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Myth-busters about applying for a school place

Here are some facts about applying for a school place.

If I put one preference on my application form then the council will have to offer my child a place at that school.This is not true. If you only put one preference on your application form and we are unable to offer a place at that school, then your child will be offered a place at the nearest school with spaces available (this could be a school that is a number of miles from your home address). We always advise parents to submit three preferences as this may reduce the chances of being offered a place at a school chosen by the council rather than yourself.
If I put a school down as my first-choice school then this will improve my chances of getting a place there.This is not true. All councils must use an "Equal Preference" scheme whereby all preferences for a school (whether first, second or third) are ranked in order of the school admissions oversubscription criteria irrespective of the preference order. For example, if you submit a first preference application for "School A" and you live three miles from the school, and someone else lists "School A" as a second preference application but live just two miles from the school, then in line with the admissions oversubscription criteria that child's application would be ranked higher than your child's application.
We live in the catchment area for this school, so we are guaranteed a place.This is not true. We do not use catchment areas as part of our school admissions oversubscription criteria.
My child already attends the nursery school or unit attached to the infant or primary school I wish to apply for, so I do not need to apply for a school place as they will automatically be offered one.This is not true. Regardless of whether your child attends a nursery school or unit attached to a school you still need to apply for a school place.
If my child attends a feeder primary school then this guarantees them a place at a secondary school.This is not the case for schools that use our council's School Admissions Oversubscription Criteria as we do not have feeder schools. Some schools in County Durham have their own admissions oversubscription criteria and this may prioritise feeder schools, however the council does not use this oversubscription criterion. Please check your preferred school's oversubscription criteria before you submit your application as this may give you an indication of your chances of being offered a place.
I have just moved into the area and know you keep places spare for families in our situation.This is not true. We do not keep places available on the off chance a family may move into the area in the future. All school places are allocated in accordance with the school's oversubscription criteria and if a school is oversubscribed then all places will be offered. If you move into an area and there are no places available at your preferred school, then you should add your child's name to the waiting list and ask about the school appeals process.
I can submit my application over the telephone.This is not true. You can not apply over the telephone. You must either submit an online application form using our Parent Portal service or you can ask for a paper application form to be sent to you in the post or by email. Any application for a school place must be submitted in writing.
My child is on the waiting list so we will be offered a place at the school soon.This is not true. Unfortunately there is no guarantee a place will ever become available from a waiting list. By adding your child's name to a waiting list, you are waiting for other children who were originally offered a place at that school to give up their place. If a place does become available, it will be offered to the child who is at the top of the waiting list at that time. Waiting lists are not held on a first come, first served basis, and are ranked in the order of the school admissions oversubscription criteria for that particular school.
We submitted our application form as soon as the application process opened, so that means we will be one of the first to be offered a place.This is not true. School places are not offered based on how early you apply, so if you submit your application form before the closing date it will be processed as on-time. It doesn't matter if it is submitted on the day the application process opens or the last day before the closing date, it will still be processed as on-time.


Contact us
School places and admissions
03000 265 896
Our address is:
  • Durham Leadership Centre
  • Enterprise Way
  • Spennymoor
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DL16 6YP