Applying to primary school can be a daunting time for any parent, especially with the growing pressure on places leaving some children without a school at the start of term.
For families who are in the process of moving, this application can be all the harder, as proof of residency is required before an application to a state primary can be made.
This week, one mother voices her concerns about her upcoming move from Pinner in London to Marlow in Buckinghamshire, saying she is worried about uprooting her daughter so close to the start of term.
Here the experts offer their views. Get in touch with your own education question and see it featured on Telegraph Education (details below).
Question: We are moving house; where should we register our daughter for school?
We are hoping to move this summer closer to my husband’s work in Marlow (we currently live in Pinner), but we can’t start looking until next month for financial reasons.
With my three-year-old daughter due to start school in September, I’m really concerned about moving so close to that time. I have applied to schools in the Pinner area as without a fixed address, I can’t apply for any local schools in Marlow.
If we don’t end up moving in time and she starts school here in Pinner in September, will it be hugely unsettling for her to move school in the first year? How do we go about applying for schools in Marlow outside of the usual procedure?
Susan Hamlyn: It makes sense to apply for a school where you live now as a fail-safe
This is always the hardest kind of question to answer as everything is contingent on everything else. And the fact that one cannot apply for a state school place without having a genuine address makes moving very tricky for many people.
It makes sense to apply for a school where you live now as a fail-safe – well done. It isn’t great from a social and confidence point of view to move school within a few months of starting but, if you prepare your daughter carefully for the move and, above all, reassure her that, once she starts the school you eventually find in Marlow, this time, she’ll be staying and the friends she makes there will stay her friends, then it ought not to be too disruptive.
“If you need to apply to schools in Marlow once the year has begun it will be an application for an ‘in-year admission’.”
If you need to apply to schools in Marlow once the year has begun it will be an application for an ‘in-year admission’. You can apply for a school place up to six school weeks before the date you want your child to start school.
You would be wise to phone the admissions team to find out which schools have vacancies when you are ready to apply. The Bucks (local authority in this case) website explains the process clearly and you should read its In Year Admission Guide before you make your application.
It will tell you whether to apply to the council or direct to the school. As always, there will be no guarantee of a place at your preferred school but, obviously, the nearer to the school you can then move – even if only into temporary rented accommodation to start with – the more chance there will be of a place, either immediately or within a relatively short time.
Susan Hamlyn, director of The Good Schools Guide Advice Service
John Chard: Moving a child during reception can be disruptive but less so than if moved later
The situation that you have described is all too common. Legally children must be in school in the term following their fifth birthday.
For those parents whose circumstances change during an academic year, the local authority will operate a procedure for in year admissions.
Parents that apply for places in reception, year 1 or 2 will be faced with the limitations imposed by legislation under the infant class size regulations which imposes a statutory limit of 30 pupils per class with one school teacher.
This means that applications to popular schools, other than at the beginning of reception, are only likely to be successful through the appeals procedure as the original application will be rejected if classes have already reached the statutory class size limit of 30.
“One option that you might like to consider is to defer admission which you can do until the term following your daughter’s fifth birthday.”
If you move to a new area, most authorities will require proof of address before processing applications; such proof is normally exchange of contracts or a signed tenancy agreement. Moving a child during reception is likely to be disruptive but less of an issue than if moved in a later academic year.
One option that you might like to consider is to defer admission which you can do until the term following your daughter’s fifth birthday. If this is not an option, and your application is unsuccessful, you will be entitled to an appeal.
The School Admission Code does provide for a number of permitted exceptions where classes can exceed 30 and moving into an area outside of the normal admission round is one of them, providing that you can show that there is not a school within a reasonable distance from your home with places available.
A successful appeal is also a permitted exception which means that it is unlikely to be challenged.
John Chard, Principal of School Appeals
Vivienne Durham: Start approaching schools in your neighbourhood as soon as you know the area
First and foremost, please do not let anxiety overwhelm you. You have done exactly the right thing in registering your daughter for a school in Pinner and your daughter is likely to thoroughly enjoy her first experience of school in September. It’s an exciting and emotional rite of passage for a child – and her parents.
You will need confirmed proof of your next address and a re-location date, before a new state primary school can take your application forward. Of course, if you are applying to an independent school then you can apply without an address in the local area.
If you are looking for a state school then start approaching schools in your new neighbourhood as soon as you know the area of your new house. Do speak to the Admissions Registrars in your preferred schools; they will give you accurate advice on their school’s admissions criteria, including the catchment area. It is always valuable for a young child to live fairly close to his or her school.
“Do speak to the Admissions Registrars in your preferred schools; they will give you accurate advice on their school’s admissions criteria.”
As you are aware, in a perfect world, a child who is thriving at school would not move during his or her first year of formal education. Life is rarely this simple. Young children are sensitive – they are also gloriously resilient. Your daughter is likely to adapt far more readily than you anticipate to moving to a new school during her first year – even in the middle of a term, if necessary. Schools will also liaise, wherever possible, to ease the transition for your daughter.
When your daughter does move to her new school in Marlow, keep her daily routines at home exactly the same – especially first thing in the morning, at home-time and at bed-time. A hug and gentle reassurance will get her through any unsettled moments. Be confident that the move will work happily and well for you and your husband – and your daughter will almost certainly do the same.
Vivienne Durham, schools advisory director at Enjoy Education and former head at Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park