Catchment Area

Not all schools have catchment areas, and not all LEAs have a catchment area system. It depends on their admissions’ procedure. If a catchment area system is in place, this is potentially very expensive for parents, who will often move house to be in the catchment area of a popular school. It is rare that the catchment area for a popular school is composed of a cheap housing. The rules of supply and demand dictate that the more popular the school, the more expensive housing is in the catchment area. Often, the more oversubscribed the school is, the smaller the catchment area. If a school is less popular, it needs to spread its net further a field to fill its places.catchment area

  • Schools that serve a local estate might not be right for your child, if you do not live on that estate.
  • If you do live on an estate served by a local school,you might want to look further a field in order to find a greater breadth of social experiences for your child.
  • Schools with a small catchment area often do not take in a diversity of children or parents.
  • Schools which are oversubscribed, and as a consequence have a limited catchment area, might not necessarily be better than schools with a broader catchment area. Oversubscription is sometimes reliant on anecdotal information and inaccurate reputations.
  • School is the place where your child is most likely to develop their social life. If you want your child’s school social life to be accessible to them out of school hours, it is worth ensuring that you live in an area close to other students who attend the school. Also be sure that the  journey to school does not prohibit your child from taking part in after school extra-curricular activities.
  • It is important to investigate catchment areas. Do not take an estate agent’s word for it. Your LEA pupil admissions section should give you information about catchment arrangements and admission processes. They vary between local authorities. Many schools might not necessarily be taking from their closest environs, especially if the LEA prioritises students with siblings at the school over students who live in close proximity.

Further Information


If there are catchment areas, once you have found out where they are, drive round those which belong to schools you are interested in. This will help you get a feel of the social mix of the school’s intake.


All LEAs will have an admissions’ pack which details their admissions’ policy, and any information on catchment areas, and over and under-subscription. The LEA will tell you which schools have their own admissions’ procedures, these might be, for example, academies and faith schools.

Case Study


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