Education is an important factor for your child’s future and where you live has an impact.
If you are one of the growing number of families considering moving to increase your chances of securing a place for your child in your preferred school, it’s important to undertake some research on the implications of such a move. Moving to a catchment area can boost your child’s chances of getting a place at the school of your choice, but it may not guarantee a place.
Selecting a school is the first hurdle and requires time. Researching schools by using league tables or achievement and attainment tables, together with Ofsted reports, provides only part of the information needed to ensure a school is right for your child’s individual needs. Attend open days, but keep in mind that you are being presented with an optimal view of the school. One of the best sources is first-hand information from parents with children attending the school in question.
Begin by shortlisting a number of schools that fit your needs. Speak directly to the schools you have in mind and find out from them, as well as the local education authority, what your choices are and what the criteria is for placement. This will help you assess how successful your application is likely to be.
Catchment areas are a simple way to decide who can attend a school. They are based on the premise that local children will become friends with other local children. Catchment areas vary in size, depending on whether the school is in a rural or suburban area. They can also change from year to year, often due to a school’s growth in popularity. For example, if a large number of younger siblings are starting school in the same year, the catchment area could be reduced, to stop it becoming over-subscribed. In this situation it is unlikely your child will be accepted.
It is possible to ask to be put on a waiting list, however, if your child is already attending school they may have to remain at their current school until a place becomes available. Consider how you will handle this transition period, which may require your child to commute.
Any move comes at a cost, and it is important to factor education options into your decision. Properties in the catchment area of highly regarded schools command a much higher price. Moving house also means establishing yourself and your family in a new environment.
Notwithstanding, buying a house in a school catchment area can be a sensible decision, but it requires research and planning. If you are confident the school of choice will have an available place for your child, and the property prices are within your budget, it is worth doing.