Parents disappointed by school selection process

5 March 2008

One in five 11-year olds is likely to have missed out on their first choice of school this year despite government promises to give parents more choice for secondary education.

It is estimated that around 120,000 children failed to receive a place at their preferred secondary school. This is the first year that a new admissions code has been in place to stop parents using pressure or their relationship with a school to secure a place for the child there. It is also the first time that certain schools, including all of those in the Brighton & Hove area, have used a lottery system to allocate places at oversubscribed schools.

Parents who didn’t receive the school of choice for their children are likely to appeal the decision. Last year 78,760 families appealed, out of the 100,000 that missed out on their preferred secondary school, but just 36% were successful.

If you didn’t get your first choice…

Families who failed to be accepted into their first choice of schools have three choices.

Firstly, they can simply accept the decision and send their child to the school chosen for them by the admission systems.

Or they can appeal the decision – but be warned you only get one opportunity to do this. The letter outlining the offer of school for your child includes an address to direct appeals.

This will be heard by an independent panel, organised by the local authority or even the school itself. The panel’s decision is final and you cannot appeal its decision.

Finally, you could consider private education. However, this is not a cheap option. According to the latest figures from the Independent Schools Council, the average fee for a day school was £3,391 per term rising to £6,712 per term for boarding schools.

This means that to educate your child privately between the ages of 11 and 18 will cost you on average £71,211 for a day school or £140,952 for a boarding school.

However, fees are likely to have risen since the latest figures were published and with regional differences meaning schools in the south are more expensive than in the North, the cost of private education could hit your wallet pretty hard.

House prices

Catchment areas are a serious consideration for many house buyers desperate to get their offspring into the secondary school of their choice. With many parents disappointed this year, and cities such as Brighton & Hove introducing lottery systems, what impact will this have on house prices?

Prior to the new admission systems introduced this year, money and social position were a factor in some schools’ selection process. However, the new lottery systems being introduced are designed to avoid this sort of bias. But they are also accused of undermining house prices in areas where proximity to good schools have pushed prices up.

Brighton & Hove is the first local authority to introduce a lottery system although some schools across the country have also adopted this policy. So far, no research has been conducted to determine whether the lottery system is having an adverse impact on property prices. However, local estate agents report demand for houses across the city is still strong.

And Land Registry figures reveal that house prices in the city have increased month-on-month between now and early 2007 when the lottery system was first announced, with the exception of December 2007 when they experienced a slight dip. Although during this period house price inflation has slowed, this is more likely to reflect current market conditions than a slowdown in demand from parents.

Mark Shipside, commercial director of Rightmove, says wealthier families are often prepared to pay more for properties in desirable school catchment areas so not only do they stand a higher chance of getting their child into that school but also because local amenities tend to be better.

And he warns that lottery systems could have a flattening impact on house prices in the future.

Shipside said: “There is a house price bubble in popular school catchment areas and this could burst If traditional school selection criteria changes as parents would no longer have a guarantee that their child will get into that school.

“However, parents may find that even with a lottery system they still have a greater chance of getting their child into a certain school if they live locally. Also, it’s worth remembering that location is not the only factor for parents – properties with larger gardens and more bedrooms will be more desirable than, say, flats.”

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