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How do school admissions work?


Schools now operate an equal preference system in the school admission process. This means that when parents choose their children’s school, they no longer have to rank the choices in order of preference. As a result, the admission procedure will focus deciding which children fit the admission criteria, instead of who listed the school as their first preference. 

How does the admission process work?

The application open date for primary and secondary school admission will vary depending on where you live. Generally speaking, the applications tend to open near the beginning of the autumn term of the year before the child is due to start reception, or the same time in year 5 for high school. 

There is a form that parents are asked to fill out in which a list of schools must be given in order of the parent’s preference. At least 3 schools must be listed. 

When applications close the child will be put on the list for all the schools listed.

Students are ranked on the list in accordance with how well they fit the admission criteria. The preference parents have given to the schools are not taken into consideration at this point. 

Each school will have given the LA a published admission number (PAN). This is the number of places they have to offer to students. The LA then creates the school list of students from the top of the list to the PAN number. Students falling outside the PAN number will be put on a waiting list. 

If the child is only on one school list at this point, they will be offered a place at that school regardless of preference. If the child is on more than one school list the LA will look at the parent’s preference and allocate the child to the school they ranked the highest. If the child is not on any school lists the LA will allocate the child to the nearest school with available space. 

If the place the child was offered was not their first choice, they will remain on the list for the higher preference schools.

The admission criteria

The admission criteria for a school will be set by the school itself or the LA. When it comes to applying for school places the LA will give parents the school admission criteria.

Examples of ways schools prioritise children:

  • Brothers or sisters are at the school already
  • Children who live close to the school
  • Those from a particular religion
  • Those who do well in an entrance exam
  • Those who went to a particular primary school, known as ‘feeder’ schools
  • Those in care or being looked after (this has to be a top consideration for all schools)
  • Those who are eligible for the pupil premium

The admission criteria really does depend on the type of school you are applying to. For example, only a faith school will require a certain religious background, and only selective schools will require an entrance exam. 

Call our educational law solicitors in Manchester 0161 820 8888 or call 0208 889 8888 for our solicitors in London. We will happily provide a free 30-minute consultation on your matter. Give us a call today!


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