Skip to main content

A Guide to Starting School

Starting Fulltime Education

All children must start full-time education from the term after their fifth birthday, although children in Sheffield are offered a school place earlier than this. 

Families have the choice of when their child can start school.  All four year olds can start full time from the September after their fourth birthday, or, depending on your child’s date of birth, there will also be the option to defer their admission until January or April. They can start on a full time or part time basis. This gives parents/carers more flexibility about when their 4 year old starts reception.

If you choose for your child to start in January or April, it is still possible to access a free early learning place in a nursery or early years setting of your choice (15 hours per week term time).  Please note that compulsory school starting age remains the same.  For more information contact Primary School Admissions (see Useful Contacts at end of factsheet).

Primary School Admissions

In Sheffield, the School Admissions team (part of the Children and Young People and Families Service in the Council) is responsible for processing admissions into community, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided, academies and foundation schools.  The admissions criteria take a number of factors into consideration such as catchment areas, feeder schools and siblings. 

Please note that Church Schools have their own faith base criteria.

Private (fee paying) schools are responsible for their own admissions and you should contact them directly.  Details of schools can be found via the Independent Schools Council (see Useful Contacts at end of factsheet).

A parent can only use one address on the application form, defined as the “normal place of residence”.  For children who spend time with more than one parent or carer at different addresses, this should be the address where they spend most time. If equal time is spent with both parents, parents must agree which address to apply from.

Applying for a place at a Pre-School

All parents/carers of children attending pre- school who are due to start school will be sent a letter inviting them to apply (usually the September of the year before they are due to start).  Parents will be sent a leaflet with a summary of key information.  Further detailed information is provided in “A Guide for Parents” available from the local school or from the council website.  This contains full details of the whole application process for you to follow.  You are encouraged to apply on-line as this means you will receive your decision by email.  You can also complete and return a paper application form by the closing date.  

Closing Date

You must apply by 15 January prior to the September when your child is due to begin school, i.e. 15 January 2015 for entry in September 2015

Catchment Areas

The School Admissions team can tell you what your catchment area is.  You can also get this information on the council’s website 

Applying to non-Sheffield Schools

As a Sheffield resident, if you want to apply for a school that is not in Sheffield and falls under a neighbouring authority e.g. Rotherham, Derbyshire you will still be required to complete a Sheffield Common Application Form and return it to Sheffield Admissions Team, or apply on line.  For further details please contact the Admissions Team.

Information About Schools

All schools produce a free prospectus containing a range of information, including Key Stage attainment figures.  Most schools also have their own website.  Links to these can be found on the council’s website.

The booklet ‘A Guide for Parents’, produced by the Council, has up-to-date contact details for all community and voluntary schools in Sheffield.  It also outlines the admissions criteria in detail.  You can collect a copy from Primary School Admissions based at Howden House, Union Street or copies can be downloaded from the Council website.

Ofsted reports can be obtained direct from the school or downloaded from the Ofsted website and Primary School Achievement and Attainment Tables from the Department for Education (DfE) website. 

Choosing a School

Decide what is important to you before you visit.  Try and visit during a typical school day to observe the teachers and children ‘in action’.  The head teacher should be happy to answer any questions you have.  The following are just some ideas:

  • Environment Does the building feel safe, welcoming, looked-after and friendly?
  • Equipment/resources Is there sufficient equipment for music, art, science, computing?
  • Teaching/Learning Opportunities How is homework organised?  How do teachers and classroom assistants relate to the children?  How are the needs of children with special educational needs met?
  • Parental Involvement How can parents contribute to the life of the school?  Ask for a copy of the home-school agreement.
  • Policies Is there a uniform or dress code?  How accessible to parents is information about the school’s anti-bullying position, for example?

Moving House

If you move house whilst the allocation is ongoing a decision will be made on the basis of your address at the closing date for the submission of forms.  If you are planning to change address you should contact the Admissions Team who will be able to advise you how your application may be affected and what proof is needed. Parents should be aware that moving into the catchment area of any school won’t guarantee your child a place if it is very popular and over-subscribed.

Successful Applications

Your child will be notified of their place on the national allocation date which is 16th April before the academic year in which your child is due to start school.  Your allocated school will also ask you to complete a form to confirm when you want your child to start school. The school will send you a letter outlining the enrolment arrangements before your child is due to start school.

What can I do if my child doesn’t get a place at my preferred school?

If you don’t get a place at your preferred school you won’t automatically get a place at the school in your catchment area, as these places may have already been allocated.  Parents have the right to appeal against any decision to an independent appeal panel.  The Appeals Procedure is outlined in ‘A Guide for Parents’ and further guidance about this can be obtained from the Admissions Team and via the Council’s website.

Late Applications

Applications received after the deadline will be considered as soon as possible after those forms that arrived on time.  If you are applying for a school outside of your catchment area it is therefore very important that you submit your form by the deadline.  However, there is no benefit in getting it in any earlier than this.

Financial Help for Parents of Pre-School Age Children

Families on certain benefits and with an annual income not exceeding a defined amount can apply for free school meals, this also includes school milk.  Forms can be obtained from First Point, schools or by contacting the Free School Meals Team.  Many schools have their own shop selling uniform, equipment etc.  It may be possible to purchase these items second-hand at a reduced cost.  Some children may be entitled to free transport to school.  This is not dependent on family income but on other criteria such as distance to school and safety.  To check whether your child is eligible you should contact the council.  For more information contact Home to School Transport. 

More special educational needs and disabled children’s events and services.

Back to top Contact US
Powered by Open Objects © Open Objects Software Limited