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.

Find schools in your area

Use our schools directory to find the schools 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:

  1. View school type, details, reports and oversubscription admission criteria

    The schools directory also includes details for each secondary school, Ofsted and performance reports and admissions oversubscription criteria.

  2. 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 county council.      
  3. 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.
  4. 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 - there are links to these in the schools directory.      
  5. Understand the different types of school

    There are several different type of secondary schools in 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:

    Community schools 

    The county 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 UTC’s are for students aged 14 to 19 years of age, therefore children would transfer to these schools at the start of Year 10.

    Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) is responsible for coordinating the application process so you must return your preference form to NCC whichever type of school you are applying for (except UTCs).

  6. 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. You may want to check whether your child would be eligible for free school transport to their nearest available school: 

Understand how school places are allocated

When you apply for a school place you are asked to list three 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.

Oversubscription criteria

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. Schools' oversubscription criteria can be found on the schools directory, or within the 'Applying for a Secondary School Place' booklet which you can download on the right. The booklet will also tell you which schools were oversubscribed last year.

Equal preferencing

School places must be allocated on a system called 'Equal preferencing'. This means that where you place each school on your preference form (1st, 2nd or 3rd) is not relevant, and your child will be considered for each preference against that school's oversubscription criteria. 

Read a more detailed explanation on equal preferencing.

How to apply for a secondary school place

How to apply