Guide to moving up to secondary school

Last updated: 7 August 2023

Getting the order of your preferences right

You cannot choose a school for your child, but you can tell us which schools you would prefer: these are your ‘preferences’. If you live in Buckinghamshire, you may include up to 6 preferences in your application.

It is very important that you list your preferred schools in the order you want them: your most preferred school should be number 1, followed by your next best option as number 2 and so on. We won’t tell any school where you ranked them in your application before offers are made.

We use an ‘Equal Preference Scheme’ to decide which school your child should be offered. In effect, this means we treat each of your preferred schools like a separate application. The order that you give to your preferred schools (1 to 6) does not affect your child’s chance of getting a place, instead we use each school’s admission rules to work out your child’s priority for each school separately.

Each child may only have one school offer at a time. If a place is available for your child at more than 1 of the schools in your application, we then look at your preference order to work out which school you would prefer of the options available. We will always offer the highest preference school possible.

Make sure you enter your school preferences carefully as some schools have similar names. We will not question the schools you include, so make sure you check the information is correct before you submit your child’s application.

Catchment schools

You can use our Find my child a school place service to find out your catchment school(s).

You do not have to include your catchment school, but it is sensible to do so if you would prefer a local school. Children have a greater chance (though not a guarantee) of being offered a place at their catchment school.

We will not automatically consider your child for their catchment school if it is not included in your application.

Grammar schools

If you would prefer your child to go to a grammar school, make sure you include your preferred grammar school(s) in your child’s application: even if your child has not qualified, or you do not yet know their test results.

If your child does not qualify but you still want to pursue the option of attending a grammar school, you need to include your preferred grammar school(s) in your application. You may request a Selection Review or, after National Offer Day, you may make an admission appeal for the grammar school(s) in your application.

Make sure your preferred schools are in the correct order – your most preferred school (whether that is a grammar school, or an upper/all-ability school) should be number one, followed by your next best school, and so on.

If your preferred school is a grammar school and your child does not qualify (either in the test or through Selection Review), we will ignore any grammar schools in your child’s application and look at any upper schools you include instead.

If you do not know your child’s result at the time you submit your application, it is sensible to include an upper/all-ability school in case your child does not qualify for a grammar school.

If, on National Offer Day (1 March), your child has not qualified for grammar school, but you have included grammar schools in your application, your email will show that any grammar school places have not been offered. This ‘refusal’ allows you to then to lodge an admission appeal if you wish. You may only appeal for a school that was included in your application.