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How to find out if there are places left in state schools

If you’re a parent moving to London from overseas, and looking to apply for state schools, you must be wondering how to find out which state schools have available places.

How to find out if there are places left in state schools

Unfortunately, the information about which state schools have available places is not readily available. In fact, most of the time, this information is not available at all.

So what can you do? Here are a few tips we have gathered through our own experience helping clients with their state school applications.

1 – Check the Borough’s website

If you already know the Borough you will be living in, or are considering living in one or several Boroughs, firstly check out their website. There are one or two Boroughs in London who actually publish their free school places. This is rare though, and most other Boroughs will not do it. This is simply because available places can change from day to day, and Boroughs do not have the capacity to update their website lists that frequently.

2 – Call the Borough’s school admission teams

If you don’t find information on the Borough’s website, you could try to call the Borough’s schools admission team. They might give you some information about free spaces, they might not. They are not legally obliged to do so, and sometimes they do not even have the information themselves. But it is worth trying.

3 – Call the school

Again here, they do not have to tell you where they have places. Some schools will tell you to call the Borough, and will not give out any information. Some are more forthcoming. Again it is worth trying.

4 – Try to guess

The popularity of a school is almost always linked to its Ofsted rating – the grading system Ofsted inspectors use to indicate the quality of an educational institution following an inspection – with ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ state schools attracting the most applications.

Generally speaking, “Outstanding” state schools are oversubscribed, meaning there are no or very few places available at any time, as they have long waiting lists of children waiting to get a place.

You might have better chances with “Good” schools, who will be less sought-after than the outstanding schools, but still provide, in our view, excellent education to the children.

5 – Waiting lists

Lastly, if you find out the school you have your heart set on for your child is currently full, you could try putting their name on a waiting list. The school’s ‘admission authority’ – typically the school itself or the council – is obliged to keep a waiting list open for at least the first term of each school year.

You can add their name to a waiting list even if they have been offered a place at another school. If put your child on a waiting list and the school offers them a place, the admission authority will send you a formal offer. You can accept the offer even if your child has already started their education elsewhere.

Good luck with your state school applications!

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