12th July 2019

Everything You Need To Know About Applying For Schools

Category: Education

Tags: Catchment areas, Ofsted ratings, Schools

Lauren Ollington

Guest Blogger

Any family knows the importance of school. It’s a place for children to flourish and expand their life experience, it gives structure to family life and is often the cause of a squabble or two. Therefore choosing a school for your child is a big decision and will likely play a vital role in shaping their future.

In this article we will take the process of applying for a school place one step at a time so by the end you will be confident in what you need to do.

You can research schools here.


When To Apply For A School Place

Before you do anything, you will need to know timeframes. From 5 years old it is a legal requirement to ensure your child is receiving full-time education.


The school year starts in September and you will need to apply for your child’s position the January before they are due to start.


Therefore by this time you will need to have made an informed decision as to the school you would like your child to attend, backed up by research and at least one visit to an open event within the school.

When To Start Your Research

The best time to begin researching schools is a year in advance to your child starting there. This will provide you with plenty of time, as often it can be tricky, to come to a conclusion on where your child will thrive to the best of their ability.

Depending on the school you choose, you may have to enrol your child up to three times throughout their education:

  • Infant Schools: Enrol at 4 years old and graduate at 7 years old
  • First Schools: Enrol at 4 years old and graduate at 9 years old
  • Primary Schools: Enrol at 4 years old and graduate at 11 years old
  • Junior Schools: Enrol at 8 years old, graduate at 11 years old
  • Middle Schools: Enrol at 9 years old and graduate at 13 years old
  • Secondary Schools: Enrol at 11 years old and graduate at 16 years old


In the process of applying for schools, organisation is key. If you keep up-to-date with school visits and research, the proceedings should all fall into place nicely.


How To Choose A School

For starters, I recommend you first decide what type of school you wish for your child to attend. Begin with the basics: Are you looking for a day school or a boarding school? Independent or state?

These opening decisions will layout the foundation for your school search and begin to give you a clearer direction.

Shop Around

Look for a school with an atmosphere that you think would best suit your child’s learning style and ensure you listen to their opinion. Once you have a basic outline of the type of thing you’re looking for, you can begin attending open days and finding out other parents opinions.

Ofsted Ratings

On the ‘To Do’ list should also be a consideration of Ofsted ratings. Ofsted is an organisation tasked with assessing achievement, quality of teaching, the safety of pupils and the standard of management within schools. Their ratings can play a key factor in a final decision.

There are four levels of Ofsted ranking:

  • Inadequate
  • Requires Improvement
  • Good
  • Outstanding


The better the ranking the higher the quality of education the school provides as a whole. Ofsted reports can be especially useful in the choice between two schools, evidently, the school with the higher ranking would be the logical choice for your child. However, don’t rely on Ofsted alone – ask around in the local community and find out the opinions of others.

Other Factors

Consider the results of previous students as well as the anti-bullying scores of the school in question and its league tables.



Picking a school is more about a series of rational choices for your child’s benefit than the frenzy and chaos it can appear to be. As long as you remain level-headed throughout the process, there is no need for any doubt!

School Admissions Criteria

Every school has a list of criteria that determines which children get placements within it. Different schools have different guidelines for which students get priority for a position.

Usually, the priority list will look similar to this:

  • Those who live closer to the school
  • Those with older siblings at the school
  • Students who attended feeder schools previously, particularly in the case of secondary schools
  • Those living or who have lived in the care of a local authority
  • Children entitled to pupil premium


When applying you will have to choose at least three schools and rank them in order of preference.



Figures show that 80.9% of secondary school applicants received an offer from their first preference school.

Although you are likely to have your child get accepted into their preferred school, it is still important to thoroughly research your secondary and tertiary choices.


Catchment Areas

A catchment area is a geographical radius from a school that pupils are drawn from based off of the child’s permanent address. Many people move homes simply to be inside the catchment area for a specific school in the hope of securing a place for their child.

Anyone in the process or even thinking about applying for a position within a school will need to be aware of its catchment area.

Curchods ‘Schools’ Tool

The Curchods ‘Schools’ tool contains the most up-to-date information about catchment areas.

Whereas most other school guides including your local council’s website, update their data only once or twice a year, the Curchods tool refreshes their data every two to four weeks directly from the source, to ensure you are equipped with the very latest, most relevant information and inspection reports.



Moving Into A Catchment Area

There are many ways of moving into a catchment area to ensure your child gets a place in a particular school.

Research by Santander show that 1 in 4 parents of school age children buy or rent a property to be within a school catchment area in order to increase their child’s likelihood to be given a placement at their preferred school.

However, you should be aware that the address you put on your application must be your child’s permanent place of residence with a document to prove this attached.

If renting a home, you will need to have a signed agreement for at least 12 months of occupancy or else your application will be signed off as fraudulent.

There are many legal issues surrounding this. However with enough research and help the moving transition can be smooth.

Renting To Be In A Catchment Area

Curchods Lettings are available to assist and advise if you are looking to rent to be in a catchment area for a particular school.

How To Research A school

Now that you have an understanding of what to look for, the next step is to put this into practice. Despite knowing the steps you are required to take, the idea of having to research every school individually and compiling an image of each may still seem overwhelming.

The ‘Schools’ Feature of Curchods Website

So here I offer an alternative. The Curchods ‘Schools’ tool found on the websites’ drop-down menu will provide an easy way to see everything you need to know at one given time.

By typing your local area into the search bar of the feature and narrowing the parameters, you now have a 3D map of your local schools. Hovering over each will show you the catchment area and a click provides an extensive array of statistics and information regarding the school in question.

This is a quick, hassle-free way to get to know the schools surrounding you as well as have access to a fact file containing everything about the school, ranging from the opinion of parents to the number of pupils per teacher.

With this handy tool in your pocket, the intimidating undertaking of finding a school is made significantly easier.




Do Schools Affect Property Values?

Typically homes with closer proximity to a school are more valuable than those further away as it increases the desirability of the home particularly amongst families with children.

Additionally, the quality of the school can possibly impact housing prices – the better the school the greater the potential for a price increase upon the house.

Curchods recognises this, so for those of you who live near schools and are thinking of selling, this is a factor that will come into play when valuing your home.

Furthermore, this is a benefit for anyone who moves closer to schools to be within the catchment area.

Benefits Of Property Near Schools

If in time you choose to move, your investment will have paid off – homes near schools tend to sell faster on the property market and are able to maintain their value due to willing families who are prepared to pay a premium price for their children to attend specific schools.

Properties located in these areas also tend to be situated in bustling communities, making them more sought-after amongst buyers.

The visible benefits of living near a school are profuse!

Some Statistics

Figures from the Department for Education show:

  • House prices near the best schools are higher than in the surrounding areas for both primary and secondary schools
  • The value of houses near the poorest performing schools are lower than in the surrounding areas
  • House prices near the 10% best-performing of primary schools are 8% higher than in the surrounding area
  • Near the 10% best-performing non-selective secondary schools, house prices are 6.8% higher
  • The average home in England cost £233,000 in July 2016. If the average home were in an area close to one of the 10% best-performing secondary schools, it would likely be valued at £15,800 higher or £18,600 higher near the best-performing primary schools



Armed with the above steps, the information provided and the Curchods ‘Schools’ feature you should now be able to confidently plan your schools search, with an understanding of all aspects of the transition. If any help is required based on moving into catchment areas or closer to schools, the friendly, expert team in your local Curchods branch will be able to assist.


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