Myths around how to get your choice of Sheffield school for your child busted

The tactic of putting only one preference down for a child’s school place in Sheffield to guarantee success has been dismissed as a “myth”.
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So has putting the same choice down on the form three times.

Coun Paul Turpin raised the issue at a meeting of Sheffield City Council’s education, children and families policy committee (February 26) during a discussion about schools admission arrangements, which remain unchanged after they were revised last year.

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He said: “As a councillor, the two main areas that I’ve come across admissions issues are when a parent has erroneously filled out a form, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and their child is left without a school place near where they live, and the other one is when schools are setting out their primary admission numbers and they are under-subscribed, leaving them with half a classroom, which costs the same as a full classroom.”

Coun Mohammed Mahroof spoke about school places myths at a meeting of  Sheffield City Council's education, children and families policy committee. Picture: Sheffield Council webcastCoun Mohammed Mahroof spoke about school places myths at a meeting of  Sheffield City Council's education, children and families policy committee. Picture: Sheffield Council webcast
Coun Mohammed Mahroof spoke about school places myths at a meeting of Sheffield City Council's education, children and families policy committee. Picture: Sheffield Council webcast

John Bigley, council manager for admissions and access, education and skills, said: “That’s the bane of my life, that question. We make lots and lots of attempts to secure three preferences, because parents can make up to three preferences.

Responsibility

“If you applied to my team and only submitted one, we’d contact you and say you really should put two more down, so we do everything we can. In all our guidance, one of the key messages is not only use your three but try and be sensible in the preferences that you’re making and at least leave yourself with a good chance of at least one of those three.”

Mr Bigley said that his team go to Y6 and Y7 open evenings and primary schools. Some schools hold surgeries for Y6 parents and carers.

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He said that the Y7 figures for this year show just over 97 per cent that will get one of their three preferences. He said that 145 didn’t get any of their three, and of those 80 only put down one choice and around 30 put two choices.

He said that ultimately parents have to take responsibility for their decisions.

Coun Mohammed Mahroof said every councillor’s casework is full of parents who complain when they’ve only put one choice down and they don’t get it because they are outside the catchment area and have no other priority – “and then the problem starts, ‘well I only want that school’.”

He added: “There’s a myth operates within parents, which is ‘if I put one down they’re going to have to give me that one, otherwise I’m not taking any of them’.”

Messages

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Mr Bigley said: “There are many myths – don’t put down three places, put the same preference three times, if you only put one you’ve got a stronger chance – all incorrect.

“And they’re the messages. We might not be getting that through to the people we really need to get to but some people do use it as a tactic as well.”

On class size, Mr Bigley said that some vacant places are left open to allow for families moving into or around the city. He said that some schools may opt to mix classes to help cope with financial pressures related to odd class sizes.

Mr Bigley said that predicted birth rates are monitored for schools to adjust the numbers they offer from year to year.

There is also some funding support available to schools.