Admissions 2017/18: Frequently Asked Questions

The process of applying for secondary places can be stressful, and those going through it can often feel anxious, especially as key deadlines approach. We hope the information below will be helpful in understanding the process.

When are offers made?
The first round of offers for all London schools takes place each year on 1 March. You will be told by your Local Authority which school your child has been allocated on that day.  If you have applied on-line you will be notified as to when the system is available for you to view your offer.

Who makes the decisions – the school or the local authority?
The formal offer of a place at JCoSS comes from Barnet, via your own local authority. Barnet act on behalf of our school and administer the system as they do for all schools in Barnet.  The school sets the admissions policy, and confirms which applicants have satisfied the Jewish practice criteria.  We have no part in the random selection, and we never know where you have put us on your list of preferences.

I know JCoSS is oversubscribed. What should I do to maximise my child’s chance of a place?
The best and only advice is to list the schools in the order you genuinely want them, and then sit tight and remain hopeful. The system allocates places on the basis of the preferences parents put on their Common Application Form.  If you try to play the system, or put a school you don’t really want higher up because you think you have a better chance, you do not get any advantage and it simply distorts the process for you and for everyone.  This is one of the main reasons for delays and unhappiness in the admissions system.
Once your form is submitted, there is nothing further that you can or need to do.

I’ve heard about several “rounds” of offers. What does that mean?
After offers are made on 1 March, there is always some ‘movement’. Some families decide to go to private schools, or go abroad, or move house, and this frees up the place they were allocated (e.g. at JCoSS).  That means a place can be offered at JCoSS to someone who put us first but who was allocated another school (e.g. at JFS).  This, in turn, means there is a space at JFS that can be offered to someone who put JFS first but was allocated another school (perhaps Yavneh, or perhaps JCoSS!)  As a result, there are often quite a few places that arise after 1 March as all this shuffling happens – and these are the additional ‘rounds’ of offers.

When are the “rounds”?
The second round takes place at the end of March and we then make a fresh round of offers every two weeks or so, if there are places to offer. It is quite common for 30 or more places to become available in this way each year. If the offer you receive on 1 March is from a school you put lower down your list than JCoSS, your child’s name will remain on our waiting list automatically.

How does the waiting list work?
JCoSS and Barnet maintain a waiting list for places that become available after 1st March.   The first round of offers have to be accepted or rejected by 15th March.  When local authorities receive this information they update each child’s status on their system.  Barnet receive this information too, and the second round of offers is usually made towards the end of March.  We cross-check our list of available places with Barnet and we offer by random allocation, following our policy, to those on the waiting list.  If your child’s name is not selected it will remain on the waiting list into September unless you tell us otherwise.  We will update you from time to time on the status of the waiting list.

I put JCoSS first but my child has not got a place. Why not?
For September 2017 we are pleased to be able to offer 210 places – 30 more than usual. However, there are still far more people than that who put us first.  We don’t know the order in which you have put the schools – only Barnet know that.  Their computer follows our admissions policy to the letter, and carries out the random allocation for us too, and there will unfortunately still be some who are disappointed.

My child is at a feeder school where there are 10 guaranteed places but 40 children want to come. How does that work?
If any of the 40 are siblings (or have a statement/EHCP or are “looked after” etc) then they get places automatically and do not take up any of the 10 guaranteed places for that feeder school. All the other applicants from your child’s school are then in the “pool” for a feeder place.  The computer will choose 10 of them at random, and those who don’t get a feeder place are then placed in the bigger pool with everyone else for a lottery place. If a child with one of the 10 guaranteed places decides to go elsewhere, the place would be offered at random to a child from the same school who does not yet have a JCoSS offer.

Can I change my mind about the order I put schools in?
You can do this via your local authority in certain circumstances, but they may insist on having a concrete reason for the change. It is important to get the list right first time because that – and only that – is what the computer uses to allocate places.  If your child is a JCoSS sibling and you put another school first, but then change your mind and decide to come to JCoSS, you do not have an automatic place but would be offered the first available one.

Why do some people who put JCoSS second get places ahead of people who put it first?
The system gives your child a place at the highest school on your list that has a place. If your first-preference school cannot offer a place, the computer automatically treats the next highest school on your list as your first preference, and tries there.  It does not distinguish at this point between “real” first preferences and “transferred” first preferences, and this is why sometimes children who listed a school second or even third may be offered a place ahead of those who listed it first.  The system is run for all schools and applicants simultaneously so that all applicants have equal chance to be selected within a given criteria. It may seem frustrating and baffling for those who listed us first and don’t get places, but it does mean that the school you are offered is as high up your list as possible.  

So there are children who get JFS who really want JCoSS and people at JCoSS who really want JFS? Surely the schools should talk to each other, match them up and arrange swaps?
That is exactly what the computer system is designed to do automatically. It’s not perfect but if there was a fairer system then local authorities would be using it.  It would quickly cause far more chaos and grief if individual schools operated a separate “matchmaker” process, and if we did there would be no guarantee that the right swaps would happen.

Is it worth an appeal?
Everyone has the right to appeal against their allocation. The appeal process is explained in detail on our website. It is designed for cases where you think the system has operated unfairly or where your child’s situation is so acute that the school they have been allocated is totally unsuitable for them.  It is not designed for cases where you simply don’t want the school you have been allocated, or where you disagree with the admissions policy.  Each case is heard by an independent panel and considered on its merits, but appeals do not succeed where the grounds are simply that you wanted a Jewish school and haven’t got one, or that your child is really distressed not to get the school they wanted.  The process is professional and humane, but emotionally demanding for parents as well as children.  Statistically the proportion of appeals that are upheld is small.

The system seems so inefficient and unfair – isn’t there a better way?
In our view, the system operated by the local authorities is as efficient and fair as it can be, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can get the school they want, or sometimes any of the schools they want.  If all the schools on your list are heavily over-subscribed, there is a chance that you will not get any of them.  That will feel unfair (why has my child not got a place anywhere when all her friends have?) but that doesn’t mean it actually is unfair.  It may be bitterly disappointing and unpleasant, but that is not quite the same thing.

We also strive to make our policy at JCoSS as fair as possible, and we consult on any changes that we wish to make.  However, different people mean different things by the word “fair” and it is impossible to please everyone with our policy.  In general, an admissions system looks fair to those who get a place at a school they want (or can tolerate) and unfair to those who don’t.

What are the latest plans for increasing the numbers of places at Jewish schools? Will there be enough in the future?
Jewish schools are working together with PaJeS to try to increase the number of Jewish secondary places across London. Two new schools applied to open but neither was successful, so the plan is now to expand some of the existing schools.  The extra 30 JCoSS places should be enough for 2017, and schools are working together to explore whether and where we can create up to 90 extra places needed from September 2018. The biggest challenge is the capital funding needed for extra classrooms.

It will never be possible to guarantee a place for every child at their first preference school, or even at any Jewish school. The schools are, however, working hard to improve the situation and JCoSS is playing a full part in these discussions and intending to be part of the solution.