Everything you need to know about applying for primary school 2022 for your child

Teacher talking to her primary school students (Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)Teacher talking to her primary school students (Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Teacher talking to her primary school students (Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Across the country, parents of youngsters will have started thinking about the next steps in their child’s education - primary school.

This is what you need to know about primary school applications across the four nations of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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How to apply for primary school in Scotland

In Scotland, you don’t decide where your child goes to school, but instead it is up to your local council.

Your council decides which school your child will attend by using catchment areas, which is an area around a school. Any kids who live within this area are given a place at said school. Most Scottish councils publish their catchment area maps on their website.

You can find out where your child will be given a place by looking on your council’s website, which you can find using the dropdown tool on the Scottish government website.

You can request a place at a different school if you are unhappy with your council’s first choice, but whether this request is granted is dependent on whether there are free places.

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In the year prior to your child reaching primary or secondary school age, some councils will send out a letter confirming your child's place at a local school. This letter should also ask you to confirm this place. If your child has a spot at a different school, you need to let your local council know.

Not all councils send letters - in these councils you will need to enrol your child at school. If you’re unsure of what to do, you should contact your local council.

If you want to apply for a private school for your child, you’ll need to do so directly through that school, as each private school has its own admissions procedure.

How to apply for primary school in England

In England, you can apply for a place at a state primary school online or by using your council’s application form.

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You can apply through your local council even if you’re applying for a school in a different council area.

You can find your local council by using the postcode finder on the government website.

Even if the school is linked to your child’s current nursery, infant or primary school, you need to still apply for a place.

When you fill in the form, either online or on paper, you’ll be asked to list the school’s you're applying for in order of preference - be aware that only listing one school will not increase your child’s chances of getting a place at that school.

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To get a copy of the application form on paper, you’ll need to contact your local council.

Applications open on different days in each local council area - you can find out when applications open in your area via your local council.

You must apply for a primary school place a year before your child can start school.

Applications open in September and close on 15 January. Your child will be three or have just turned four when you apply.

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Councils will send out offers of primary school places on 16 April, and if the date falls on a weekend or bank holiday, then the offer will be sent the next working day.

You must accept your offer by the deadline given in the offer letter, or else it may be withdrawn and offered to someone else.

The local council must provide a place at another school, if your child is not offered a place at any of the schools you’ve applied for. This is usually your nearest school with places still available.

How to apply for primary school in Wales

In Wales, you can find information about Welsh medium and English medium schools in your area via your local authority website.

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Some local authority websites can help you find your nearest/catchment area schools when you enter your postcode or the area where you live.

If you are interested in a faith school, you may need to look at the booklet that lists all the schools which will be on the website, or ask for a paper copy of the booklet from the local authority.

If you decide to apply for voluntary aided or foundation schools you must normally contact the school directly, but you should check the local authority booklet to make sure. For community schools (Welsh medium or English medium) or voluntary controlled schools you must contact the local authority, who will provide you with the information and admission application forms for you to fill in and return by the closing date.

Some local authorities prefer applications to be filled in online. You can find out about school admissions, including online application forms, on each of the local authority websites.

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You can still put an application in on paper if that is what you prefer.

While many parents opt for their nearest/catchment area school because, parents and carers have a right to say which school they would like their child to attend. However, you are not guaranteed a spot at any given school.

If your child is in a nursery attached to a primary school, you still have to apply for a place in the school separately.

On your application form, you should name more than one school that you would like your child to attend. If you only name one school and are not successful in being offered a place there, you could fail to get a place at any other school that you may also like. You may say which one you like best.

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The timetables for applying to primary schools will be in the Information for Parents Booklet, and on the local authority websites. Most admission authorities open their school admission round during September and October and these stay open for at least six weeks.

How to apply for primary school in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, you can find out all the necessary information about schools and their admission criteria by using the “find a school” section on the Education Authority Northern Ireland website.

You may also wish to visit the schools that you are applying to by attending any open days/evenings. Details of the dates and times of open days and evenings, and schools’ admissions criteria will be published on the Education Authority Northern Ireland website, and advertised by schools.

All children who are 4 years old on or before the 1st July must begin their primary education from the beginning of the school year following their 4th birthday.

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You can find application forms you can download to fill out online on the Education Authority Northern Ireland website, or alternatively you can request a paper form by emailing the Primary Admissions Office on [email protected].

Complete the application form and bring or send directly to the first preference school attaching your child’s birth certificate – check the admissions criteria of the school for any other required documents.