Catchment areas – will I get a place at my local school?

Here at findaschool we get lots of questions about catchment areas. Parents want to know how catchment areas work, are they guaranteed a place at their catchment school, and is it possible to get a place if they live outside the catchment area.

I live in a catchment area – am I guaranteed a place at that school?

No. Each year, schools must publish their admission number (PAN) stating how many places are available for entry for the following September. If there are less applicants that places then all children would automatically be eligible for a place. If applications exceed the PAN then each school has a predetermined set of criteria with a sequential priority order. Each application must be ranked against those criteria.

But surely I get priority over children living outside the catchment area?

Not always. Although living inside a catchment area usually gives you priority over children living outside this area, this is not always the case.

3 reasons you won’t get into your catchment school

Catchment areas – what are they?

Catchment areas can go under many different names depending on where you live across the UK. Priority areas, priority zones, priority admission areas, designated areas and normal areas are all simply regional names for catchment areas. Many schools that include religion as part of their selection process might give priority to people living in church parishes – again a catchment. Then there are schools that allow priority if the school is your nearest relevant school – fundamentally catchments.

Nearest schools explained

The name isn’t particularly important – catchment areas are all used to define a group of residents who receive some priority treatment if they apply to an oversubscribed school based upon where they live.

Do all schools have catchment areas?


Around half of all schools in England use catchment areas. In Scotland and Wales virtually all have catchment areas.

Check out findaschool to know if you’re likely to get into your local catchment area school.