Primary School. An essay length post.

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Thursday 28 October 2010 12.27pm
Our daughter is currently at the Arc nursery. We're very happy with that situation, but next September she will need to start at Primary school. Let the bad times roll...

The nearest school by far (we're about 150 metres away) is the Cathedral School in Redcross Way. Given that it's got a good reputation, it's our first choice on the Southwark application. But there's a fly in the ointment.

The Cathedral School also operate a nursery. A nursery we knew nothing about until it was too late to successfully apply for a place there (and we did apply, and we would have earlier if we had known about it). No issue with that - our fault I guess, although we did ask a number of parents and childcare professionals about nurseries in the area and this one never came up in conversation. We found out about the nursery after speaking to parents at the Arc who have successfully applied for places at the Cathedral nursery. Now, the fact that your child attends a nursery linked to a primary school is supposed to have no bearing at all on whether they get into the primary school itself (at least for open places, which is what we'd be applying for). The criteria for open (i.e. non-religious based) places essentially boils down to (in this order of priority);

Children in authority care
Children with medical or social needs
Children with sibling(s) already on the school roll
Proximity of child's home to the school

At least three of the kids who have moved from the Arc to the Cathedral nursery (and another one who will move in January) would come after ours in the, er, 'pecking order' if the above criteria were properly applied (based solely on the fourth criteria since the other three aren't met by any of the children and they all live quite a bit further away).

Yet it seems their parent are pretty confident that they're already ‘home and dry', and it seems with good reason. In the last few years, the number of open places in the Primary school being filled by children already at the nursery has been, let's say, beyond coincidence. We asked the school what last year's figure was - the answer was 24 out of 26 places. Blimey - only 2 places up for grabs if you weren't already in the club! But no, it gets worse. This figure was immediately corrected ‘actually, the other two successfully appealed'. So, if last year's admission was to be repeated this year we'd be scuppered. The conversation itself was quite surreal - the person we spoke to at the school seemed taken aback that we might suggest that there was any link between the two parts of the school, before and even after she'd just explained the 100% hit rate. We've heard anecdotally that in fact this link used to be one of the admission criteria until there were lots of complaints about it. I can see why - in effect this Primary School has become pretty much wholly self-selecting, since it decides which children come to the nursery, whereas it's supposed to be the council's job to apportion primary school places.

I don't want to dwell on the worry about and consequences of this potential knock-back, but would like any comments, ideally ones that abuse us of our notion.
Thursday 28 October 2010 3.13pm
Both my children went to the Arc Nursery and are now at Cathedral, both joined the nursery first.

I know that there isn't supposed to be a link between entry to nursery and entry to reception - I personally have no evidence either way but it's true that most nursery children seem to get reception places. However, I don't know what competition they face against non-nursery children. Do you know how many non-nursery children actually applied for reception? I know some parents who, having not got a Cathedral nursery place, got a place at another school nursery and therefore haven't bothered applying for Cathedral reception as their child has settled at the other school.

Also, a key criteria is whether the child has an older sibling already at the school - this is practically the only guaranteed way of getting a place and I know that the 2009/10 nursery intake had a high proportion of children with siblings.

It's worth applying but I know from my own experience, it's quite stressful! Good luck.
Thursday 28 October 2010 5.46pm
Before I reply - to be clear this is *our* opinion/conjecture/inference. And to date the school has done nothing wrong with regard to our application, and has always been prompt and courteous when we contacted them. Myself and my wife are really just looking for some evidence that, in fact, we're plain wrong and the link is coincidental. Because if we're no wrong we're in a bit of a pickle.

Anyway, it's nice to get a reply, although someone writing to say their child went into reception straight nursery doesn't do much to allay our fear!

Just to be clear, we have applied for a place for reception there. And obviously we don't know we won't get one. But we do not our child's not at the nursery, and... well the rest is in the initial post, but that looks to us tantamount to not getting a reception place. As you'll see from the post, I'm aware of the the criteria for entry (which is not just for this school), including the older sibling one. But I find it hard to believe in 100% coincidence across a sample of 26, and that no children last year from outside the nursery had a 'better' claim to a reception place. We've also applied to the next nearest school, The Charles Dickens. Hey, they have a nursery too...
Thursday 28 October 2010 7.00pm
There's probably a forum limit on percentage of posts from an originator, but at the risk of maintaining my own thread (which in itself is at least making me feel a little better), I should say we're going to apply for Cathedral. We haven't yet since we now busy looking at what to put down along with the Charles Dickens for the other two schools (out of four) you can select. If Cathedral wasn't one of the best schools I guess we'd be less bothered about the possibility of not getting into what will be our first choice.
Thursday 28 October 2010 9.22pm
Sometimes, the Borough gets it wrong, not the school. Our youngest son was refused a place at the Southwark primary school where his brother still attended. As far as we were concerned, we ticked all the criteria for him to be accepted. The school couldn't work out what went wrong, but equally could do nothing about it as it was all down to the Borough. Eventually it was sorted and he started in Reception (he hadn't attended the school's nursery), the whole situation would have been easily sorted if the school had been directly involved. The only advice I can give to you is submit all the relevant application forms to the borough, send a covering letter to the school so that they know you have applied for a place and remain in contact with the school. Once that's done, if you live near, pop in and see what the progress is rather than call them.
Thursday 28 October 2010 10.04pm
I'm not sure that Cathedral is necessarily still the best school - maybe one of the better ones but Charles Dickens has come up the rankings a great deal in the last five years and is preferred by some parents. The feedback is excellent and the headmistress very well respected. This obviously helps as it means applications are bit more spread out. However, to counter that, since we had children, the number of families living (and staying) in the area has hugely increased which does put more pressure on school places. Also, are you aware that the headmistress at Cathedral is retiring next year which potentially has a significant impact?
Saturday 30 October 2010 12.55am
emmab wrote:
I'm not sure that Cathedral is necessarily still the best school - maybe one of the better ones but Charles Dickens has come up the rankings a great deal in the last five years and is preferred by some parents. The feedback is excellent and the headmistress very well respected. This obviously helps as it means applications are bit more spread out. However, to counter that, since we had children, the number of families living (and staying) in the area has hugely increased which does put more pressure on school places. Also, are you aware that the headmistress at Cathedral is retiring next year which potentially has a significant impact?

For what it's worth: my daughter went through Charles Dickens from reception to year 6, and has now left for secondary school. CD wasn't our first choice but we didn't have much choice back then. The previous headmistress was an absolute saint who made it the brilliant primary school it is now. The current headmistress is more business oriented but seems to be doing OK at keeping up the standard set by her predecessor, albeit with some compromise. Personally, as parents who enjoyed excellent primary education we had high expectations, which CD, in hindsight, definitely matched. Cathedral was originally our first choice, but we had some awkward conversations with them about issues we took for granted which however seemed to contradict their reputation. I think back then Cathedral didn't have much competition, now they do.
Saturday 30 October 2010 8.17am
My grand-daughter went to Boucher Nursery, but still was not admitted into the Boucher School! I'd go for Charles Dickens, it was a good school and ahead of it's time , they used to have a swimming pool there! a huge semi-rigid one, my children took their first strokes there...
Monday 1 November 2010 12.04pm
My child is in the final year of Cathedral School. He went to nursery, but, in the transition from nursery to reception, several children who went to the nursery did not get a place in reception because they did not come high enough in the admissions criteria. My son got a place because there were some reserved church places, but, other than those places, all other places were taken by children with older siblings, several of whom had not attended the nursery. I don't know of any evidence that attendance at nursery gives you preferential treatment.

I would agree with a previous poster that there are several other good local primary schools and you need to think about what's best for your child and you. Don't pin all your hopes on Cathedral School. It's not right for everyone as it has a specific culture that you may not be comfortable with.

I would also agree that a change of Head Teacher can have a huge impact.

Good luck!
Wednesday 10 November 2010 10.09pm
I'm afraid it's written in black and white in their Admissions Policy. For both foundation and open places, children in the nursery are ranked above those hoping to get a place through proximity to the school.

What a stitch up!
It saddens me to notice that I wouldn't have got into my old CE primary school (over the river) if they had operated their current admissions policy, even though I lived less than 100m from the school gates...

There's a huge secular population out there and too many faith schools per head -- there should be many more open places at all of them. Let's not segregate education like this!
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