What are School Catchment Areas and do they Affect Property Prices?

If you’ve got children or are planning on having them in the future, then you’ve probably given this some thought when looking at properties to buy in Bristol.

There are numerous factors that affect which school a child will be accepted into. The two most significant are:

  • Having a sibling already at the school
  • Whether or not you live in the school’s catchment area.

What is a School Catchment Area?

A school catchment area is an area within the immediate vicinity of a school. In other words, the closer you live to a school, the more chance your child has of securing a place there. That’s the theory behind it anyway, and it plays a big part in driving property prices in an area.

To find out the details of a school’s catchment area, you can contact the school directly and ask, or you can speak to the local council.

Bear in mind that catchment areas can change at any time, so it’s always worth contacting the school for the most up to date information.

How do School Catchment Areas Affect Property Prices?

Parents naturally want what’s best for their children’s education, so of course, the right choice of school plays a big part in this.

Properties in the catchment areas for schools with an outstanding rating from Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) can be considerably more expensive than similar properties just outside of the catchment area, so it’s understandable why parents will go to extraordinary lengths to get their children into individual schools.

Some parents have even been known to use false addresses or give the address of a friend or relative to try and get a school place!

There have been numerous studies and various figures stated as to how much of a premium you’ll have to pay on a property in a top school catchment area, but suffice to say, it’s likely to be several thousand pounds.

Despite the premium placed on these properties, one positive for homeowners is that they tend to hold their value well, even if the property market as a whole takes a downturn. As long as the local school continues to perform well, there will always be a high demand for properties in the catchment area.

The flip side of this is that properties that are close to underperforming schools will not have such a premium placed on them. Some schools can have a bad reputation in an area for many years, and while this doesn’t necessarily drive property prices down, it can certainly stop them from increasing at the same rate as those close to top schools.

How you can get a Property Bargain in the Catchment Area of Your Choice!

The key to this is research. Take a look at the schools in the area where you’re looking to buy and dig into the details.

Most buyers will do a quick Google search to find the latest Ofsted report of their chosen school and consider it a job done. If a school is outstanding or good, they’ll look for properties in that catchment area, and if it’s a school that is inadequate or requires improvement, they’ll ignore the area completely.

But if you take a closer look at the schools, you might be surprised at what you find.

Schools that are rated good by Ofsted will only be inspected approximately every four years, while schools that are rated as outstanding don’t have routine inspections at all.

Therefore, it’s possible, but unlikely that these schools may be letting their standards slip as they’re not being checked regularly.

What’s more likely, and this is where you might be able to grab a property bargain, is that a school that’s been rated as ‘requiring improvement’ could actually have significantly improved and be on the rise.

It’s entirely feasible that drastic changes have occurred since the previous inspection, particularly if a new headteacher has been appointed or a strong senior leadership team has come into the school.

Suddenly, a school that requires improvement could find itself getting a good rating at the next inspection, leading to an improved reputation in the area, and of course, a rise in property prices in the catchment area.

So make sure you take the time to look into what’s behind that last Ofsted rating because the school might be about to take a turn for the better. And if you’re in the know before those who haven’t bothered to do their research, you could find the perfect property before prices shoot up.

What to do Next

The best thing to do is get in touch with the school, ask for a tour, or have a meeting with the headteacher. This should give you a good idea of how the school is performing up close.

Northwood Bristol are your local property experts for the Bristol area.

Call us on 0117 9635777 or email bristol@northwooduk.com to chat with a member of our friendly and experienced team.