Preference Guidance

How many preferences can I list?

Parents have the right to express preferences for the schools they would like their child to attend, but no child can be guaranteed a place in any school or any particular type of school (secondary, integrated, grammar, single sex etc).

You should list at least four preferences as there is no guarantee your child will be accepted into the first preference. 
For Post-Primary applications you should list at least one non-grammar school. Please note that you will not be asked for further preferences during the procedure.

There is no maximum. You cannot list preferences more than once. Please make sure you state clearly the name and locality of each school. As some schools have similar names you should state the name of the school on your form as per the admissions criteria along with a local identifier e.g. St Mary's College Omagh, St Mary's College Ballymena, St Mary's College Newry, etc.

Changing Preferences

Changes to order of preference before the Transfer Form is sent to the Post-Primary School can be forwarded to the Education Authority by email or post on or before 4.00pm on Wednesday 6 March 2019. Apart from those necessitated by exceptional circumstances, no changes of preferences will be processed between Thursday 7 March 2019 and Friday 31 May 2019 (inclusive).

Apart from those necessitated by exceptional circumstances, no changes of preference will be processed during the admissions procedure.

Further preference choices

You will only be asked for further preferences if your child is unsuccessful in obtaining a place at the end of the admissions process at which point many schools will have filled all available Year 8 places.

Change of preference due to Exceptional Circumstances

Between Thursday 7 March 2019 and Wednesday 1 May 2019 (not later than 4.00pm) changes of preference can only be accepted in exceptional circumstances.  This is usually because you have moved to live in a different area and it is no longer feasible for your child to attend the original schools.

If you wish to change your preference due to exceptional circumstances you must submit a request in writing to the EA on or before 4.00 pm on Wednesday 1 May 2019.  Verification of the exceptional circumstances must be provided.  If approved, the EA will amend the original Transfer Form and send it to the new school(s).

Examples of documents to verifiy an address change include -

  • Tenancy agreement
  • Rates bill
  • Sale of house agreement

Examples of documents to verify family related circumstances:

  • Letter from family support officer
  • Medical information
  • Letter from employer in the case where you have changed jobs since the submission of your application.

Make sure that you discuss the school preferences with your child in advance of submitting the Transfer Form.  Also consider how your child will travel to the schools listed and whether or not you are eligible for transport assistance. This is important as the following types of situation are not considered to be exceptional circumstances -

  • parent/child changing their mind following further consideration of the preferences listed;
  • parents becoming aware that another child or children have or have not applied to a particular school;
  • the publication of a development proposal for a school for which a decision has not yet been made;
  • transport arrangements.

After 1 May 2019 changes of preference in any circumstances will not be processed until after Friday 31 May 2019.

At the end of the Admissions Process

A change of preference at the end of the Admissions Process can be requested however you should be aware that after Friday 31 May 2019 a number of schools will have allocated all their places and can only give consideration to a change of preference in the event that a place becomes available.

Adding new/additional documentation

If your circumstances do change in a way that may be important for the Post-Primary Admissions process, you should contact the EA Admissions Officer at to provide this new information. Wednesday 1 May 2019 at 4.00 pm is the final date by which the EA will process any additional information or new applications. After this date additional information and new applications will not be processed until after Friday 31 May 2019.

Outcome of preference changes

The Education Authority will write to you following consideration of your request.

Admissions Helpdesk

If additional information is required or any difficulty is experienced, parents can contact the admissions helpdesk on:

028 9598 5595

Helpline open from 9am to 5pm

or email the relevant address listed below

Do you know that your choice and order of preferences could impact on your child’s eligibility for transport assistance?

Last updated: 15/01/2019