School applications: A closer look

As any parent knows, applying for a school place is a hugely important milestone in your child’s education, and it can be a nervous wait to learn the outcome.

This year, almost 90 per cent of pupils have been offered a place at their first-preference secondary school – that’s despite an increase in the number of Oxfordshire children transferring from primary schools (216 more than last year). It means the vast majority of families have once again received the news they were hoping for.

So what are the key factors in determining school applications?

The council’s Strategic Lead for Education Sufficiency, Roy Leach explains:

“There are quite a few myths surrounding school applications, and quite rightly, most parents feel very strongly about which school they would like their child to attend. It’s our job to ensure we deal with every application fairly and transparently according to schools' admissions criteria.

There are several different criteria - or ‘priority categories’ which we have to consider in order. These cover, for instance, children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities; children in care; children with a brother or sister already at the school.

The key thing for most applications, however, is whether the family lives within the catchment area for the school they are applying for, and sometimes in the case of popular schools, literally how close to the school they live by the nearest walking route. The best advice we can give any family is to make sure you list three schools when applying, and include your catchment school as one of these. 

Unfortunately some popular schools will always be oversubscribed and we can’t offer everyone a place. It can be very disappointing for families to miss out and we fully understand that.

In the unlikely event that we can’t offer one of the three listed schools, we do absolutely everything we can, working with families, to find the best possible solution. Families can always appeal against a decision and information is sent out to them explaining how to do this.



Bodrul Islam from the school admissions team.








Forward planning

"Oxfordshire has a strong record of being able to offer the vast majority of families their first preference school, and we compare very favourably with many other parts of the country on this. Without sound forward planning we simply wouldn’t be talking about nine out of 10 children.

We work hard alongside schools to ensure there are enough places both across the county as a whole, and within local areas. We do that by expanding existing schools where there are opportunities, and in some cases, by securing developer funding to build entirely new schools for big housing developments. As far as possible we always try to increase places at schools rated Good or better by Ofsted."

You can read more about Oxfordshire’s school admissions policy here