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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Apply for a school place

You can apply for a place at state schools in England online or by using your local authority's common application form. Make sure you apply by the deadline, or you could jeopardise your chances of getting a place at your preferred school.

The application process

Local authorities coordinate the admissions process for all types of state school, even if the local authority is not the school's admission authority.

To apply, complete the local authority's common application form, online or on paper. This covers applications for all schools in its area (and also covers applications to secondary schools in other local authority areas).

Find schools near you

You can search for schools in your area online by following the 'Find schools and Sure Start Children's Centres' link.

How to apply

The local authority's online application form (or paper application form) will ask you to list your preferred schools. You may be asked to put down one or more primary schools, and for secondary schools you can apply for at least three schools. Whether you can apply to more than three secondary schools will depend on the policy of your local authority.

To apply for a school place online, simply follow one of the links below and type in your postcode. You'll then be taken to the relevant page on your local authority's website.

To get a copy of the application form on paper, contact your local authority.

When to apply

You can apply for a school place at any time, and your application must be considered straightaway. However, try to make sure you apply for a school place in good time: the admissions process begins around the start of the autumn term for entry in the following September.

For the exact date your application needs to be in, and the address to send it to, check with the local authority. This is very important. If you miss the deadline, you are less likely to get offered a place at your preferred school.

Primary schools

Most local authorities set a deadline for applications at some point in the autumn of the year before the child is due to start school, when they are three or four years old.

Since most local authority areas now have a reception year for four year olds, it’s a good idea to start enquiring about primary schools well before your child reaches their fourth birthday.

Secondary schools

Start choosing your preferred secondary school as soon as your child enters Year 6.

Most local authorities set a date in November or December as their deadline for applications.

The local authority will post you a letter with details of the school place offered to your child on 1 March (or the next working day), or let you know by email if you have applied online and have asked them to do so.

Other arrangements you might need to make

If you apply for a boarding place, you may be asked to attend an interview or supply extra information along with your application so that the admissions authority can assess your child’s suitability for boarding.

If a school gets more applications than it has places available, the admissions authority will apply its published ‘admissions criteria’ to decide which children get offered a place. Certain types of school may need further information to help them apply these criteria:

  • for faith schools, you may be asked to supply a reference from your priest or other religious minister
  • schools which use a ‘banding’ system to make sure they admit pupils with a range of abilities may ask for your child to sit a test
  • schools which admit a proportion of pupils based on their aptitude in a particular subject may ask for an assessment, audition or test to get an idea of your child’s potential

Your child may also be asked to sit a test if you apply to a school which selects pupils by ability, like grammar schools and some independent schools.

Changing schools

If you move house and you have to change your child's school you'll need to go through the admission process again. Contact your new local authority for more information. Do this well in advance of your move - some schools in your new area may already be full.

Pupils from overseas

If you've moved to England with your child you can apply for them to attend a maintained school or Academy regardless of their immigration status. This might apply to:

  • asylum seekers who have children
  • parents who have limited leave to enter or remain in the UK
  • teachers coming to the UK with their children on a teacher exchange scheme

However, different rules operate in relation to those making applications for children not yet living in the UK. These rules are explained in the School Admissions Code.

Appealing against a school place decision

If you're unhappy with your offer then you have the right to appeal to an independent appeal panel. See 'Appealing against a school place decision' to find out more.

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