Frustratingly, finding out catchment areas out can be very challenging and time consuming. The way they are calculated and what priority they are given in school admissions varies from school to school. To complicate things further, they can and often do change from year to year.
Here we’ll answer your questions about school catchment areas and the other factors that affect admissions. School Guide also have lots of helpful tools that will help you work your catchment school and the likelihood that your child will be offered a place there.
Every school has a maximum number of pupils that can be admitted each year. If more children apply, catchment areas and other factors are used to decide who to admit. A school catchment area is the geographical area around a school. Living in this area increases the chances of your child being offered a place at that school although other factors such as having siblings at the school can be more important. The closer you are to the school you are the greater priority you are given when places are allocated by catchment area. Our catchment hub tells parents everything they need to know when they ask, 'What is my catchment school?'
It seems as if this should be straightforward, but there are four different ways catchment areas can be measured. They are:
Each year catchment areas are usually defined by the greatest distance from the school that a previous pupil who was offered a place lived. However, catchment areas can change from year to year, depending on how many children apply to the school.
There are several factors that might cause changes to the catchment area:
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Each school has a different set of factors that they prioritise in a different order to determine admissions. For primary school the following children will usually be prioritised over children in the catchment area:
For secondary schools these children might be prioritised as well:
This means that even if you live within a school’s catchment area there is no guarantee that your child will be offered a place. Detailed information on the criteria that individual schools apply can be obtained from your local education authority and from the school directly. We would always recommend that you contact the admissions officer at any school that you are planning on applying to.
Yes you can. If the places haven’t already been filled by children from the priority groups or within the catchment area you might still be offered a place. For more information, read our helpful article How To Get Into A School Out Of Catchment Area.
You can use School Guide’s interactive school finder and catchment checker to find your catchment school. The results will be given in the form of a heat map which will show you how likely you are to get into the school. School Guide's interactive service helps you plot your home postcard on the school map to see live catchment areas.
For lots more information on school catchment areas and how School Guide can help, visit our dedicated catchment areas hub: Catchment Areas Explained