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Guide to Schools in Cardiff

As a family, when moving to a new area, one of the most important things to consider is the access to good, local schools. The right scholastic environment can offer your child opportunities to set them up for the rest of their life, providing a valuable support network as well as an education that’ll take them through to adulthood.

Surveys show that 1 in 4 parents move, or have moved based on the catchment areas of desirable schools.

Luckily, if you’re planning on moving to Cardiff, there are a number of excellent primary and secondary schools to take care of your child no matter the age, but even so, choosing the right school can still be cumbersome. Finding the perfect fit for your child is hard enough, but then you often have to jump through hoops to secure a place if the school isn’t already oversubscribed. Last year in Cardiff, 34 schools were oversubscribed and 600 applications were turned down due to lack of places.

But as bleak as we’re making this sound, there’s still a way you can ace your move and grab that ideal school space, all it takes is a little forward planning...and our handy The Small Move Company’s Guide to Schools in Cardiff.

We’ve compiled all the essential information on primary and secondary schooling in Cardiff, as well as the admissions process, to give you the best chance at getting your kid’s into their dream new school.

Guide to the best schools is Cardiff

Finding the Right School in Cardiff

Catchment Area

In Cardiff, getting into a school is all about where you live, as catchment areas are the main criteria that dictate admission.

Scholastic opportunities may hold a huge sway over where you look to live in Cardiff, so it’s natural that the process of narrowing down your children’s school choices evolves alongside your search for your new home. And with catchment areas going for a premium, you might find yourself checking the local Ofsted reports before the specifications of potential properties.

As with most things, the earlier you start, the better the chance you have of getting the school you want, even if it feels a little pre-emptive, start checking out schools as soon as you can. As you start to narrow down your choice in housing, create a shortlist of schools in that area that you’d be happy for your child to attend.

If you’re totally clueless as to where to begin, Cardiff council has a handy postcode searcher tool, where you can find if your potential postcode is in the catchment area for your desired school.

When assessing potential schools, a great place to start is the Ofsted website, where you can compare the Ofsted reports of Bristol schools within a certain proximity to your new postcode. You can then dig deep into the reports published on each school’s individual performance.

Similarly, the website for the Department of Education can provide a deeper insight into the schools, offering information on attendance, finance and smaller details like the ratio of boy to girl pupils. Even local newspapers like Wales Online release a regular concise analysis of schools, without you having to slog through all the data.

Type of School

All schools aren’t a one size fits all, and what is the best school for someone else’s child may not be the best school for yours. Whilst league table performance can give a good insight into the general success of a school, the learning environment that is most beneficial for your child is going to be highly subjective.

Obviously, the biggest distinction Cardiff has to offer, especially if you’re moving over from England, are the cities Welsh language schools, where Welsh is spoken natively and English taught as a second, albeit fluent, language. However, Cardiff also offers schools structured by a range of different curriculums; whether it is a faith-based independent school, like Cardiff Muslim Primary School or Llandaff Cathedral School, a Steiner School, or a specialist school like Ty Gwyn.

League Tables

Every year, a number of league tables are released, often based on attained and predicted exam results and inspection reports. Often these can act as a useful marker on the overall performance of the school and what they can offer your child.

We’ve looked at the performance tables from a number of national school guides, newspapers and results tables and compiled a list of the 5 best comprehensive and primary state schools in Cardiff.

The Best Primary Schools in Cardiff

  1. Millbank Primary School
  2. Birchgrove Primary School
  3. Moorland Primary
  4. Radnor Primary School
  5. Rhydypenau Primary School
  6. Greenway Primary School


The Best Secondary Schools in Cardiff

  1. Cardiff High School
  2. Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr
  3. Bishop of Llandaff High
  4. Radyr Comprehensive
  5. Corpus Christi Catholic High School


Where Your Child Fits In Best

When you have created a shortlist of a few schools, it’s wise to contact their administration office to gauge the likelihood of a successful application. Often this can give you an idea of whether the school will be oversubscribed and if there’s a high potential your application may be declined.

One of the most important things in this process is to create a dialogue with your child about what they may want. Visiting the schools you’ve chosen so far together allows your child to see whether they would feel happy or can see themselves fitting in there. You may find that this changes the order of preference.

Throughout this process it’s advised to keep your child enrolled wherever they are currently, to ensure they don’t miss any school if the moving day is pushed back

The Admissions Process for Cardiff Schools

It may seem that starting your search for schools before you’ve made the move is a bit preemptive, but with oversubscription rates to certain schools at an all-time high, and rapidly approaching deadlines, you can never plan too far ahead. 

Children start primary school after their fourth birthday and secondary school after their eleventh. You can start applying for a primary school place for September 2018 in November this year and apply for secondary school places for September 2018 from October onwards.

The deadline for state primary school applications in Cardiff, for 2018, is 11th January 2018; and for secondary schools in Bristol, applications close on 4th December 2017. 

If you need a place at a Cardiff school during the academic year, you must complete an in-year School Transfer Application with Cardiff City Council.

You can apply for a school place at any time of year but they do not usually consider requests more than one term in advance.

Cardiff Council is aiming to become the first local education authority in Wales to coordinate school admissions for local authority schools, faith schools, and foundation schools, so you may find that rather than applying through multiple localised access points, you can apply for a number of schools all through one channel.

To find out more about what support you need to provide alongside your application or the channels through which you need to reply, you can find all information on the Cardiff Council School Admissions page, here.

Fighting Oversubscription in Cardiff Schools

With some schools receiving 112 applications for 60 places, oversubscription is a very real problem in Cardiff schools. Even living in the catchment area isn’t enough for many oversubscribed primary schools. In two of the most oversubscribed schools in Cardiff, only people living within 0.28 miles of the Marlborough Primary and 0.76 miles of Rhydypennau Primary managed to get a place.

For that reason, it is important to apply for a number of different schools, to ensure your child does not miss out, even if they may not end up at your first or second choice.

Cardiff Council has a number of guides available on their website concerning primary and secondary admissions, including what to do when faced with oversubscription and alternative contact details for Independent and Specialist schools, which can answer any questions you may have regarding their specific admissions process.

If you do miss out on your ideal school, it’s important to remember that eight of every ten schools are rated as good or above by Ofsted and that Cardiff, in particular, has a very high rating across the city. As much as schools play an important part in your child’s development, it is equally, if not more, beneficial to create a supportive and positive developmental home environment.

For more information on moving to Cardiff, home removals in Cardiff, or for a cracking quote on a home removals service, give us a bell on 01633 481391.

Also check out our other city guides, for more info on where to go, what to do and where to live in cardiff.