Find out how school preferences work when applying for primary schools…
So, you’re staring at the primary school application form on your computer. You list one school, then another, then another. Then you swap them round. Then you swap them back.
Sound familiar? No? Just me, then?
Deciding on the order of preference when applying for primary school can seem really daunting. Many parents become convinced that they need to be strategic about it in order to maximise their child’s chances of getting a place. This isn’t true.
Actually, when you understand the process it’s a pretty simple exercise and there are no tricks to it. Here’s how school preferences work.
The equal-preference model
When you’re applying for a primary school place, you’ll be asked to list several (usually between three and six depending on your local council), in order of preference. Councils process applications using an equal-preference model. This means that they consider each school you listed as if it was your only preference. So for each school on your list, they’ll use the admissions criteria to determine whether they can offer your child a place.
If they’re able to offer your child a place at two or more of the schools you listed, they’ll give you the one that you ranked the highest.
For example, you LOVE school A. You like school B. School C is okay. You apply for them in that order of preference. Each application is considered equally using the school’s admissions criteria. A place is available at school A and C. You will be offered school A.
Now that means you don’t need your place at school C, right? So then there’ll be some shuffling around and another child will be offered that place instead. If that child has got a place at a higher preference school too, there’ll be even more shuffling. So much shuffling.
Eventually it’ll all make sense and the offers will be sent out to all families on national offer day in mid-April.
Is my child guaranteed a place at one of the schools I list?
No. Repeat, NO. Some parents only list one or two schools in the hope that this will force the council to give their child a place at one of them.
What will actually happen is that if your child doesn’t get a place at any of those schools under their admissions criteria, the council will allocate a place for them at another school with a place available. So make sure that you’re realistic about your choices. List as many schools as possible, including at least one where you know you’ve got a good chance of getting a place. Otherwise the choice will be taken out of your hands.
What happens if my child doesn’t get their first preference school?
Your child will be put on the waiting list for any school which was ranked higher in preference to the one that you’ve been offered. So if you were offered your fifth choice, you’ll be put on the waiting lists for numbers one to four, and so on.
For community schools, the local authority will be able to tell you your child’s position on the waiting list. For faith schools / academies, you’ll probably need to contact the school directly to find out this information.
Didn’t get your first choice school? Don’t panic! Here are your options.