Things to consider when buying or renting for secondary school allocations in St Albans and Hemel Hempstead

Did you know that nationally one in four families move home to secure a school place?

With this year’s National Allocation Day for secondary school only a couple of weeks away, we know that in Hertfordshire, one of the big reasons for families moving is to be in a good catchment area for schools.

There were just over 1400 applications for a secondary school place in St Albans last year and just over 1000 applications for a secondary school place from Hemel Hempstead and villages, and places at the best local schools, especially the selective schools are often hotly contested.

So if you are moving home, how can you ensure that your move increases the likelihood of getting a place at the school of your choice?

Well, whilst no home move can ever 100% guarantee a school place, here are some tips to help increase your chances.

1. Research School  Admissions Criteria

The biggest tip we can give you is to do your homework on the local schools you are interested in and read their admissions criteria so that you understand how places are allocated.

Most schools in Hertfordshire will firstly give priority to children who have been the public care system at any point of their lives and children with a particular medical or social need (i.e. with a medical condition or an EHCP) before other pupils, often regardless of home address.

After these admission rules then typically priority is given to children who have a current (and in some cases past) sibling at the school again, often regardless of home address. Some schools will also include children of staff in this rule.  Typically this will account for one-third to half of all places allocated.

After this then some schools may consider religious affiliation as a priority rule, or academic, musical or sporting ability. These rules are often also distance based, so a child may have to meet the criteria and then places will be allocated on a distance basis. Some selective schools in Hertfordshire will use these indicators as a basis for admissions.

Most non-selective Herts schools will include a priority catchment area and will admit children to the school in order of distance within the priority area only. Some (such as STAGs and Verulam) will offer a random allocation within the priority area.

Finally, places will then be allocated to children on a distance basis outside of the priority catchment area. Many of the St Albans schools and some of the Hemel schools will have fulfilled their places before ever getting down to this rule so if you are hoping for a place but live outside of the priority area then depending on the school it may be unlikely that they will offer a space to you.

See… simple! Or, maybe not so simple! Trying to work out which rules your child would be eligible under for each school can be an even bigger headache than contemplating moving home!

2. Research Nearest School & Priority Area Schools using the Herts Admissions Website.

Before agreeing to a purchase or rental, it’s important to understand what schools you would be eligible for based on location and distance to the school, so we would definitely recommend using the postcode checker to do your homework on the likelihood of getting a school place from your new property based on the “nearest school” and “priority area” rules.

Your nearest school is the school that a child is most likely to get into depending on their address. Note that the “nearest school” physically may not be your allocated nearest school as they may have special admissions criteria or be in a different local authority. “Priority Areas” are the schools which will consider applications from certain areas, so they are schools that a child at that address would have the best chance of getting a place at. Being in a priority area doesn’t guarantee a place as some priority areas include the whole of south-west Herts such as Parmiters School in Watford which takes pupils from Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead postcodes.

In Herts you can input in the property postcode to find your nearest school and priority area schools on the Herts Website here. 

3) Look at previous statistics

Although never fool proof, previous years statistics can give you an indication of where you need to be living to be allocated a school place based on distance, so researching these figures can help you to decide where to buy/rent. The statistics are available from the Herts Website.

 Here are last year’s statistics for St Albans and Hemel based on distance only. These are subject to change year-on-year.  You can see that Beaumont and Sandringham have extremely small catchment areas in St Albans whilst Hemel School catchment is pretty much confined to the HP1 postcode.


Figures from Continuing Interest Round Two - Maximum Distances admitted:

St Albans Schools


Maximum Distance Admitted






1181.47 metres



985.19 metres



2236 metres in priority area

Plus random in-area allocations


2236 metres in priority area

Plus random in-area allocations

Samuel Ryder

4303.25 metres in Priority Area

2776.76 metres outside priority area



Took children who were not allocated a school which might indicate it was not oversubscribed.



Not Reported



Not Reported


Nicholas Breakspear

Not Reported



Hemel Hempstead Area


Maximum Distance Admitted

Hemel Hempstead School

1454.4 metres

Adeyfield School

7212.65 metres

Longdean School

6970.67 metres

Astley Cooper School

28,453.31 metres

Cavendish School

13,006.40 metres

JFK Catholic School

Not Reported

Ashlyns School

8299.99 metres

Kings Langley School

5347,52, in priority area and nearest school

3567.75 in priority area.

4. Work out what’s most important and be willing to compromise.

Homes in good priority school catchment areas are notoriously more expensive than those that aren’t so it’s important to take this into consideration when buying or renting a new home. It’s essential to work out what your budget is and to be realistic about what you can achieve for your budget in the areas you want to live. Also consider what you are willing and not willing to compromise on for your budget. If you really want to live a stones-throw from the best schools then you may find that you have to compromise on features such as that extra bedroom, utility room, large garden, or even off-street parking, so really give some thought as to what is more important... having to pay for permit parking, live in a smaller property, or being able to see the school from the front door. 

5.  5. Ask us for Help!

Once you’ve worked out what schools you are interested in and the areas where you have the best chance of securing a place, it’s time to start your property search and here’s where we can help! Scanning property sites such as Rightmove may or may not bring up the home you are looking for within the right budget and within the right catchment area.

However, we can help you to find a home in your desired area. We know the most popular areas for schools and so we regularly seek out homes in the Beaumont and Sandringham catchment areas in St Albans and in Boxmoor in Hemel as well as in other popular areas for schools locally.

We can keep our ear to the ground for properties becoming available in that area, or approach homeowners who may be considering selling or renting their homes and give you priority on viewing these properties so that you get in there first.

Similarly, if you own a property in a priority catchment area, we can help you market it to interested parties to ensure you get the best sale price or rental return possible as we know how valuable a school-catchment property can be!

So there are our five top tip for what to consider when moving home if you are intending on applying for a secondary school place in St Albans or Hemel Hempstead.

It’s important to remember that moving into a catchment area or within a certain distance of a school doesn’t guarantee a school place but hopefully these tips can help you to plan your move a little more wisely and will help you understand what to think about when considering moving for school applications.

We are always happy to chat with people over the phone or in-person to try and help them plan their next move, whatever the reason, so please feel free to get in touch or pop into the office for a no-obligation chat!