Choosing a Primary or Secondary School

Starting school

Choosing a school for your child can be a daunting task since it is one of the most important decisions you can make in your child’s education. You should begin to look for a school 12-18 months before your child is due to start since popular schools tend to be oversubscribed. Remember that some schools accept children at the age of four. For secondary schools you will need to apply for a place before Christmas.

The following table shows the statutory obligation of the local authorities in the UK to provide school places for children:

Country Statutory Starting Age Statutory Leaving Age
England 5 17
Scotland 5 16
Wales 5 16
Northern Ireland 4 16

Although you may express a preference for a particular school, your child is not automatically entitled to a place there. Admissions may be handled either by the LEA or the school. Be sure to find out how the school handles admissions because even if your child has attended the nursery attached to the school it does not necessarily follow that there will be a place in the infant school. It is a similar situation where a child has attended an infant school where there is a link to a junior school.

If admissions are handled by the LEA you must fill in a Local Authority admissions form. You should be able to do this online. Make sure you apply before the closing date for applications otherwise you may have to wait for all the other children to be allocated places before a decision is made about your child.

To find the Local Authority details for your area try this A to Z of local councils which lists county councils, borough and district councils and unitary authorities throughout the United Kingdom.

Some schools deal with their own admissions so in these cases you will need to apply directly to the school. Contact details for schools are available on the following websites depending on where you live:

England Scotland
EduBase Portal Scottish Schools Online
Wales Northern Ireland
EduBase Portal Schools in Northern Ireland

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