Advice on how to choose a school | Oxfordshire County Council

Advice on how to choose a school

How to find which school will be best for your child

There is a co-ordinated admissions process in Oxfordshire, which means that as an Oxfordshire resident, you can apply for a place for your child at any of Oxfordshire County Council's schools.

When you apply for a place for your child, it is recommended you list three schools in order of preference. Here are some points to consider when choosing schools.

Plan ahead

Although you can't make an application until the autumn term the year before your child is due to start, planning ahead can help make the process seem a bit less daunting and can help ensure that you make the right choice. Make an early start with your research.


Travel to school is an important consideration and you may wish to investigate the schools closest to you.

Alternatively contact and address details can be found using the Oxfordshire schools search.

Catchment area

Each school has a designated area, commonly known as a 'catchment area'. If there are more applications than places, priority is generally given to children living in the catchment area for a school. You may want to consider including your catchment school in your application for this reason.

To find out what your catchment school is, visit LocalView and enter your postcode. Alternatively, you can see a primary school catchment area map and a secondary school catchment area map for the whole county.

Admissions criteria

Catchment area is one of a number of ways that places at schools are decided. It is important to read the admissions criteria of schools that you are interested in, since certain types of schools have different criteria e.g. religious or faith schools could use the religion of your child or family as a deciding factor.

The admissions criteria will give you a realistic idea of your child's chances of getting a place. Visit the DirectGov admissions criteria page for more detailed information.

Policies and explanations

Performance and attainment

When choosing a school, you may wish to consider how it is performing. Oftsed reports can give you the thorough and impartial view you need, covering all aspects of the school, including academic performance.

Achievement and attainment tables from the Department for Children, Schools and Families give information on the achievements of pupils and compare them with other schools in the area and in England as a whole.

Visiting schools

Once you have decided on the schools that you are interested in, you can arrange to visit the school to have a look around, get a feel for it and find out a bit more. This will help you to decide if you and your child will be happy with your choice.

Before arranging a visit, consider the following:

  • ask the school for their school prospectus and read it
  • write a list of questions that you would like to ask
  • when would you like to visit? (it is best to visit during school hours)
  • will you be taking your child?
  • do you want someone to go with you?
  • is the school easy to get to? (think about transport arrangements)
  • will you be able to meet staff who would be involved with your child?
  • will you be able to talk to other parents of children at the school?

Questions to ask when you visit

The sorts of things you might like to ask when visiting a school:

  • how many children will be in your child’s class?
  • how does the school support children with special educational needs (SEN)?
  • if your child has a disability, does the school know anything about the disability and have they ever taught any other children with the same disability?
  • are all areas of the school accessible to your child?
  • how will your child be supported outside lesson time?
  • how does the school deal with difficult behaviour?
  • how is bullying dealt with?
  • how does the school help children mix and make friends?
  • how does the school communicate with parents?
  • when can you talk to your child’s teachers?
  • can you get a copy of the school’s policy on bullying, SEN and inclusion?
  • will your child be able to have extra visits to the school before transfer and what arrangements will be made to help them settle in?

After the visit

Questions to ask yourself or talk through with someone:

  • did you feel welcomed at the school?
  • do you think your child would be happy there?
  • will your child get the support they need?
  • did you find it easy to talk to the headteacher/form tutor/SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator)?
  • did the children around the school seem to have a good relationship with staff?
  • do you think the staff will be comfortable and confident in managing your child’s behaviour and directing learning?
  • do you think the staff will encourage your child to be as independent as possible?
  • would you feel able to talk to staff about any concerns or issues?
  • will the work be presented in a way your child would understand?
  • did the school show you what they do to help children with a variety of needs?

Transport to school

You might be eligible for free or concessionary transport from home to school if you meet certain criteria.

Applying for a place

All applications are made at the same time. You can't put your child's name down early on a waiting list for a better chance of getting a place at a particular school. Some schools have 'interest lists', where you can register your details in order to receive information from them, but this will not increase your chances of getting a place.

All parents must make an application – even if your child’s current primary or nursery school is linked to the school you want them to go to next, you won’t be considered for a place unless you apply.

Space Studio Banbury

Space Studio Banbury is included within the coordinated admission arrangements for Oxfordshire, for admission into Year 10 and Year 12 in September 2014.

For ongoing enquiries, parents may contact the Executive Principal, at Banbury Aspirations Campus, Ruskin Road, Banbury, OX16 9HY or email

Last reviewed
10 January 2017
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