The first place to look when seeking a state school place is the website for your local authority. All local schools will be listed and you can search by postcode.
Most authorities offer an online application facility for places in Reception, Year 3 and Year 7. These open and close at a set point during the year. The opening date for primary applications is usually in November and for secondary applications it is usually September. When applying the closing date will be given to you, it is usually a 2/3 month period.
It is a common misconception that parents can put their children on a waiting list for their preferred school well in advance of school age. This is not the case at state schools; you cannot apply until the application process is opened for the relevant age group.
If you are applying for a state school place at any other time, for example year 1 or year 9, it is known as a mid-year admission, even if your child will be starting at the start of a new school year. You cannot make these applications online; you must contact your local authority and ask for an application pack to be sent to you.
Please note that you cannot apply for school places unless you are actually resident in the UK. If you are moving here from overseas you cannot do it in advance unless you have an address.
In either circumstance it is normal to select three schools in order of preference. In some areas most people get their first choice, in some one of their top three and unfortunately in some areas an offer will come from a school that is not on your preferred list. Popular schools are often over-subscribed and will apply selection criteria when allocating places. These criteria may include:
- Children in care (all schools must have this as a top priority)
- Children of serving military personnel
- Siblings already at the school
- Proximity of home to school
- Attendance at a certain primary school known as a feeder school
- Entrance exam results (for selective schools)
- Religious affiliation (for faith schools)
Please note that every child legally resident in the UK is entitled to a school place. If you cannot find one your local authority will tell you which schools in your area have places available.
If your child is categorised as having special educational needs you cannot make an application online. You need to contact their named officer for further assistance.
When choosing a suitable school for your child there is a lot of information available to you including Ofsted reports and league tables. Other useful tools are visiting schools and talking to current parents about their experiences.
Every state school is required to have an up to date website which must include:
- How much money they get from taking underprivileged children (the ‘pupil premium’), what they do with it and the effect it’s had
- Details of the curriculum
- Admissions criteria
- Behaviour policy
- Special educational needs policy
- Disability policy
- Links to Ofsted reports
- Links to performance data
- The school’s latest key stage 2 and 4 attainment and progress measures
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