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Applying for primary school, school places UK, primary school admissions - My Little Learner

Applying for primary school 2022

......what you need to know and consider

It's that time of year again where you may need to start thinking about applying for primary school and what school you would like your little cherub to go to.

If you wish your child to start school (as opposed to homeschooling) then you will need to apply by the 15th January 2022. (*this date may differ for private schools and schools outside of England).

In the article below I have tried to summarise all the key information as well as some additional points you may want to consider when you come to apply for primary schools.

Starting primary school

Where to start....

1. Understand the primary school application process

This will vary by local council but the best place to start is by using the government website which will direct you to your local councils admission website where you will find details of their application process as well as lots of other useful information. 

Points to note:

  • Check each schools admissions policy as they will vary greatly from school to school.
  • You must apply for a primary school place by 15th January.
  • You must apply through your local council even if you are applying for schools in another council area.
  • You must apply for at least 3 schools.
  • Councils will send confirmations for primary school places on 16th April.

2. What are the closest schools to you by distance?

We all know that most schools have very strict admissions criteria, one of which is the dreaded catchment area. It is therefore very important to understand how far you are from the schools that you are considering applying to. You can do this by emailing your local admissions department and asking them the distance from your home to the 6-8 closest schools.  Once you know the distances of the schools you can then look at prior year admissions distances (see below) to see if you have a chance of being given a place at these schools.

3. Obtain prior years admissions distances 

This information will help you determine the likelihood of being allocated a place at your considered schools based on distance from your home, you may then be able to rule out some schools that are too far out of catchment.  This is likely to be included in your local authority’s admissions guide but if not you can always email and request the information.

4. Do your homework

Once you know the schools in your catchment, obtain a copy of their most recent Ofsted report, take a look at league tables and speak to other parents with children already in the schools you are considering, ask questions on your local community facebook group and most importantly visit the schools.  Remember the more information you have the better equipped you will be to make a decision about which school is best for your child.

5. Book a school visit

This in my opinion is VERY important especially if you are undecided on your choice of schools and there certainly is a lot to say about your GUT FEELING.  School visits can provide you with invaluable information about the way the school is run, the schools ethos, the quality of their resources and how happy the children are in their setting etc.

Don’t forget to apply by the admissions deadline of the 15th January.


Note - if you are considering waiting for your child to start school until they are of compulsory school age (CSA) or wish to look into flexi-schooling then we will be writing a blog post about this very soon. 

Your child will be of compulsory school age (CSA) on the 1st January, 1st April or 1st September following their 5th birthday and from this age they must be receiving education either in a school setting or elsewhere.  It is worth pointing out that children in the UK often start reception prior to being CSA and as such have no legal obligation to be there)

Things to consider/questions to ask

Ofsted reports

It is important not to place too much emphasis on a schools Ofsted report however they are useful to gain further insight into a school and how they were performing at a given point in time.  While I would always look at a schools Ofsted report there are many other factors to consider when deciding what school may or may not be best for your child and always bear in mind that many things can happen or change from one year to the next (eg. a change in headteacher).  Please also remember that the focus of Ofsted reports have changed from 2019 so make a note of when the schools last Ofsted report was submitted. The School Run gives a very good account of what to look for when reading a schools Ofsted report.

School visits

Below are some questions you may want to ask and also things to consider during your school visit

  • What are the class sizes?
  • How many reception classes are there per intake?
  • Is entry staggered by age? eg. do the older children start first?
  • Do the reception year children have the same playground as the older children?
  • Do the reception year children eat together with everyone in a big lunch hall?
  • Do the children start doing full days or build up to full days?
  • Do they have any provision for children with special educational needs (SEN)?
  • What are the schools' core values/beliefs?
  • What is the child:teacher ratio?
  • What is staff retention like?
  • What is the schools approach on settling children who may be upset?
  • Do they offer after school and morning clubs?
  • What extracurricular activities are available?
  • How does the school support more academic students and also children who may require additional help?
  • Do the children look happy? Do the teachers look happy?
  • Is there much outdoor space?
  • What are the facilities/resources like? How many computers per child? Do they have a library etc.
  • Is the school focused on arts or more academic subjects?
  • What is the schools' homework policy during reception year?

Speak to other parents

The more information you can gather about the schools in your area the better equipped you will be to make a decision....information is king as they say.  First hand experiences about a school can be very insightful so definitely ask around. Community Facebook groups can also be very useful to gain other peoples views but remember to always keep an open mind and use all the information available to you to make a balanced decision.

There's a lot to think about, good luck Xx

My experience

My husband and I decided to visit 3 schools in our catchment area.   Luckily all 3 were considered good schools and we loved each of them for very different reasons but below are some of the points that we considered when trying to choose our preferred school.

The first school had the best headteacher who was very nurturing and seemed to provide the children a very wholesome environment.  She had attended the school as a child as did her children and was held in high regard within the community however what we didn't like about this school was that the infant school was offsite and not within the same grounds and the outdoor space seemed very limited.  The second school we also loved as it was quite small with only two reception classes per intake and again this school seemed very warming and nurturing however the grounds of the school had limited green space and since my husband and I participated in a lot of sport during our time at school this was quite important to us, it was also the furthest from our house.

The third school (where my son started last week) was selected as our preferred choice based on the grounds, the facilities, the very close proximity to our house and the fact that it had a glowing Ofsted report and more importantly the league tables suggested that boys outperformed girls in many areas...this was a big factor for me given my children are both boys and statistically girls generally outperform boys in the early school years. So our choice was based on convenience (we ideally wanted to be able to walk our children to school), sporting facilities and academic achievement, we compromised on school size and possibly on a more warming, cosy environment.

I hope this article helps making your primary school application easier and if there is anything you feel I have missed out and would be helpful to others then please pop your comment in the box below.

First day at primary school

 Reggie, aged 5 starting his first day of Reception
Update: After going through the school process with my eldest son last year and also from speaking to other mums the following points were an issue for some children which is why I have added them above in the 'questions to ask section'. 
Starting school can be so overwhelming for some children and it became apparent that lunchtime and playtimes can be a big part of this...purely because in some schools ALL the children come together during these times and it really can be too much for some children to handle when they first start.
If you have any other comments then please do send me a message as this article is aimed to help parents and their children.


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