Primary admissions D-Day approaches, have you completed your form?

This Friday sees the admissions deadline for applications for primary school places for September 2016. If your child will be starting in Reception in September, miss this deadline at your peril…. but if you are still undecided about what order to put your preferences in, or are confused by how the process works, some pointers which might help you feel able to hit “send” on your online form.

  1. Always put your first preference school first. All admissions authorities operate an Equal Preference System. Each school you name as a preference will work through all applications, and if oversubscribed they will then rank parents according to their published oversubscription criteria. The Local Authority receives all this information back from schools. If you have qualified for a place at more than one of your preferred schools, they will offer you a place at the one you have given your highest preference to. So if you put your nearest school 1st preference but you really want a school a bit further away, but are unsure if you will get a place so you put that 2nd, if you qualify for both you will get your 1st stated preference NOT your favoured school…..
  2. Always include a safe bet as one of your preferences. You might not want your nearest school, but if you don’t put it down and you don’t get any of your preferences you will be allocated a place at the nearest school that has vacancies after all preferences have been worked through. So you may end up with a school some distance away no better than the one on your doorstep.
  3. Think about your journey to school, every day, five days a week for 38 weeks a year. How does it fit in with other children at different schools and your work or your other childcare needs? Consider the benefits of a local school – friendships close by, exercise from walking compared to the costs of petrol, how to get there in bad weather (or if the car breaks down), picking up from playdates some distance away….
  4. Schools DO NOT KNOW what preference you have put them. They are not allowed to use preferences as a way of ranking and allocating places – this violates the schools admissions code. All they know is you have made them one of your preferences, not the order. So if a school tells you that you must put them first preference or you won’t get a place this is not the case.
  5. Some schools operate a catchment system whereby children living within the catchment have priority over admissions. This might mean siblings living outside the catchment are not prioritised as highly as those within. If you are offered a place for your eldest child at a school that you are not “in catchment” for ,then be aware that your younger children might not get a place if the school is popular, and in an area targeted by first-time-parents. Similarly if you move out of a catchment before your younger children start at school they may drop down the priority list for entry. Oh, and if you live in Wandsworth they are scrapping sibling priority altogether in some of their schools.
  6. Use up all your preferences otherwise you might end up with a school some distance away if there are no places locally once all preferences have been worked through. Just putting one school will not maximise your chances of getting a place there, only minimise your chances of getting anywhere else should you be unlucky.

Good luck! Now you just have 3 long months to wait to find out what place you have been offered… try and sit back and relax and enjoy these last months with your preschooler before the reality of school kicks in!