It may be challenging finding and securing a place at the right school for your child(ren), particularly if your preferred school is oversubscribed. The RAF Families Federation works closely with the MOD’s Armed Forces Families and Safeguarding (AFFS), Defence Children Services (DCS) and other stakeholders to try and improve the admissions experience of Armed Forces families and ensure they are treated fairly.

School admissions timelines and processes vary in different areas of the UK. Education is a devolved matter, meaning overall policy and regulations are set by the Devolved Administrations. Some processes are centrally administered and others local to the area within which you live.

The UK Government website has information and guidance on school admissions with links to support those who have applied for school places in each of the four countries. Local authority websites also provide information on schools admissions in the local area. Some local authorities may offer additional guidance to support for Armed Forces families which you may find helpful.

School admissions for Service children

The following clip provides information about school admissions for Service children in England.

Video: Produced by Hampshire County Council on behalf of Forces Connect South East.

When to apply?

Applications for admissions in England

Applications for admissions into Reception year and year 7 are governed by a national statutory timetable.

Main admissions rounds Application deadline Offer dates
Applying for a primary school place 15th January 16th April*
Applying for secondary school place 31st October 1 March*

* If either date falls on a weekend or a bank holiday, offers are sent the next working day.

Parents who are posted after the statutory deadlines may have to make a ‘late application’. Admission authorities cannot refuse applications because they are late and cannot give priority based on the date applications were received. However, in practice many school places will already be 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 1.41 of the School Admissions Code (England) children eligible for the service 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.

In-year admissions

RAF families may relocate every 2-3 years and need to apply for school places outside the normal school admissions timetable. These applications are sometimes referred to as ‘in-year admissions’ and the application process can vary in different areas.

Visit the local authority website for information on the in-year admissions arrangements in your area. If you have questions or need support relating to school admissions, contact the Education Advisory Team (EAT) via email at: [email protected].