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School Applications - Check The Admission Arrangements For Each School

With the deadline for primary school applications approaching on 15 January, parents and carers of children due to start school or move into year 3 in September 2018 will be anxious about making the right choices and ensuring the application is made correctly and on time. 

Here, we re-visit the fourth in a series of five articles where members of our Education Law team share some top tips about the application process.

Once you have decided which school or schools you would like your child to attend, you will need to look at the admission arrangements for each school so that you can make an assessment as to whether you child is likely to be offered a place at your chosen school.

Each school must have its own rules to decide how places are allocated. These are known as the admission arrangements and they can usually be found on the school’s website. The admission arrangements will set out the number of places available. This is known as the Published Admission Number (PAN).

If the number of applications is less than the PAN then all of the applicants will be offered a place. If the school receives more applications than there are places available the over-subscription criteria will be applied to each application.

Schools are required to ensure that children who are looked after or in the care of the local authority are given first priority but thereafter are free to make their own rules as long as they are clear and fair.

Many parents who are applying for a school place for the first time are surprised to learn that their child may not necessarily be offered a place at their nearest school. Many are also in the mistaken belief that attendance at the pre-school or nursery attached to or near to a particular primary school will give them an advantage when it comes to the allocation of places at an over-subscribed school.

It is therefore important to know what the over-subscription criteria are and how they will apply to your application.

Many commonly used over-subscription criteria will refer to the distance from the child’s home to the school or may make reference to a “priority area”. Some schools have a priority area and children living in that area will be given priority over applicants who live outside of the area. You will be able to find out which school’s priority area you live in by looking on the local authority’s website or in the prospectus that you will have been sent by them.

After children in care have been accounted for most schools will give priority to children living inside the priority area who already have a brother or sister at the school (or at a partner junior or primary school) at the time of admission. Some schools, particularly those which only have a one class intake, in other words a PAN of 30, may be full after those applicants have been offered a place.

If there are further places available many schools will next give priority to children living inside the priority area. This will then very often be followed by children living outside the priority area who will have a brother or sister at the school (or at a partner junior or primary school) at the time of admission.

For many schools it is only after all of those categories of applicants have been exhausted that children living outside the priority area or any other children will be considered. It is also worth noting that in many cases those applicants will be ranked with priority given to those who live the nearest as the crow flies to the school.

Many parents will find that knowing how many places are available at a school, whether there is a priority area and how over-subscription is dealt with will mean that there are better able to make more realistic choices when they make applications for schools and are able to avoid disappointment when they receive the offer of a place.

Article written by Sarah McCormack.

Look out for next week’s final blog, which will cover the topic "Use all of your choices".

If you are in the process of preparing an application to a preferred school, contact our Education Law department on either 0808 168 5550 or

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