You can’t always fit in with the school calendar when it comes to moving house. This means that many children find themselves moving school during the school year.
Or perhaps you’re not moving but you’ve decided that the school your child currently attends isn’t right for them and you’d like to move them to a new one.
Our guide explains the process of moving school, from making an in-year application to helping your child to settle into their new school.
In-year school applications
If you want your child to move school, you can make an in-year application (it’s called a mid-year admission in some areas). You can do this at any time of year, you don’t have to wait until a certain date or time. You should apply for an in-year school place if:
1/ You’ve moved home and want your child to go to a nearby school
2/ You aren’t moving but want your child to move to another school in the area
3/ You’re unhappy with the school your child has been allocated on National Offer Day
Firstly, do some research of the local schools to see which ones are closest to you and how oversubscribed they tend to be. If they are very popular, it’s unlikely they’ll have places available immediately, so you’ll probably need to go on to a waiting list.
Your position on the list will depend on how close you live to the school. So, for example, if your house is next door to the school gates, you’d go on to the waiting list above a family who live further away, even though they’ve been on the list for longer. Siblings and children with special educational needs usually get top priority.
Next, look on the website of the local council where the school you want your child to go to is based. In their school admissions section, they’ll have details about the application process and how to apply.
You’ll be asked to fill in an application listing the school(s) you would like your child to go to in order of preference. It’s a good idea to put more than one school on the list because there’s no guarantee that there’ll be a place available at your first-choice school.
You will also need to provide proof of your current address and of your child’s identity and date of birth. Once your application is submitted, you should receive a response from the council within a couple of weeks. Some are quicker than others. It will probably take a bit longer if you apply during the school holidays.
If they can’t offer your child a place at one of the schools you’ve listed and your child is out of school, they’ll be allocated a place at the nearest school that has a vacancy.
If you have more than one child, one might get offered a place immediately while the other has to go on a waiting list depending on spaces available. This is only for siblings of different ages as the rules are different for twins or triplets etc, when all of them should be offered a place. Siblings get priority so your child will go to the top of the waiting list, depending on how many other siblings are on the list already.
Primary school reception places
If you haven’t been offered a school that you’re happy with on National Offer Day, one option is to make an in-year application to a school that wasn’t on your original list. You can do this immediately, you don’t have to wait until your child starts school in September.
Do some research to see which local schools still have places available or short waiting lists. You might find that a school which you originally ruled out when applying or didn’t even consider the first time round seems a lot more appealing now.
If you find a suitable school that you want to apply to, visit your local council’s website for information on how to make an in-year application. It’s a good idea to accept the place you’ve been offered anyway, just in case your application isn’t successful.
Should I move my child to a new school?
Moving to a new school part way through the year can be a big deal for your child. There are some situations where it’s unavoidable – like if you’ve moved house and it’s not possible or practical to travel to their existing school. But if you’re thinking of moving them for another reason then it’s worth weighing up the impact this might have against the benefits.
Before you make this decision, it’s definitely worth discussing your concerns with your child’s current school. It may be that they’re able to deal with any issues that you or your child are having. A new school may not solve these problems and it could unsettle your child if they have to get used to a new environment and make friends all over again.
Find out more about the school you want your child to move to, to understand how likely your child is to get a place and make sure that it’s the right fit for your family. The last thing you want is to end up moving your child again.
How to help your child settle into their new school
Switching schools means getting to know new teachers, making new friends and learning their way around a new building, all which can be daunting for a child. But there are some things you can do to help make the transition easier.
Make sure you take your child to visit their new school before they start so they know what it looks like and where their classroom will be. If possible, introduce them to their new teacher and give them the opportunity to ask questions. Show them where they will need to put their coat and bag, and where the toilets are. Practice the journey to and from their new school so that they know what to expect on their first day.
See if you can find some local children who also go to the school and arrange a playdate before they start. If you’ve moved house, perhaps you could ask your neighbours if any of their children go to the school. Alternatively, lots of local communities have Facebook groups for parents so have a look to see if there’s one for your new area.
If the school is holding any events, like a summer or Christmas fair, go along so that your child can get used to their new surroundings – and you might make some new friends too.
Many schools publish their lunch menu on their website so if your child will be having school dinner, have a look online and talk them through what the meal options are likely to be.
On their first day, make sure that they have the right uniform and PE kit etc so that they don’t feel like an outsider. Ask the school if they have a buddy system, as having a new friend to look out for your child can make a huge difference. Although the novelty of a ‘new pupil’ means they often have classmates queuing up to play with them.
If you can, try to get involved in school life yourself. By offering to help out at events or even just chatting to mums at the school gates, you’ll make new friends which will make it easier to arrange play dates for your children.
Be positive and talk about the exciting things that your child will be able to do at their new school. But remember that things take time and it’s okay for your child to be feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Allow them time to settle in and find their feet and hopefully within a few weeks their shoes will be scuffed, their jumpers covered in stains and pen marks, and they won’t be the ‘new boy’ or ‘new girl’ anymore.