Equal preferencing

When you make an application for your child's school place, you will be asked to state up to 3 schools you would like your child to attend (known as your preferences). You should state these in the order you prefer them.

​Admission authorities (the local authority or the school depending on the type of school) must not give priority to 'first preference first', meaning they can not only consider those that have placed the school as a first preference. School places must be allocated using a fair system called 'equal preferencing'.

Equal preferencing means that each of your 3 school preferences will be considered by the admission authority of that school. Each admission authority must consider all applications for places at the school regardless of where parents/carers have placed the school in their list of 3 preferences (so there is no possibility of favouring those who name the school as first preference or discounting those who placed it as second or third preference).

Your child will be ranked according to the oversubscription criteria for all three school preferences. Where they are in the ranked list will depend on where they fall in the priority groups within the oversubscription.

The local authority must allocate a place at the highest preference that the child qualifies for - ranked high enough to be offered a place before the school reaches its published admission number (PAN).


If a child:

  • would rank high enough to qualify for a place at all 3 preference schools, the LA will offer a place at the school that is ranked highest on the common application form (preference 1) and the child will then be removed from the ranked list for preference 2 and 3 so that another child may be offered the place
  • does not rank high enough for their first preference school, but does for their 2nd and 3rd preference schools, a place would be offered at preference 2 (as the highest preference that the child qualifies for)
  • can be offered a place at only one of their preference schools, they will be offered a place at that school regardless of the preference order on the common application form
  • cannot be offered a place within the PAN of any of their preferred schools, the LA will offer a place at the nearest school with a place available, meaning the nearest school which has not reached their PAN and therefore has a places available at that time

If a child is offered a place at a school which wasn’t their first preference, they can go on to the waiting list of any of the schools which were a higher preference than the school offered. There is a right of appeal against the decision not to offer your child a place at the schools stated on your application, unless you have been allocated a higher preference.

Why is it important to state more than one preference?

By stating only one preference, it does not give your child any extra priority or guarantee that a place will be allocated at that school. Your child would still be ranked according to where they fell in the oversubscription criteria for that school.

If it is not possible to offer a place at that school, your child will be allocated a place at the end of the process at the nearest school to your home address with places remaining at that point.

Last updated 02 August 2022