The Good Schools Guide has been helping parents choose the right school for their children for more than 30 years. Here are our top tips and pitfalls to avoid on your secondary school application, which is due to land with your local authority by 31 October.
Secondary school applications: research your options
You can find all secondary schools in your area by using our school search www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/school-search. You can also view Ofsted reports. exam results, performance data, catchment map information, independent reviews and much more for these schools. To get a better feel for a particular school, visit its website. Here, you will be able to read about subjects, facilities and extracurricular opportunities, download a prospectus and maybe have a virtual tour. Of course, nothing beats actually visiting a school, so look out for the dates of open days.
Trust your instinct. Parents know best what their child is like. Do you like and trust the head, and the feel of the school? Finding a school which appeals to your child’s skills, interests and personality can encourage them to work harder.
Check the admissions criteria. This should be on both the school website and the local authority’s website. If your child doesn’t fit the admissions criteria and the school is oversubscribed year on year, then look elsewhere. Siblings generally - but not always - take priority. Faith schools are often popular with parents but many prioritise children who have been baptised and are from church-going families. Many schools do not have a catchment but use distance as a criteria, which varies each year depending on local demographics and numbers applying.
Some parts of the country have grammar schools which require applicants to sit the 11+ entry exam (and often require you to register in the summer term of year 5, so check dates carefully). But state-funded academies, free schools and comprehensive schools are usually non-selective. And although some have places reserved for children with specific aptitudes, such as music or languages, all provide the standard secondary education.
Pick more than one school. Most local authorities ask for a list of three or four schools in order of preference. London requests six. Include at least one school where there is a strong chance of getting a place – even if it isn’t your ideal school. Otherwise, there is the risk of being offered a place only at an undesirable school some distance away. After all, parents don’t get to select a school, but rather list ones they find acceptable. List the school you like most first – schools don’t know what place they are on your list, and you will only be sent an offer from the highest listed school for which you qualify.
Don’t leave any blanks on the form. Not using up all your options doesn’t mean you are more likely to be offered the school you want. It means the local authority is more likely to offer you one of the least popular ones.
Supply the right documentation. Read carefully what is required with your submission. Some schools, particularly faith schools, require a supplementary information form (SIF) to be sent directly to them. This form usually has a different deadline to the application which goes to the local authority. Failing to supply the right information on time could jeopardise your chances.
Don’t forget you can choose schools out of your local authority
If you live close to a local authority border or would like to apply for a school in another area, don’t forget to check out your other options. You must apply for these schools as part of your list of choices on your local authority form.
State school admissions in England are regulated by the Schools Admissions Code, and schools must play fair, ensuring their admissions policy is not only fair but also transparent. Parents must play fair too: schools and local authorities are wising up on parental attempts to circumvent the code, and hundreds of school places are withdrawn every year, sometimes after the child has started school. read more
Local Authorities in England (excluding London)
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council | Bedford Council | Birmingham City Council | Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council | Blackpool Council | Bolton Council | Bournemouth Borough Council | Bracknell Forest Council | Bradford Metropolitan District Council | Brighton and Hove City Council | Bristol City Council | Buckinghamshire County Council | Bury Metropolitan Borough Council | Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council | Cambridgeshire County Council | Central Bedfordshire Council | Cheshire East Council | Cheshire West and Chester Council | City and County of Swansea Council | City of York Council | Cornwall Council | Coventry City Council | Cumbria County Council | Darlington Borough Council | Derby City Council | Derbyshire County Council | Devon County Council | Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council | Dorset County Council | Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council | Durham County Council | East Riding of Yorkshire Council | East Sussex County Council | Essex County Council | Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council | Gloucestershire County Council | Halton Borough Council | Hampshire County Council | Hartlepool Borough Council | Herefordshire County Council | Hertfordshire County Council | Hull City Council | Isle of Man Council | Isle of Wight Council | Isles of Scilly Council | Kent County Council | Kirklees Council | Knowsley County Council | Lancashire County Council | Leeds City Council | Leicester City Council | Leicestershire County Council | Lincolnshire County Council | Liverpool City Council | Luton Borough Council | Manchester City Council | Medway Council | Middlesbrough Borough Council | Milton Keynes Council | Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council | Newcastle-upon-Tyne City Council | Newport City Council | Norfolk County Council | North East Lincolnshire Council | North Lanarkshire Council | North Lincolnshire Council | North Somerset Council | North Tyneside Council | North Yorkshire County Council | Northamptonshire County Council | Northumberland Council | Nottingham City Council | Nottinghamshire County Council | Oldham Council | Oxford City Council | Peterborough City Council | Plymouth City Council | Portsmouth City Council | Reading Borough Council | Redcar and Cleveland Council | Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council | Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council | Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council | Rutland County Council | Salford City Council | Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council | Sefton Council | Sheffield City Council | Shropshire Council | Slough Borough Council | Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council | Somerset County Council | South Gloucestershire Council | South Tyneside Council | Southampton City Council | Southend-on-Sea Borough Council | St Helens Council | Staffordshire County Council | Stockport Council | Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council | Stoke-on-Trent City Council | Suffolk County Council | Sunderland City Council | Surrey County Council | Swindon Borough Council | Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council | Telford and Wrekin Council | The Borough of Poole Council | Thurrock Council | Torbay Council | Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council | Wakefield Metropolitan District Council | Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council | Warrington Borough Council | Warwickshire Council | West Berkshire Council | West Sussex County Council | Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council | Wiltshire Council | Wirral Council | Wokingham Borough Council | Wolverhampton City Council | Worcestershire County Council
Local Authorities in London
City of London | London Borough of Barking and Dagenham | London Borough of Barnet | London Borough of Bexley | London Borough of Brent | London Borough of Bromley | London Borough of Camden | London Borough of Croydon | London Borough of Ealing | London Borough of Enfield | London Borough of Hackney | London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham | London Borough of Haringey | London Borough of Harrow | London Borough of Havering | London Borough of Hillingdon | London Borough of Hounslow | London Borough of Islington | London Borough of Lambeth | London Borough of Lewisham | London Borough of Merton | London Borough of Newham | London Borough of Redbridge | London Borough of Richmond upon Thames | London Borough of Southwark | London Borough of Sutton | London Borough of Tower Hamlets | London Borough of Waltham Forest | London Borough of Wandsworth | Royal Borough of Greenwich Council | Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council | Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames Council | Westminster City Council
Local Authorities in Scotland
Aberdeen City Council | Aberdeenshire Council | Angus Council | Argyll and Bute Council | Dumfries and Galloway Council | Dundee City Council | East Ayrshire Council | East Dunbartonshire Council | East Lothian Council | East Renfrewshire Council | Eilean Siar Council | Falkirk Council | Fife Council | Flintshire County Council | Glasgow City Council | Inverclyde Council | Midlothian Council | Moray Council | North Ayrshire Council | Orkney Islands Council | Perth and Kinross Council | Renfrewshire Council | Scottish Borders Council | Shetland Islands Council | South Ayrshire Council | South Lanarkshire Council | Stirling Council | The City of Edinburgh Council | The Highland Council | West Dunbartonshire Council | West Lothian Council
Local Authorities in Wales
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council | Bridgend County Borough Council | Caerphilly County Borough Council | Cardiff Council | Carmarthenshire County Council | Ceredigion County Council | Clackmannanshire Council | Conwy County Borough Council | Denbighshire County Council | Gwynedd County Council | Isle of Anglesey County Council | Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council | Monmouthshire County Council | Pembrokeshire County Council | Powys County Council | Rhondda Council | Torfaen County Borough Council | Vale of Glamorgan Council | Wrexham County Borough Council