Finding a school to suit your child

Before you choose which schools to apply to, find out as much as you can so that you can make an informed decision. Ask yourself what you and your child need from a school and start gathering information early.

Find schools and pre-schools

You can use the search tool to find pre-school, primary and secondary schools near you.

Getting information about schools

Once you know which schools are near you, get as much information as you can about them. This will give you a better idea of which schools might suit your child most.

For example, you might like to:

  • visit the schools
  • read the schools' prospectuses and study their admissions criteria
  • read the schools' most recent inspection reports

Guide for parents

If you want your child to go to a certain school, you can read what is needed for them to be admitted to the school such as:

  • application process and deadlines
  • number of pupils at the school and how popular the school was in recent years
  • how places will be allocated if too many children apply - the admissions criteria

You should also read the leaflet "The Transfer Process to post-primary school: Advice for Parents of Children in Primary Six". This explains the post-primary transfer process.

Parents of children in Year 6 will receive the Advice for Parents leaflet in January. The Advice for Parents leaflet explains:

  • what you can do to help your child transfer to post-primary school
  • what things you can think about in choosing a school for your child
  • how to complete your child's application to post-primary school

Information about individual schools can change from year to year. You should make sure you get up-to-date information about your preferred schools.

Parents can get information about admissions from the Education Authority.

Different types of schools

Once you have found some local schools that might suit your child, draw up a shortlist. Before you apply, think about your child's personality and their needs. It's important to talk about where they would like to go. Starting a new school can be daunting. Having one or two close friends there can help your child adjust.

Pupils from the Republic of Ireland attending school in NI

Children living on one side of the border are able to access an education on the other side of the border. 

In relation to the impact of Brexit, the Common Travel Area provides citizens of the UK and Republic of Ireland with the right to access services, including education, in the other jurisdiction.

If your child need special attention

If your child is very bright, shows particular patterns of behaviour or has special needs, it's important to find a school that will be able to give them the right support.

If your child has specific interests

If they are keen on sport or a subject such as maths, languages, art or music, you may want to consider how the school can help to develop their interests.

You should consider the range of extra-curricular activities available in schools and the cost of these activities.

Extended services

Some schools offer services outside normal school hours, such as breakfast clubs or after-school activities.

Check school prospectuses for information about extended services.

Visit the school

If you think a school may suit your child, visit the school. Most schools have open days or evenings providing a good opportunity to see around, meet staff and have a look at children's work. You can get dates and times in local newspapers  or from schools.

While you are there ask yourself:

  • how welcoming the school feels and whether you are impressed by the children's work on display
  • if the school is well equipped - find out where pupils do sport and what IT facilities are available
  • how your child will get to school – think about safe routes, transport and the length of the journey
  • whether the school has a Parent Teacher Association - this may be able to give you more information

To read more, go to:

School prospectuses

Every post-primary school has a prospectus. This is a booklet that:

  • provides details about the school and the education opportunities it can provide for your child
  • has information about the subject choices available at the school, public examination results, the numbers of applications received and the number of places granted in past years

Prospectuses are normally published on schools' websites and are also available free from schools. You should get prospectuses from all the schools you are considering by checking their websites or by contacting those schools directly.

School Inspection Reports

You might also like to read the latest individual school inspection reports.

Home to school transport 

How to transport your child to school may be a reason for you choose certain schools.  When choosing a school, make sure you understand the rules about home to school transport, as some children may be able to get help with travel costs. 

Your child will only be able to get transport support when they:

  • go to a school which is further than two miles from their home (three miles for post-primary schools) 
  • were unsuccessful in getting a place at all schools of the same category within that two mile limit (three miles for post-primary schools)

The category of school your child goes to also affects if your child will be able to get home to school transport support.  The types of suitable schools are:

  • controlled or other voluntary
  • Catholic Maintained 
  • integrated (including controlled integrated)
  • Irish-medium 
  • denominational (Catholic) grammar (post-primary only)
  • non-denominational grammar (post-primary only)

The grammar stream of a school recognised by the Department of Education as bi-lateral shall be treated as a grammar school and the secondary stream as a post primary (secondary) school when getting transport support.

It may be helpful for you to talk to the EA about how the possible outcomes of your application to schools may affect whether your child can get help with home to school transport.

The EA rules governing home to school transport support may change during your child's time at any particular school and this should be taken into consideration when choosing schools to list as preferences on the Transfer Form.

Other information about a school

When you're choosing a school for your child, you should also consider:

  • whether a school uses a system of streaming (placing children in classes based on their ability) and how this operates within the school
  • public examinations taken at schools - for example GCSEs and success levels
  • schools’ policies on homework, uniform, discipline
  • school fees if relevant, and other extra costs for example uniforms, sports equipment
  • school support to pupils who can't keep up with their class in specific subjects

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