Parents hang on to their fistful of offers
Parents in Sutton Coldfield can hold up to seven offers of school places for their children at any one time.
A complex admissions system in the affluent area to the north of Birmingham allows parents to apply to the local authority, church and grant-maintained schools and a city technology college.
They have the choice of one of four local education authority comprehensives, one of which is Catholic, one of two LEA single sex schools, one of five King Edward Foundation schools in the city, any number of GM schools in Birmingham, any GM schools in neighbouring authorities, a county or voluntary school in each of the nearby councils and the CTC in Solihull.
Birmingham City Council handles applications for its schools but the admission arrangements for the other institutions are not only different but work to individual timetables.
This provides an incentive for parents to hold on to offers of places until they have the results of all their applications. Even when they have all their offers they are under no obligation to inform the admission authorities about which offers they intend to reject.
The Audit Commission said the complex system meant schools had to over-allocate places to take account of the parents who would eventually accept offers elsewhere. Meanwhile other parents often faced an anxious wait to see if they would get what they wanted.
The LEA also spends a lot of time chasing up parents who neither accept nor reject its offers. Last year there were 276 appeals at four schools - the equivalent to a quarter of the Year 7 intake.