Tag Archives: catchment areas

Ealing catchment areas added to findaschool

Ealing primary school priority areas, i.e.  catchment areas,  have now been added to findaschool. Living inside a priority area does not guarantee you will get a place at that school, but you will receive priority over applicants who live outside this area – even if they have a sibling already at the school.

Catchment areas are shown in green on the map when you tap, click or scroll over a school icon. Click here to view all primary schools in Ealing. As explained in this article, these predefined and fixed catchment areas are different to the cut-off distance areas shown on the maps in blue or red.

The Ealing priority areas presented on findaschool are only approximate, but should be accurate unless you live close to the border. You can check a more precise version using the Ealing Property Enquirer tool (although they, too, add caveats about its accuracy).

Now that this catchment area data has been added, the ‘Reception Admissions Success’ information in the table underneath the map will give a more accurate assessment of whether you would have got a place at the school had you applied in the previous year (NB currently based on 2013 admissions data).

Leeds and Westminster ‘nearest school’ catchment areas

Both Leeds and Westminster give priority to parents applying to their ‘nearest’ community controlled primary school. For example, Westminster allocates places at oversubscribed schools in the following order:

  1. Looked after children;
  2. Children with exceptional medical, social, or other
    needs;
  3. Children with a sibling at the school;
  4. Children for whom it is the nearest community
    primary school;
  5. Children for whom it is not the nearest community
    primary school.

In effect, priority 4 creates a set of predefined areas within which residents get priority if they apply to the relevant school. That is, the ‘nearest school’ criterion effectively creates catchment areas (also sometimes known as designated areas, priority areas or zones – for further details see this post). We have now added these areas to findaschool where they are labelled as catchment areas. Search for schools in Leeds or Westminster, and when you mouse over or tap the relevant school icon, the nearest-school-catchment area will be shown in green.

While it is easy to work out the closest school for any given home address, it is much harder to calculate the boundaries of these nearest school areas. It turns out that this is a mathematical problem that was solved some time ago. The solution we have adopted uses Delauney triangulation to produce Voronoi diagrams, which we then interpret as areas on a map.

The validity of the resulting areas depends crucially on the schools included in the assessment. In the case of Westminster, they only consider community primary schools (i.e. those run by Westminster local authority).

For Leeds it is slightly less clear. They certainly exclude voluntary aided schools, which control their own admissions and are usually faith schools. However, there are a number of foundation schools and academies which also control their own admissions.  Some of these choose to use the same criteria as the local authority, and therefore should be included as a possible nearest school. Others are faith schools using faith based admission criteria. We have produced our Leeds nearest school catchment areas on the assumption that all primary schools are included unless they are faith schools.

As always, the caveat with the information on findaschool is that it is for rough guidance only, and you should always check things like catchment areas and home to school distances directly with the relevant local authority.

For more details about Leeds school admissions see the Leeds admissions website, or contact the admissions team on 0113 222 4414, or email education.annual.cycle@leeds.gov.uk.

For more details about Westminster school admissions see the Westminster admissions website, or contact the reception admissions team on 020 7745 6433, secondary admissions on 020 7641 1816, or email schooladmissions@westminster.gov.uk.

Barnet catchment areas added

Barnet predefined catchment areas, also known as priority admission areas or just defined areas, have now been added to the site. This is a new feature which makes findaschool significantly more helpful for parents applying for primary school places in Barnet. The catchment areas are shown in green on the map.

Please note that these are provided for guidance purposes only – the borders of the catchment areas are not precise, so if you appear to live close to the boundary, please check with Barnet directly.

The admissions criteria for Barnet community schools are as follows (for full details, please see the latest Barnet primary school brochure):

  1. Looked after children;
  2. Children with an exceptional special social or medical need;
  3. Siblings;
  4. Children living within the school’s catchment area;
  5. Children living outside the school’s catchment area.

If the school is oversubscribed within criteria 4, then Barnet prioritise admissions on the basis of home to school distance (measured in a straight line), and similarly for criteria 5. Therefore, Barnet distinguish between cut-off distances (i.e. the furthest home to school distance of a successful applicant) depending on whether the applicants home was within the catchment area or outside.

It is important to have both the cut-off distance data and the catchment areas to get an accurate picture of the successful admissions area, i.e. the hypothetical area you would have needed to live in to get a place at the school last year. This area represents your best guide as to the likelihood of success if you were to apply to the school in the future, and so is what you need to know if you are considering applying to the school this January, (or perhaps if you are trying to work out were to live in London / Barnet).

With all these different areas shown on the map it can get quite confusing. So, you may want to just look at the results table which lists all the schools. You can change the layout to show just the table using the button in the top right hand corner (NB – this only applies to the desktop version of the site). The table now has a column which estimates whether you are inside our outside the relevant areas, and gives a simple tick or cross to indicate whether you would have got in. Please note again that this is only an estimate, and may not be correct if you are near the boundary of with the catchment area or the cut-off distance area.

One other option to clean up the map is to turn off admission areas for all schools. The admission area and catchment will still be shown for the highlighted school (i.e the one selected by tapping, clicking or moving the mouse over its icon). To do this, click on the menu button at the top right hand corner of the screen, choose control options, and then you will see a toggle button to turn off the admission areas.

Understanding catchment areas and cut-off distances

This post explains all about school catchment areas: what they are, how they are used in the admissions process, and where you might be able to find maps of catchment areas.  Catchment areas are used to prioritise applications and help determine how school places are allocated when a school is oversubscribed. It is worth noting that you are free to apply to almost any state funded school that you choose, and if that school is not oversubscribed, they are obliged to offer you a place. Catchment areas, and admission criteria more generally, only become a relevant consideration when a school is oversubscribed.

There is a growing school age population in many places, and this increase in demand means that, unfortunately, more schools are oversubscribed. This makes it all the more important to understand catchment areas and admission criteria more generally.

What are catchment areas?

Catchment areas are predefined geographic areas associated with a school (or schools). They may also be referred to as priority areas or zones, priority admission areas, or designated areas or zones (and in the case of one local authority, the normal area). Despite the variety of names used to describe these areas, they all operate in the same way: if you live inside one of these areas then your application to the school(s) will receive priority over applications from people living outside the area.  The exact nature of this priority depends on the full set of admission criteria set by the local authority (or the school in the case of faith schools). Living inside the catchment area certainly does not constitute a guarantee of a place at the school.

Outside London, most local authorities use catchment areas. However,  across the 33 London boroughs only 4 have catchment areas for all schools (Barnet, Brent, Ealing, and Newham) and another 8 boroughs have at least one school which has a catchment area.

Regardless of your location, almost all local authorities use home to school distance as one of the factors to decide how to allocate school places. This leads to some confusion over what “catchment areas” are, and so we discuss this is the following section.

Catchment areas and cut-off distances

Community schools, i.e. those run by the local authority, often allocate places at oversubscribed schools according to some measure of the distance between your home and the school. Increasingly, local authorities publish the furthest distance of a successful applicant from the previous year’s applications – often referred to as the cut-off distance. This cut-off distance implies an area around the school which you would have needed to live in to get a place at the school. Understandably, many people refer to this as a catchment area. However, it is not a catchment area in the sense of a predefined priority admission area. To avoid confusion, we will refer to this other area as a cut-off distance area.

How catchment areas are used

The effect of a catchment area depends on how it is used in conjunction with the other admissions criteria. As noted, living within a school’s catchment area will usually mean that your application receives priority over people living outside the catchment area. However, this is not always the case. There are three common reasons why not:

  1. Sibling policies. In general, siblings of children already at a school will be given priority. In some local authorities the sibling priority only applies to families living within the catchment area. However, more often, the sibling policy applies regardless of where you live. Therefore, applicants with a sibling at the school don’t need to live within the catchment area.
  2. Faith based criteria. Many faith schools have nominal catchment areas, or prioritise applications from children living within a church parish boundaries. However, a higher priority is often given to more subjective measures such as parental commitment to the faith. As such it is difficult to judge the extent to which living with the relevant area will affect your application. It is likely to be more important that you attend church on a regular basis.
  3. Home to school distance. If there are more applicants from within a catchment area than available places (after allocating places to siblings), then local authorities will usually use home to school distance to prioritise these applications. As such, you might be within the catchment area, but still live too far away from the school to stand a good chance of getting in. See the following example of Wimbledon Chase Primary.
Wimbledon Chase priority area and cut-off distance area

Wimbledon Chase priority area and cut-off distance area. Map Data copyright Google 2013.

The green area is the catchment area (referred to as a priority area by Merton). However, the red circle shows the cut-off distance area (based on the 2012 intake), which lies almost entirely within the catchment area. In this specific example, the existence of the catchment area has no impact on the outcome of the admissions process – the successful applicants are were all determined on the basis of home to school distance.

Nearest school criteria

A special example of catchment areas is created when the local authority uses a nearest school criterion to allocate places. That is, they give priority to people applying to their closest school. A number of local authorities use this approach including Leeds, Westminster, Northamptonshire, and Bath and North East Somerset.

This rule effectively defines a set of non-overlapping areas in which residents receive priority if they apply to the local school, i.e. a catchment area. Working out these areas requires a bit of complicated maths, but it is something we have started to add to findaschool. See this post for more details.

Where to find catchment area information

It can be rather difficult to find catchment area maps online. Local authorities are slowly making this available in a variety of formats, but there are still examples where you will be told to go and look at a printed map in your local library or in the school. The best place to start is your local authority web site, and if you don’t have any luck there, get in touch with the admissions team.

Where we can find the relevant data, we will add catchment information to the findaschool mapping application. At present, this is very limited, but we hope to add more areas in due course.

New feature: find homes near your preferred school

You can now search for homes to buy or rent near the school(s) of your choice via findaschool.info. The property data is supplied by Zoopla.

This is very much a beta version. First, go to the property search page. You need to choose an area, and use the same controls as the main maps page to find schools and show their successful admission areas. Then, you can use the form on the left hand side to search for homes to buy or rent. Any homes found will be presented on the map alongside the primary schools. Scroll over a home icon to bring up an info panel about the property, or click on the icon to bruing up full details from zoopla in a new window.

One tip: you may want to close the results table at the bottom of the screen to get a bit more space. I will be working on improvements to this interface over the next few weeks – suggestions welcome!

Finally, a disclaimer: this service is intended only as an indicative guide. The location information for properties and the successful admission areas are approximate, and the addmission areas change a lot from year to year. So, a property may appear to be in the catchment area of a school, but that does not guarantee that you would be successful in getting into the school in future years if you lived at that address.  So, please don’t go and buy a house based on the information on this website! We cannot take any responsibility for how you use the information.