Mainstream and 16-19 admissions

You should start to develop your plans for admissions during the application phase.

When marketing your school parents are likely to want to know what the admissions policy for your school will be, particularly your oversubscription criteria.

All mainstream free schools must abide by the School Admissions Code (SAC). The key decisions you will make around your school's admissions are likely to relate to the oversubscription criteria, which set out how you would prioritise admission to your school if it was oversubscribed. The SAC outlines commonly used oversubscription criteria that you may wish to use in your admissions arrangements. These could include prioritising pupils by proximity to the school, use of catchment areas, a lottery system or fair banding. Free schools and academies are also able to prioritise pupils eligible for the pupil premium as part of their oversubscription criteria.

16-19 admissions

Stand-alone 16-19 free schools do not have to abide by the School Admissions Code, but their admissions arrangements must be transparent, fair and objective. These criteria can be selective and can admit pupils on the basis of GCSE grades or other criteria, such as interviews. You may find it helpful to look at the DfE admissions template for 16-19 free schools. 

This applies only to stand-alone 16-19 free schools: school sixth forms must comply with the School Admissions Code, although they can select pupils at Y12.

Faith free schools

Free school groups proposing a school with a religious designation can admit up to 50% of their pupils based on faith if they are oversubscribed. Faith free school applicants should be aware that:

  • You can only admit up to 50% of your pupils on the basis of faith if you are oversubscribed. If you are not oversubscribed you must offer a place to all applicants
  • The DfE will want to know how the religious designation of the school will be manifested and you must also clearly describe how your school will be inclusive to all pupils regardless of faith (Section D4 of the application). For this reason, we recommend you explain the broad details of your admissions policy as part of this section. There is more information on this in our guidance for faith free schools.

Other useful resources: