Parents and carers with children entering primary, junior or secondary school for the first time next year are being advised by Swindon Borough Council that they now need to apply for school places for them.

This year, the Council was able to give 95 per cent of applicants their first preference of primary school and secondary school.

However, parents are being encouraged to put down a second and third choice when they apply for primary and junior school, in case their first choice is oversubscribed.

For this year only, in line with Department of Education guidelines, secondary school applicants will be able to choose four school preferences.

Following changes made to the timing of the 11+ grammar schools exam, which is now due to be taken after the national deadline for secondary school applications, the Council will be allowing secondary school applicants to choose four school preferences. This will give applicants the opportunity to choose both selective and non-selective schools.

Applicants who are applying for grammar schools are advised to use their fourth preference to apply for at least one secondary school that is the closest to them or, within their catchment area, to maximise their chance of being allocated one of their preferred schools.

Children born between 1 September 2009 and 31 August 2010 who are entering secondary school next year, will have until 31 October 2020 to submit their preferences.

Parents of children born between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2017 who are entering primary school, will have until 15 January 2021 to submit their school preferences.

Parents of children born between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014 are now able to apply for a junior place starting September 2021. Parents will need to apply for a transfer to junior school if their child currently attends infant school. The child will not automatically qualify for a place at a junior school, even if they attend the connected infant school. Preferences must be submitted by 15 January 2021.

These closing dates follow national guidelines.

The offer of a preferred school place depends upon the number of applications received and the number of places available. Priority for places will be determined by the individual school’s admission criteria.

Applications submitted after the deadline has passed will be considered as a low priority and the child concerned will be allocated a school place after all other applications have been considered. Late applicants are unlikely to be placed in their preferred school. To avoid this situation parents are urged to get their submissions in with plenty of time to spare.

Applications for secondary, primary and junior school spaces should be made online on the Council’s website which contains all of the information parents will need to make their application.

Those with children entering secondary school will be informed about the outcome of their application on 1 March 2021 and those with children entering primary or junior school will be told on 16 April 2021.

Councillor Russell Holland, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Commercialisation, Education and Skills, said: “It’s hugely important that parents and carers submit their applications for school places before the national deadlines so they have a much better chance of getting a school place.

“This year, in line with Department of Education guidelines, there has been some changes to the number of school preferences secondary school students can make. I’d like to encourage parents to use all the preferences available to them, as this maximises their child’s chances of being allocated one of their preferred schools.”