Catchment heat maps FAQs


Why are School Guide's heat maps the best in the UK?

School Guide's heat maps are the original UK school catchment heat maps, developed in 2015 by a team of highly skilled data analysts and website engineers. We have exclusive access to Department for Education data to create these maps and offer the best catchment indicator tool to UK parents. 

Do I have to pay to access the School Guide catchment heat maps?

No, we offer free access to up to three heat maps for your chosen schools so that cost is never a barrier to parents accessing information on which is their closest local school. Please email [email protected] with your request. Kindly note: you will be sent static images of maps which are not interactive but give you a good indication of the areas around each school that admitted many, some, few and no pupils in the last academic year. 

How do we create School Guide catchment heat maps? 

Catchment heat maps are based on official pupil data taken from the last government school census. They are a visualisation of the last available data showing where all pupils attending the school lived at that time. They offer a guide to the areas from which the largest groups of children attend and, for many schools, can be a useful indicator of catchment area. Please see the source of the government data for England, Wales and Scotland below.


What is the source of School Guide's catchment heat map data?

It varies for each country but we use always use a multi pupil icon to show this data is based on all attending pupils.


Catchment Heat Maps For England

We have used pupil-level data from the annual School Census which is collected and subsequently made available through the NPD request application process by the Department for Education.

We currently show pupil census data from 2019 and this is the latest available data.

Our exclusive heat maps will be updated with 2020 census data when this is made available via the request process. Update October 2020: We are currently waiting on the release of this data from the Department for Education. There has been a delay in the release of the data in 2020. 

For further details, please see Important information about the School Census below.

How do we plot our exclusive heat maps? 

For England, School Guide takes admissions data that is based on a set of geographical areas called Output Areas (OAs). An Output Area (OA) is the lowest geographical level at which census information is provided and is therefore the most detailed and accurate data available. The minimum OA size is 40 resident households and 100 resident people but the average size is around 125 households. This takes in to account areas of less dense population and ensures individual postcodes cannot be identified. Our maps combine pupil data from each state-funded school with groups of local postcodes or OAs. See the Office for National Statistics for more information on Output Areas.

Important information about the School Census
The School Census is a statutory census that takes place during the autumn, spring, and summer terms. Once collected, pupil-level data from the School Census is held in the National Pupil Database (NPD). The NPD holds detailed information about the educational establishments children attend, their achievement and progression at different key stages, their individual level characteristics including gender, ethnicity, eligibility for FSM and information about Special Educational Needs. The NPD also includes a range of other information including detailed information about pupil absence and exclusions. To request extracts of the NPD a requester will need to complete the NPD data request application form and Information security questionnaire. Decisions on whether data can be released are subject to a robust approval process and are based on a detailed assessment of who is requesting the data, the purpose for which it is required, the level and sensitivity of data requested and the arrangements in place to store and handle the data. To be granted access to extracts of the NPD requestors must comply with strict terms and conditions covering the confidentiality and handling of data, security arrangements, and retention and use of the data.

Since 2019, pupil-level data collected by the NPD can only be accessed via the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service and data is required to be processed in a secure research environment by an Accredited ONS Researcher following stringent procedures to ensure outputs are non-disclosive. School Guide’s exclusive heat maps work were produced using statistical data from ONS. The use of the ONS statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.


Catchment Heat Maps For Wales

We use pupil data collected as part of the Pupil Level Annual School Census published by the Welsh Government in 2019 (released annually). Our maps combine actual pupil data from each state-funded school with groups of local postcodes or Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs). There are 1,910 LSOAs in Wales each with a population of around 1,500 people. Information relating to LSOAs that include small pupil numbers may have been suppressed.

The next Pupil Level Annual School Census will be published in November 2020 and we will update our heat maps at that time.


Catchment Heat Maps For Scotland

We use pupil data from the Pupil Census published by the Scottish Government in 2019 (released annually). Our maps combine official pupil data from each state-funded primary and secondary with groups of postcodes called data zones. There are 6,976 data zones in Scotland which nest within local authority boundaries and have a population of between 500 and 1,000 household residents.

School Guide is aware that in Scotland the majority of school places are allocated by the Local Authority and not via stated preference.

School Guide will publish heat maps based on the next Pupil Census when it is released in early 2021.


I’ve spotted something wrong with the data. How do I contact you?

Please let us know by emailing [email protected]