Appealing against a decision not to offer the child a school place

What can I do if the child I am raising is not offered a place in the school of my choice?

If the child you are raising is not offered a place at the school you have chosen, the school must explain the reasons in writing, and give you information on how to appeal against the decision. You can respond in any (or all) of the following ways:

  1. If you believe the school has made a mistake in applying the criteria in your case e.g. catchment area, religion, or siblings not being considered properly, you should contact the Admissions Authority for the school immediately. If the Admissions Authority agrees that a mistake has been made, the child may be offered a place in the school without going through the appeal process.
  2. You can ask for their name to be added to the school's waiting list. If the child is looked after, or was previously looked after before you got a residence order or special guardianship order, they ought to be top of the waiting list, along with any other children in the same legal circumstances who were not offered a place.
  3. You can apply to other schools, although you would be advised to check with the local authority first whether they have any places available.
  4. You can make an appeal to an appeal panel, stating why the child should be offered a place at the school, even though the school is full to capacity.

How and when do I appeal against refusal of a place?

If you choose to appeal, your appeal would be made to the relevant Admissions Authority, who would arrange for an Appeal Panel to hear the appeal.(i) Your appeal must be in writing, and your letter of appeal will trigger the appeals process.

Schools can set deadlines for parents or carers to make an appeal, but this has to be at least 20 school days from the date you were informed that your application for a school place was unsuccessful. There is no legal time-limit for submitting an appeal, but if you miss the school's deadline date then your appeal may be delayed.

Appeal hearings generally have to be held within 40 school days of the appeal being lodged(ii).

It is important to prepare your appeal carefully, since if it is unsuccessful it will not be possible to appeal again in the same academic year, unless there is a significant change in your or the child's circumstances. In formulating your appeal, you should consider whether or not the school's admission arrangements comply with the School Admissions Code and relevant law.

What is the Admissions Authority?

For community schools and voluntary controlled schools, the admissions authority is the local authority; for foundation schools and voluntary aided schools, this is the governing body; and for academies it is the academy trust.

How will my appeal be processed?

Appeals must be carried out in accordance with the School Admissions Appeals Code, which has the force of law(iv). It sets out the process which must be followed when a parent or carer is appealing against a school's refusal to admit a child. It aims to ensure that appeals are considered fairly. The code says that:

  • There must an Appeal Panel set up which must "perform a judicial function and must be transparent, accessible, independent and impartial, and operate according to principles of natural justice."(iv)
  • The Appeals Panel must consider whether:

- the school has a lawful admissions code,
- the admissions code was correctly and impartially applied in your case, and
- the problems faced by the child you are raising, if they do not go to the school, outweigh the problems the school will face if they have to take an extra child. If the problems caused to the child outweigh those caused to the school the appeal will be successful and the child will be offered a place.

Further information

ACE Education: Applying for a school and ACE Education: Disappointed with the school place offered to you?
Coram Children's Legal Centre School Admission Appeals
School admissions appeals code

(i) You may not be able to appeal if the child has been permanently excluded twice within the last two years and is not offered a school place
(ii) However NB appeals for 6th form places which were dependent on exam results, and for in-year admissions, must be held within 30 school days of you being informed that the application was unsuccessful
(iii) DfE (2012)
(iv) DfE (2012) ibid