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Wading Through The Primary School Minefield

June 27th, 2017
Wading Through The Primary School Minefield

Do You Understand The Primary School Minefield?

If your child is approaching their 3rd or 4th birthday I bet you’re thinking about schooling them but understanding the Primary School system in this country is quite tough, unless you’ve already been through it all before. There’s a lot to take into consideration. Of course, you may have settled in an area with a view of getting your child into the local school there, because it’s OFSTED rated outstanding. In which case – good for you, you’ve taken great steps already. However, many live where they live because they’ve always lived there, they love the area or they have families close by. This is all well and good, but what happens if the local primary school isn’t up to much yet there is a fabulous primary school just a few miles away? Does it mean you won’t get your child’s foot in the door? Well, probably not, but don’t completely rule it out!

Move In The Right Direction

Bearing the above in mind, if you are moving or considering moving but didn’t realise that it’s a good idea to be as close to possible to the school of your choice, now is the time to put it high on your list when looking for a new house/flat. Of course, if you have no idea what the schools are like in an area you must do your research. Speak to local Estate Agents about the best primary schools. Then, research them, check their latest OFSTED reports. Visit the school or even drive by or walk by the school during school run times. You can get to see a lot about the children when you do this, for example, whether they’re well-behaved…or not! The other worthwhile thing you can do is to hop onto local Facebook groups (search villages, towns, areas in the Facebook search bar). Ask other mums their opinions on local schools too and if you can, even ask if you can speak to them.

Once you’ve made a decision on what schools you do like, you need to prioritise them. Don’t ever just select one school because Primary School entry is far from easy (I’m not going to lie to you). I know of families who moved to literally next door or opposite certain schools only to be turned down so keep your options well and truly open.

Generally, Primary School Admissions go something like this (based on one class of approximately 30 children):

Siblings take priority

Special needs take priority

Foster children/adopted children often take priority

Following siblings and special needs, the school will select children based on their proximity to the school as the crow flies

If there are extra places available, they will extend out their radius so there is some chance for those who live out of the catchment area

Other children will be placed on a waiting list, in distance

Letters will go out to parents offering places

Remaining places/places turned down will be re-offered to waiting list until class is complete

BEAR IN MIND, if you keep your child’s name ON the waiting list, you may be offered a place later on – even two or three years later

Keep The Faith

Faith Schools do have a slightly different procedure. They take more children of their particular faith (based on religious service attendance and some other religious criteria, dependent on faith) but they are also at liberty to accept some children who are not of the same faith if there is space. These children are accepted according to proximity to the school. Some faith schools are highly sought after because they have excellent OFSTED grades. If you want a faith school, you should check their admissions procedure first because you may have to qualify in other areas before submitting your application.

Sounds straight forward but it doesn’t always deliver. For example, this year, in London, 19% of parents didn’t get their first choice and 5% didn’t get any of the six preferential schools they listed. This means that they either had to sit and wait (and take what they were offered – remember, some weren’t offered anything), home-school or choose a private school. All well and good if you can afford it – and even if you can afford it, you still need to have your name on these Private Schools’ own lists so there’s no guarantee.


If you are applying for a Primary School place for September 2018 you MUST apply by 15th January 2018 or you will miss out. To do this, access Click Here to Buy and search your postcode which will give you your borough and there you can search the local school’s directory before you fill in your online application. Most boroughs (but not all) use an eadmissions system which you fill in and send off electronically. Then it’s a case of sitting and waiting patiently. Places are given out on the 18th April 2018 and if you are unhappy with what you are allocated with, you can appeal. The online portal will have an area where you can submit your appeal.

You Didn’t Get The Place

If you don’t get what you want, don’t panic (yes, easy for me to say, I know). Your child WILL get an education but you might have to be prepared to be flexible and most of the time, it is a waiting game. There are sometimes two or three rounds before all places are accepted. Remember, the school you are desperate for might be a school someone else doesn’t want so exercise as much restraint as you can before blowing up the local authority on the phone! Here’s how to appeal:

Call the admissions department at your council and ask for the waiting list for all the schools you want (not just one – you need options!)

You can also request for other school waiting lists too (not many people know this)

You will have to wait but by all means, phone every other day to check where you are on the list

Appeal but you need to build a case. Read all the school admissions documents and policies; submit a letter and then you will probably be invited to present your case to an independent panel and the school in question. You can appeal on the legal size limit, a mistake in criteria or distance – believe me, schools make mistakes and sometimes children who live further than you might get the school you want! Check your information and research it. You can also appeal on unfairness, but you need a strong case (e.g. your child has a disability or medical reason)

Hopefully the above will help you. I am a great believer that at some point, you will be offered the school you want (even two years later) but by then, your child will more than likely be happy and settled (as will you).

Emma x

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