Applying For Primary Schools in Richmond Borough

By Jonathan, on December 2nd, 2012

It seems almost every month there’s another report that says that the schools in Richmond Borough are some of the best in the country.

Just last week The Telegraph reported on Ofsted’s latest data, stating that Richmond upon Thames’ primary schools rank number 3 in the UK, after Camden and Barnet. 90 per cent of pupils in our Borough attend a good or outstanding primary school vs 42 per cent of pupils studying in Coventry – which is officially the worst performing area.

But based on our conversations with local parents who have children heading to (state) primary school next September, this data does not make everything perfect here. Perhaps in Coventry the parents fret about getting into the handful of good establishments, but in Richmond the great fear is that your child ONLY ends up in a good school when there are so many outstanding choices. (btw – you might want to see our list of primary schools in the Borough)

If you know any parents in this category, then you should be aware that the stress starts to ratchet up in January when Richmond Council closes the applications for the next school year.

Here’s how it works… as far as we can tell.

Each child gets 6 choices of school on the application form, and the recommendation is that the schools should be listed in order of preference. Once all the forms are in, the council starts to allocate places based on a number of factors:

- Children in care get priority. We think this is true of every school but are ready to be corrected…

- Siblings. If the applying child has a sibling at the school, they will get preference in selection.

- Specific school requirements. Many of the better schools in the Borough are aligned to religion and these schools reserve a number of places to fit their religious criteria. Sometimes that is ‘all the places’. Again as far as we know none of the ‘non-religious’ schools have any specific requirements.

- Distance to the school. In every other Borough in London, this distance is calculated ‘as the crow flies’ but since Richmond is cut in half by the Thames this would result in children in Twickenham going to schools in Ham, which is a long way to drive / bus / cycle. So LBRUT calculate the distance from the house front door to the school front door, via well maintained roads. If you live at the end of a cul-de-sac with a school overlooking your back garden, you may still live too far away!

- After the council figures out who goes where, it makes offers to all the parents in April who either say ‘thanks very much’ or ‘no thanks, we’re going to wait and see if anyone drops out of one of our higher preference schools between now and the start of the year’… Apparently there’s quite a bit of wriggling in the last couple of months.

To get an indication how challenging it can be to get into the better schools, have a look at the maps that the council provide on their website. It’s extraordinary how close you need to live. And of course that’s a snapshot of last year – it all depends where the families live at the time of application. We understand that the council are particularly eagle-eyed on the subject of short term renting near schools etc.

And despite the range of schools here (there are 52 in total) there are sometimes children who are not offered a place at the first round because there are too many kids in the Borough and some will choose to go to private schools. As far as we know, everyone will eventually get a place… although not necessarily in their top six due to all the factors above – which is why there’s such commotion every time a new academic establishment is discussed.

So if you do bump into someone who’s going through this process with their kids, remember two things:

- It’s stressful for them. Competition for schools is high.

- It’s a high class problem. They’re living in one of the best Boroughs in the country.

We’d love to hear your insights and stories about the school application process!

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