Understanding the system
Schools admission can feel confusing when you’re living in a different area. Our first advice has to be before you begin you really must do your reading, don’t just listen to others. Get advice and read up before starting. Filling in an application form wrong could be a big headache further down the line. A good place to start for advice in general about school applications is Ace Education. They have a free helpline as well as a number of downloadable guides (for a small fee)
- Information about admissions to schools is freely available on the Local Authority Website of where you are moving.
- Speak to the Local Authority and understand the schools situation in your chosen area. Not all areas are over-subscribed and if you are flexible on areas it might be worth choosing an area where the schools aren’t so oversubscribed
- If you apply after the offers have been made it is called an ‘In Year Application” - it applies to those both moving areas and those choosing to move schools. It applies to any applications outside of Reception and Year 7 (except with three tier local authorities where children move age 7 as well.
- If you apply after the deadline has passed but before allocations are made it is generally called a Late Application.
- In some areas there is a secondary deadline called an ‘overlap deadline’ for those moving into the area. This deadline will be a few weeks after the public deadline but before allocations are made.
- Make sure you understand the deadline dates for your chosen Local Authority and if at all possible work towards your move within those deadlines. It is definitely easier!
- It is better to understand how many school places there are and the selection process for your proposed Local Authority. There are lots of different types of schools and different rules can apply (see image below)
- Every Local Authority has ‘OverSubscription Rules’. Generally these are only used if you are applying at the normal time with everyone else but they will also come into force if you apply ‘In year’ if there is more than one person also applying.
This means for example if you apply for a faith school during the school year and you don’t fit the criteria for that faith but there is a place, they have to offer it to you. They cannot hold a place incase someone of that faith comes into the area. However, if there are two families applying for a place the OverSubscription rules will apply and you will be allocated the place based on those rules.
- Moving to an address as close as possible to your preferred school will mean you are closer to the top of the waiting list should you be applying in year. However, you should ask the school/local authority about mobility in previous years. Some schools see a lot of movement whilst others schools see none. There is little point getting your hopes up for a school that hasn’t seen anyone leave for 20 years. You are better to look at the other options.
- There are official limits to the numbers that a school can take. These are the Published Admission Numbers which are publicly available. The only time a school will go over this figure is to do with Excepted Pupils. It’s worth checking if you fall into that category if the school is oversubscribed.
- If you are applying before allocations are made, make sure you apply before the deadline even if you have not completed/exchanged. Use your previous address and write a full letter explaining how you can be certain you will have moved before the allocation date. It is important to put everything in writing (see appeals information below)
- If you apply after the deadlines and you are a ‘late application’ you are very much at the bottom of the pile. If it’s a popular school you won’t be getting a place as your application won’t be considered within all the other ‘in time’ applications.
- The majority of schools don’t actually have an official catchment area, however some do. You can find out by visiting the individual school website who will have a list of roads which are ‘in catchment’. Only those in the area can apply for a school place. Other schools allow applications from anyone in the local authority but will use the over subscription rules to offer places.
By law you have to be given a school place, which is usually the school closest to your address that has a vacancy. If you choose not to accept the place which is offered you are responsible for making your own arrangements. You could choose to homeschool or go to a private school. You can remain on the waiting list for a different option if you choose to turn down a school that is offered to you.
The school they offer to you has to be within a reasonable distance. For your information that means 45 minutes in a taxi. The Local Authority has to provide a taxi if the walking distance to the school is more than 2 miles for primary and more than 3 miles for secondary.
The big question - Is there any point appealing?
The appeals procedure differs depending on the year group.
For Reception, year one and year two there is little point appealing for any reason apart from if they have not followed procedure, made a mistake (usually in measuring distance) or made an unreasonable decision based on information they had known from a legal perspective. For later years the appeal procedure is different. Your arguments simply need to outweigh that of the school. There is lots of advice on the internet about the process but you need to consider your argument to ensure you are constantly focusing on the reason your child should go to that one school. For more advice make sure you download this guide from Ace Education. They also have a helpline which is worth a call.