Need to know: National Primary School Offer Day

This week, parents will find out which primary school their child will attend in September. Here's everything you need to know

Hélène Mulholland

School admissions: Ofsted ratings and exam results only tell part of a school's story

Last year, of the 620,330 applications, nine in 10 primary applicants were accepted by their first-choice school, and almost everyone (97.7 per cent) secured a place in one of their preferred schools. 

A recent Mumsnet survey revealed the extraordinary lengths that some parents will take to secure the school of their choice. So, how many happy parents can we expect this year?

What happens on National Offer Day?

National Primary School Offer Day is the day on which the drums roll for parents up and down the country, when they receive confirmation of their child's allocated primary school place. This is three months after the application deadline, when parents listed their preferred schools to the relevant admissions authority – either councils or individual academies.

The number of preferences parents could list depended on the local authority and the availability of schools in the area, though the school admissions code states they should be able to list at least three.  

What criteria does the child need to meet?

It depends where you live and which school you have in your sights. All schools must have admissions criteria, including ones that will be applied if there are more applications than places at the school. 

Priority may be given to applicants who already have a sibling in that school, for example. Geographical proximity may be another, or children eligible for the pupil premium. If a school is undersubscribed, any parent that applies must be offered a place, except in the case of designated selective schools. If there are more applications than places, the school’s admission authority must rank applications against its oversubscription criteria.

Priority is given to children in care or looked-after children – again, other than schools that undertake selection by ability. Children with a SEND statement or an education, health and care plan that recommends a school for them must be accepted by that school.

How many parents tend to get their first-choice school?

Last year, the proportion of primary applicants who received an offer of their first-choice school went up slightly from 88.4 per cent in 2016 to 90 per cent. The proportion receiving an offer of any of their preferences also increased from 96.9 per cent to 97.7 per cent. That said, applications dropped last year by 3.3 per cent to 620,330 – the lowest in the four years that primary level figures have been collected.  

It’s too early to say how many parents are going to be pleased with their offer this year. Early figures submitted from the City of York council show that the vast majority of parents there have cause for celebration, with 94.2 per cent getting their first-choice school place, and 99.4 per cent getting at least one of their first three preferences – an increase of 1.3 per cent on last year. York’s figures show this is against a backdrop of slightly fewer children (1,935) starting school in September down from 1,968 last year. 

What about parents who aren’t happy with their allocated school?

They can appeal against the decision within 20 days of receiving the decision letter, and this must be heard within 40 school days by an appeals hearing. A three-strong panel will use the school admission appeals code to decide, and its decision can only be overturned by a court.

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Hélène Mulholland

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