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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Appealing against a school place decision

It is not certain that your child will be awarded a place at one of your preferred schools. If they are not offered a place you can appeal to an independent appeal panel against the decision.

If your child is not offered a place at your preferred school

You will find details of how to make an appeal in the local authority's admission letter outlining your offer. The letter will also specify a deadline that you must meet if you want to appeal. In some areas, you may be able to submit your appeal online.

If your child has not been allocated a school place you will need to contact the admissions team at your local authority. They can let you know which schools have places available.

Appeals process

Appeals are heard by an independent appeal panel of three to five members of the public. You can only make one appeal for each school that does not offer a place. If more than one school declines to admit your child, you can make separate appeals.

Infant classes

For infant classes of five, six and seven year olds the number of pupils is normally limited by law to a maximum of 30.

Admission applications can be refused if all of a school’s infant classes have reached their legal limit. In this type of appeal, the panel is only allowed to look at whether:

  • the child would have been offered a place if the admission arrangements had been properly implemented
  • a place would have been offered if the arrangements had not been contrary to criteria set out in the School Admissions Code
  • the decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case

When will your appeal be heard?

The admission authority for the school must write to you at least 10 school days before the hearing to confirm the date. Organisations like the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) can give you advice on preparing your case.

Secondary admissions round

Appeals for on-time applications (decisions sent on national offer day) must be heard by 6 July. If 6 July falls on a weekend then it must be heard on the next working day.

Primary school appeals

Appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the appeal being lodged, or before the end of the summer term - whichever is sooner.

Appeals for late applications

Such appeals should be included with those being heard for the same admissions round. However, if this is not feasible, appeals for late applications must be heard within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged.

School sixth form admissions

Appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the appeal being lodged.

In-year admissions

For applications made outside of the timetabled admissions process, hearings must be held within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged.

The hearing

Step one

The admission authority's representative explains to the appeal panel the reasons for turning down your application.

The panel must first consider whether the school's published admission arrangements comply with the mandatory requirements of the School Admissions Code. They must also decide if they were correctly applied in the individual's case.

Step two

If the panel decides there was good reason for turning down your application, you will still have the chance to state why you are appealing against the decision. You will be able to:

  • explain why you believe that the school would be the best place for your child
  • tell the panel about any special circumstances that might justify your child being awarded a place
  • submit additional evidence or documentation that might be relevant to your appeal, like a medical note from a doctor to support an application on the basis of social or medical need

Step three

If the panel decides that your case is the stronger, it will uphold your appeal and your child will be awarded a place at the school. If it finds that the admission authority’s case is stronger, it will uphold the decision not to offer your child a place.

The decision

The panel's decision is binding - both on you and on the school's admission authority - and can only be overturned by the courts.

The panel will let you and the admission authority know by post within seven days. If your appeal is successful your child will be offered a place at school. If you are unsuccessful you can put your child's name on a waiting list.

Complaining about the appeals process

If you're unhappy about the way the appeal process was carried out you can complain to your Local Government Ombudsman. While they can recommend a new appeal, the Ombudsman can't review or overturn the appeal panel's decision.

If there is a change in your circumstances you may be able to apply to appeal again, if the admission authority considers the change relevant to your application.

Secretary of State for Education

Appeal panels are independent bodies, so the Secretary of State for Education can't review or overturn the decisions of individual panels. They can only consider complaints about whether the appeal panel was correctly set up by the admission authority.

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