Welcome to the new findaschool blog. Over the coming weeks and months, the team will be writing short posts to tell you all about the findaschool service, to provide advice on school admissions in the UK, and to offer some insights from the admissions data we have collected over the past few years.
findaschool by 192.com launched in November 2015. It’s a free guide to schools in the UK, designed to help families make informed decisions about their child’s education, and with a particular focus on information about admissions.
The original version of findaschool, which began life in 2011, was borne of frustration in trying to understand my chances of getting a place at various primary schools in London. My wife and I had a young son and were planning to move house, and realised very quickly that we would need to factor in local schools. However, I hadn’t expected it to end up dominating proceedings.
I don’t have a faith and have no inclination to pretend otherwise, and even if I could afford private education, I would prefer my children to go to state schools – at least for their primary education. So, we were effectively limited to community schools. When these schools are oversubscribed (and in London two-thirds of primary schools were oversubscribed in 2015), admissions are usually determined by where you live in relation to the school: live too far from the school and your chances of getting a place fall dramatically.
Most (although not all) local authorities now publish cut-off distances to explain how places were allocated last year. This is helpful, but leaves parents with rather a lot of work to interpret the data to judge their chances of getting a place at the school of their choice.
findaschool fills this gap by plotting Successful Admission Areas. These are the areas that you would have needed to live in to get a place at the school last year. These areas take account of the diverse array of admission criteria used by schools across the UK – from those measuring distance on the basis of walking routes, to schools with pre-defined catchment areas, to those giving priority if you apply to your nearest school, and more.
The original version of the site only included schools in London, but the plan was always to expand the coverage. However, when I started findaschool I hadn’t appreciated the scale and complexity of the task of collecting and processing data for the 25,000 or so schools in the UK. In 2014, 192.com bought findaschool and we have now undertaken this painstaking task. It has required well over 1,000 Freedom of Information requests, and dealing with data in different formats from more than 200 local authorities, and lots of individual schools.
As a result of this effort, findaschool now provides an invaluable service for parents researching schools – especially those looking to move house – providing admissions information for at least 95% of all state schools in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It will tell you whether a school was oversubscribed, plot Successful Admission Areas where these are relevant, and give you a summary of the admission criteria used by the school. In addition, we provide details of school inspections (including the inspection result of the school under its previous incarnation if it has recently converted to become an academy); exam results; class sizes; and various statistics about the make-up of pupils at the school.
The site continues to develop with lots of new features planned for the coming months. For example, you will soon be able to see the full history of admissions data that we have collected – going back to 2010 for some schools in London. In addition, we are now starting to explore and analyse the data in more depth to find things like the areas which give you the best (and worst) choice of schools – watch this space for more on this topic.
We are always looking to improve the service, and would love to have your feedback on the site. If you have any comments or suggestions, then please either email firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a tweet to @findaschoolinfo.