Applying to schools can seem a confusing process, but have a look at our guide as we break it down for you...
1. Check with your local authority, as you may be able to apply online.
2. Otherwise you will need an application form. Schools will often hand these out to you at open days, along with the county or borough’s big fat booklet on how to apply. Don’t be scared by this! It can be full of useful information.
3. If you are in an area where demand for schools is high, it is well worth studying the statistics that come in the application booklet which will show how many children in the year before were offered places on a number of criteria, often in this order:
You can apply as soon as you like, but in most places, applications have to be in around Christmas/New Year. But do check.
Local authorities usually run two or three rounds of applications, so if you are moving house, for instance, and miss out on the first deadline, you have another chance later in the year – this usually comes around March-May, when the first letters of acceptance have been sent out, and schools have an idea of how many places have been filled.
“We are on the cusp of several borough and I was caught out by Croydon’s deadline, which in December, when the others were in January, so we missed out on applying there,” said Lynley, from Gypsy Hill.
1. You will need to show proof of address: in most cases this will be your council tax account number. However, if you are in the process of moving house, you will have to show a rental agreement, proof of exchange of contracts or similar. Call the local authority to confirm this.
2. You will also be able to support your application for the school with the reasons why you wish your child to go there.
3. If you are applying to a faith or church school, you will need to fill in a supplementary form if you are apply for a ‘foundation’ or church-sponsored place. This will detail your church attendance, whether your child has been baptised, and a reference from your priest or minister. The schools will usually be happy to offer help in filing in these forms.
Spring is the time when those all-important letters will appear. If you applied online, you may also be able to check your school offer on the web too. It varies from area to area, but will be between March and May in general.
Don’t panic! You can ask to go on the waiting list for your preferred school, but don’t turn down your offer! You can sit on the waiting list while holding on to the offer at a place at a different school. You can also find out where on the list you are, and how likely it is that a place will become available. Remember, a lot can happen between spring and September!
You can also appeal for a place at your chosen school.
For independent schools the application dates will differ, and it is definitely worth applying sooner rather than later, although the Independent Schools Council recommends looking up to a year in advance.
“One mum friend of mine called a good private school nearby when our sons were 18 months old. They were already full, but she was told she could go on the waiting list – for a fee of £50," continued Lynley.
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