Last Updated March 2015
Note: Any expatriate families may find helpful an article I wrote for the British Council Families Association newsletter, Jan 2015: Finding a school on returning home.
There are various reasons parents want their children to change schools outside the normal transfer frameworks, both in the primary and secondary school sectors. The enormous scale of in year admissions can be seen from KCC figures for applications between 1st September 2012 - 11 June 2013,, when there were 9902 applications for primary aged children and 3020 for those of secondary age (these figures will not be available for subsequent years as schools are handling their own in year admissions - see below). .
The most common is moving house: expatriates moving back from foreign countries; children of UK service personnel or crown servants returning home; those moving into Kent or Medway from another county, or those moving within the area.
There are also parents unhappy with their child’s current school or those seeking a grammar school place post the 11 plus or currently attending a non-selective school, or those simply looking for what they perceive as a ‘better’ school.
Some parents are unhappy with the primary or secondary school allocated during the normal school admissions process and wish to apply for fresh schools additional to those on their application form.
Finally (I think) those whose children have been home-schooled or attending a private school and, for a variety of reasons wish them to take up a place in a state school.
Offering comprehensive advice on admissions or appeals in an article such as this is unmanageable, and this is one of my most busy Telephone Consultation areas. Please note, I only advise on state schools, not private ones. I am also happy to take on cases for appeal where I consider there is a chance of success.
However, some pointers:
· Proof of residence is often the key sticking point for those moving house.
· However, if the school of your choice has vacancies, then place of residence is immaterial provided it is in the United Kingdom (but if the school is selective your child will still need to take and pass an admission tests first).
· Otherwise, with few exceptions (some church schools & the super-selective grammar schools), you are unlikely to be seriously considered for a place at the school (at appeal, see below) until you have committed yourself to purchase (contract signed) or rented (often 12 month rental agreement) a property in the neighbourhood.
· Many parents want a school place before they move home. Apart from the exceptions above, you won’t get one unless there are vacancies, certainly not if you are moving from another country. However, there is nothing to stop you making enquiries of the school directly – each will have its own policy for dealing with such enquiries. These range from 'no assistance' (most common with heavily oversubscribed schools and some primary schools with limited facilities to deal with a large number of enquiries), through to those schools who will offer a visit to look round and a discussion. Do not assume that the latter are short of applicants. Some believe it is a common courtesy for potential parents.
· Almost by definition, the most popular schools are oversubscribed (full), and so you will be looking at an application followed by an appeal that may of course not be successful. As a result, many children spend a period of time out of school, which can be as much as three months (even I have a grandchild who has recently spent this amount of time without a school!).
· There are special arrangements for children of UK service personnel or crown servants returning home (School Admissions Code, para 2.18). However, the application of these Codes does not provide much advantage in gaining a place at a specific oversubscribed school, for In Year applications.
· In any case, the Local Authority will offer your child in a school with vacancies, although there may be reasons for this.
· I regularly work with expatriates, who are relocating back to Kent to try and secure places for their children in Year 7 of new secondary schools each September. Their problems appear particularly acute as KCC is not allowed to begin the process until they are domiciled in the UK, and therefore it is wise to move before the admission process begins.
· Almost without exception, entrance to grammar school is via an admission test, which will usually be set in-house for entry in Year 8 and above, and varies in content from school to school. Success in one school’s entrance test is rarely transferable to a second school. For entry during Year 7, children will take the appropriate Kent or Medway Test.
· Most grammar schools are full in each Year Group (but feel free to check) and so there can be several stages to securing a place. Where the school is full in the relevant Year Group, they will determine after you apply, whether to test before making a decision. If the child is successful you will be offered an oversubscription appeal to try and win a place, or a place directly if there are vacancies. If unsuccessful in the test, you still have the right to appeal, whether or not the school is full, but will additionally have to show alternative evidence that your child is of grammar school ability. Sometimes the child will be turned down without testing on the grounds that the school is full. In this case if you go ahead with an appeal, the child will be tested before the hearing so that appropriate evidence is forthcoming.
Chances of success if the school is full will vary enormously, depending on the pressure on places.
In Medway, the Council tries to operate a centralised system of assessment which all grammar schools appear to have chosen to comply with, although as academies they can determine their own procedure. The authority states: "If you have listed any selective schools in your preferences, then your child will need to be tested or have work reviewed and this will need to take place before any school place being sought. This will be organised by the Student Services Admissions Team". Parents find this very confusing and Medway Council staff have a habit of offering different advice to enquirers.
Challenging Behaviour & Exclusion
- Where the child has a history of challenging behaviour (who defines this?) or has been permanently excluded from at least two other schools special rules apply but only for In Year applications. (School Admissions Code Para 3.9) – However, the Local Authority still has to find a place locally for such a child.
· In Kent, the procedure is very simple. You simply need an In-Year Casual Application Form and send it to the schools you are interested in. There is no centralised process, so you can send as many applications in as you wish. If turned down, you have the right to appeal.
· In Medway, life is more complicated, as some schools have adopted the above process, others remain with the previous arrangements. For most schools, you complete a Casual Admission Form, available on request from Medway Council, on which you can list up to four schools in order. The Council then manages the process and offers you your highest preference where there is a vacancy, or else allocates you to the nearest school with a vacancy. Medway Council has abolished its previous illegal practice of contacting the previous school to find details of academic progress for most schools, partly as a result of pressure from me. Medway may try and insist on your being locally resident but cannot deny your right to apply using your current address provided it is in this country.
· For some Medway schools, you can apply directly to the school and don’t need to include them on the Medway In-Year Admission Form even if you use this for other schools. At the time of writing this paragraph (August 2013) these schools are: Chattenden Primary school; English Martyrs Catholic Primary school; The Phoenix Academy; St James CE Primary school; St Mary's Catholic Primary school; St Michael's RC Primary school; St Thomas More Primary school; & The Academy at Woodlands. Secondary schools operating their own procedure are: Chatham Grammar School for Boys; Rainham School for Girls; Strood Academy; & Rochester Grammar School.
· There is still no formal reference in the Medway scheme to applicants who have already applied to schools through the normal process, but wish now to submit a late application after allocations have been made. Historically this was at the discretion of the Admissions Manager (rarely given) but is mainly allowable for some grammar schools and out of county applicants only. Enquire directly of the school.