The deadline for receipt of secondary school applications in Oxfordshire is 31 October 2019

Parents of children born between 01 September 2008 and 31 August 2009 (inclusive) only have a few days left to apply online for secondary school places at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/secondaryadmissions

The deadline for receipt of on time online applications is midnight on Thursday 31 October.

On request, paper application forms will also be available from Oxfordshire schools and County Hall in Oxford. However, parents are strongly advised to apply online for efficiency and security.

Stating four preferences

Parents are encouraged to state four preferences when applying. This does not affect families’ chances of securing a place at their first-preference school.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Cultural Services, Councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, said:

“The council has a strong record of being able to offer the vast majority of families a place at their first-preference secondary school – with 85.8 per cent receiving the news they wanted to hear last year.

“ It is very important to apply on time, as this ensures your application is considered alongside all others submitted before the deadline – increasing the chances we will be able to offer you a place at a school listed among your preferences.”

She added: “Many parents understandably have a very clear view about which school they would like their child to attend, but our strong advice is to state four preferences on your application form.

“All the information about how to apply can be found on our website.

School transport

Parents should consider how their children will travel to and from school.

Free home to school transport is normally only provided to a Year Seven child if that child attends the nearest available school, and that school is over three-miles from the home address. The nearest school will not necessarily be the catchment school.

Transport is normally only provided to a school that is less than three-miles from the child’s home if it is the nearest available school and the route is considered by the council to be unsafe for a child to walk, even if accompanied by a responsible adult.

Parents who want to see the home-to-school transport policy should visit: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/schooltransport

Case study:

Oxfordshire Dad sees school applications as a parent and an officer

Dad of one, Matt Noy (pictured above), knows about the process of applying for a school place both from the perspective of being a parent of a child going through the primary and secondary school application processes, and as a result of being one of the county council officers who processes those applications. Matt has worked in Oxfordshire County Council’s school admissions team for seven years.

And with a key deadline looming on 31 October for Oxfordshire parents applying for secondary school places for their children – Matt is very aware of how parents engage with the process and what’s on their mind at a very stressful time.

Matt said: “The image of school applications is that parents are often anxious and stressed about the process. In Oxfordshire the reality is that despite ever increasing numbers of applications, the number of parents who get their first preference school has consistently been at around the 90 per cent mark for many years, ahead of national averages. So, the large majority of parents are happy.

“My job involves processing individual applications, offering advice to parents and visiting the schools in the part of the county that is my responsibility – Oxford City and Wheatley.

“The toughest part of the job is when we have a new family move to the area and they have three children and want to get them all in to the same school. That is a very hard thing to achieve for them and would be in any part of the country.

“The job has changed a great deal over the years – mainly because of the increase in in-year transfer requests and there are now a large number of academies, many of which have their own admissions rules. Previously when all schools were linked to the County Council as local education authority the process was very matter of fact and easier to oversee. Now there is a lot more discussion required with individual schools regarding individual applications.

“There are also lots more applications overall, due to the rising birth-rate and housebuilding, yet despite this we still consistently achieve around 90 per cent of parents getting their first preference at both primary and secondary level.

“We are a small but very busy team. There are key deadlines each year for applications; but there are always secondary and primary processes, in-year transfers and forward planning throughout the year.”

Simple advice

Asked what simple advice he would give to fellow parents when applying for places, Matt says:

“Submit your application before the deadline. The most secure, efficient way to apply is online. We offer four preferences. You should list them in the order that you truly want them, with your first preference listed first.

“Don’t try to over-think it. I would advise parents to include their catchment school as one of their preferences, not necessarily the first preference. Most addresses in the county and the country have a catchment school, sometimes more than one.

“Consider how your child will travel to school, as the council will only offer free assistance where a child attends their nearest available secondary school where that school is over three-miles away from home. The council will not provide free transport if your child attends a school a long way from home when there are school places available closer to home.

“Most schools have parents’ evenings in September and October. I would advise you visit local schools to help you decide which schools to list as preferences.

“I am often asked for my advice by friends and relatives and find myself busting myths. I have a friend who in a previous year did not get their first preference school for their child. My advice was to join the continued interest list, so if someone turns down their place we can see who is next in line. There is also an appeals process, which is a free service where you can appeal against the decision to refuse your child admission.

“Some of the myths we hear are:

  • listing the same school multiple times adds weight to the application;

  • listing schools that I have no chance of getting into means the council is forced to offer my child a place at an oversubscribed local school;

  • if I apply late, that is fine because you always keep spare places for late applicants.

“None of this is true and it does not help an application. We always advise to apply on time, apply online where possible, list four preferences in the order you want them in, list your catchment school (where your address has one) and think about how your child will travel to school.”