By the time your child reaches year 5 of primary school, you will no doubt have a good idea of the secondary schools in your area and your child’s primary school may well have its own links to a secondary school. If not, or if you’re moving to a new area, all schools will be listed on the local authority website and can be searched by postcode.
Most authorities offer an online application facility for places in Year 7. These open and close at a set point during the year. This year applications opened on 10 August and will close on 31 October.
National Offer Day will be on 1 March 2016.
If you are applying for a state school place at any other time, for example year 9, it is known as a mid-year admission, even if your child will be joining at the start of a new school year. You cannot make these applications online; you must contact your local authority and request an application pack.
Remember too that you cannot apply for school places unless you are resident in the UK. If you are moving here from overseas, you cannot do it in advance unless you have an address. Don’t panic though because every child who is legally resident in the UK is entitled to a school place.
It is normal to select three schools in order of preference. Popular schools are often over-subscribed and will apply selection criteria when allocating places. These may include:
When choosing a suitable school for your child there is a lot of information available to you including Ofsted reports, league tables and prospectuses. Or you can contact agencies like Parental Choice who will do all the searching for you and provide a complete report on all available options.
However there really is no substitute for paying a visit. Most schools run open days. Once the speeches are over get out into the corridors and speak to as many teachers – and pupils – as you can. Look at the classrooms, the toilets – even behind the bike sheds – in order to gain as complete a picture as possible.
The final decision about which schools to apply to should rest with you, but it is important to involve your child in discussions. Don’t however let them make the decision; friendships can come and go. The school has to be the right fit for your child and their abilities and the best way to make that decision is to have as much information at your fingertips. Then it’s just a case of keeping those fingers crossed until National Offer Day.
Sarah-Jane Butler is the founder of Parental Choice , the one stop advice and childcare search service for professionals looking for the right childcare to fit their careers.