Do catchment areas really matter?

Schools out for summer, yet many parents will be thinking about where their little darlings will be going to school in September. Looking through many school websites in the UK, the recurring message is that living in a catchment area does not guarantee a place at that school. This is repeatedly emphasised, and yet parents will go to extreme measures, even moving home, to get their child into their preferred school.

Whether this is the motive behind the move, or some more legitimate reason, it is beneficial if the estate agent can show suitable properties in the catchment area of choice, as it will still give the buyer an edge as an appeal can be raised. Most schools have a tie breaker where priority is still given to applicants living nearest.

Sheffield’s local authority website states “If no exceptional circumstances are present; admissions are prioritised by the straight line distance from the centre of the home to the centre of the school building.” Usually the measuring system is an integral part of the admission software, and uses Ordnance Survey maps and the Local Land Property Gazetteer so is accurate to 1 metre. Yes, you read that correctly, 1 meter can make a difference.

Each Local Authority has its own set of admissions policies. The school may already be oversubscribed with children from the attached infant school, those with an SEN, siblings at the school, or the children of staff members, all of whom have priority. The admissions criteria is set by the LEA and can change annually, so it is vital to use up to date information. Brent’s Authority website states: “New housing developments in Brent mean that catchment areas may change slightly.” So the flat your buyer was checking out last year might not get them the priority they think if a new block is raised closer to the school.”

When the downside is the upside

It gets crazier than this, the Kensington admissions appeal guide states that: “If applicants share the same address point … priority will be given to those who live closest to the ground floor and then by ascending flat number order. Routes will be measured to four decimal places.” So that basement flat might be worth more than the penthouse!

Horizon is continuously updated to ensure that the estate agent gives both client and buyer the most accurate information. The interactive reports that can be emailed through our app contain the most recent catchment information possible. Distances to nearby schools, the type of school and other contributing factors, such as transport links are all detailed.

Alternative Schools

From the buyers point of view sometimes being outside the catchment area of a popular local school has its advantages. Parents choosing a school based on their religious beliefs, a private school or specialised field can be shown properties further away. Foundation, voluntary aided and academy schools tend not to use catchment area as part of their admissions criteria. This means that the buyer can get more square meters for their round pound.

“As a Foundation School Governor of 7 years standing, I often saw parents suddenly discovering religion, attending the local church and even getting their children baptised in order to get priority admission to the church school”

We have looked at the school catchment areas through the eyes of parents buying a house, but those without children, young and old alike, benefit from the lower price distance brings. For the client it is always good to know the most current catchment areas as this will affect the sales price that they are likely achieve on their property and help the estate agent to clinch the deal.

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