School admissions rules: feeder schools and distance criteria

The statutory School Admissions Code sets out the rules surrounding admissions policies in state schools in England.

Admissions authorities differ depending on the type of school involved:

  • Local authorities are the admissions authorities for community and voluntary controlled schools
  • Governing bodies are the admissions authorities for foundation and voluntary aided schools
  • Academy Trusts are the admissions authorities for academies, including free schools.

Admission authorities must act in accordance with the Admissions Code. They must set out in their arrangements the criteria against which places will be allocated at the school when there are more applications than places, and the order in which the criteria will be applied.

There is no definitive or required list of oversubscription criteria that may be used. Some criteria, however, are very commonly used – for example, priority for children who already have siblings at the school.

The Admissions Code sets out parameters within which some of the common criteria may be used, including distance from the school, and feeder schools (emphasis in original):

Distance from the school or nodal points

1.13 Admission authorities must clearly set out how distance from home to the school and/or any nodal points used in the arrangements will be measured. This must include making clear how the ‘home’ address will be determined and the point(s) in the school or nodal points from which all distances will be measured. This should include provision for cases where parents have shared responsibility for a child following the breakdown of their relationship and the child lives for part of the week with each parent. The selection of a nodal point must be clearly explained and made on reasonable grounds. […]

Feeder Schools

1.15 Admission authorities may wish to name a primary or middle school as a feeder school. The selection of a feeder school or schools as an oversubscription criterion must be transparent and made on reasonable grounds.

Admission authorities decide which criteria would be most suitable to their school according to the local circumstances.

Further reading

School admissions code
Department for Education
11 March 2022

School catchment and transport eligibility maps
Northumberland County Council

School admissions in England
House of Commons Library
3 November 2023

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