top of page

Tips for completing your preferences on your school application form (CAF)

By Law, schools are not permitted to know which preference you gave them on your Schools Application Form. (CAF) This is called the Equal Preference System. Each school must consider your boarding application, without knowing where they were listed in terms of your preferences.


  1. Always list the schools in order of your actual preference on the form, but be realistic.

  2. Don’t just put down one school on the form.

  3. Don’t put the name of the same school more than once.

If you list a first choice grammar school that is 18 miles away from your home and the school has historically only ever allocated places within a 7 mile radius, there is no point listing it. If you are about 8 or 9 miles away it is worth a gamble as there may be fewer applications during your year of entry.

If your child is taking the 11 plus, always list the grammar schools above other types of schools. If they are unsuccessful in the 11 plus, the grammar schools will be deleted and your first preference will become the first school on your list that is not a grammar school.

If you put a grammar school choice below an over-subscribed comprehensive school on your list to try to ‘play the system’ remember places are allocated according to eligibility then by preference, so you may find that you are allocated a place in the comprehensive school, rather than the grammar school, for which you indicated a lower preference.

Be more realistic the further you go down the preferences on your list. Your last preference should always be a school that will be acceptable to you and your child and one at which your child is certain to get a place – your fall-back position if all other schools decline. Do your research into which schools tend to have places, as they are under-subscribed. There may for example be a recently opened school which is not yet full to capacity or a new academy which is worth investigating.

Remember your distance from the school gates is the deciding factor once qualifying criteria such as special educational needs, siblings and religious affiliation have been applied.

Our boarding application support

If you need any help or guidance with your boarding application, please get in touch with our team of friendly education consultants. We’re happy to help.

bottom of page