How do 60,000 parents every year find out about schools? They use SchoolGuru... has been set up to help thousands of parents in the Hertfordshire and Kent who apply for state schools each year. Parents just put in their details – and in seconds, find out whether they would have got a place in previous years, on allocation day. They can also see whether they are likely to get a place this year.

"People used to know where they stood when we had legally binding 'catchment areas'. But now the system is so complex that many parents haven't got a clue which schools they stand a chance of getting into", says's Catherine Bassindale.

Hertfordshire and Kent are home to some of the highest-performing schools in the country – but competition is fierce, and the most popular schools have six or seven applicants per place. Although many parents assume they’ll get into their local schools, thousands will end up disappointed with the school that they’re offered (and around 1,600 will go to appeal).

Mumtrepreneur Catherine Bassindale founded after she moved to St Albans for the legendary schools… and then failed to get any of them. Instead, her four-year-old son was allocated a school in special measures that she hadn’t applied for. "It was every parent’s worst nightmare. We thought we’d made sensible decisions, but we would never have chosen the schools that we did, if we’d had access to the right information. My partner Lindsay and I went through a year of hell, finding an acceptable alternative, and didn’t see why it should be like this. So in 2005, we set up to provide parents with information and advice.” was launched in September 2008. The website uses up-to-the-minute official admission data. Mum of two and former journalist Catherine says: "The system is simple to use, and parents now have fast access to the latest information that’s relevant for their circumstances. Our aim is to help parents find the most suitable school for their child, whatever their needs.”

SchoolGuru was one of the winners of the Cabinet Office's Show Us A Better Way competition for data innovation.

For interviews, quotes, photos or articles about schools, please contact Catherine Bassindale on 07957 464585 or email

Pictured left:'s Catherine Bassindale with her two children Arthur, four, and Finlay, seven. This photo was taken on Arthur's first day of school (2 September 2008)

School appeals: