When you are moving home, you should find out as much about the local area as possible. One of the biggest dilemmas that parents face when buying a property is whether or not they should move into the catchment area of a good local school. But what exactly are catchment areas, and how could they affect your decision-making process when you buy a new home?
Getting Close to a Good School
Catchment areas – sometimes referred to as Admissions Priority Areas (APAs) – refer to physical areas surrounding state primary and secondary schools. Some independent schools also operate variations on this system, although it will vary considerably from school to school. Where a state school has such an area as part of its admissions criteria, the local authority should publish a list of roads that are included within the area. Some schools measure the catchment area using the actual distance from the applicant’s front door to the entrance to the school, meaning that the area will change from year to year.
State school admissions are determined by the local authorities, which for Wimbledon is Merton, and children living closer to the school of their choice will usually have a better chance of being accepted when they apply for a place. As a result, when a school is particularly popular, parents may decide to buy or rent a property inside the catchment area of the school to boost their child’s chances of getting a place there.
Higher Property Prices
Because schooling is such an important issue for parents, many are prepared to pay higher prices to secure properties close to a particular school. In some areas, this can push prices up by 20% more than properties only a few streets further away.
Many parents will pay more for a property in the catchment areas of the most popular schools because they want to ensure that their child is accepted into the school of their choice. Merton Local Authority will offer the child a place in another state school if they do not get into their first choice, but this may not be suitable for the parents. Another option may be private education, but the cost of this can greatly exceed any extra costs involved in buying a more expensive property.
Risks of Buying Property in Catchment Areas
Many people are willing to pay considerably more to secure a property near their preferred school. Distance is often not the only criteria applied in the admissions procedure however, and there are other factors to consider.
For example, children who live outside the catchment area but who have siblings attending the school may be given priority over children within the catchment area who do not have siblings attending the school.
It is also the case that schools are sometimes given a ‘bulge’ class when the local authority does not have sufficient places to meet the needs of the population in a given year. This will have further impact on the number of siblings in future years.
Ofsted reports, graded assessments and key members of staff will all have an impact on a school’s reputation. Changes in league table positions or a head-teacher leaving a school may mean that it becomes less popular and this will affect the number of people who apply, in turn affecting admissions.
An increase in popularity will also affect the school’s intake. If the school does extremely well then it may attract more families to the surrounding roads, meaning that those who moved close to the school in previous years now find themselves not close enough.
Schools admissions are not without controversy. Every year there are reports about the numbers of children who do not get their first choice of primary or secondary school, with some parents appealing the decisions. These reports and figures vary a great deal throughout the UK.
Find Out About Schools Near You
You have to decide whether you are willing to pay more for a property close to the school of choice, and whether you are willing to accept the risks involved. If you are determined to send your child to a particular school in Wimbledon or elsewhere, find out as many of the details as possible in advance regarding their admissions policy. It is also a good idea to visit the local authority website to find out more about details of past decisions regarding school admissions.