Choosing your preferred schools
Using the League Tables, it's fairly easy to see which schools are the highest performing in your area. You should use the below to make a realistic decision on what schools to put down your common application form.
- Is it a single sex school and if so, is your child the right sex?
- Is there a catchment area, and if so am I in it?
- Will my child pass the exam, if there is one?
A little obvious, but worth a mention. If your child is a boy then they won't fit very well into a girls school. In fact, they won't even be allowed to apply.
Quite a few schools require you to live within a certain radius of the school. To make it more confusing, distance can be calculated differently depending on the school. To make sure you live within the required catchment, call the school and ask.
Not all grammar schools are equal. Some may be orders more difficult to pass the exam than others. We always suggest placing a couple of backup comprehensive schools on the Common Application Form. Just in case.
In the confusing and competitive world of school applications no advice should be assumed reliable. Source your information from as many places as possible and form your own view independent of hearsay. Past exam performance, although a trustworthy statistic, does not always indicate a school's suitability for your child. If your stuck for ideas, try the following:
- Up to date LEA brochures
- School prospectuses
- School websites
- Open evenings
- Ofsted reports
- Details on staff turnover
- Go back for a visit during school hours
- Sixth form prospectus, is a sixth place guaranteed for those in the lower school?
- Transport leaflets, is it a realistic twice-daily journey or at night in winter?
Make sure your child is available for every open evening at institutions you may apply to. This will make decisions a lot easier. Seeing what questions they have for teachers and the areas of the school that interest them will show you what facilities they need to be happy at their new school.
How Places Are Allocated
Before naming any school as one of your preferences, be sure to check their 'admissions criteria'. Due to over-subscription many selective schools will now have additional requirements to a candidate's 11 plus exam result. These may include postcode, journey time and past educational or extra-curricular achievements. The decision on whether your child is offered a place is taken by the governing body. This may be the relevant LEA if it is a community school but in most cases will be the school governors. The Pan-London Co-ordinated Admissions System means that, regardless of the number of offers your child receives from governors, you will end up with only one: the school listed highest on your CAF that offers you a place. If you receive no offer the LEA will send you either a letter informing you of the next stage or an offer for an under-subscribed local community school. These placements are offered in order of distance from the school, with those living closest receiving the offers.
If a school lists 'distance' as part of its admissions criteria, this should be taken to mean the distance between your front door and the school gates, measured in a straight line (unless stated otherwise). This can be a very crude determinate and can be decided in metres.