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Need to find a good primary school for your child? Wondering where to start, what to look for? Let The Good Schools Guide help.

Which is your best local primary school? Is your child likely to get in? How should you prepare your child for starting school?

The Good Schools Guide online has details of every primary, infant, first and junior school in the UK including, for England only, a detailed analysis of KS2 examination results (those taken in year 6).

We also have catchment area maps - showing which areas you probably need to live in to get a place - and information on the senior schools children typically move on to.

We also have our own Good Schools Guide State School Advice Service. Our state school expert, Liz Coatman, can work one-to-one with you to find the best state school options for you.

This is a unique and very competitively priced service. Contact: or call 0203 286 6824.

Primary schools in the UK

Primary schools educate children from ages 4 to 11 years. A number admit 3 year olds into nursery classes, though a nursery place does not guarantee a place in 'big school'.

There are around 25,000 state primary schools in the UK. They tend to be:

  • small(ish): a typical one-form-entry primary school will accommodate around 200 pupils, but they range from one class for all ages in remote hamlets to increasing numbers of massive schools of over 1000 pupils in inner city locations
  • local - in most towns there will be several primary schools within walking distance.

Some schools just include infants (aged 4-7) and some just juniors (aged 7-11). Some are linked, with automatic progression from the infant school to the junior school, and some are not. A few areas still have first schools for 4-8 year olds and middle schools for 9-13 year olds.

Choosing a primary school

Fortunately, a large number of primary schools (or their equivalents) are good, even in areas that are a disaster for senior schools. Children in primary schools have (mostly) not reached the age of serious disruption, teaching is more child-centred than it will be later, and catchment areas are smaller.

Primary school catchment areas

If you are applying for a reception place at primary school, you will need to fill in your local authority’s admissions application form, listing your chosen schools in order of preference. If you are applying to a faith school, you will also have to fill in the supplementary form from the school that asks about your religious adherence. You will be allocated a place by the local authority at the school highest on your list for which you meet the admissions criteria. This may not be your first choice; indeed, if you do not meet the criteria for any of the schools on your list, you may be allocated an unpopular school some distance away. Schools have different policies, so do check the current ones before you apply, and make sure you include a school you are more-or-less bound to get a place at – even if it is low down on your list.

You may find our unique catchment area maps and analysis useful - you can enter your postcode and find out which schools you will probably get a place at, look at schools of interest and see where current pupils live. By its very nature this data is historic - it shows where current and recent pupils come from.

State primary schools must follow their stated admissions policy when allocating places, and they are not allowed to give preference to those who put them as first choice.

The key criteria are usually:

  • distance from school
  • having a sibling at the school
  • religious adherence (if a faith school)
  • special educational or medical needs.

Always check with the school what its current admissions criteria are. 

Good Schools Guide catchment information is only available for English state schools. Data will not always be available for brand new schools; it is historic, based on where children at the school actually live.

Preparing your child for primary school

The small steps of a child into his or her first school should not be giant leaps of faith for parents left at the gate.

As a rule of thumb, before starting school it is helpful if your child: 

  • is toilet trained
  • is used to being with adults other than her parents
  • can get dressed and undressed for PE. Velcro is easier than laces and buttons can be fiddly - very much the basics at this stage. Many primary schools adopt simple uniforms - polo-shirts and shorts rather than blazer, shirt and tie - to ease the dress stress at home and school.
  • has basic social skills - can sit and take turns, listens to others, puts a hand up to ask a question.
  • recognises and understands numbers up to five, counting in sequence plus picking out five counters, three pencils etc.
  • knows key colours - blue, red, yellow yes; purple, indigo, violet not necessarily!
  • can write his own first name - Jonathan is trickier than Jon (and has several incarnations, so make sure school have the correct spelling), Alexandra harder than Alex, so allowances will be made. Letter reversals are very common at this stage.
  • holds a pencil properly. Primary school teachers are adept at helping youngsters master a pencil grip, so don't panic if your child is all fingers and thumbs. However, poor pencil grip is often a flag for fine motor-skill difficulties. (Just as an inability to hop or jump may flag-up issues with gross-motor development).

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