Finding a school

Finding the right school for a child in kinship care is an important decision for your family. This guide steps you through the main considerations.

Starting school: when and how

All children in England should attend primary school from the September after their fourth birthday, until they are 11 years old. Your local council has a list of state primary schools in your local area and their admission criteria. Normally you apply for a child’s school place in the autumn during the year before they are due to start school via your local council.

Children start secondary school aged 11. Apply to your local council for a secondary school place for the child you care for. Admission criteria depend on the school. The distance you live from your school of choice and if the child has a sibling who attends already are two of the most important factors.

If you are looking at private schools, approach schools directly. You can also choose to home-educate your child.


Which school should I choose?

Finding the right school for a child in kinship care depends on what your child’s needs are, and where you live. You can get a list of schools in your area from your local council. Once you have a shortlist of possible schools, start your research.

If the child you care for is looked after by children’s services, has been adopted from care and or has left care under a Special Guardianship Order, Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order, they will be given priority in schools’ admissions criteria. Be sure to mention this in your school application if this applies to your child.

Tips for researching schools

  • Visit the school website
  • Attend an open day at the school
  • Arrange to visit the school in person
  • Ask to meet the school’s designated teacher for looked after and previously looked after children, so you can understand how the school meets the needs of this group of young people
  • Talk to the virtual head in your area (virtual heads are local leaders responsible for overseeing the education of looked-after and previously looked-after children)
  • Talk to friends and other carers
  • Read the school’s Ofsted report (Ofsted)

Apply for a primary school place

Apply for a primary school place (GOV.UK)

Apply for a secondary school place

Apply for a secondary school place (GOV.UK)

Children with special educational needs or disabilities

Some children in kinship care have disabilities or special educational needs (SEN) that means they need extra support with getting to school, schoolwork, communication or behaviour. Schools have a duty to adapt the curriculum to suit children’s educational needs. You should talk to the schools you are considering about the needs of your child. All schools have a Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) whose job it is to ensure that children’s needs are met by the school.

If your child has more complex needs and you live in England, they may be eligible for an education, health and care (EHC) plan. In Wales, the equivalent is known as an Individual Development Plan (Snap Cymru).

Support for children with SEN or disabilities

Find out more about support for children with SEN or disabilities