Deciding which secondary schools to apply for
When you apply for a secondary school place for your child you must tell us your 3 school preferences in order of priority. To make these preferences you will need to find out more about the schools. See Apply for a secondary school place for admission arrangements and the application process.
Find schools in your area
Find a school local to you. Many parents like to send their children to the local secondary school. There are many advantages in sending your child to your local school. Your child will go there with friends from the area where you live, and it will be easier to travel to and from school.
If you live in a rural area or village, your local school may have a linked area. This may give you some priority if that school is oversubscribed. Use the schools directory to see if a school is linked to your local village or town.
Do not assume that you do not need to apply for your designated, local or linked school - you must include it as a preference if you want a place there.
Find out about schools you're interested in
Take the following steps to find out about schools:
View school type, details, reports and oversubscription admission criteria
Find a school to view the details for each secondary school, including information such as their Ofsted and performance reports.
Putting a school as first preference does not guarantee that you will get a place at that school. It is important for you to understand where your child will fall in the oversubscription criteria for each of your preferred schools. You will find oversubscription criteria, along with other information, for every school in our ‘Applying for a Secondary school place in West Northants 2024-25’ composite prospectus.
Check whether you need to complete a supplementary information form
Some schools in Northamptonshire require you to complete a supplementary information form which goes directly to the school, in addition to the preference form to the council.
Pick up a school prospectus
Many schools have a prospectus or booklet. These are available to view on the school's website, or ask the school for a copy.
Visit the school
All secondary schools hold open evenings or days for parents. These give you a good opportunity to ask questions. You can find details and the dates and times of open evenings on the schools' individual websites.
Understand the different types of school
There are several different types of secondary schools in West Northamptonshire. Whichever school you are interested in, the application and offer process is the same (except UTCs). The oversubscription admission criteria and allocation of places are managed differently:
West Northamptonshire Council is responsible for the oversubscription admission criteria and the allocation of places.
Voluntary aided schools and foundation (trust) schools
School governors are responsible for setting the oversubscription admission criteria and the allocation of places.
Academies, free schools and University Technical Colleges (UTCs)
The Academy Trust is responsible for setting the oversubscription admission criteria and the allocation of places. Please note that UTCs are for students aged 14 to 19 years of age, therefore children would transfer to these schools at the start of Year 10.
West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) is responsible for coordinating the application process so you must return your preference form to WNC whichever type of school you are applying for (except UTCs).
Find out if your child qualifies for free school transport
Consider how you will get your child to and from school each day for each of the schools you intend to name as a preference. If you will need a car to transport your child each day, this is a long term commitment.
Understand how school places are allocated
When you apply for a school place you are asked to list 3 schools in order of preference.
Every school has a number of places available for applicants – this is the called the published admission number (PAN) for the school.
If fewer than this number of children apply for a place at the school, all of the children will be given a place.
If more than this number of children apply then the ‘oversubscription criteria’ is used to decide which children must be offered a place.
Every school has an oversubscription criteria. It explains the order in which their places will be allocated if the school is oversubscribed.
Every child applying is placed within the highest priority group (criterion) that applies to them. Depending on the type of school, priority will be given to different groups, for example, those with siblings already at the school or those living in the linked area.
In many cases when the published admission number (PAN) is reached within one of the criteria groups, a tiebreaker based on either distance or random allocation is used to decide between the children within that criterion. All distance measurements are done on a straight line basis unless the school states otherwise.
It is important that you understand the oversubscription criteria for the schools you wish to apply for, and the likeliness of your child being allocated a place.
You will find oversubscription criteria, along with other information, for every school in our 'Applying for a Secondary school place in West Northamptonshire 2024-25' composite prospectus.
School places are allocated using a system called 'Equal preferencing'. Equal preferencing ensures that your child is considered for a place at each of your three preferred schools, regardless of whether the school is placed first, second or third on the application. Essentially each of your preferences is treated as if it was a separate application. We will then allocate a place at the highest preference school where a place can be offered.
How to apply for a secondary school place
Last updated 31 August 2023