Secondary and primary school applications and offers


1. Overview of applications and offers statistics

The release which this note accompanies provides information at national, regional and local authority level on the number of applications received for a school place in the appropriate year and the proportion of offers made which were for the applicants’ first, second etc. preferred school. In addition, school level data shows the number of preferences received by each school, by rank, and the number of offers made, also by rank, as well as a range of contextual data.

The figures come from the application and offer (preference) processes undertaken by the local authorities each year to enable them to send out offers of a school place on the respective national offer days of 1 March (or next working day when applicable) for secondary school offers and 16 April (or next working day) for primary school offers. Separate results are provided for applications and offers for secondary and primary school places. 

The headline figures are the number and proportion of children receiving their first preference or a preferred offer. However, more information such as the number of applications made, the number and proportion of children for whom a preferred offer was not received and whether the applicants were provided with offers within or outside their home local authority is also provided in the data.

2. The admissions process

Each local authority runs the coordinated admissions process for all state-funded schools in its area. It receives applications for all children resident in its area, including for those  who wish to apply to schools in another local authority. The authorities liaise with each other to ensure that all applications for schools outside the home local authority are received by, and included in, the coordination exercise of the local authority in which the school is based. However, the applications are in all cases reported within these tables by the local authority to whom the application is made (that is, the one in which the child is resident).

Parents submit their application on a single form returned to their home authority, listing their preferred schools in order of preference.

Local authorities must allow parents to express at least three preferences at each level (primary and secondary). In practice, different local authorities allow parents to express between three and six preferences. The number of preferences allowed by an authority can vary at primary and at secondary level.

Applications for each school are ranked against the school’s published priority and oversubscription criteria. Where a child could be offered a place at more than one of their preferred schools, they are offered the school listed as the highest preference.

The inclusion of a school by an applicant as one of their preferences does not mean that they meet the admissions criteria for that school. At secondary level this includes, but is not limited to, grammar schools.

Authorities must publish information on the admissions criteria of all the schools in their area, including data on volume of applications for the available places in previous years (that is, whether they received more or fewer applications than they had places available in those years).

Local authorities send parents a single offer of a school place on national offer day, which is the 1 March (or next working day) for secondary offers and 16 April (or next working day) for primary offers.

Parents are entitled to appeal to the relevant admission authority against a refusal to offer a place. These appeals are not reported in this publication. Figures for appeals lodged, heard and the appeal result are published each August on the department’s website.

3. Methodology

3.1 Collection and cleaning of the data

Secondary and primary data are gathered from local authorities at pupil level, with a record for each applicant for a school place. This data has been processed and aggregated by the department into the local authority level and school level figures provided in this publication.

The data collected is the position as at the respective national offer day. It includes all offers made on that day, regardless of whether they were subsequently accepted or refused.

Cleaning of the data prior to aggregation may cause slight differences between the figures contained in this publication and any released by the local authorities themselves closer to the respective national offer days.

In some cases an application is recorded by both the home authority (to whom the application was made) and also by the local authority within which the school where a place was offered is based. To be correct, only the home authority to whom the applicant sent their form should record the application and offer. Therefore the duplicate record submitted by the local authority in which the school is based is removed.

Applications listing preferences or offers to schools which could not be identified from the school census, Get Information About Schools, or via one of the additional ‘dummy’ school codes used to identify new schools or split entries (see below) are removed.

Other very small adjustments are made as required to the source data to ensure that we provide as full and accurate a picture of the application and offer process as possible (for example, removing the second example if two offers have been recorded for one applicant, causing double-counting).

3.2 School level data

As part of the processing of the local authority figures a further dataset is created at school level. This provides, for each school which takes part in the coordinated admissions process, the number of preferences received by rank (1st, 2nd, 3rd and any preference), and the number of offers made, also by rank.

It also includes figures on the number of requests from, and offers to, applicants from outside the home authority and some contextual information (such as whether the school is selective).

School totals cannot be added up to recreate the published local authority figures. All applicants submit their application to their home authority, but may express preferences and/or receive offers for schools located in different authorities.

Therefore at school level there is no denominator to create a preference rate. Instead we have provided proportions to give an idea of the level of requests for each school. There are two of these: the proportions of 1st preferences to 1st preference offers, and the proportion of 1st preferences to total offers. The latter is the most useful, as the former has a minimum level of 1 (all 1st preferences were made an offer) which about 40% of schools fall into.

The higher the proportion (1st prefs to total offers), the more applicants put that school as a top choice than offers were made (note this is not the same as the number of places available: SEN statemented offers will not be included and some schools might not offer up to their maximum number of places).

Note, an applicant may not receive an offer of their 1st preference school, even if the number of 1st preferences expressed is lower than the number of places available, if they don't meet the admissions criteria.

Information on the criteria under which offers were made is not available from the local authorities, and is therefore not available as part of this collection.

Further detail on the school level data:

  • Schools are identified by their LA and establishment codes. These are matched with additional school information as found in the the website Get Information about Schools (GIAS), collected on the date of the January school census in the collection year.
  • Some preferences are recorded with fake, or dummy, establishment numbers. Reasons for this include: a new school which hasn't yet been allocated a number; an aptitude place into a partially selective school; or the second site of a single school with two sites which can be applied for separately.
  • Studio Schools and University Technical Colleges are not included in the secondary return where their first intake is in year 10, but some have now moved to year 7 intake. 
  • In addition, two local authorities have City Technology Colleges (Thomas Telford, Telford & Wrekin and Emmanuel College, Gateshead) with intake in year 7. The admissions for these are processed separately but in some years the authorities have included the offers and directly related preferences in their return, in order to record the number of children offered places at these schools and so that the local authority is aware the application does not need an alternative offer.
  • FSM percentage eligible is as for the existing school population in the January census for that year. However, if a school converted after the previous spring census and has not had the FSM information transferred over then the information from the previous school at the point it closed is provided instead.
  • Schools recorded via dummy establishment codes are not directly identifiable within the GIAS dataset. Either the information has been gathered from the local authority, the school’s website or independent sources, or for linked schools (for example, a school with two sites which can be requested separately) information has been taken from the main school.
  • Middle schools with no specific admissions at year 7 have been amalgamated into one record for 'Middle Schools'. All-through schools have been retained where offers have been made or a significant number of preferences made. Note some all through schools make additional places available in year 7 whereas others can only make offers if the existing cohort has vacancies.
  • Applicants to English local authorities can request, and be made offers in, Welsh schools. The data for these Welsh schools is partial (since Welsh applicants are not included), so all such preferences and offers are amalgamated into one record for 'Welsh Schools'.
  • Non-statemented applicants can request, and be offered, suitable special schools. Some local authorities have chosen to include these preferences and offers and they have been amalgamated into one record for 'Special Schools'. Offers to statemented children should not, however, be included.
  • Some schools are based on two sites but have a single formal identity (establishment number, URN and GIAS entry). If the local authority has recorded applications and offers to each site separately, then that school will have two records in this dataset. 
  • Schools scheduled to open in the collection year but subsequently delayed are included if preferences were expressed and/or offers were made on national offer day in the expectation of the school opening. 
  • Schools which could be selected as a preference, but which were designated for closure after the application process closed, and therefore did not take in any new pupils, are included if they were a legitimate choice at the point the applications were submitted.
  • In their first year of opening, free schools can choose to operate outside the coordinated admissions process. If they decided to do so, they do not appear in this dataset. However, in some years local authorities with such schools have documented a number of additional offers. These are recorded in the Data Quality section below.
  • It is possible that those newly opened free schools which do take part in the coordinated admissions process, and therefore appear in this dataset, have also received and processed additional offers outside of the coordinated process.
  • Schools which have recently amalgamated with another school or converted to an academy have, wherever possible, been recorded under the establishment code and URN of the new school.
  • Some secondary schools have an aptitude intake where a certain percentage of places are offered to applicants on the basis of a test result. Where the aptitude places have been recorded separately by the school (because an applicant can apply to the school via both the aptitude test and the normal route), they are listed as such in the dataset. The school will therefore have two records. Not all schools offering aptitude places have recorded their preferences and offers in this way.
  • The same procedure has been followed where schools have recorded separately any applications for a boarding place at the school (if the school is not all boarding places and applicants can apply for both routes). Not all schools offering a boarding option have recorded preferences and offers in this way.
  • In some of the earlier years a small amount of additional processing was undertaken after the local authority figures were completed and the two datasets are therefore based on very slightly different pupil level data. The local authority figures are unaffected.

3.3 Notes on the data

The local authority receives, and reports on, applications for a school place from parents/guardians who are living within their local authority. This is called the home local authority.

No data is included for the Isles of Scilly, which has one school with a normal entry point of 3 which all children attend. 

The preference rates are calculated as a proportion of all applicants who expressed one or more preference. 

Where a preferred offer could not be made some local authorities, instead of making a non-preference offer, provide the applicants with a list of schools with availability to choose from. These will be listed as having received no offer.

Sometimes local authorities make an offer to a child for whom an application has not been received, but who they are aware will need a school place (for example, a secondary school offer where the child is already attending a local school in year 6). These are listed as non-applicant offers.

The percentages of offers made within and outside the home local authority are calculated as a proportion of the total number of offers made, both to applicants and to non-applicants.

3.4 Interpretation of the figures

The figures are based on the offers sent out by local authorities on the respective national offer days. 

The final numbers of pupils starting in specific schools is likely to be different due to late applicants, refusal of offers, subsequent offers made via a second offer round or via the schools’ waiting lists, or successful appeals. Revised figures incorporating any subsequent changes are not collected or published.

The inclusion of a school by an applicant as one of their preferences does not mean that they meet the admissions criteria for that school. Examples of where the applicant has little or no chance of being admitted on national offer day include naming a selective school having not passed the grammar entrance test, living a long way out of catchment for a popular community school and requesting a place for a boy at a girls’ school.

Some schools offer places via a lottery, where everyone who applies has an equal (subject to fair banding) chance of being considered, which may encourage applications.

If an authority is not able to make an offer of a preferred school, in most cases they offer a place at an alternative school. A few authorities, however, chose instead to send the applicant a list of schools with available places and invite them to state which of these schools they would prefer their child to attend. These incidences are recorded as the applicant receiving no offer.

The data includes the number and percentage of offers which are of schools a) within or b) outside the local authority to which the application was made. These are calculated as a proportion of all offers, including those made to non-applicants (see the metadata document).

The local authorities are asked not to provide data on school places offered to children with an Education, Health & Care Plan (EHCP) or statement of special educational needs (SEN), since the parents of these children were not required to apply for their school place. However, there are a number of applications where special schools were amongst the preferences stated and, in some cases, a special school has been offered. It is assumed these are offers to SEN children who do not have a statement or EHCP. These preferences and offers have been included in the final figures and calculations of preference rates.

At secondary level the application is for the main entry point into secondary school in that local authority. This is usually year 7 but as at 2022 Central Bedfordshire’s largest entry point is in year 9 and this is what they report on. For local authorities with more than one entry point, the intake with the largest number of places available is the one reported.

Places at schools such as UTCs and Studio Schools whose intake is in year 10 (at age 14), and other schools who do not offer places via the co-ordinated admissions process, are not included in these figures.

Some schools have two entry routes. At primary school this is generally a school with a single school code but with two sites, each of which can be applied for separately. At secondary level the two routes are usually either a school with day and boarding places, or a school with a number of places reserved for those passing aptitude tests (for example in music or languages). In these cases, if parents can apply for both routes (for example for both sites of a split-site primary school) then a ‘dummy’ school code is used to identify the second option for each affected school. This is so we can calculate the preference level of the offer made.

All mainstream state-funded schools, including academies, are included in the figures. However, new opener free schools can have a rapid set-up process and may not be ready in time to make their offers within the local authority co-ordinated exercise. Therefore, for their first year of operation only, free schools may make offers directly and those that do so will be excluded from these figures. In their second year of operation, they must make offers within the local authority co-ordination process.

3.5 Further information

This release is the latest in an annual series with releases from 2011 onwards available on Statistics: school applications .

However, information on primary level preferences is only included from 2014 onwards.

This is when DfE started collecting data on primary applications and offers, based on the newly introduced national primary offer day of 16 April (or next working day).

3.6 Data quality

The data has been collected and processed the same way each year, based on the data supplied by the local authorities. However, in some years there were specific factors affecting the results. These have been detailed below.

2022 collection

In 2022 the selection tests were brought forward to their usual timetable, therefore applicants received their results before the secondary application deadline.

In their first year of opening, free schools can choose to operate outside the coordinated admissions process. If they decided to do so, they do not appear in this dataset. However, in some years local authorities who have such schools have recorded a number of additional offers. In 2022 Houston School, Central Bedfordshire had three secondary preferences and two subsequent offers recorded by applicants from a neighbouring LA.

2021 collection

In 2020 the department strongly advised admission authorities to delay testing for the 2021 selective school intake to October/November 2020 to give children as much time back in education as possible. As a consequence parents had to name selective schools on the application form without knowing if their child would be eligible for that school. The number of preferences for these schools will therefore be exaggerated since not everyone who asked for the school will be eligible for consideration for a place at the school.

On 1st April 2021 the local authority of Northamptonshire was reorganised into two local authorities of 'North Northamptonshire' and 'West Northamptonshire'. All of the schools are recorded against the single local authority of Northamptonshire who ran the 2021/22 application and offer processes and made offers across the whole area.

In their first year of opening, free schools can choose to operate outside the coordinated admissions process. If they decided to do so, they do not appear in this dataset. However, in some years local authorities who have such schools have recorded a number of additional offers. In 2021 Cockburn Laurence Calvert Academy, Leeds (secondary) had a preference recorded by an applicant from a neighbouring LA.

2020 collection

The free schools of Westvale Park Primary School, Surrey (primary) and University Collegiate School, Bolton (secondary) opened in September 2020 but made their offers outside the coordinated admissions process. However, within this collection they recorded additional offers made by their local authority to applicants who could not be made a preference offer.

2019 collection

On 1st April 2019 the three local authorities of Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole were reorganised into two local authorities of 'Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole' and Dorset. All of the schools in their local authorities are recorded against the pre-1st April local authorities. It was these three authorities who ran the 2019/20 application and offer processes and made offers.

The free schools of Castle Mead Academy, Leicester and Eden Boys Leadership Academy, Bradford (both secondary) opened in September 2019 but made their offers outside the coordinated admissions process. However, within this collection they recorded additional offers made by their local authority to applicants to whom they were not able to make a preference offer.

2018 collection

The free schools of Leigh Academy, Blackheath (Greenwich) and Merstham Park, Redhill (both secondary) opened in September 2018 but made their offers outside the coordinated admissions process. However,  both had their offers recorded by their local authority, but not the separately expressed preferences.

2014 collection

In 2014 primary schools situated in City of Bristol LA may have a lower number of preferences recorded than they actually received. This is because the return from this LA omitted preferences below that offered. For example, if an applicant gave three preferences but was offered their 1st preference school, the second and third preferences were omitted from the return. If they were offered their third preference school then all preferences were recorded. This could also affect schools in neighbouring LAs named as preferences by applicants to Bristol (subject to the scenarios described above). The number of first preferences expressed, and the number of offers made (of any preference level) are not affected.

In 2014 three primary two-site schools recorded all the offers to the school's main code even if they were offered a place at the second site. For these schools all preferences have been recoded to the main site. They will therefore be recorded as receiving the higher of the two preferences.

The Royal Grammar School offers both daily and weekly boarding places at secondary level. In 2014 boarding related preferences and offers were combined to a single 'boarding place' dummy code.

4. Further data availability

Publications from 2011 to 2019 are available on the department’s statistics website area of However, information on primary level preferences is only available from 2014 onwards: this is when the department started collecting data on primary applications and offers, based on the newly introduced national primary offer day of 16 April (or next working day). 

Between 2011 and 2013 the local authorities submitted aggregated data as published: no further detail is available.

From 2020 onwards the application and offer data and accompanying release will be published annually, with timeseries data from 2014, on Explore Education Statistics (EES). 

5. Contacts

If you have a specific enquiry about school preference statistics and data:

School census statistics team


Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

020 7925 6789

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

0370 000 2288