Starting Primary School in 2016: top London state school catchment areas

stmaryabbotsAre you applying for primary school places to start Reception in September 2016? At many oversubscribed London state primary schools, catchment areas have been shrinking in recent years, although there is some relief in select councils. In Richmond, the newly opened Thomson House free school and the expansion of Sheen Mount School have eased the pressure. Other parts of London were not so lucky. Certainly in Kensington and Fulham getting into an outstanding state primary school is a big challenge! The popular strategy of renting next to your desired school becomes a challenge with catchment areas of 0.05 miles, as in the case of Fox Primary School!

If you have subscribed to my newsletter, you will have access to the most recent version of the free London Schools Guide (see top right for sign-up form), which contains links to all Starting Primary School Admissions Booklets of the London boroughs which list catchment areas and admissions criteria for all state primary schools. If you are still undecided on where in London you want to live when you apply or you are considering where to move in London, here is a little overview of admissions criteria for the top London state primary schools that will give you a good idea. The common theme is probably that you need to be an avid church goer if you want to get into one of the sought after voluntary aided schools, or you need to live within 200-300 meters of your chosen community primary, if not less. This rule seems to apply in most areas. But let’s get started with the overview of catchment areas:

Outstanding state primary schools in Camden are massively oversubscribed. The new free school Abacus Primary in Belsize Park will provide some relief, but it may not be enough. Like Barnet, Camden is yet to publish the 2016 brochure, so we will take the stats from the 2015 for now and update the post as soon as the new information is published. The popular Christopher Hatton Primary near Holborn had a catchment area of 0.3 miles, a welcome increase from the 0.03 miles the year before! Eleanor Palmer Primary’s catchment area, often discussed in the press, was still a tiny 0.1 miles! Fleet Primary at 0.27 miles and Torriano Infants at 0.18 miles have also shrunk, so overall catchment areas in Camden are very small across the board, be prepared!

Kensington and Chelsea
Back in Central London, there is no respite for people hoping to get into an outstanding state primary school. Bousfield Primary School could only extend offers to families living within 0.19 miles from the school! It was even tougher to get into Fox Primary, with the furthest pupil admitted living 0.057 miles from the school within the priority area (if you think it is impossible even to live so close to a school, I even know a lucky family who lives within this distance of Fox Primary! According to the statistics, 22 places were allocated within this distance!). Thomas Jones Primary near Ladbroke Grove is just mildly better with the furthest distance at 0.0995 of a mile from the school. At the highly successful Oratory RC Primary School in Chelsea, only Baptised Catholic children from practising Catholic families whose families attended Mass regularly and who are resident within the Oratory Parish were able to gain a place. What a shame, I love the Oratory RC uniform – the first time I saw pupils from the school on the streets of Chelsea and South Kensington I thought “I wonder which fancy prep school that is!”. Only the Garden House School comes close in terms of style! And at the increasingly popular Colville Primary School, the catchment area has shrunk to 0.45 miles, still not as impossible as others, but likely to shrink further in coming years, following its “outstanding” Ofsted rating and strong test results.

Hammersmith and Fulham

The catchment area of the popular All Saints Church of England primary school luckily widened a bit this year, with open places allocated up to a distance of 0.31 of a mile (vs 0.09 mile in 2014). The popular bilingual French Lycee programme at L’ecole Marie d’Orliac was heavily oversubscribed again, but smartly switched to an admission system via lottery to prevent parents from moving into Clancarty Road to gain a place. The newly opened West London Free School Primary in Hammersmith had a catchment area of 0.49 miles in its third year. New King’s Primary, which has been undersubscribed for many years, has converted into an academy under the lead of Thomas’s London Day Schools, and has now become oversubscribed, with only families living within 0.76 of a mile allocated a place.

Further East, catchment areas are no wider, with the most popular schools’ catchment areas in Islington shrinking slightly at most schools compared to the year before:
Canonbury 0.38 of a mile (not so bad!)
Grafton 0.21 of a mile
Thornhill 0.34 of a mile
William Tyndale 0.24 of a mile
Yerbury Primary School 0.27 of a mile (slightly better than in 2014)
Keep in mind please that these distances just show you retrospectively what the cut-off distance for admission was in 2015, they are a good indicator but distances do vary from year to year depending on the number of siblings, birth rates, and changes to class sizes or competing schools. There is no guarantee you will gain admission if you live closer than the distances shown!

In Westminster Council, the King Solomon Academy (one of the few state primary school in London I’ve found so far using the Singapore Maths curriculum – where are the others??) was able to offer places to parents living in a radius of up to 0.18 of a mile from the school only, since there were 46 (out of 60) siblings this year! Hampden Gurney CE Primary School, one of the the top performing schools by test results, only accepted applicants who are avid and practicing members of the Church of England, as always.

Grinling Gibbons is London’s top performing state primary school if you look at SATS results. Its catchment area in 2015 was a tiny 217 metres.

Burnt Ash Primary in Bromley with a last offer distance of 1.24 miles looks like a piece of cake in comparison, as does Clare House with 0.32 miles. Offer distance at the popular Pickhurst Infant Academy helpfully increased to 1.3 miles (up from 0.47 of a mile), while a tough one to get into in 2015 was the Valley Primary with an offer distance of 0.27 miles!

Further up North in Muswell Hill and Crouch End, an area known for many outstanding state primary schools, catchment areas remained fairly constant, some shrank and some got wider. Here are last distances offered for Muswell Hill’s most popular state primary schools:

Coldfall 0.35  (0.38 in 2014)
Coleridge 0.34 (0.3211 in 2014)
Muswell Hill 0.30 (0.2374 in 2014)
Rhodes Avenue 0.33 (0.3557 in 2014)
Tetherdown 0.45 (0.3565 in 2014)

The council of Barnet is still updating final information for the 2016 brochure. Here are the stats for the previous year: In the popular Hampstead Garden Suburb, Brookland Infant School with 90 Reception places had a catchment area of 0.30 and the equally outstanding Garden Suburb Infant School a catchment area of 0.83, so at least you know it is not absolutely impossible to get a place at a top state school near Golders Green. Martin Primary, another school close to East Finchley tube station had a catchment area of 0.98 miles. The high performing Courtland Primary near Mill Hill had a tiny catchment of 0.19 only.

Newton Farm Junior School made negative headlines with a scandal about potential test result manipulation, but it still had a tiny catchment area of  0.267 miles only. High performing Whitchurch Junior School looks better with a cut-off distance of 0.68 miles, as does Cannon Lane Primary School at 0.69 miles.

Not only does Richmond Borough have many outstanding primary schools with the widest catchment areas, they also publish extremely helpful maps of successful and unsuccessful applications for each oversubscribed school called primary school allocation maps. The following table gives the ‘cut-off’ distance from home to school of the last child offered a place for the most popular non-faith Richmond Borough community primary schools. If you look at the cut-off distances below, you will understand while I usually advise newcomers to London to move to Richmond if they want less stress about state school admissions. Keep in mind that Richmond is big, though, so 500 metres can be less than you think.

School                  Distance in metres
Barnes Primary  232
East Sheen Primary  802 – hooray
Marshgate Primary 778
Sheen Mount Primary 734
Thomson House 551
The Vineyard Primary 990

Belleville Primary School – applicants living up to a distance of 474 metres.
Brandlehow Primary School – this is another hidden gem of an outstanding, high performing school with a cut-off distance of 556 metres.
Honeywell Infant School – is too well-known unfortunately, only applicants living up to a distance of 189 metres got lucky
Wix School – Bilingual class of the Wix Primary School offered in cooperation with the French Lycee – 7 siblings admitted, others up to 177 metres – this is a big improvement from ZERO in 2014!

12 thoughts on “Starting Primary School in 2016: top London state school catchment areas”

  1. I’m surprised that you always say Richmond has a lot of great primaries but always exclude Wimbledon from your analysis. I live in neither but our experience is actually the opposite- Wimbledon has no less than 11 outstanding primaries. Richmond has 4. I feel you are missing out a very important area of London.

  2. Hi there,
    Brilliant article, very informative and I got exactly what I was looking for.
    Can someone please tell me if the 0.19 miles for Bousfield in Chelsea was measured in walking distance? It pretty much looks like an impossible catchment area….
    I know that Belleville in Wandsworth measures ‘as the crow flies’ but Bousfield’s website says ‘most reasonable walking distance’.
    Any help would be much appreciated.

    1. they are usually measured as as the crow flies, this is the information from the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea:
      Children living nearest to the school calculated as a straight line. Nearness to the school will be calculated using a straight line (as the crow flies) measurement from the child’s home “address point” determined
      by Ordnance Survey data to the centre of the school grounds, as determined by the Royal Borough
      using its computerised measuring system. The child living closest to the school will receive the highest priority.

  3. Thank you for this helpful info! We are relocating to London in July and are open to an outstanding state school or private prep for our son entering reception. the challenge we see with going. For a state school is that we cannot register/enter the waiting list till we reside in London and even if we rent something right next door to the school we would be on a waiting list and not guaranteed a spot as offers are being made now. Do you think there is movement still in July that would cause a spot to open in a highly sought after state school like Barnes Primary?

    Our other option is private and we have an offer from Sinclair House in Fulham. Should we go with that and not take the risk?

    Any advice is much appreciated!


    1. yes counting on Barnes Primary could be very risky, so it is well possible that a place opens up. You would likely need to start at a less oversubscribed state primary in the area (like Lowther) for the beginning.

    2. Not a chance lol. Very over subscribed thanks to web sites adding the excitement of ‘top’ school places! Lowther is an excellent school, sadly overlooked.

  4. hello. Thank you for wonderful and very helpful blog. We are in difficult situation. Family had to move to Baku /Azerbaijan for the business project and flying back to live in London in summer 2016 with our 4 year old son. I am looking for the right school to register him not to be late for the September 2016. Planning to call a few schools in Richmond to check if they can do it while we are abroad. I also heard about school in Battersea Chester primary …. did not find it in ofsted report. Do you have an opinion on that school? many thanks

  5. What makes me very sad is that the educational system does not allow equal access regardless of socioeconomic backgrpund.
    I am a single parent with medium earning so how can i pissible afford tp rent a lkclose to the catchment area of these outstanding schools?

  6. Same comment as Gül, for Merton. Wimbledon is a very popular area for families, would be great to see it discussed on your blog!
    Thanks for the hard work!

  7. Thank you for the very informative blog. Do you know anything about the Kingston schools. I guess they are good to since they are the neighbour to the Richmond ones,any idea please? Many Thanks.

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