Primary School Applications Explained

Will my child get into their first choice school?

Am I more likely to get my first choice school if I don’t put a second choice?

What if I miss the school application deadline? 

With primary school admission deadlines this Friday (15 January 2021), School Guide's Inbox is packed with last minute questions about applying for a primary school. One major concern for parents is how their second choice school may affect their chances of getting into their first choice school. 

We have compiled an essential FAQ for parents who have applied for a primary place this year to help relieve worries and clarify the somewhat confusing process of having a place allocated for your Reception age child.



I applied on the last day. Does this reduce my chances of getting my first choice?

No. School places are not allocated until after the deadline for applications has passed. Those that apply early do not get priority over those that apply last. 


The deadline has passed. What happens now?

After the application deadline on the 15th January, all of the first choice applications for a school get allocated. If there are, for example, 30 spaces for a school and there are less than 30 applications as first choice, all the children who have applied will get a place. The likelihood of this happening will depend on how popular a school is and the birth rate of children in a given year. The last couple of years have been high birth rate years so many schools were over subscribed due to high demand. Schools with good results and parent reviews are likely to be more popular and therefore have more chance of being over subscribed. You can check the Ofted reports, results and reviews of schools you have applied on their School Guide page.

My first choice school is over-subscribed. How do they choose who gets a space?

If a school has more first choice applications than they have available spaces, a process of selecting which children get a place takes place. Each school has their own admissions criteria. You can find these by speaking to the school directly (usually available on their website) or by contacting your local education authority. All schools have to give priority to children with special educational needs or who are in care so that the right setting for them can be guaranteed. These children will be given spaces first. 

Next, the allocation will work down a list of priorities, which vary from school to school. 

These include:

• How close a child lives to the school

• Whether the child has a brother or sister in the school

• For faith school whether the child adheres to a particular religion

Academies may have their own list in addition to these such as community involvement and faith background. My son’s academy school, for example, prioritises siblings in KS1 or below. So having a sibling in year 5 or 6 would not help as much as how close we live to the school. Whereas someone living further away from the school with a sibling in Y1 would get higher priority. 

What priority given to these factors depends on your likelihood of getting a place. 

As a general rule, those with siblings who live close by will have the greatest chance. However, if the school prioritizes siblings over geography, you may find someone who lives further away than you gets a space and you do not because they have siblings already at the school.


I am not likely to get into my first choice school? Will I definitely get my second choice?

Once first places have been allocated, those that have not got a space will be allocated a place by looking at their second place choice. That school’s admission criteria will apply as to how likely you are to be allocated one of their remaining spaces. If they cannot allocate you to your second choice school you will most likely be allocated a space at your third choice school. 

So I might not get a school allocated at all?

All children who turn 4 before 5 September 2021 must be allocated a school space. There must be enough spaces within a local education authority for the number of children applying that year. So, your child will be allocated a place at a school locally. There is just no guarantee that it will be the school you want. 


Am I more likely to get my first choice school if I don’t put a second choice?

No! If you do not get a space in your first choice school and have not put a second choice, your local education authority will allocate you at a school with space in your area. Whilst this is likely to be the closest school to your home (that isn’t your first choice school), for cities this may be a school that is on the opposite side of the city that is not convenient for you or your family. 


What do I do if I don’t get allocated a space in a school that is right for my child? 

Firstly, do take some time to consider the school you have been allocated. We are often swayed by local opinion or views we have from others. If the school is not one you have been able to visit or look at before do take time to speak to the head, other parents and check out their performance data on their School Guide page. If this really isn’t the school for your child, or the school you had selected was the one you really want your child to go to, you can appeal the decision with your first choice school. Speak to the school and your local education authority about their appeals process. It may be that a space becomes available as other children do not take up the space allocated to them at your school of choice, or that the head is able to make room for one more child. If, for example, a space is allocated to a summer born child who decides to defer their place until Sept 2022, there may be a space for you in 2021.


How can I check how likely my child is to get into a school?

School Guide’s catchment heatmaps show the likelihood of your child getting a space based on how close you live to the school. Subscribers can add your postcode to the map to see your likelihood based on the numbers of children who have previously been admitted to the school who lived near you. You still need to check the admissions priority list for your school as highlighted above and admissions change yearly, but these maps give a good indicator as to how likely you are to get into the school you have applied for. Learn more about the benefits of upgrading to full access to School Guide including using the interactive catchment heat maps


When do they announce the primary school places in 2021? 

Primary school places are announched on Friday 16 April 2021.