How to Get Your Kids In to the Primary School of Your Choice

As parents, we worry. One of the biggest worries facing parents in England and Wales is knowing how to register for primary school, and how to get your kids in to the primary school of your choice. We know we’re meant to have choice, but we can be left feeling that isn’t really the case. It can seem a bewildering and complicated system to the uninitiated. This post is designed to alleviate primary school application worries, and to ensure that you are well prepared for getting your child in to the primary school in which you believe they will thrive.

Despite the fear that we can sometimes feel over the application process, 88.4% of primary school applications are successful in getting their first choice of school. In fact, 96.3% get an offer at one of their top three preferences. So, our first piece of advice is not to worry. The overwhelming majority are, in fact, successful at getting a school they will be happy with.


How to Register for Primary School – The Process

Primary school application processes, and opening dates, vary from area to area. To find out the specifics of applications in your area type your postcode in here.

There are some common elements. You can apply online, or using your council’s application form. The closing date for applications is the 15th January in the year in which your child will start school. You will receive a primary school offer on 16th April, or on the first working day after then.

Individual schools have their own Admissions Criteria. This will outline precisely what criteria is used to rank applications. We will look at this in more detail in a moment.

If you are not happy with your child’s allocation, you can then appeal.

Admissions Criteria – What You Need to Know

Before you begin the application process, you need to invest some time in to researching the local schools available to you. Arrange visits, attend open days, visit the school website, and read their latest Ofsted report. Go in with an open mind – you may be pleasantly surprised by the school you thought you’d write off ‘on paper’, and discover that sought-after Ofsted Outstanding School doesn’t feel quite so perfect after all. Your gut feel matters here. So, look closely, ask questions, and speak to existing pupils. If you can, then speak to parents whose children are already at that school.

Once you’ve formulated some opinions on your local schools, it’s time to look closely at their Admission Criteria, and specifically their Oversubscription Criteria. These can, and do, vary from school to school. In one, school distance might be measured as the crow flies, another might use mapping software to work out journey distances. Another may rank faith above distance, or may require a supplementary application form. One school may have a pre-determined catchment area; another may not.

Armed with this information it’s time to go back to the schools that you like and find out the answers to questions you need to know, to be able to get a good idea of how your child will fare against admissions criteria. For example, if siblings are prioritised, ask how many siblings they are expecting in your child’s admissions cohort. Were they oversubscribed last year? Where was the furthest distance from the school that someone was offered a place?

Once you have a good understanding of which schools you like, and which you stand a good chance of getting, then you can rank them in order of preference on your application form following your council’s procedure. Don’t waste a spot on your list by listing a school for which know your child won’t meet the Admissions Criteria.

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What to do if Your Child Hasn’t Got Their First Choice

If your child hasn’t been offered their first choice, don’t despair - you still have plenty of avenues open to you.

Firstly, contact the school that you would like your child to attend, and ask them to put your child on their waiting list. Not everyone offered a place will accept it, and there is usually a fair amount of change following acceptances and appeals. Before September comes around, just by being on a waiting list you may be successful.

You can also choose to appeal. Appeals for infants (Reception, Year 1 and Year 2) are actually the least likely to be successful, usually due to the infant class size restriction. However, an appeal is still worthwhile if the admission criteria weren’t applied correctly, weren’t legal, or your child being refused a place wasn’t reasonable. In 2016 12% of primary appeals that were heard were successful, so do try if you believe you have grounds.

Most of all - be open minded. Talk to other parents who didn’t get their first choice and ask how they now feel about it. You will find that many have come to love the school their child now attends, and are happy with how things turned out. Others will have kept their child’s name on the waiting list, and in the end moved their child. There are still options.

Knowing how to register for primary school is one thing, knowing how to get your first choice is another. Follow our advice and hopefully your child will be one of the 88.4% who get their first choice, and if not, then you will be armed with the information needed to work things out in the end, and tick off another parenting worry as ‘solved’.

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