Collecting last distance offered data
Whilst some local authorities publish 'Last Distance Offered', others don’t and the ones that do don’t always publish them for all schools. Further, the information is presented in a myriad ways, with each local authority having their own maps, pdfs and web pages; all presenting the data in slightly different ways. Collecting this data involves a lot of manual effort and is an arduous process, however due to popular demand, we are working our way through 150+ local authority websites collating the data and presenting it.
For the vast majority of oversubscribed schools we look at, we are seeing a very close correlation between the last distance offered from the council website and our existing catchment heatmaps.
For the reasons above, we have historically avoided attempting to collate last distance offered data and have instead used data from the National Pupil Database to show where existing pupils live (see Comparing Locrating catchment indicators with council cut off distances), which can be used as a rough guide as to where you might need to live to gain successful entry to a school in the future.
We've done this for a few reasons, firstly the data exists for all schools and hence we are able to process and display it in a reliable way for all school across the country. Secondly, there are a huge number of different ways that schools determine who to admit - in many cases you will see multiple last distance offered numbers for one school, as children are first put into groups (e.g. based on academic ability, location or faith) and then further sorted based on distance within those groups. Hence a single distance is not enough to show the whole picture, especially where priority admission areas are concerned.
Our approach of displaying where existing pupils live, we feel provides a better picture, especially as you can see the exact neighbourhoods where children live (which can highlight priority areas) and you can even view were different year groups live.
However, we are often asked why the distances we show don't match exactly those shown on council websites; which we have discussed in detail in our blog post Comparing Locrating catchment indicators with council cut off distances. Clearly, both pieces of information are of interest to users and so, in our effort to be a one-stop-shop for all school information, we have embarked upon the large task of collecting this data from council websites. Where it is not available online, we will make Freedom of Information request to obtain the data.
What is interesting, in undertaking this exercise and comparing the council data with our catchment heatmaps, is how closely for oversubscribed schools (where distance matters) this data matches. For the vast majority of oversubscribed schools we look at, we are seeing a very close correlation between the last distance offered from the council website and our existing catchment heatmaps.
Where available the last distance offered can be seen on a school's home tab for everyone, as well as being plotted as a dotted line around the school for members.
It should be noted that our most recent catchment heatmaps (2018/19) are a year behind the last distance offered data (2019/2020), because the later is published before the children start school, whereas the National Pupil Database is only updated after they have started (each Spring), this will account for some of the differences - as catchments can and do vary from one year to the next.
What's really exciting, is that as we go around manually collating the data we can provide you will the interesting resources we find along the way; including not only where we have taken the last distance offered data from, but also web pages that show priority areas, sibling counts and other useful information, as show below.
We hope you find this extra information useful.
Author: Lewis Tandy