So you want to move house to get the right school?
You’re not alone. Nearly 40 percent of parents would move for the schools, according to a recent survey for ING Bank. But selling up is an expensive business – costing £16,500 on average – so there’s no room for error. Get it wrong, and you’re looking at a very stressful and expensive mistake. Here are a few tips to help you get it right, first time.
New: ‘Let’s move to... St Albans’
We’re teaming up with local property experts to tell you all you need to know about schools, properties and everything else in Hertfordshire’s favourite towns. And we’ve started in St Albans. C’mon, get your coat, let’s go look...
Relocating for schools - the basics:
- Don’t know where to start looking? Read our advice on where to move to in Hertfordshire.
- If schools are your top priority, as they are for many parents, don’t lose sight of that when you visit properties with features that you fall in love with. Yes, you might have always wanted a walk-in pantry, but will you get into the school you’ve set your heart on?
- When looking at properties, it’s important to know which is your closest school, as this could have a great impact on the schools youçre likely to get into. Ask Hertfordshire County Council to confirm the names of your closest schools (in order) before making a financial commitment.
- No matter how close the school is, don’t assume you'll get a place without checking the facts first. If it’s a school in Hertfordshire, use our handy Admission Calculator to see whether you’d have got a place last year... and the year before that. If the answer's no, don’t think: this could be our lucky year, then. Wise up and look for other schools in the area that you’re likely to get into... or find another house.
- If you don’t live in Hertfordshire, let us know, and we’ll try and cover your area as soon as possible.
- If you fancy your chances, talk to the school before splashing any cash. Make sure they’re not planning to change the rules, or slash the published admission number, or do anything else that could act against you. Also check that there isn’t a big housing development springing up next to the school that could make it even harder to get in.
- Ever thought about renting? There’s nothing illegal about renting to get into the school you want... but you do have to actually live in the property and intend to stay there. You’ll need a 12 month minimum rental agreement - and ideally you should be living in the house with your child by the deadline for applications (you may be given a slight extension, by a week or so, but don't rely on this). We asked Herts CC about what's permitted, and what's not, and the response was as follows: "The address you use on your application form should be your child's current permanent address. 'Permanent' means lasting for a long time, or not expected to change. If you were to rent a property, but maintain your current residence with the intention of moving back to it, then the rented property would clearly not be a 'permanent' address. If we believe an applicant has given incorrect information on their application we will investigate accordingly. All such cases are looked at on an individual basis but, where we believe a school place has been obtained fraudulently, we may withdraw the offer and allocate the child a place at another school, which could be some distance from their home". Some headteachers are also turning detective to ensure that the rules are followed. NB - a couple of Watford secondary schools have introduced a new rule stipulating that if you own a house, and rent a house, then the house you own will be used as your address unless exceptional circumstances apply... always check the small print in the rules (visit the schools' websites).
- Most people assume if they get one kid in, they’ll get them all in. Uh-uh. Although this is nearly always the case, at least in Hertfordshire, there have been exceptions. We know of parents who have got their oldest children into Catholic schools, despite not being Catholic. Oh goody, they thought, that's the end of it. However, not all faith schools prioritise siblings in their rules, so younger brothers and sisters can find themselves out in the cold. Lesson to learn if you're not a church-goer: always check the rules, and see where siblings are ranked. If you're worried, check with SchoolGuru and talk to the head, before applying.
- Make sure you’ve moved by the application deadline, or are about to exchange contracts or can produce a 12-month minimum rental agreement (it used to be 6 months - not any more). If you’re classed as a late application, forget it. You’ll be left with the scraps. See your Moving On or Under 11s booklets for more information. You can download booklets from Hertfordshire County Council's website.
If you want to know the schools that everyone wants, check out the Herts Hot List for the top 10 most popular primary and secondary schools.
Quick question: I want Sandringham or Beaumont! Where should we move to?
Read our advice in the Q&A section or ask your own question about moving house for schools.
That's all for now. Good luck with the move – and don't forget to invite us to the house-warming.