CAF, short for Common Application form is the form that you fill for a school place in the UK. For those wanting their child to go from a primary school to secondary school, this form is to be filled and submitted to your local authority in order to secure your child or ward a place in a secondary comprehensive or Grammar school. This allocation of place is announced on March 1st, which is known as the National Allocation Day or National Offer Day. You do not need to add independent school choices on the CAF. Independent (fee-paying schools) schools require different forms to be submitted and you will find the details on individual school websites. These schools are not required to be listed on the CAF.
While this post may not be an exhaustive list of what to do and what to avoid, this covers a lot of what you need to know about filling and submitting the CAF form. At the bottom of this article, you will find a list of links that may help as well.
Informed school choices
Make sure you do your research on schools before listing them on the CAF. This requires research on school performance, pastoral care, facilities provided for students, catchment rules of schools, commute between your home and school (make sure it is realistic and that your child can cope with it. Consider after-school clubs, social events arranged by the school etc). Read reviews, ask for recommendations of schools from trusted family and friends. If asking on social media, make sure that feedback is similar to 3 other sources. And always make your own informed decisions. Do not rely on someone else’s judgement to make this decision for you as you know your child and your circumstances better than anyone.
Analyse, strategise and choose wisely
With the current Coronavirus pandemic, test delays and postponements, many will not know test scores, which may otherwise would be a basis for choosing schools. This may not apply this year except for those tests whose results will be announced after the CAF submission deadline. These are usually second round of tests that few schools require. The CAF needs to be submitted by 31st October. It can be overwhelming to make a decision based on an outcome you are not aware of and this year, it is even more of a challenge. Analyse your child’s performance, strategise and choose wisely. Always include a comprehensive school or two in your list apart from popular Grammar schools.
Fill all choices on the CAF
Many local authorities have 6 options of schools, others have less, may be 4. Make sure you use up all the options on the form and choose schools you may want your child/ ward to get a place in. You should put the school that you prefer and have a good chance of getting in at the top and then fill the choices in the descending order of preference.
Submit the CAF before the deadline
The deadline for the CAF is 31st October. The form can be submitted via your local authority (council) website. There can be confusion about which local authority to submit it from, especially if your school choice is not in the same area where you live. You have to submit the CAF via your local authority, that is where you live not the school’s local authority. If you are posting this form, make sure it reaches before the 31st, do not wait till the last date to post it. Whether it is online or via post, your Common Application Form should reach the authorities by the 31st October. There is usually a contact email and telephone number on the council’s secondary school application page. Email them (preferably, in order to have evidence for future correspondence and also in the uncertain conditions we are in, emails are preferred) or call them for clarifying any doubts you may have.
Editing the CAF
Few local councils allowed changes last year because of the pandemic, allowing changes to be made to the CAF until a later date in November or December. This was to accommodate the test delays and results in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the situation is different now. Refer to your school’s websites for the latest developments and news. Make sure you submit the CAF before 31st October. Changes can be made till the deadline (for changes) but do not assume that you don’t need to submit the CAF from before the October deadline. Additionally, only a few councils made this allowance for changes to the CAF, so make sure you email and ask your local authority about the situation now.
Fill out additional forms, eg SIF
Few schools and consortium of schools require that you fill an additional form(s) apart from the Common Application Form. Make sure you go to the website of the school you are interested in and fill and submit the required additional form. SIF, short for Supplement Information form is a common form that schools require you to fill and submit in addition to the CAF.
Links which may be of use: