they call themselves a non-selective comprehensive. How is that possible?

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Post: #11
16-04-2015 04:09 PM

Okay, having taken a quick look on Mumsnet (not my favourite place, but just for the purposes of research), it seems many people DO take rentals for a short periods of time to get into schools then move out. So they think all that disruption and expense is worth it? And ongoing hassle of the child commuting and not living near any of its friends? And teaching them a very dubious lesson about it being okay to lie to get what you want? This is so sad.

It also seems that councils are checking up on this, though, and can withdraw offers of places to children whose parents are in a short-term rental and own property elsewhere. So maybe this sibling policy is a good idea in some cases. But I do hope that schools take it on a case-by-case basis and don't penalise parents who have no choice but to move.

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Posts: 7
Joined: Oct 2010
Post: #12
16-04-2015 06:05 PM

It would be very unfortunate if this policy were enacted for many parents like me. We were unable to sell our property after the credit crunch of 2009 as we were in negative equity. Consequently when we moved to forest hill we rented in the hope of selling our previous property and buying close to where we were renting when the market picked up. We didn't foresee that prices in forest hill would rise so fast, though, and so when we came to buy we could only afford a house a mile away from our eldest child's school (where they are now in year 3 and thriving) and not in the catchment. Our second child is starting school next September and if the sibling rule is enacted we will have to take our eldest child out of their school because we would not be able to drop off and pick up at different locations. We work and are already pushed for time to drop off and pick up from locations that are close together (nursery and school).

We continued to rent in the same area for two years after our eldest child started school and are fully committed to the community she's at school in. It would be so unfair if we are punished because the housing market has been stacked against us.

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Post: #13
17-04-2015 09:25 AM

Its also unfair to people who live in the catchment areas yet fail to get their children into the local school as siblings have taken all the places

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Posts: 116
Joined: Nov 2014
Post: #14
17-04-2015 09:54 AM

That's how I see it. Yes some people would be affected unfairly. But far less than who are already affected by what goes on now. I see two issues:

1. Cheating the system (which will always happen and we can't stop)

2. Young families who can't even get one child in to a local school. That to me is the biggest issue. Why should a sibling living >1km from the school get priority over a local family who live 400m from it. That is what needs to be addressed.

Speaking of costs, it's far cheaper to rent a flat for 1 year (£10k) and gaurantee 2 children get in, than pay for a property in the area (50k+ premium) or 2 x 6 years of private school which could be up to 100k.

I read an article that said sometimes councils will hire private detectives to follow suspect parents home to ensure they live in the catchment area. But it could have been a one off story. I doubt they have the resources to check everyone. And the offence it would cause.

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Post: #15
17-04-2015 10:13 AM

I agree, it's hard on local families and really no one's fault except those who have failed to provide enough school places.

However, have those of you who are against the sibling policy for primary schools ever had to get two children to completely different places AT THE SAME TIME and then get yourself to work? And then be on time to pick them up at the exact same time IN TWO DIFFERENT PLACES? It's a logistical nightmare.

I'd say there are arguments both ways, but as a parent I'd rather have all my kids at one school far away than have them split up.

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Post: #16
17-04-2015 10:18 AM

Yep can see your point about having the children in one school - yet as you say there are arguments for and against the sibling policy, if someone found a solution, then they should be elected PM

I do know some schools send someone around your home for a meeting before you enter the school, so they are checking you live there [ or are there when they call ]

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Joined: Apr 2006
Post: #17
17-04-2015 10:25 AM

How many parents actually try and screw the system to get their kids into a certain school?

If you can afford to buy/rent in the local area then you can usually afford to send them to a public school.

If you put grannies address down as your own then you are a bit of a d*ck.

I think that there are very few who actually do it.

I have two kids at a local school, inflicting this policy on us would be (as described by a number of people already) a logistical nightmare.

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Post: #18
17-04-2015 11:29 AM

I've always felt the right way to approach this is to 'marry' a parent with a child in your preferred school.

Many schools when they have a bulge class will include pupils from more than 800m away, so to suggest that sibblings would not have priority when the first place was achieved through standard measures of distance, seems unfair, and to suggest this rule would only apply if the family move (possibly to a house slightly closer than the distance when they got their place, but still beyond 800m).

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Post: #19
17-04-2015 03:35 PM

Bulge classes of course create a massive sibling problem 2-3 years down the line. We were very lucky ringingcodling1 got our first preference as there was a bulge 3 years ago so reception is nearly full with siblings. Of course, we'll be big fans of the sibling rule when ringingcodling2's application goes in.

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Posts: 221
Joined: Jan 2007
Post: #20
17-04-2015 07:47 PM

I really hope this policy is not implemented in Lewisham as it would be a nightmare.

A friend of mine has this policy in her area (Warwickshire) and it's been awful for them, so much in fact that she and some friends have set up a campaign group 'Siblings at the Same School'.

What has happened in her case is that her son didn't get into her first choice local school, and her son was sent to another school much further away. Then when it came to her daughter, with no sibling policy she was not guaranteed a place at her son's school - which by then had improved and become more popular so the catchment area shrank and her daughter ended up at a different school. She was not trying to 'work the system' and neither were the many other parents who have ended up like this, some of whom have ended up with the total nightmare of 3 children all at different schools. I have three children and I just cannot imagine what that must be like - not only in terms of travel, logistics, cost, but also because schools benefit from an engaged parent community and rely on parent volunteers. Any parent who is spreading themselves across more than one school will simply not have the capacity to be that engaged, and the schools will lose out. I would rather have my 3 children at a further school than be split across different schools, even if one was nearer.

Decker - you note that you don't have children, in which case why are you considering writing to the council? Without a child at school are you really in a position to be able to judge the impact of this policy?

Fortunately councils are obliged to consult local parents before making any changes to school admission and I know many who would be totally opposed to it.

Schools do check utility bills so you'd have to work pretty hard to cheat the system. I don't know actually know any parent who has tried to deliberately cheat the system like this. However surely the solution would be more detailed checks on school applications, not removing the sibling policy?

The problem is not people cheating the system - the issue is that there has been a population boom which the government has not properly planned for (councils are not allowed to build new schools, and the government focus is on academies and free schools which do not always best address need).

Plus, Forest Hill has become a popular area for local families.

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