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 Post subject: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 5:17 am 
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Sally-Anne wrote:
One option under consideration at present, after a review by an independent advisor, is the possibility of "random allocations within catchment". If anyone has a further interest in discussing that I suggest that it should be a new thread, because it would be wrong to categorise it purely as a solution to fraudulent applications. It would potentially help with that issue, but it would more generally be aimed at reducing the overall level of dissatisfaction with allocations among parents in certain pressurised catchment areas.
Shall we take Sally-Anne's bait? :)

http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/bcc/schools/s ... eview.page?

Here are a couple of points from the report that was commissioned:
Quote:
77. There is a further possibility for a different approach to grammar school admissions, which would go a long way to solve existing problems and meet the aspiration of parents. It is, however, one that was advocated by none of the individuals who made representations to me and explicitly rejected by some. This would be to use an element of random allocation or, what is generally referred to as a "lottery".
78. I was not entirely surprised by the general reaction to the idea of a lottery, because parents planning for the education of their children are reluctant to consign their future to a ‘game of chance’. They may also be reacting to a degree of negativity in media publicity. On this last point, one participant in a meeting indicated that they had "heard very bad things about Brighton". The change to admission arrangements in the City of Brighton, was controversial, and received a lot of media attention, much of it negative, at the time the changes were being introduced. However, a professional assessment of the outcome, now that the dust has settled and there has been practical experience of the system in operation, is that it has been highly successful.
79. Partly as a response to media interest, the Secretary of State asked the Chief Schools Adjudicator on 2 March 2009 to undertake an investigation and report on the use of random allocation as an oversubscription criterion. The report was presented to the Secretary of State on 1 September and a summary of it was incorporated in the Chief Adjudicator's annual report, which was published on 1 November 2009.
80. One of the main findings was that "Only three LAs appear to use random allocation in any significant way as an oversubscription criterion. All three say they do so to increase fairness of access for parents who would otherwise stand little chance of securing a school place at certain schools. Two LAs use it only to allocate places in single sex schools; the third uses it in combination with catchment areas to allocate places when oversubscribed within those areas.” The conclusion of the report was that “Current legislation and guidance in the Code is appropriate and does not currently need to change”.
81. It will be noted from the above quotations that the circumstances in which random allocation has been successfully used elsewhere have similarities with those that now face Buckinghamshire.

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 Post subject: Re: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 6:02 am 
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Can someone outline the difference for me, i suppose the crucial thing is which children would be chosen by lottery and how are these same children now chosen so if there are 100 children oversubscibed and only 10 places presumably at the moment the 10 are chosen in some way but how ? (probably everyone knows the answer to this so i apologise for my ignorance).


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 Post subject: Re: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:17 am 
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It’s an interesting idea and I can see some sense in it from a ‘fairness’ point of view, but in practical terms it would be a nightmare.

I’m assuming such a policy would have to be county-wide, in which case you could have busloads of children from, say, Gerrards Cross travelling to, say, Aylesbury Grammar every day. And at the same time you could have busloads of children travelling from Wendover to Burnham Grammar. I think the downside of that prospect massively outweighs any upside – for me, it’s a case of the (proposed) cure being worse than the existing problem.

PS The Brighton experiment with lotteries might be considered a success in purely academic terms, but try telling that to the parents who have to cart their kids from one side of the city to the other every morning and you might hear a different story… :D


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 Post subject: Re: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:38 am 
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Tree wrote:
Can someone outline the difference for me, i suppose the crucial thing is which children would be chosen by lottery and how are these same children now chosen so if there are 100 children oversubscibed and only 10 places presumably at the moment the 10 are chosen in some way but how ? (probably everyone knows the answer to this so i apologise for my ignorance).


At present the oversubscription rules as I understand them are clear(ish - I'm happy to be corrected!) -

1 - Catchment
2 - Statemented
3 - Siblings (in Y7-11 UNLESS the school handles its own admissions, in which case siblings in Y7-13...don't get me started on that! :evil: :lol: )
4 - Distance

If random allocation were to be introduced I expect it would be used to replace the distance criterion. This means it could also be used for schools in the south of the county that are oversubscribed within their own catchment area, which currently allocate on the basis of distance, thus addressing the disadvantage of families living on the edge of the catchment area (have I understood this correctly, Sally-Anne?)

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 Post subject: Re: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:12 am 
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Location: Buckinghamshire
My understanding of the suggestion (and it is no more than that at the moment, and would be subject to full consultation) is that:

- Some catchment areas in the north of the county - particularly that for Royal Latin would remain unchanged.

- Other catchment areas would need to be completely re-drawn and would perhaps be somewhat larger than at present.

- Statemented children whose statement names the specific school and children in care would continue to have first call on places.

- Allocation of the remaining places would then be made at random within the school's catchment area. That would avoid the situation of children being bussed from the north to the south of the county (as in your post, Rob).

- The up-side of the change would be that it would give every child living within the school's catchment area an equal chance of gaining a place, whether they lived 1 mile or 10 miles from the school. It would therefore remove most of the problem of fraudulent applications because living next door to the school would carry no definite advantage. However, a fraudulent application could still succeed if someone moved in to catchment and they were lucky in the random allocations process.

- It would also mean that children in the furthest reaches of catchment areas who are currently disadvantaged by the distance criterion would stand an equal chance of gaining a place.

- However, it also means that a child living on the doorstep of the school might not receive a place there, and have to be bussed to another GS. If the re-drawing of catchment areas was not done very carefully, that could potentially be a school some considerable distance away. One suggestion was that there could be "priority areas" within catchment to avoid that situation arising, but that would re-open the door to fraudulent applicants moving close to the school.

My feeling is that at present everyone knows fairly roughly where they stand based on past allocation distances. With a random allocation system, no one will know where they stand, and I can't see how it will actually increase the overall level of satisfaction with allocations. Just as many people are likely to end up without their first preference school.

To give some context on the size of the problem, this extract from the recent Admissions Forum minutes may be helpful:
Quote:
Secondary Transfer
Members were very pleased to note that for 2010 transfer only 45 resident pupils were offered a place at a non-preference school, a significant improvement on previous years. Overall, the number of pupils securing a place at a first preference school was slightly lower, but more pupils had been offered places at lower ranked preferences.

The catchment area changes that had been put in place for 2010 appeared to have reduced the levels of parent anxiety. In particular, John Hampden Grammar School now served the Gerrards Cross and Denham areas. However, there was parental concern that four boys from the Farnham Common and Stoke Poges area had not been able to secure a place at John Hampden Grammar School.

Dr Challoner’s Grammar School – as at 10 June, 16 boys remained on the school’s waiting list (eight resident in the catchment area). Transfer appeals had been heard.

The Royal Grammar School – as at 10 June, 24 boys remained on the school’s waiting list (17 resident in the catchment area). Transfer appeals were still to be heard.

All residents had been offered a place with 101 declining that offer without being offered an alternative. These pupils were on the waiting lists for preferred schools.
Additionally, the situation had improved for qualified catchment girls seeking a place at either Dr Challoner’s High School or Beaconsfield High School, and where it had not been possible to offer a place an alternate preference had been offered.
At initial allocation only eight pupils were not offered a place at a preferred catchment area school.

The numbers of pupils being seriously disadvantaged by the current system of allocations are not huge, and (unless I have read some of this wrong) there appear to be some parents who are turning down one GS place in the hope of a "better" one turning up. I assume that they must have an alternative lined up in the private sector.


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 Post subject: Re: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 12:01 pm 
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So if in-catchment oversubscription is no longer the problem it once was, would introducing random allocation be a case of fixing something that ain't broke?

Also - if random allocation were to be introduced in the county as a policy, wouldn't it have to be applied for all schools and not just those for which there is a recognized problem? This could make things interesting in the northern wastelands...! :?

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 Post subject: Re: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 12:12 pm 
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Although we live in a village on the edge of catchment for our only catchment grammar I still think distance to the school is preferable to a lottery system. Every year residents know it is going to be a close call and they might be offered another grammar school but I still think that is preferable than a total random system where children would be sent by bus in all different directions.

I can imagine the chaos this would cause for the county transport department ....


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 Post subject: Re: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 1:51 pm 
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Location: Buckinghamshire
Marylou, I don't think the in-catchment problem is significantly less than in previous years. It does go up and down a bit - in 2009 92.5% of children were allocated their first preference catchment grammar school, and in 2008 it was 96.5%. Note that the figures are for first preference catchment grammar school, so all of those people got exactly what they expected or hoped for from the current system. Statistics from Bucks CC vary because they are snapshots taken at different times in the allocations process, but in 2009 there were 1509 qualified children on 2nd March. If 92.5% of them got exactly what they expected from the system then 113 people were left dissatisfied in some way.

The problem is that those 113 people who don't get what they want are fairly high maintenance because they appeal, they go on waiting lists and they can get pretty vociferous.

It is interesting that that the Independent Reviewer, who asked for responses from parents on the subject (this was not an official consultation) received 130 emails, some of them overlapping because they were from the same person or another member of the family. Around another 130 attended meetings at various schools in S.E. Bucks, but again there would have been some overlap. It seems to confirm that a figure of around 100-ish people feeling strongly dissatisfied in any given year is probably about right.

Breaking down that dissatisfaction is quite interesting, as this paragraph in the review report shows (the numbering is my own):
Quote:
1. On the one hand, people complained to me that another area had "three choices of boys’ grammar schools" whilst they had only one, or none at all.
2. On the other hand, some of those who were perceived to have three choices were equally aggrieved because they did not believe it was likely that any of them would be delivered.
3. Many people were attached to their home area and liked the primary schools serving it. They felt it was very unfair to be put in a position where they either had to move house or to make do with what they perceive to be a second choice of secondary school.

Group 1 need to wake up and smell the coffee (in my opinion anyway!) because there are huge numbers of other people in Bucks who have only one, or no choice of single gender catchment school.

I have always felt that those in Group 3 are really commenting on their perception of the quality of the alternative rather than genuinely believing that a single-gender school is essential. It is so much more polite (and persuasive at an appeal) to do that than to "diss" the alternative school on offer.

For both of those Groups I have a very strong suspicion that if Burnham Grammar was as successful and prestigious as either of the Challoners schools or Royal Grammar a lot of them would melt into the background pretty sharpish!

The people who really do have a right to be fed up are those in Group 2, who have 3 catchment schools and yet have to fight every inch of the way to get their boys in to them.

One last point for now, to try and emphasise again how the proposal would be set up. It is very important to understand that there would still be catchment areas, and allocations would be made within those. It would not be a case of all children across the whole county being in one big melting pot - the catchment areas would create smaller melting pots to prevent ludicrously long bus journeys.

However it seems that the situation could certainly arise where, for example, a child who lives on the doorstep of RGS or JHG in Wycombe misses out on a place at one or both schools and has to be bussed to SWB in Marlow or Chesham Grammar. Not a vast distance, but not terribly green either.


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 Post subject: Re: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:14 pm 
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Location: bucks
Ok so correct me if i'm understanding this wrong but currently around about 100 or so kids in catchment for a grammar school are eligable for grammar school (after 11+ and appeal etc) but don't get the place they want does this mean that they don't get a grammar school at all or just not the one they want? Presumably the cost of all the appeals etc must be quite great so why not use this money to fund places at the grammar schools people want and let the money follow the child etc its only 100 or so kids after all?


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 Post subject: Re: Random allocations
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 3:03 pm 
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Location: Buckinghamshire
Tree wrote:
does this mean that they don't get a grammar school at all or just not the one they want?

The latter. There are sufficient places for every qualified Bucks resident child in Year 7, just not necessarily at the one they want to attend.
Quote:
why not use this money to fund places at the grammar schools people want and let the money follow the child etc its only 100 or so kids after all?

One obstacle to that is that there is currently a ban on expanding grammar schools. Quite whether that would preclude expanding certain schools while reducing the capacity of others by the same amount I am not sure.

However the cost of adding an additional class to each of the 4 or 5 most oversubscribed schools would be absolutely massive. You don't just need an extra classroom, but more sports facilities, more computers, more science labs, etc, etc. Some of the schools involved just don't have the space needed to expand anyway.

The results at Burnham Grammar are improving very fast, and that may make more difference than almost anything else. For some years BGS was perceived to be operating at a lower standard than other Bucks grammars and that made it less desirable as an alternative for those in the furthest reaches of south Bucks. Hopefully the trend will continue, but I am afraid that there will still be a degree of "snob value" attached to attending Challoners or Royal Grammar, simply because they've been around for such a long time: 1624 and 1562 respectively. A lot of people outside Bucks actually think they are private schools, not state funded.


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