How Big Schools Allocate Places

The Form Journey

Many people don’t really understand the ins and outs of the process so I’m going to try and explain this in simple terms.

By way of an example, Matthew got 93 in his AQE and the choices he made were:

  • First Choice – New York Grammar School
  • Second Choice – Amsterdam Grammar School
  • Third Choice – Wales Grammar School
  • Forth Choice – France High School

Round 1: All forms go to first choice schools.

At this stage, the school begins to compile a list of names on their ‘place-list’.

If they have more applications than spaces, they will work with their admission criteria to reduce the numbers. Open and honest admission criteria is published on the Admission Criteria Blog so make sure you are familiar with it – for each school you are considering (grammar and comprehensive).

Our Example: Matthew’s First Choice was New York Grammar School and after reviewing all their applications, they filled all their places with people who had AQE scores from 94 so at this point he is not offered a place.

Round 2: First choice school not available.

So, if the form isn’t successful in Round 1, it will move on to the second choice.

Our Example: The second choice school, Amsterdam Grammar School considers Matthew’s application. They have started their own ‘place-list’ from Round 1 and they have people on their list with AQE scores from 82, so they are happy to put Matthew on their list (for now) as his score is greater than their current lowest.  Now, after Round 2, Amsterdam Grammar have people on their place-list with lowest score of 89 and a number of other people will now be floating out of Amsterdam (because they had less that 89 and they’ve now been ‘bumped’) and so are now looking at their other options.

It’s important to note that this will also be happening to Matthew’s original First Choice school (New York Grammar School) and although their lowest score was originally 94, it will probably be higher now with Round 2 people completed.

Round 3: First & Second Choice Not Available and Floaters

If applications have still not found a home, the third place choice on the form will be explored.  The second choices will also be explored for those people who are now floating as their place was taken by a higher score.

Our Example: Unfortunately for Matthew a lot of people had Amsterdam Grammar School down as their third choice, or their application was floating and they had a higher score, so his place was reallocated.  Now Amsterdam Grammar’s minimum score is 94 and Matthew’s application is now floating again. So his application form will be passed to Wales Grammar School (his third choice) for consideration, but as it turns out, with the different rounds that are happening, Wales Grammar School’s lowest score is now 96 so they cannot accept him.

Round 4: And It Continues..

Moving down the list if an application is still floating then the next choice in their form is explored.

Our Example: Matthew forth option was France High School and having reviewed their criteria he was very confident that he would be offered a place because he had a brother at the school and this was the top criteria for acceptance. France High School consider Matthew’s application and appreciate that he meets the criteria more than a number of other applications, so Matthew will be put on their place-list and this will inevitably result in another applicant now floating.

This is an iterative process and will continue for as long as necessary until everyone has found a place in big school.


6th February – Forms have to be with the Education Authority.

As soon as the results are received on the 26th January, most schools already have appointments in their diaries to meet with parents to discuss the options and to complete the post-primary transfer form, which will need to be sent to the Education Authority by the 6th February.  At this point you should ensure you can attend and be prepared with a sound understanding of your choices.

There is usually a limited time allocated for each meeting so do your homework (so to speak) and be prepared with a clear list of schools that you want to put down on your list.

Saturday 1st June – School Allocation Letter

This is an important date in the whole process as this will the day when all the what-ifs will finally end and you will know which school your child will be going to in September 2019.

Child In P6? More About The Transfer Tutor Online Quizzes

The Transfer Tutor is an online site dedicated to providing fun and interactive quizzes aligned to the AQE / GL specifications.  All quizzes are broken down into manageable topics and can be done on any mobile or tablet device, so is an great way for kids to prepare for the test.  The quizzes have been a great success with parents and kids and has already received over one hundred 5* Facebook Reviews, so definitely worth a look.   To give you a feel for the quizzes, start the free quiz by clicking on the button below.  I hope you enjoy and to get access to over 30 quizzes in Maths and English click here for membership options.