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Choosing a school

Before you complete your application for a school place you should consider the following:

  • You will not be able to make an application until September of the year before your child is due to start
  • By collecting as much information as possible about the schools in your area, you can decide which would be most likely to meet your child's needs
  • Details of all schools in Wiltshire can be found in the schools directory
  • When you apply for a place, you'll be ask to list three schools in order of preference.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a school

All types of school are surrounded by a defined geographical area know as their catchment area.

  • If there are more applications than places, priority is usually given to children living in the catchment area for a school 
  • There is no guarantee of a place for pupils living within a catchment area or for those who move into the catchment area at a later date
  • You can find details of catchment schools for your home address in the forms, guides and policies page
  • If you are in any doubt as to the catchment area you live in, please email the school admissions team

How far is the school from your home and how will your child get there?

  • It is your parental responsibility to ensure that your child is able to get to school
  • You will need to establish which is the catchment school for your child and whether any travel assistance is available before applying for a place at that school
  • Help with transport costs may be available

Schools have a limited number of places available in each year group.

  • If there are more applications than there are places available, the admission criteria are used to decide who is offered a place
  • The admission criteria page provides more detailed information.

It's a good idea to visit all the schools you are considering to get first hand experience of how they run and to meet the staff and pupils.

Some schools hold open days or evenings at certain times of the year. Contact the schools directly to find out if and when they do this.

Before you visit ask the school for a copy of its prospectus, which will give you more information about the school's policies on things like behaviour, homework and special needs.

Write a list of questions you would like to ask when you visit to help you decide if your child would be happy there. These might include:

  • How many children will be in your child's class?
  • How does the school help children to mix and make friends?
  • How does the school deal with bullying?
  • Does the school support children who need extra help with certain subjects?

When you are choosing a school you should consider how it's performing

  • Schools are regularly inspected by The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
  • Ofsted reports cover all aspects of the school, including their academic performance
  • The Department for Education also publishes information every year on the performance of pupils in all schools
  • These achievement and attainment tables are a guide to how well the school is doing. They list test results for all primary schools and exam results for all secondary schools in England
  • You can use this information to see how each school near you compares with other schools in the area and in England as a whole

All parents need to make an application; no child has automatic entry to any school.

There are three main entry points to school:

  • Reception entry
  • Junior entry (Year 3)
  • Secondary entry (Year 7).

Applications for places in the following year groups can be submitted from 1 September 2019:

  • If your child was born between 1 September 2015 - 31 August 2016 they will be due to start Reception in September 2020
  • If your child was born between 1 September 2012 - 31 August 2013 and they currently attend an infant school they will be due to transfer to a Junior school in September 2020
  • If your child was born between 1 September 2008 - 31 August 2009 they will be due to transfer to a secondary school in September 2020

You cannot put your child's name down on a waiting list for a better chance of getting a place at a certain school. Some schools may collect names of parents interested in their school many years before their child is due to start, but these are only 'interest lists' where you can register your details in order to receive information from the school. This will not increase your chances of getting a place.

Even if your child's current primary or nursery school is linked to the school you want them to go to next, you won't be considered for a place unless you apply.


Children of compulsory school age coming from abroad with parents who have a right of residence in, or permission to enter, the UK, have the same rights as UK residents to apply for a place at a state school.

Applications on behalf of children currently living outside the UK will be considered but, until the children are resident in the country, their home address will be treated as their place of residence outside the UK.

The only exceptions to this would be applications from children of UK Service personnel and Crown Servants returning from overseas.


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Last updated: 29 August 2019 | Last reviewed: 29 August 2019