27th October 2017

School Applications - Using All Your Choices

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 fifth in a series of five articles where members of our Education Law team share some top tips about the application process.

All parents have the right to “express a preference” for at least three schools. Some local authorities may allow more than three preferences. Although you can apply for any school you want it will be no surprise that the most popular schools are often oversubscribed. If you apply to schools where your child has no realistic chance of being offered a place you are simply wasting your preferences. And if none of your preferences can be met the local authority will offer you a place at any school that has a vacancy. That is why you need to think tactically. Here are our tips:

  • First check the admissions arrangements and the oversubscription criteria of the schools you are interested in.
  • Think about how you can prepare your child for the fact that they may not be able to go to the school they have set their heart on.
  • Apply for at least one school where your child has a very good chance of being offered a place.
  • Use all of your preferences to give yourselves the best chance of getting the school you would prefer. Don't make the mistake of thinking that if you list just one school you have more chance of getting a place. This is not so.
  • Do not waste your preferences by applying to schools where there is no realistic chance of getting a place, even if you really like the school. Think about other schools you might quite like where your child has a much better chance of being offered a place.
  • Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can pressure the school or local authority into giving you a place at any particular school. Some parents think that threatening to keep a child at home puts pressure on the school. This is not so.
  • Make sure you fully understand exactly how places are allocated under each oversubscription criteria. Don't assume, for example, that your child will get a place at the school just because your neighbour's children go there.
  • Finally if you have special reasons for wanting a particular school you should include the information at the time of the application, even if you think your child will get a place anyway. It is important to explain how only that school can meet your child’s needs and explaining what might happen if your child cannot go to that particular school.

Article written by Deborah Scales

Did you miss our previous school application blogs? Read them by clicking on the links below:

If you are preparing an application for a preferred school for your child, contact our Education Law department on either 0808 168 5550 or

For further information please get in touch with our dedicated team.

You can always call us on 0845 894 1622 or email on


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