A 10-Point Plan to Choosing a Primary School in London

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By Ben Gilbert

If you’ve got a kid turning four, chances are you’re stressing over which primary school to send them to.

It’s a confusing, complex process, so we’ve put together our tried and tested guide to help you through:


The first thing to know is that children are legally required to begin primary education during the school year they turn five. Schooling options in England are as follows

  • State (primary) school
  • Private school
  • Home education


There are five types of state school available:

  • Community
  • Foundation
  • Voluntary aided
  • Voluntary controlled
  • Community special and Foundation special


  • Visit Directgov to find a list of primary schools in London
  • Visit City of London to find out more about the admission process in the capital
  • Get a free local education authority prospectus booklet, which is generally available at the local library


Primary schools are broken into the following classes and ages:

  • Nursery: Three to four
  • Reception: Four to five
  • Year 1: Five to six
  • Year 2: Six to seven
  • Year 3: Seven to eight
  • Year 4: Eight to nine
  • Year 5: Nine to ten
  • Year 6: Ten to 11


Before selecting a suitable school, make sure you research the local options in full and consider a wide range of factors, far beyond the simple location and feel of a specific educational establishment. Click here to find out more about the information listed below:

  • Exam and test results
  • Ofsted reports
  • Financial information


Any potential school should be visited at one of the multiple open days available to parents in advance of the application process beginning. Important things to consider when viewing a potential school include the building and facilities inside and out, the staff you meet, particularly the head teacher, the activities being undertaken by the children and the surrounding, external area, including transport links.

The BBC has put together a brilliant guide on looking beyond the obvious on school open days.


When applying for a primary school, a range of criteria is likely to play a part in the final decision. These are different for each school and generally focus (in no particular order) on prioritising children who:

  • Have a brother or sister already at the school
  • Live close to the school
  • Are from a particular religion
  • Do well in an entrance exam
  • Went to a particular primary school
  • Are in care or being looked after
  • Have a disability likely to impact their ability to travel


Applications for a primary school open on different days, depending on the local council area. This is generally at the start of the autumn term of the year before the child is due to start school. Applications must be submitted by January 15. To apply, complete the application form provided by your local authority either online or on paper, stipulating the schools you’re applying for in order of preference. It’s worth noting you must apply for at least three schools.


Expect to be informed by the local council on April 16 or the next working day, if this falls on a weekend. It’s possible to appeal against a decision, although you must appeal against each rejection separately. More information on this can be found in the letter you receive.


When learning more about potential schools, the following resources are great for getting advice and learning the nitty-gritty:

What tips do you have when it comes to choosing a primary school in London?