School admissions

Admissions in England

General information about schools admissions can be found on GOV.UK.  All school admissions in England are governed by the Schools Admissions Code. See page 25, paragraph 2.18 of the School Admissions Code (December 2014).

Have a look at the following clip on school admissions for service children in England produced by Hampshire County Council. 

Click on image to start:

Initial clip front page for video advice.

The above film clip was produced by Hampshire County Council on behalf of Forces Connect South East.

Section 2.18 of the Schools Admissions Code

Under the above code, all admissions authorities in England must accept an application and allocate a place for children of Armed Forces personnel on proof of assignment and in advance of moving to the area. Parents do not need to have an allocated address and applications can be processed on the basis of the unit address or general quartering address. (Although places may not be allocated a long time in advance of the move, as this may result in a school having to hold a place open for an unreasonable amount of time.) The covenant will not automatically help parents to get the school of their choice. Local authorities must find a school place for all children who move into their area. However, if no places are available at the parents’ preferred school, there is no duty to comply with parental preference.

See also our Briefing note on School Place Allocation and How the RAF FF can help: School place allocations

Applications for admissions into Reception year and year 7

Applications for admissions into Reception year and year 7 are governed by a national statutory timetable. Parents who are posted after the statutory deadlines may have to make ‘late applications’. Admission authorities cannot refuse applications because they are late and cannot give priority based on the date upon which applications were received. However, in practice many school places will already been allocated, offered and accepted by other families. Local authorities are not permitted to reserve blocks of school places for service pupils even where there are likely to be significant numbers.

If there are no places available at their chosen school, pupils may be put onto waiting lists for places as well as being offered a place at another school. Waiting lists are determined by the over-subscription criteria for each school. By law looked after children must be the first priority for all over-subscription criteria as these are deemed to be the children most in need. Under section 1.39A of the Schools Admissions Code children eligible for the service pupil premium may be given priority in over-subscription criteria. In practice many over-subscription criteria do not mention service pupils or these may come low down the list behind criteria such as distance from school or siblings in the school.

Infant class size limits

By law classes for children in Key Stage 1 cannot exceed 30 pupils per teacher. Under the Schools Admissions Code in England children of service personnel who move outside of the normal round of admissions may be admitted as excepted pupils. It is important to note that this only applies to ‘in year’ admissions and will not assist service parents who are applying for a Reception or Year 7 place under the normal admissions process. It is also important to know that many local authorities are reluctant to exercise this power as standard practice. In these circumstances we would always advise parents to seek specialist advice from CEAS or other similar organisations as appeals against infant class size limits are notoriously difficult to win.

See also this additional guidance for Armed Forces/Crown servants.

Admissions in Scotland

The Scottish Government has produced some really useful resources for service personnel and their families moving to Scotland.

Further information about schools and admissions can be found from CEAS.

The Directorate Children and Young People has produced an Introductory Guide to Education in Scotland. 

Forces Children Education also provides useful information and resources on education on Scotland as does the Royal Caledonian Education Trust.

Admissions in Wales

Admissions to schools in Wales are governed by the Welsh Schools Admissions and Appeals Code. Further information is available on the Welsh government websiteSupporting Service Children in Wales or from CEAS.

Admissions in Northern Ireland 

Information is available from the Education Authority.

CEAS information and advice

The Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) provides expert and impartial advice about the education of service children.

They publish guidance on admissions and appeals on their website.

We have published a Briefing Note on the Schools Allocation Process available here and on publications page.  This note aims to summarise our evidence of the challenges faced by some of mobile families in this area and pull together some of the ways in which these might be mitigated through help and support available. 

You might also like to have a look at an article written for our Summer 2017 Envoy magazine which busts some myths about admissions and the Armed Forces Covenant.  It was written by our then Regional Covenant manager Jo Wilkinson and apart from the contact details, the information remains relevant now.  

In Spring 2019 we published an article based on Wittering Primary School detailing good practice support for Armed Forces Children in schools.