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It’s that time of year! Parents have submitted applications for secondary schools for their children, but with a quarter of parents moving house for the sake of being in a certain school catchment area, the competition is sure to be fierce!

Our moving experts have shared their advice on how to secure the best school place by moving house. The company has also highlighted the best 20 schools in the country, as well as the house prices in each location.

Most secondary schools application deadlines are in September, aside from the top grammar schools. With admission test results received in early October, parents usually have until November to confirm their applications if they want to secure places for their kids at these top secondary schools.

Moving expert Angus Elphinstone, CEO of AnyVan.com commented “We move thousands of families each month, and it’s fair to say a large number of them are moving for the good of their children. It’s interesting to see that 80 per cent of the top 20 schools in England are based in the Southeast, as well as the fact that girls-only secondaries make up half of them overall. The pressure to find a place in popular London schools is intensifying, as the capital’s catchment areas have shrunk dramatically.

“With the best secondary schools, your children will face tough admission tests. However, the real challenge can be finding a place in your chosen catchment area. With some as slim as 300 square meters, you could need to live within a few streets of your chosen school to secure a spot for your child. Obviously, availability and demand for properties in the best school catchment areas will be fierce.“

Wembley High Technology College is currently rated as the top school in the Real School Guide. Local property expert Victor Bryan, director and co-founder of the award-winning Wembley estate agent Bryan Maher & Co, gave his view: “Wembley High Technology College is known across the local area as one of the best schools in the country. However, because of the entry criteria, there isn’t the property premium you have for other schools in the area, especially primary schools.”

Moving to secure a school for your child

Here are AnyVan’s tips for moving house to secure a place at a top school for your children:

Visit the schools you are considering

As impressive as a school’s ratings might be, it will still be important to take the time to check it out, along with the local area. All schools offer open evenings for prospective students, giving parents time to meet the headteacher and teaching staff to find out more about the school’s performance, teaching style and curriculum.

Checking your school performance

Any parent knows about Ofsted ratings: the scoring system used to assess schools in the UK. These scores have even been integrated into the software used by firms like Rightmove, so you can be sure that they will have a big impact on the cost of moving to any given area.

There are four Ofsted levels: ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’, ‘Requires improvement’ and ‘Inadequate’. While scores can give you some insight into a schools performance, they are not run yearly. In other words, older rankings may no longer be accurate.

To get an in-depth summary of a school’s performance, visit the Gov.uk website. ‘Progress 8’ will give you a score based on how much progress pupils at a particular school have recently made between the ends of key stages two and four. Similarly, the ‘Attainment 8’ score will display how well pupils have performed in up to eight qualifications, including English and Maths.

Admissions criteria

This can be tricky! Because all schools are different, you will need to carefully read the admission policy and criteria for each location you are considering.

The best grammar schools will have admission tests, sometimes referred to as a ‘transfer test’ or ‘11 plus’. The tests will be broken down into verbal and non-verbal reasoning. There will also be questions in both English and Maths. Pass marks will be adjusted so that the number of children who pass the tests matches the number of available places at each school.

For most schools, the catchment area will be key. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to find a local property before the application deadline. A word of warning: for some of the best schools, there may also be a rule for how long you will need to have lived in the property to make a successful application for your child.

In certain schools, it will be better for your child to have a sibling who is currently attending the school than it will be for you to have a catchment-area property.

Faith schools may have slightly different admissions criteria and staffing policies than general state schools.

What if my application is denied?

The most common reason for an application to be denied is if the school is oversubscribed, or you live outside the catchment area. If you are trying to get your children into a grammar school, they will also need to pass the entrance exam.  If your child is denied a place at your chosen grammar school, you will only be able to appeal based on academic evidence.

For state secondary schools, there is a standard appeals process that you can use if you want to try to reverse a school’s decision. About a quarter of all secondary schools appeals are successful, so if you have a solid argument, it can be well worth trying to appeal against a failed application.

The necessary appeals forms will be available from your local council and should be submitted back to either the local authority or to the school itself (if they are not run by the local authority).

Moving during a school year

If you are moving home to a new area during the school year, getting your child into a top school could be quite tricky. Known as ‘in-year admissions’, these transfers require a great deal of communication and planning.

You will need to check with each school, asking about the number of available places or, if necessary, sign up for a waiting list. It will be best to start by contacting both the schools in question and your new local authority to let them know that your child is moving to the area.

It will be best to have a few schools in mind, including a first, second and third choice, in case you struggle to find available spots. Remember, moving during a school year means that you will lose the best chance to secure a place for your child.

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Moving? Don't Panic!
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