It is a common misconception that people believe once your child has qualified into your 11+ test, admission to your preferred grammar school is automatic.

Admissions Policies are used and incorporated into all schools by the school’s admission authority to allocate places if they receive more applications than they have places available- known as the “over-subscription criteria”.

Admissions to secondary schools vary dependent on the Local Authority (LA) as they all have different rules. Individual schools within the same LA often have different rules, whereas Foundation schools, Voluntary Aided Schools (faith schools) and Academies have the ability toset their own admissions criteria.

It is essential that you research thoroughly the admissions policies of your chosen schools as it is clear there is vast amount of differences in the admissions and allocation policies.

School Admissions Code regulate the admissions to all schools in England and Wales. This extensive document itemizes exactly what admissions authorities may be allowed to consider when allocating their places. The Code’s overall duty is to ensure that admission authorities has taken every effort to guarantee that all parents can comprehend the admissions process and how over-subscription criteria will be applied, if necessary.

How are school places allocated?

Allocating places are dependent on the LA’s or school’s Admissions Policy. Admission authorities must obliged by the School Appeals Code to acknowledge two categories of children ahead of all others:Children in the care of the Local Authority; Children with a Statement of Special Needs that specifically names the school. Other rules will be applied stated by the Admissions Policy once those children have been allocated places.

What is catchment?Catchment is an established area around the school that is given priority in allocation. Local Authorities must publish a map that will show their catchment areas for each of their schools.Catchment could be determined by specific postcode areas.

How is the distance measured?Distance is measured from your home to the main entrance of the school, using “Ordnance Survey mapping” software. It is either the “shortest journey including footpaths” or “as the crow flies”. Admission authorities are required to provide information to parents about historical allocation distances as an indication of whether this is reliable guide for the future.

Will my child get sibling priority? Essentially the answer is yes. If an older sibling is attending the school, priority may be given to the younger siblings, however there may be limits on this such as what is classed as a sibling- whether this includes step or foster siblings, and whether they wish to give priority to siblings of former siblings.

What is random Allocation? This also known as a lottery system. This is where the schools randomly select children that all qualify to get in to the school. (This does not yet apply to grammar schools- they use a “tie breaker” for two children who both satisfy the admissions criteria equally.)

What is a tie-breaker? This are elements of the 11+ test that are used to decide between two otherwise equal applications.

Admission Authority can be contacted if there are any issues or concerns over whether your child will qualify to a specific school. A School Choice Service could also be used in order to help you comprehend the system.

When are school places allocated?

This is known as National Allocation Day (NAD) which is on March 1st every year or the first working day thereafter, and this is when the allocations of school places are given to the parents.

Online applications will either be able to view your child’s school allocation on the Local Authority website at some point on NAD, or an email will be sent out to you- it could also be both, depending on the area you live in.

Paper application, a letter will be sent out to you about your child’s school allocation of which is posted (usually first class) on NAD. If after 3 days, you have not received your letter, be sure to contact the Admission Authority as a matter of urgency due to the set time frame of usually two weeks of what you have to accept the place offered.

What should to do if you are not allocated your first preference school?

It is possible to go on the waiting list for your preferred school or appeal for a place via an over-subscription appeal.

First of all, regardless of whether you have intentions of sending your child there in September or not, accept the place you have been offered and then appeal to be on the waiting list for your preference school. This is because accepting the place will not affect your position on the waiting lists and nor will it affect the outcome of your appeal.

You should also submit the form for an appeal, regardless of how high up your child is on the waiting list- this can be discovered by calling the Admission Authority. You have right to withdraw from the appeal all the way up until the very last moment but please do advise the Admission Authority that you will not be attending the hearing as soon as possible.