Picking your child's school is a massively important undertaking with obvious implications on your child's education and future prospects. Sadly, not all schools perform at the same level and there are schools that are more desirable than others. This has created a lottery of sorts with the place that you live being an important factor in the placement of your child.
You may already have a good idea of which school you would prefer your children to go to after researching via Ofsted, visiting local schools, speaking to other parents and your own local knowledge/preferences. Well done, now comes the harder part of actually getting your choice. The bad news here is a lot of this is going to be out of your hands.
Your chosen school is only going to be able to accommodate a certain amount of children and each school will have a policy on admissions either set by the local council or the school itself. Grammar schools, not covered in this article, have an exam based entry requirement.
Living nearby to the school is an obviously important criteria, this is referred to as being in the "catchment area". Other criteria for selection may include having a sibling already at the school, placement at religious schools may have a different admission policy based on religious criteria. Feeder schools are an important consideration if you are applying for a secondary school (and if you are playing the long-game when applying for Primary School).
Children with special educational needs will typically have a school recommended for them in their health and care plan and the school must honour this recommendation.
Where can I find out more information?
You can find general information on school admissions policies on gov.uk. You should also research your local council's admissions policy and the admissions section on the website of your chosen school.
When do I need to apply?
When to start applying depends on your local council. The deadline for application for Primary school placement is 15th January. For Secondary school placement the deadline is 31st October.
Three schools need to be selected and you should list them in order of preference.
When will I find out which school my child will go to?
Depending on your area, you may get the choice to receive confirmation of your child's placement by letter or by email. For Primary schools you will be informed of decisions on 16th April and for Secondary 1st March (weekends notwithstanding).
What can I do if I disagree on a decision?
Sadly, you may not get your first choice. You can appeal the decision, when you receive notification of your child's school placement the accompanying documentation will detail how you can appeal. In 2015 3.7% of admissions were appealed and of these 54,600 appeals only a mere 12,400 were successfully appealed1.
For more information on how the appeals process works and what you can expect when appealing your child's placement go to uk.gov.