Advice on choosing a school, find a school near you on our interactive maps, learn about how catchment areas work and find which you live in.
How to choose a school
You may already have a school in mind, but remember that you will need to list several preferences on your application form. Make sure you've read our advice about preferencing before you fill in the form.
- Try to visit schools you are interested in or attend an open day. View the school's website, prospectus or brochure.
- Different types of schools have different values, teaching methods and admissions policies. Some schools have specialist services for children with special educational needs. Find out more about the different types of school here.
- Most schools receive regular visits by inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, or Ofsted, which publishes regular inspection reports online. You can search for Ofsted reports by postcode, town or area. Ofsted is changing the way it inspects schools with a new education inspection framework.
- If your child has special educational needs or disabilities, it’s a good idea to look at the school’s SEN Information Report, as this explains their ethos and approach to meeting the needs of children with SEND. You can find this on the school’s own website, where you will also find lots of other useful information. There is more advice about choosing a school for parents of children with SEND here.
Schools and catchment area maps
You can use our interactive maps to find out what catchment area you live in. Remember that you may not be in the catchment area for the school that is nearest to you 'as the crow flies'. You can either type your address in the search bar, or use the 'zoom' function then click on the map to see catchment areas that apply.
Alternatively, you can see primary, secondary, special schools, sixth form colleges and further education colleges all together on one map.
Our maps are for reference only.
What is a catchment area?
Schools apply various criteria if there are more applicants than there are places, that is, if the school is oversubscribed.
Children living within a school's catchment area is the third priority criteria which we apply when making admissions decisions for oversubscribed community and voluntary controlled schools. You can find out more about how the various criteria are applied here. You should read our admissions policy to see how the catchment area criteria is applied in relation to looked after children, social and medical exceptions, and siblings, and what happens in the case of a tie break.
You should bear in mind that other types of schools may have their own priorities for oversubscription criteria.
Catchment is by your home address and not the primary school your child attends, even if the primary school is in a 'cluster' with a local secondary school. You must read the guidance on making your list of school preferences, as if you preference a school outside your catchment area, there are various things you need to consider, such as your future plans for secondary school or the availability of school transport.
You can find information about which address to use when applying for a school place here.
If you look at our catchment area maps, you may find that your home is located in two or more catchment areas. This may be explained in some cases because schools may have a 'rural' and 'town' catchment areas with different priority criteria which apply. You can find specific admissions policies for your area here.
If you do not get a place at your preferred school, you have the right to appeal.