Confused about catchment areas? Unsure about class sizes? Find the answers to all your questions about primary school applications in Essex here.

When can I apply? And when will I learn if my child has been offered a place?

All of the key dates in the application and admissions process can be found here.

Can I attend an open day?

Many local primary schools will hold open day events where parents can visit, get a feel for the school and find out important information. Most will make arrangements for parents to visit by appointment if they are unable to attend an open day event. Contact school directly for more details.

Is my child guaranteed a school place in our catchment area?

Schools no longer guarantee places to children living in their priority admission (catchment) area. They may, however, use your child’s address as part of their oversubscription criteria.

What criteria will be considered when allocating places?

Admission criteria is used to decide which children will be offered a place. The criteria is slightly different for each school, but they may give priority to children who:

  • live close to the school
  • have a sibling who is already attending the school
  • are from a particular religion, in the case of faith schools
  • are in care or being looked after (a top priority for all schools)

Will my child’s brothers and sisters be able to go to the same school?

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that siblings will be able to attend the same school. You can check the priority given to siblings in each school’s admissions criteria to assess the likelihood of this.

Your chances of placing siblings in the same school will also be reduced if your application is late.

Which children are classified as siblings?

A sibling is a child who has a brother, sister, adopted brother or sister or stepbrother or stepsister living as part of the same family unit at the same address, and who attends the preferred school in any year group excluding the final year.

Biological siblings will also be treated as siblings regardless of their home address.

Are twins/triplets guaranteed a place at the same school?

For community and voluntary controlled schools, if one twin is accepted, the Learning Authority will ensure that their sibling is offered a place. Likewise, if two triplets can be offered a place, the remaining child will also be accepted.

For foundation, voluntary aided schools and Academies the decision will be made by the school’s governing body or Academy Trust.

Will my child’s medical condition be taken into account?

Some schools may increase a child’s priority based on medical circumstances. Check the school’s admission policy to see if this applies to you and then send any supporting evidence directly to the school.

What is the maximum number of children permitted in an infant class?

The law states that all primary and infant schools should ensure that there are no more than 30 pupils in an infant class with one teacher. This is why schools are no longer able to guarantee school places for all children within their priority admission area.

Which address should I use on the application form?

School applications will normally be processed on the basis of your child’s home address at the time of application and when decisions are being made about place will be offered. The home address is considered to be the residential property that is your child’s only or main home. Proof of address and/or residence arrangement will be required with the application.

Where care is split equally between parents at separate addresses, both parents must decide which address will be used for the allocation of a school place.

Should I include my local school on the application, even if it is not my preferred choice?

It is recommended that you include your local or priority admission (catchment) area school as one of your preferences. If you do not, and your child is subsequently not offered a place at one of your preferred schools, you may only be offered an alternative several miles from your home.

To find out which school is in your priority admission area, use ECC’s ‘Catchment Area Finder’ at

Do I need to use all my preferences?

While it is not essential for you to use all of your five preferences, it is highly recommended. If you do not and your preferred school cannot offer your child a place, you run the risk of leaving it too late to obtain a place at school near to your home.

Using all of your preferences will not reduce the likelihood of your child being offered a place at your preferred school.

Can I delay or defer my child’s school entry?

While most children start school in the September following their fourth birthday, some parents feel that their child is not ready to attend school full-time at this stage. For more information on delaying or deferring your child’s school entry, click here. 

What happens if my child does not gain a place at any of my preferred schools?

In the event that your child is not accepted to any of your preferred school, they will be offered a place in the nearest school to your home address that has an available place

Can I change my mind about my school preferences after I have submitted the application?

If you have applied online, you can change your preferences at any time before the closing date by logging into and amending your existing application and resubmitting it.

If you submitted a paper application, you will need to write to School Admissions before 15th January 2017 (email: After this date, changes will not be accepted unless they are due to a change of address.

Is my child entitled to free home-to-school transport?

Councils have a statutory duty to provide pupils with free home-to-school transport to the nearest catchment school with a space, if they live:

  • 2 miles or more from the school for pupils up to the age of 8 (end of Year 3);
  • 3 or more miles from the school and is over the age of 8 (Year 4 and above).

Distances to the school are measured using the shortest available walking route.

If your child lives closer than the distance criteria, transport cannot be provided unless there is clear evidence that they have special educational needs which mean you cannot get them to school.

Statutory entitlement to free transport is also extended to low income families who are entitled to free school meals, or whose annual taxable household income is less than £16,190 before deductions and are in receipt of their maximum level of Working Tax Credit.

More information on free school transport can be found at