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Do you have to be in a catchment area to be considered for a place at a state school?

Do you have to be in a catchment area to be considered for a place at a state school?

Traditionally, children have been expected to attend their nearest schools in England. But this suddenly went out of fashion in the 80s, and continued into the 90s, as parent choice was adopted. But old-style “catchment areas” have made a comeback since the turn of the century, with most state schools prioritising applicants who live in “priority areas”.

These geographical zones that favour applications from local residents have been described as a postcode lottery – but have you got to be in it to win it to secure your child a place at an Ofsted-rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ state school in London?

The answer is simple: living in a catchment area is advantageous, but it doesn’t guarantee a place at your desired school. Therefore, living outside of a catchment area does not exclude your application from being considered – but things must fall into place for you and your child to be successful.

Admissions process

After the application deadline, the following priority levels will take effect during the admissions process, which is influenced by who else has applied at the same time as you:

  • Siblings of existing pupils and children in care will typically be given priority.
  • The remaining places will be allocated according to who lives within the catchment area. There are several exceptions, however, such as voluntary aided (faith) schools, which use different admissions criteria.
  • If the school isn’t oversubscribed, meaning places that remain unfilled, these will go to applicants residing outside the catchment area.

Catchment areas are not static and can change year-to-year depending on application volume and school capacity. So, always read their admissions policy on their website before applying – and if you’re still unsure, contact their admissions officer. You can also find helpful information on the government’s school admissions page.

Proving your address

Your proximity to the school will still play a significant role in the ranking of your application if you reside outside the catchment area. Therefore, you are required to provide official proof of your permanent UK address when applying. Your chances will increase the closer you live to the school if there are spaces to be filled once the priority places have been allocated.

You will be asked to provide at least two proofs of address, including:

  • Council tax letter for the current year
  • Copy of your tenancy agreement
  • Copy of a benefits letter dated within the past 12 months
  • TV licence
  • Utility bill dated within the past three months
  • Copy of your child benefit letter
  • Copy of a tax credits letter

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Consult the experts

Simply London’s extensive experience helping people navigate the state school search and application process means we understand the intricacies of catchment areas. Consulting with us can provide valuable insights into local schools, catchment areas, and the competitive landscape these arbitrary boundaries create.  Contact us today to ensure you make informed decisions for your child’s education journey.

At Simply London our fantastic team of School Experts are on hand to assist you you throughout the entire school finding process, find out why our school search service is the best choice for finding and applying to the best State schools in London!




Want to learn more about State Schools in London?

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All the information you need to find the right London State School for your child, and apply successfully:

  • The top 10 London neighbourhoods for state schools
  • The top 10 London primary state schools
  • The top 10 London secondary state schools
  • When and how to apply
  • Catchment areas
  • Admission criteria
  • Waiting lists
  • Application websites for all London Boroughs
  • And much more…

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Guide to State Schools in London
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