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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Choosing a school: getting started

Choosing a school is one of the most important decisions you will make for your child. To have the best chance of getting your child into the primary or secondary school of your choice, you must apply well in advance.

Planning and preparing

The process of choosing a school for your child can seem daunting, but starting your preparation and planning early can help you to make a well informed choice.

Remember that all parents need to make an application – even if your child’s current primary or nursery school is linked to the school you want them to go to next, you won’t be considered for a place unless you apply.

Making an early start will mean that you'll be less likely to miss key deadlines.

Finding a school for your child

Search for schools near you

Start by looking online for schools in your area. Follow the 'Find schools and Sure Start Children's Centres' link, and then type in your postcode to find all the schools near your home. You can also contact your local authority and ask for a list of schools in your area.

Find out more

Once you know which schools are near you, get as much information as you can about them. This will give you a better idea of which schools might suit your child most. For example, you might like to:

  • visit the schools
  • read the schools' most recent Ofsted reports
  • read the local authority's and schools' prospectuses

Applying for a school place

Once you have narrowed down your list of preferred schools, it's time to apply for a place.

Admissions criteria

Before submitting your application, it's very important to read the school's admission criteria; different schools have different criteria. If the school you're interested in is popular, the admissions criteria will give you a realistic idea of your child's chances of getting a place there.

apply in the autumn term a year before your child is due to start

Don't miss the deadline

There are important dates by which you need to submit your application.

The dates vary between local authorities so it's best to check with your own local authority and send off your form or apply online in plenty of time. It's important to remember that you may jeopardise your application if you miss the deadline.

When you’ll find out the results of your application

For Secondary schools, admissions authorities send out offer letters on 1 March. Primary school offer dates vary, so it’s best to check with you local authority.

Appealing against a school place decision

Sometimes schools do not have enough places for the number of children who have applied. If your child does not get a place at the school you prefer, you have a legal right to appeal. Find out how the appeal process works and what happens once a decision has been reached.

Education for under fives

Education for under fives is available through nurseries, playgroups and reception classes. Find out more about how you can encourage your child to start learning, and how to prepare them for their first day at school.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

If the school you are interested in is not in England, try the following links:

Additional links

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