School Admissions Procedure: Applying for a Primary School


It’s day 5 of Blogtober and today’s topic is Education. A perfect topic as Finlay has just started school. He is now into his 4th week and has settled in amazingly well. I feel so guilty that I totally underestimated him. He has surpassed all my expectations and is really enjoying what school has to offer.


I remember a year ago facing the daunting process of the Primary School admission application. I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about the admissions procedure. It was confusing and scary. I battled through determined to know how it worked. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share my experiences and offer some tips!


School Admissions Procedure: Applying for a Primary School, My tips!

The Equal Preference Admissions System


In previous years schools were able to favour applicants who had put the school as a first choice under the old ‘preferencence first system’. This meant someone who lived quite a distance from the school but had it as a first choice could be offered a place over someone who lived closer but had it as a second choice preference Admission authorities are now legally required to operate an ‘equal preference’ system. Places are now offered on the strength of how well the child fits the admissions criteria. Schools can no longer favour first preference applicants. Actually, schools are not even told where they ranked in your preferences.


Schools operate on a PAN (Published Admissions Number), which is basically how many places can be offered a for that year (I.E 3 classes of 30 would equal a PAN of 90). Once all applications are in each school creates a list of students called ‘The school list. This will go up to its PAN number. Your child will be placed on each ‘School list’ that you have a listed as a preference. Your place on each list is determined by how well you fit the entry criteria. Children who fall outside of the PAN list are placed on a waiting list. The waiting list is created in exactly the same way. So your place on the waitlist is determined again by how well you fit the entry criteria.


If your child ends up only appearing on one school list – you will be offered a place at that school regardless of where you ranked it.


If your child appears on more than one School List, your preferences will be taken into account and you will be offered your highest preference.


If your child does not appear on any School list, your child will be allocated a place in the nearest school with space.


If you are offered a place at a school that wasn’t your first choice, you will remain on the waiting list for any schools you had as a higher preference. If a places becomes available, it will be offered to the next person on the waiting list.



Find out open evenings! Most schools will advertise these on their websites, but if you can’t find any information ring the school, it’s best to be an eager beaver, than to miss out!


Check you can bring your child! One school we visited requested no children!


Check if you need to book! Some schools like to know who and how many people to expect, they may have limited capacity.


Visit all the schools and more!! This gives you a good indication of what you like and what you don’t like. I was surprised that my favourite school, I actually didn’t like so much when I went to the open evening. It’s also a good contingency plan. There’s always a slight chance you won’t get any of your preferences and it’s good to know what a school is like, just in case.


Visit in the day if you can. Open evenings are great and you get to have a good nose and speak to everyone, but there’s nothing like seeing the teachers in action and the class in progress. you may even get to chat with a few students and we all know little children are brutally honest!


Find out what other parents think! Talk to friends and family, find out what real people think. You can also check the goverment website, Parent View.


Don’t rule a school out because it may be too far out. Most schools no longer have a catchment area. If you meet the entry criteria, once priority spaces have been allocated, distance is then taken into account. You won’t know the demographics of your year so its worth a shot if you like the school. We live much further out than the furthest allocated space last year for Finlays school, but it was our first choice and we got a space!


Look up the previous years intake. your local authority should have data from the previous year’s intake for each school on their website. it will include data such as PAN numbers, how many were allocated, how many were the 1st choice and how the allocation was determined using admissions criteria. Usually, it will have the furthest distance allocated if it went to distance.  Remeber its just a rough guide and demographics can vary a lot from year to year.


Check how your local authority determine distance. Some may use the shortest, direct walking routed, others may use a straight line from the front gate to your front door.


Don’t believe any school that says if you don’t put it as a 1st choice you won’t get a space! spaces are allocated on the equal preference system described above!


Use all your preferences. Up to 50% of children in some areas miss out on their first choice. If you have no other selection you will be allocated any school that has space.


Don’t like a school? don’t put it as a preference! If you need to appeal, you won’t have a leg to stand on as you have selected it!


Always accept your child’s place! Even if you intend to appeal, that way you know your child will have at least somewhere to go come September.



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