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Equal preferencing

When you make an application for your child's school place, you will be asked to state up to 3 schools you would like your child to attend (known as your preferences). You should state these in the order you prefer them.

​Admission authorities (the local authority or the school depending on the type of school) must not give priority to 'first preference first', meaning they can not only consider those that have placed the school as a first preference. School places must be allocated using a fair system called 'equal preferencing'.

Equal preferencing means that each of your three school preferences will be considered by the admission authority of that school. Each admission authority must consider all applications for places at the school regardless of where parents/carers have placed the school in their list of 3 preferences (so there is no possibility of favouring those who name the school as first preference or discounting those who placed it as second or third preference).

Your child will be ranked according to the oversubscription criteria for all three school preferences. Where they are in the ranked list will depend on where they fall in the priority groups within the oversubscription.

The local authority must allocate a place at the highest preference that the child qualifies for ie is ranked high enough to be offered a place before the school reaches it's published admission number (PAN).


  • It may be the case that a child would rank high enough to qualify for a place at all 3 preference schools. In this case, the LA will offer a place at the school that is ranked highest on the common application form (preference 1) and the child will then be removed from the ranked list for preference 2 and 3 so that another child may be offered the place
  • It may be the case that a child does not rank high enough for their first preference school, but does for their 2nd and 3rd preference schools. In this case, a place would be offered at preference 2 (as the highest preference that the child qualifies for)
  • If a child can be offered a place at only one of their preference schools, they will be offed a place at that school regardless of the preference order on the common application form
  • If a child cannot be offered a place within the PAN of any of their preferred schools, the LA will offer a place at the nearest school with a place available ie the nearest school which has not reached their PAN and therefore has a places available at that time

If a child is offered a place at a school which wasn’t their first preference, they can go on to the waiting list of any of the schools which were a higher preference than the school offered. There is a right of appeal against the decision not to offer your child a place at the schools stated on your application, unless you have been allocated a higher preference.

Why is it important to state more than one preference?

By stating only one preference, it does not give your child any extra priority or guarantee that a place will be allocated at that school. Your child would still be ranked according to where they fell in the oversubscription criteria for that school. If it is not possible to offer a place at that school, your child will be allocated a place at the end of the process at the nearest school to your home address with places remaining at that point.

Why information is on a different website
We are in the process of adding information to this new unitary council website. Some pages will give you a link back to a previous council website to help you find what you need. Read more about the changes.
Last updated 06 October 2021