Applying to secondary school: England and Wales

In both England and Wales, applications open in September. Your starting point should be your local authority website which will give you access to all the relevant information.

The deadline for secondary school applications in England is 1st November, and you can check online for the dates in Wales.

Your questions answered 

Can I apply to any school?

In theory, you can apply for any state school in your local authority or council’s catchment area. However, before applying, look at the school’s admission criteria because it’s unlikely your child will be offered a place at a school unless you meet at least one of them. Details can be found on the school website and they usually include factors such as the distance from the school, siblings already at the school and the number of places available.

In England, if you live close to a boundary, or if you prefer a particular school for its specialism, it is possible to apply for a place out of the area. Take a look at the relevant county council’s website for more information.

Are all state schools the same?

No, although they all teach the same National Curriculum. You can find out more about the different types of state schools in our About Schools section.

How many schools should I apply to?

Follow the guidance from your local authority. Applying to only one school won’t mean you are more likely to get that choice — exactly the opposite in fact. It could result in you ending up with somewhere you’d never even considered. 

Why should I put my schools in order of preference?

The schools don’t know where they appear on your list, only that you have applied to them. Your application will be scored against the entry criteria of each school you apply to and if you meet the criteria for more than one school, you’ll be offered a place at the one that appears highest on your list. 

Can I apply for a place at a different school part-way through the year?

This will depend on your local authority’s procedures. You can find your local council here.