Question:
How do I choose a school, and how does the admissions process work?
Answer:

If your child was born between 1st September 2014 and 31st August 2015, then it’s time to look at applying for their first place at school, in September 2019. It feels like such a big milestone – one of the most important decisions you can make for your child – and it can feel very confusing if you don’t know much about the schools in your area, and what the admissions process is.

 

It’s also time to apply if your child is in their last year at their infant or First School, and needs to move up to a junior or middle school, or if they are due to move to secondary school in September 2019.

 

In this post, we talk you through the (sometimes daunting) process of how to decide on the schools you want to apply for, and the admissions process itself.

 

Sam’s Story: So in 2011 it was time for my first-born to start school.

 

We were living in Broughton, Milton Keynes and we entered into the world of primary school applications!

 

Awesome primary schools in the area at that time were Monkston & Middleton (still are). Both over-subscribed though, so you needed to be living in the catchment area! Broughton sadly was not represented well in its OFSTED report, however local mums said it had improved greatly. Brooklands Farm had a brand new school – we could walk to it – but being the first pupils in the new school scared me too.

 

So we looked just across the border, only 2 miles as the crow flies, to Bedfordshire and were extremely lucky to get a place in Swallowfield Lower School.

 

2017 update: We have relocated back to Milton Keynes now and Brooklands is now an established school and has two campuses. My boys are in the newer campus and I could not be happier.

 

Where do I start – how do I find out about my local schools?

 

The best place to start is your Local Education Authority website:

Milton Keynes Schools Admissions

Central Bedfordshire Schools Admissions

Buckinghamshire Schools Admissions

Northamptonshire Schools Admissions

 

Do your research
“It may sound obvious, but you’d be amazed how many parents rely on ‘rumours and opinions‘ of a certain school rather than using their own judgement, and their own eyes. Start by going online to get all the inside knowledge on schools in your area. Go to ofsted.gov.uk/reports and type in the name of the school. Or try schoolsfinder.direct.gov.uk. You should be able to instantly access the school’s most recent Ofsted inspection report which is a detailed ‘warts and all’ description of everything from the school’s attendance records to the quality of teaching in every lesson”. The Guardian

 

Go and visit

When you’ve decided which schools you’d like to consider, give them a ring and arrange a visit. Some schools will have organised sessions you can book onto; others will arrange a standalone visit for you. There is no better way to find out whether it is a school you would like your child to go to.

 

The first question you should ask yourself on setting foot through the gate is: do you personally feel happy here?

 

The Application

The most efficient way to do it is to apply online. You will be able to apply to up to four schools, and you should rank them in the order you would like them, putting your top choice as number 1, your second choice next, and so on.

 

When applications for admissions close, the council will allocate places based on the criteria laid out in their guidance notes, and using your list of choices. If you are in the catchment area of the school you are applying for, it is highly likely that you will get a place in that school.

 

However, if you don’t live if the catchment area of your top choice school, you may still be allocated a place if there are still places available. If all places have been taken, the council will then look at your second choice to see if there are any places at that school; then at your third and fourth choices. If you still do not have a place, you will be allocated a place at a school within Milton Keynes which does have places.

 

Should I put down the maximum number of schools allowed?

This is a very frequently asked question, and opinion is divided. The Council, however, strongly advise you to put down as many as you are allowed to. If you only put down two, for example, and there are no places available for you in either of those, you will immediately be allocated a place in a school somewhere with vacancies, which you may know nothing about. If you put down four choices, you are far more likely to be given a place in a school you have been able to research beforehand.

 

Be realistic, though – if you’ve got your heart set on a school that is in high demand, and you don’t live in catchment, the chances are you’re not going to get a place. So it may be wise to put down second, third and fourth choices a bit closer to home, just in case you don’t get the one you want.

 

But if I don’t put down my local catchment school, won’t I be allocated it anyway?

No – the council say that this is not necessarily the case. Your local school may be filled with children both in and out of catchment who have put it down as their top choice, which would mean there would not be a place for your child, and you would be given a vacant place at another school elsewhere in Milton Keynes.

 

What if I’m moving house into the catchment area I want?

From Milton Keynes Council: “You must still apply by the application deadline, and provide appropriate written proof that you will be resident in the catchment area by 1 September 2018. If you move later, the council will still need to scrutinise and accept the evidence of your move before the application for your child is treated as in-area from that date onwards. For further information, please refer to the council’s guide for parents and carers.”

 

Hot Tip: Free School Meals. You should indicate on the application if your child is eligible for free school meals, whatever their age. This is because some schools (such as Buckinghamshire Grammar School) have free school meal eligibility as one of their oversubscription criteria – which could mean you get one of your top choices, when otherwise you might not.

 

Application Timescales

 

Starting school for the first time

You can use the online admissions facility if your child is due to start school for the first time and was born between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014. The closing date for applications is midnight on Monday 15 January 2018 for children starting school for the first time. National Offer Day is then on 16 April 2018.

 

Moving up to a junior school

You can apply online if your child is due to move up from an infant school to a junior school at the end of Year 2 and your child was born between 1 September 2010 and 31 August 2011. The closing date for applications is midnight on Monday 15 January 2017 for children moving up to a junior school. National Offer Day is then on 16 April 2018.

 

Moving up to middle school

You can apply online if you are a Milton Keynes resident and your child is due to move up from a Bedfordshire lower school to a middle school at the end of Year 4 and was born between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2009. Please note, you will only be able to select a Bedfordshire school from the schools listed. If you wish to make an application for a place at a Milton Keynes school, you cannot apply online at this time and will need to make an in-year application in June 2017. The closing date for applications is midnight on Monday 15 January 2018 for children moving up to middle school.

 

Moving up to secondary school

You can apply online if your child is due to move up to secondary school and was born between 1 September 2006 and 31 August 2007. The closing date for applications is midnight on Tuesday 31 October 2017 for children moving up to secondary school at the end of Year 6. National offer day is then 1 March 2018.

 

Aptitude assessments for certain secondary schools

Ousedale School – If you would like your child to be considered for a place on grounds of aptitude for music, you will need to register to take the aptitude assessment. Details of how to register and when assessments will take place will be available on the school’s website in early September 2017.

 

St Paul’s Catholic School – If you are applying for a place at St Paul’s Catholic School, you will be sent a supplementary form from the school which you must complete and return direct to the school.

 

Stantonbury Campus – If you are applying for a place at Stantonbury Campus on the grounds of aptitude for the arts, please complete and return the school’s supplementary form direct to the school.

 

Denbigh School – if you want your child to be considered for a place on the grounds of aptitude for technology, you must also complete the school’s supplementary Aptitude Test application form and submit it to the school by noon on Friday 15 September 2017. The test will take place on Saturday 23 September 2017. A copy of the application form can be found on the school’s website.

 

Moving up to an upper school

You can apply online if you are a Milton Keynes resident and your child is due to transfer from a Bedfordshire middle school to an upper school at the end of Year 8 and was born between 1 September 2004 and 31 August 2005. Please note, you will only be able to select a Bedfordshire school and Walton High from the schools listed. If you wish to make an application for a place at a Milton Keynes school, you cannot apply online at this time and will need to make an in-year application in June 2017. The closing date for applications is midnight on Monday 31 October 2016 for children moving up to an upper school.

 

Comparing Schools – Where to Look

 

Why is this decision SO hard? Here is a great article which may help you…

“What makes a great primary? Let’s deal with this one straight away – it isn’t what Ofsted says. All the inspectorate has cared about in the past few years is data progression in maths and literacy. Simply put, children have become numbers in these subjects, and if the school’s numbers don’t reach a certain total, then it automatically “requires improvement”, regardless of whether it is a happy school with an enriching wider curriculum. So if your prospective school is proudly displaying that “We Are Outstanding” banner on its perimeter fence, well, that is wonderful … but do bear in mind that in all likelihood it has been awarded for results in those two subjects, rather than for its delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum which brings out the best in every child. Which is, of course, what makes a great primary school. So “outstanding” schools aren’t the only outstanding schools, if you ask most teachers”.

The Guardian – link to full article below. 

 

You can also search online at Directgov for a list of the primary schools in your area, and on your local authority website for details about individual schools. They will have all sorts of useful information such as the Ofsted reports, how many places are available for admissions at a school, catchment areas, and more.

 

Another useful source of information is schoolguide.co.uk. Using a range of school data, they provide a star rating out of five to help you to compare schools in your area. Schoolguide say: “This is our own unique rating for each school, ranging from one to five stars. The rating gives a clear and easily understood summary of how well each school has performed in the previous year based on key statistics. The School Guide rating is entirely based on official data and is 100% objective. Data points used to calculate the School Guide star rating include key performance data and inspection ratings. ‘Not Rated’ means we haven’t rated this school; it is not the same as a low or zero star rating. We only give a school a star rating when it has enough data to rate it fairly.”

 

Another very useful feature of the website is the Pupil Heat Map, which gives a rough idea of how far away the children currently at the school live. This could help you see whether you live within a school’s normal catchment area, and how likely you are to be offered a place if you don’t.

 

Schoolguide.co.uk’s top 10 in Milton Keynes (2017):

 

  • Bradwell Village School
  • Orchard Academy
  • St Monica’s Catholic Primary School
  • Loughton School
  • Summerfield School
  • Southwood School
  • Brooksward School
  • Falconhurst School
  • New Chapter Primary School
  • Jubilee Wood Primary School

 

More useful school admissions links:

 

Good Luck with the Admissions Process, Ladies & Gentlemen – from all @ Mum to Mum UK

 

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