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How do school catchment areas work? Everything you need to know

How do school catchment areas work? Everything you need to know

What’s top of your wish list for your next property?

A heart of the home-style kitchen diner?

A large garden?

Great transport links for work?

Or maybe a superb school for the little ones?


If it’s the latter, it can pay to know how school catchments work before you start searching for your next property purchase or rental home. 


School catchments can be complicated (and sometimes don’t always make sense) so knowing your stuff can pay dividends, especially if you are selling and moving to a new area.


Let’s take a look at some school catchment area rules and look at how they work…


School catchment areas: Rules

Catchment areas are based on your child’s permanent residential address and a catchment area is usually a certain area by distance around a certain school.

Of course, catchment areas aren’t the only factor affecting whether your child can attend a certain school.


Other factors include:

  • Whether they already have siblings at the school
  • Whether or not they attended an official feeder school
  • The child’s religion (in the case of faith schools)
  • The child’s academic ability (in the case of grammar schools)
  • Any social or educational needs the child may have


Regardless of whether or not you are in catchment for a particular school, you will have to apply to secure your child a place.

But there are never any guarantees of places. Even if you are in catchment, if a school is over-subscribed, you may be offered one of your other choices rather than your first choice.


How to find your catchment area

Researching schools can be a time-consuming process, but it’s well worth it before you spend big on your next property. 

After all, there’s a strong chance you’ll have to pay a premium to live in catchment for a highly-rated school. 

Indeed, research by bank Santander in 2018 revealed that parents were willing to pay a huge £26,860 extra for a property if it was in catchment for a great school. 

Moreover, the research also showed that being in catchment for one of the UK’s top 100 state schools, could add 42% to the price of the property you’re trying to buy. 

Those are huge numbers. 

But school catchments do change, so it’s hugely important you have the latest information before paying a premium for a property you think is in a certain catchment but you later discover isn’t any longer. 

Most parents start their research online, but this is not without its issues. 

With many schools becoming free schools or academies, website information on catchments isn’t always up-to-date. 

So, you should always contact schools you are interested in directly and establish if the road you are looking to move to is in their catchment area. 

Some websites, such as Admissions Day, offer details on schools for free, such as Ofsted ratings, but features such as catchment area searches come with a fee. 

If you do want to start your research online, try the local authority’s website. 

But always contact each school to double check the information you glean from websites.


What can I do to ensure I’m in catchment?

As you might have guessed, competition for properties in certain catchment areas can be fierce.

So, to give yourself the best chance of securing a place at your child’s dream school, make sure you put yourself in the best possible position to complete your sale quickly and efficiently.

Make sure, also, that you’ve completed your research into your new area and made contact with local estate agents so they know you’re actively looking to buy or rent.

That could give you a head start on the competition and help ensure you get the right property for you and your child’s education.