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How far should we live from our preferred state school?

How far should we live from our preferred state school?

The catchment area conundrum leaves many parents unsure how far they should live from their preferred state school. This defined geographical area that a school will accept applications from narrows down the number of families applying for a place and vastly improves their chances of being successful – but it doesn’t guarantee that their child will be selected. On the flip side, children living outside a catchment area are much less likely to be offered a place, especially at heavily oversubscribed schools.

Living as close as possible to our preferred school: is this the best strategy?

This leaves you with two options when deciding where to live in relation to local schools: put all your eggs in one basket or hedge your bets.

  • Option 1: Live close to your first choice but further away from other schools. This might improve your chances of getting your child into your preferred school, but, if that preferred school does not have places for you, you run the risk of being offered a place somewhere that doesn’t meet your standards, and which could be further away from you home than you wish.
  • Option 2: Live further from your first choice but closer to other Ofsted-rated “good” or “outstanding” schools in the local area – so almost “in the middle”. You can apply for up to six primary schools and six secondary schools. This means you decreased your chances of getting into the “first” school of your choice, but this gives you more chances to get places for acceptable alternative schools, that you have chosen on your list.

There is no right or strong strategy.. Each family has to understand for themselves how much risk they are willing to take, and how they assess their chances of getting into their first school choice,

Waiting lists

School waiting lists offer a safety net for families who don’t get places in the school or schools of their choice. You can join the waiting list for any school that ranked above the one your child has been offered a place at. Make sure you accept the initial place before adding your child’s name to a waiting list. This won’t compromise your child’s place on the list – and it guarantees them a school place.

If a space becomes available at your preferred school and your child’s name is top of the waiting list, that place will be automatically allocated to them – and your existing offer elsewhere will be withdrawn. Their place on the list is determined by the distance you live from the school or the catchment area. Log into your local authority’s school admissions system to find out where they are on the waiting list.

Some authorities will automatically add your child to the waiting list of any school on your application form that ranked higher than the one offered. Contact the local authority to opt out if you decide you’re happy with the school you have been offered. In other areas, you must request for your child to be added to the list by contacting the local authority.


Other considerations

While catchment areas and distance are key considerations when selecting a school and somewhere to live, it’s essential to strike a balance between proximity to the school, lifestyle factors, and your budget. Other factors to consider when deciding how far you should live from a preferred state school include:

  • Commute time and transportation: Living too far from the school can result in longer commute times, which may impact your daily schedule and increase transport costs.
  • Access to extracurricular activities: Living closer to the school can make it easier for your child to participate in after-school activities and events.
  • Social connections: Living in the same neighbourhood as the school may facilitate forming friendships with classmates, which can benefit your child’s social development.
  • Housing costs: Proximity to a good school can affect housing prices. Living closer to a preferred state school may be more expensive, so it’s essential to weigh the cost against the potential benefits.

Empower yourself to make informed decisions when applying for schools by researching their credentials – both online and in person. This will help you understand how far you should live from your preferred school in relation to other acceptable options in the local area.


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