School admissions code?

What is the School Admissions Code?

The Department for Education's School Admissions Code(i) applies to all state funded schools (although special rules apply to some schools – see below).

The code allows schools to set their own admission criteria. This usually includes things like how close the child lives to the school, or whether they have siblings already attending the school. Some schools also prioritise children with special medical or social needs. However, with the exception of grammar schools, they are not allowed to select only those with high academic ability - if they decide that academic ability is a criterion, they must admit pupils from a range of different academic abilities. This process is known as 'banding'.

However, schools which have one or more specialisms can select up to ten per cent of their total admissions intake according to 'aptitude': the total cannot be more than ten per cent, even if the school has more than one specialism. The specialist subjects on which a school may select by aptitude are:

  • physical education or sport, or one or more sports;
  • the performing arts, or any one or more of those arts;
  • the visual arts, or any one or more of those arts;
  • any modern foreign language or languages; and
  • design and technology and information technology (but only in schools which have selected continuously on either of these subjects since 2007/08).

The code also says that if a child is in the care system or has been looked after and is now under a residence order, child arrangements order (saying who the child should live with) special guardianship order or adoption order, for example in favour of a relative or friend caring for them, they should be given priority on school admissions if the school is oversubscribed unless the application is for a grammar school place. So, if you are raising a child who is looked after by Children's Services, or was before you got a Residence Order, Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order, you need to mention this to the school when you are applying for a school place for him/her.

The code is updated regularly.


Further information about early years education for children with SEN

School admissions code


(i) DfE School Admissions Code

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