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ACE Education Telephone Adviceline

Independent advice on a wide range of education issues.

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Applying for a School

This page outlines the school admissions process for state schools in England

Applying for a school place can be a worrying time for families. The information on these pages and in our advice booklet should help you understand how the admissions process works.

Your preference

All parents have a right in law to express a preference for the school they would like their child to go to. This is not the same as having a right to choose a school. If too many children want to go to a particular school, there will be rules about who has priority for a place. You may be given your preference but you may not.

Start early

It’s important to think about schools early, usually at least a year before your child is due to start school or move schools. Check the local deadline for applications. If your form is late your child will be given lower priority than people who applied on time.

Gather information

Find out as much as you can about the schools you are interested in. Some ways of getting information are:

  • The local authority’s composite prospectus (a guide to all the schools in the area)
  • Schools’ own brochures and websites
  • School profile
  • Ofsted report
  • Visiting the school

Check the rules

Each school will have rules to decide who gets a place if the school is oversubscribed. Check these carefully to see whether your child is likely to get a place. Make sure that your list includes at least one school where your child has a good chance of getting in, even if it’s a lower preference. Otherwise you may be allocated a school some distance away if your preferences can’t be met.

Co-ordinated admissions

Local authorities now have to operate co-ordinated admissions schemes for primary and secondary admissions. This means that you only have to fill in one form or online application. You will be able to list several schools in order of preference. On a set day (the beginning of March for secondary schools, a bit later for primary) each child will be given a single offer of a school place.

Applying for a school place can be a worrying and stressful time for families. Our booklet should help you to decide which schools might suit your child and to understand how the application process works.

Download the Applying for a School booklet if:

  • you are applying to a state-funded school in England.
  • your child is about to start school for the first time.
  • your child is moving up to a different stage of schooling.
  • you want or need a change of school for your child.
  • you or your child are applying for a sixth form place in a school.

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