We are in the process of applying for a primary school reception place starting in September 2019 for my daughter. We live in the borough of Lewisham, where we are surrounded by good or outstanding schools that are all very oversubscribed. So oversubscribed that it has made the national papers and news on a number of occasions.
Luckily we fall into the 2018 catchment of three, possibly four schools. So when we make our application in the next couple of weeks, I shall cross my fingers and hope for the best. Then it’s a waiting game until d-day in April next year.
But in the meantime we are still on our tour of all the schools in the immediate area and I thought I would share some tips for you on how we are making our decision and applying. A friend said to me the other day that I seem to know a lot about this and that I should write this blog post. Believe me, I’m not an expert and everything you read here should be taken with a pinch of salt, do not take it as gospel and I am not to blame if the primary school allocation process doesn’t work for you. It might not work for me either.
- Visit all the schools in the area. You might be visiting a few or you might be visiting 10. You will only get a feel for them when you visit. They are all different, they teach the same curriculum but in different ways. Some may be more creative versus more academic. You need to decide what is best for your child.
- Give yourself time. The application process is open now until January 15th 2019. Lewisham council recommend that you submit your online application by Friday 4th January 2019. You still have plenty of time to visit all the schools and to weigh up your options. Don’t rush it. There is no first come first served basis. All applications are treated equally no matter when they are received.
- The admission criteria works in the following way for nearly all schools in the borough: 1) Looked after children, 2) Children with a medical or social need, 3) Children with siblings already at the school. Lastly 4) Catchment. We fall into a final criteria for selection and I understand that a vast amount of places could go to siblings. Have a look at this 2018 document for more information on the number of places per school that were allocated to children in care, children with medical and social need, then siblings, and then you will get an idea on the number of places given to catchment.
- Catchments change every year and they are measured based on distance as the crow flies from the school. They change every year depending on how many children they take. Some schools near you that are our first and second choose have really small 2018 catchment areas of about 400 metres so it really is luck of the draw if we will get one of these.
- Trust your gut and not always the Ofsted report. Ofsted reports could have been taken years ago and are therefore not always the most up to date. Although they demonstrate how well a school is doing, it is up to you to decide whether that school is right for your child. You should also look deeper into Ofsted reports as they may be for the entire school that has both primary and secondary, and for now you just need the primary which is outperforming the secondary.
- Ask questions on the open day. The bulk of questions that I’m hearing are related to wrap-around care which is mega important for all working parents. If you require wrap-around care understand exactly what the school will offer. I’ve come across some schools who have a limited number of places versus others that will offer wrap-around care to everyone that needs it.
- The bulk of schools in the borough are all two form (60 kids) or three form (90 kids) intake. In previous years a school in the borough has taken a bulge class when there are more children versus places available. I’ll be honest here I don’t know a huge amount this, and I’m not entirely sure when or how it is decided, but it could be that one of your surrounding schools takes a bulge class after the allocation process has happened once the full number of primary school places available versus number of applications is known.
- You submit your application via the Lewisham council website online, and you will need to have one of the following documents in place. The most recent letter can be uploaded when you make your application; child benefit, child tax credit or child tax fund letter. The reason for this is to provide evidence of your parental responsibility.
- Fill out your entire form. You can make up to six choices and I think I will be completing every box and putting six schools down on my list. Leaving a box blank on our form may suggest to Lewisham council that should we not get one of the schools on our list that we can be placed anywhere in the borough.
So those are my thoughts on applying for a reception place for our daughter starting September 2019. As I said earlier I’m no expert and we will all find out on Tuesday 16th April 2019 what school we have been allocated. The decision is completely out of our hands and it is luck of draw which school we will get, I will just be keeping my fingers and toes crossed.
I have read that if you do not get your first choice of school you are automatically placed onto the waiting list for all the schools that are above your allocated school on your application form. So for example if you are offered your third choice of school you are placed onto the waiting list for your first and second choice, and all the schools below your offered placed are classed as “settled” which is why it is really important that your application form is in order preference. There really are no games to be played here.
A lot can happen between April 15th and the start date in September 2019, with places becoming available as people may move out of the borough or decline their place. Obviously I’m hoping that we will get our first choice, but even if we don’t I’m hoping that we will get into many of the other excellent schools that will be on our form or we will eventually get our first choice.
Good luck to everyone applying for September 2019 intake, and as I said earlier this post is purely a little bit of advice. I am not expert.