Lewisham primary school availability among worst in the country

The shortage of local primary school places has been thrown in to sharp relief again. The FT has published a DfE league table of London boroughs where pupils do not get their first choice of primary schools. Lewisham is ranked third-worst on this metric and fourth-worst for pupils who don't get any preferred primary school place.

Lewisham's performance is twice as bad as the national average and the DfE reports that the situation in Lewisham deteriorated in the last year, with our borough suffering the 8th-fastest rate of decline among the worst performers. Overall, London is the worst part of the country in terms of preferred primary school places.

Lewisham Council needs to get a grip.

Thanks to Edgar for the tip-off.

39 comments:

AliAfro said...

In related news, my wife and I just called up to register our baby boy and the registry office cant fit us in for a month - the lady on the phone said this was due to the sheer number of babies being born in the borough which is as high as she could remember.

fragnurpapa said...

I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that primary schools are deteriorating, I know first hand that they are doing amazing work. It seems to me that Lewisham is taking an above average share of London's population growth.

terrencetrentderby said...

But we have a great and very useful young mayor and diversity team!
Go Lewisham Council!

Ju82 said...

The preference form should be scrapped, because its meaningless. There isn't a shortage of primary places across the borough, but more needs to be done to make sure a child gets a local school. The admissions system need reforming, but it does need to stay centralised.

Abdoujaparov said...

Moved to Brockley from Tooting in Wandsworth a few months ago and I have to say my first impression of public services in Lewisham (not just council run) is poor e.g. Lewisham Hospital maternity unit switching to a paperless system that none of their community midwives have access to (meaning it is actually impossible for the time being for us to get important test results relating to our unborn baby, and it was almost impossible for my wife to get the tests done by community midwives in the first place - because they didn't have access to that system); ordered a recycling bin four times (initially over three months ago) and it still hasn't arrived; the registration delays mentioned below are very concerning as we'll need to apply for a passport almost immediately after our baby is born; the availability of primary school places mentioned above; a variety of other mistakes made by Lewisham Hospital and our local GP.


Clearly some of these issues relate to cuts (but Wandsworth was cutting too) and increased pressure placed on services by higher birth rates (although the birth rate in Wandsworth is very high too) and immigration, but I'm starting to get the impression there is also endemic poor management and a cultural problem in these services.


With regards to the council run services, I'm a dyed in the wool Labour voter, but is it healthy for Labour councillors to have such a position of power / security - knowing that whatever happens, people will vote Labour in their droves in local elections?

Damian said...

Exactly. I'm a Labour voter, but not at the local elections for that exact reason. I'm infuriated when I travel to other boroughs, not just wealthier ones, and see the gulf between those and what Lewisham provide. You only have to see the state of our streetscapes to see where the problems start, beautiful well kept houses on streets of broken kerbs, mismatched/pot holes paving and derelict street furniture. Lewisham BC make Sepp Blatters terms in office seem fleeting

PJK said...

Scrapped and replaced with what?
While there is clearly an issue I don't think you can say it is meaningless either: nearly 89% get one of their top three preferences

PJK said...

"...our borough suffering the 8th-fastest rate of decline."

This isn't true - the 4th graph in the FT only shows the bottom 15 local authorities in terms of % getting into any preferred choice (Lewisham is 8th amongst these).
The decline was 0.5 percentage points which puts it about 100 out of 150. Even that is only based on change between 2014 and 2015 so can't be relied on to show a general trend.
Certainly Lewisham sits at the bottom for people getting a place at a preferred school, but based on this information you can't say it is getting rapidly worse.

AliAfro said...

How do you see it working without a preference list? Would kids just be allocated to their closest school (after special needs and siblings had been allocated)?

Peter Tooke said...

Yep, it's mediocrity in perpetuity - and Lewisham residents deserve better.

Ju82 said...

Yes absolutely that. All schools to be as good as each other and would also stop parent's thinking their too good for a local school and ridiculous catchment area battles. Catchment shouldn't be 'as the crow flies' but rather making sure that each child goes to their school. I could go on and on as I experienced this with my son 3 years ago and have seen it play out recently.

Newby said...

Why not encourage more free schools to open in areas where the schools are undersubscribed rather than reward poor schools with guaranteed pupil numbers?

Newby said...

People are not generally stupid and if parents do not wish to send their children to a school there will be a sensible reason driving such a decision. Some schools and teachers are poor just as some hospitals or banks or football teams are. If some schools are continually oversubscribed is it really so hard to close the undersubscribed schools and reallocate the resources to the oversubscribed ones? As with any product the consumer knows best not the producer.

AliAfro said...

Interesting discussion - Couple of questions: 1) Doesn't the current system allocate kids to their closest school unless the wishes of the parent (ie requirement list) can be fulfilled by the preferred schools capacity. If the preference system is just matching spare capacity with parental wishes then how does removing that represent an improvement (other than simplifying things)? 2) If you are not going to use 'as the crow flies', then how else would you allocate schools?

Ju82 said...

I didn't say people are stupid. However, there is more to it and parents will often base their decisions on ratings. You said free schools, I personally don't believe in them. Others can, I don't. Yes, if a school is poor and is genuinely failing children, of course it should be closed down. However, you have to consider what failing really means. I don't want my education system to treated the same way as a private company

No... said...

No, that's not how it works.

Only... said...

There's only so much the council can do to plan and distribute, though - because they no longer have the power to open new schools in areas that need them.

Guest said...

Exactly. I am a Labour voter, but make a point never to vote them during the local elections in Lewisham. Local elections as well as police commission elections should never have been made tied to political parties.

Ju82 said...

I completely agree.

Woman of Brockley said...

Extraordinary! How are you supposed to manage without a birth certificate if you need it for a passport, as someone has mentioned above? I suppose for obvious reasons the registry office has to prioritise death registration and stick to commitments for weddings, but it does seem amazing that they can't draft in extra staff to clear the backlog of birth registrations.

Woman of Brockley said...

It's very unhealthy indeed to have a one party state, which is what Lewisham has been for many decades. I keep hoping that the demographic changes in the borough will lead to a more diverse council, but no joy yet.

PJK said...

If people were allocated their closest school then some would still be over/undersubscribed. How would you then redistribute those children?
I've not yet heard anyone describe a fairer mechanism for allocation.

Woman of Brockley said...

Under the current system, parents list a small number of schools ranked in order of preference.


The admissions authority (the LEA or the school governors) then assesses each application against the agreed admissions criteria for the school. Usually that means that looked after children (in care) get top priority, followed by siblings, followed by children with a professionally supported medical/social reason to attend that school, followed by those who live nearest the school.


In church schools there's also the hurdle of meeting the religious requirements, e.g. baptism, church attendance. The admissions authority produces a ranked list of all applicants and sends it to the LEA.


The LEA then collates all the admissions authorities' lists and using a complex bit of software they work out for each family what their top successful application is and offer them that place. So if the family are 312th on the list for their no.1 preference, 10th for their no. 2 preference and 2nd for their no. 3 preference, they'll be offered the no. 2 preference because there won't be enough places at the no. 1 school for them to get one. That frees up their no. 3 preference place for another family.


It's all a lot better than the old days when you could apply independently to dozens of schools and then accept all the offers and not finally make a choice till September, leaving some other unfortunate family with no place at all.

Ju82 said...

No, it isn't. You have the right to put 6 choices on your list. In theory, you should be given your first school, if no one else closer applies and so on and so on. However two things can happen to change this 1)areas are so saturated with people 2) you live in an area / block outside the closet catchment for any of your 6 schools. When this happens, you are allocated a school further out. Case study - Child A lives 0.240 from (School 1) 0.3500 from (school 2), was allocated a school 2.8 miles away, where he would have had to have travelled past 4 other schools to get there. However Child B could live 0.239m from (school 1) and 0.241m from (school C) and they're allocated School 1. In my opinion, Child A should go to School 1 and Child B should go to School C. Moving everyone along a bit, means all children get to go to their local school, yes that does rely on all schools being on par, but that's what we should be striving towards.

Ju82 said...

It took 6 weeks for us to be able to register our son (2008 & in Lambeth) Camden offer appointments within 2 days!

AliAfro said...

Below is the link to the admissions policy: Special needs (care/medical) prioritised, then siblings, then crow flies proximity. If you don't get your first choice your hat gets thrown in for your second choice and so on. So if there is capacity where you want to go (or you are close enough) you get it, or you end up somewhere closer or with less demand (assuming you get something on your list). Please do elaborate if I am missing something? http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/education/schools/school-admission/applying-to-start-primary-school/Documents/DeterminedAdmissionsPolicy201617.pdf

ss said...

There's been a huge influx of families in the last 2 years as house prices have shot up. How many people do you know who've recently moved here from ED/herne hill/peckham etc? School capacities are playing catch up.

Ju82 said...

Not necessarily their closest, but a local school.

bobblekin said...

You can only take crack pot, neo liberal, "consumer product" ideology so far and educating little children is too far!

AliAfro said...

OK so it sounds like it works the way I said in theory but there is an issue with dead zones for some people who don't fall in any catchments. But simply removing preferences wouldn't solve the dead zone issue - so that is not a justification for removing preference lists (which is the point I was raising). If you want to look at the priority system then that's another question...

FFS said...

Who cares? Live in London, go to school in London. Don't have a little Mungo if getting the exact school out of the hundreds available really matters to you.

People in the country get Hobson's Choice.

Boris said...

The difference is that Tooting is in a Labour borough - so hand wringing takes precedence.

Conservative boroughs get things done rather than just asking for more money. Funny that, reminds me of their respective voters.

Boris said...

Er, I should say Brockley is in a Labour borough.

Newby said...

Surely Mungo would attend a fee paying institution?

ex-Brock resident said...

Tooting isn't in a Labour Borough. It's in Wandsworth - and that's about as Tory as it gets.

Pizza snob said...

(a) Boris already corrected himself.


(b) Wandsworth is Tory but somewhat split, and Tooting's own MP is Sadiq Khan. So def not "as Tory as it gets".

ex-Brock resident said...

I thought Boris was 'correcting himself' re: Brockley being in a Labour Borough. This bit of the tread does start with 'Moved to Brockley from Tooting in Wandsworth'.
Sadiq Khan's got a very flimsy majority hardly makes Tooting a bastion for Labour.

Go Lewisham! said...

They should get the Young Mayor and Diversity team on the case! Give them experience of a real world public service issue.

Jenny Talia said...

What is a mungo?

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