An important task lies ahead of us; choosing which Primary School to send our children to.
Ordinarily parents are limited by their location for schools, for the most part having to send their children to a school which has a catchment area within which their home happens to be situated. It is, dare I say, a “Postcode Lottery”.
The majority of primary schools in our area are beholden to the local authority entry requirement rules which are, I believe, centrally controlled by the government. When there are more people wanting a place at a school than are available (class sizes have a legal maximum of 30 pupils except in special circumstances), then children are generally accepted in the following order:
- Looked After Children;
- children with a sibling attending the school or the partner junior school;
- children living in the priority admission area;
- remaining applications.
The order of assignment for item 4 is usually determined by geographical straight line distance away from the school, so the closer you are the more likely your child is to get a place. At the moment places are so sought after, especially at the “better” schools, it is unlikely that item 4 of that list will get reached before all the places are filled.
You’ll notice the capitalised “Looked After Children” in item 1, this is defined by the government as:
A ‘looked after child’ or a child who was previously looked after but immediately after being looked after became subject to an adoption, residence or special guardianship order will be given first priority in oversubscription criteria ahead of all other applicants in accordance with the School Admissions Code 2014. A looked after child is a child who is (a) in the care of a local authority, or (b) being provided with accommodation by a local authority in the exercise of their social services functions (as defined in Section 22(1) of the Children Act 1989).
Our children are subect to an Adoption Order, therefore fall within item 1 of the admissions priority list.
This takes away a major anxiety of whether our children will actually get a school place in our area as, with the exception of an extremely unlikely situation, they are guaranteed to get our first choice of school. It means that we are not constrained by our location and can choose any school that we want to send our children to so long as it is practical to do so.
Some may wonder why adopted and looked after children get this priority over others, the reasoning is pretty simple.
Our children almost always have needs which are very different from the others, and not all schools are able to cater for these needs.
We won’t be looking for the best academic school in the area first and won’t be looking at the OFSTED reports with any massive interest other than to see what was written about the school. Instead we will be visting the schools, getting a tour and speaking to the head teachers about what they can offer our children. Asking them:
- What experience they have of things like Attachment Disorders.
- How they deal with children who are no longer with their biological families when it comes to building family trees, and Mothers’ and Fathers’ days.
- How they decide on how they spend their Pupil Premium which both our children will attract at the higher rate currently at £1,900 per year.
- How they discipline bad behaviour, do they take an inclusive approach? Do they use a shaming method?
- Have they got experience with same-sex parents at the school?
- Have they got experience with adopted or fostered children at the school?
- What is their policy on parents taking photographs of children during shows?
- How much experience do they have with children who have needs other than academic ones and how do they deal with these things?
- How do they help children who may not be at the same academic level as their peers? Not just behind, but in front.
Some of those things may be the same as a biological parent has when sending their children to a school, but on top of those we also want the school to encourage our children to be the best that they can be, whether that be in academia or not, just like any other parent does.
We may not have the concern of our children getting a place, but we have the added pressure of having to choose a school which provides as much as possible to our children knowing that the one we pick is the one they will go to. We won’t be able to appeal or blame anyone else for the school not being as good as we hoped; what we decide is final.
I will summarise some of the good and bad of our school visits in my next post, I won’t be naming any schools as they are based on viewing the schools based on my criteria above. We have not visited a school which I would consider a ‘bad’ school, only perhaps ‘inapproporiate’ for what we think our children might need.
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