Refused a place at your preferred school? Find out about grounds for appeal, what happens at a hearing, and how to prepare.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update - appeal panels

Under government Covid-19 guidance, all appeal panels are currently meeting remotely, and some timescales referred to in the notes below have changed to calendar days instead of school days.

The right to appeal

By law, if your child is refused a place at your preferred school, you have the right to appeal against that decision to an independent panel. School admission appeal panels are independent of the school and the local authority. At the hearing, you can present your reasons for preferring that particular school and the panel will decide whether your reasons are strong enough to overturn the admission authority's decision.

You can use the form that you download on this page to submit an appeal. There is an address on the form that tells you where to send it to. Make sure you read all the accompanying guidance notes and that you check the deadline, which varies but is usually in late March for secondary and late May for primary.

If you submit an appeal, you will receive a reply from the clerk telling you when and where your appeal will be heard. As early as possible before the hearing, you will then be sent a written summary of the reasons why your child was refused a place at the school.

Preparing for a hearing

School places are refused for various reasons, such as the school being oversubscribed or, in the case of a selective grammar school, because your child did not achieve the standard required in the selection tests. At an appeal hearing you can mention anything that you believe helps explain why the school you are appealing for is more suitable for your child, or why the school your child has been allocated would, in your view, be unsuitable.

  • Written evidence to support your appeal including any social or medical reasons and professional evidence should be sent in advance of the hearing.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the admissions policies, and, depending on the nature of your appeal, various other information in these pages such as the guidance on special circumstances and permanent residence. You are strongly advised to read all of the notes, guidance and frequently asked questions downloadable on this page.
  • You may also wish to find out about previous years' admissions statistics for the school, and the published admissions number or PAN. These statistics can be found here.
  • Remember that if your appeal is successful and the school is not your normal or nearest school then you will be responsible for transporting your child to school.

What happens at a hearing

Your appeal hearing will be held in private and it is recommended you attend your hearing in person if at all possible. You can be accompanied by a family member or friend if you tell the clerk in advance. You must not, however, bring the child to the hearing.

At the hearing there will be:

  • the independent panel, made up of three people, including one person with no specialist education experience, and at least one person who has experience in education or who is a parent of a registered pupil at a school. The panel's job is to listen to the arguments made by both 'sides', you and the admissions authority, and come to a decision;
  • a clerk who will take notes and advise on matters of law and procedure;
  • a representative from the admission authority. For community and voluntary controlled schools the admission authority is the local authority and in the case of an academy, voluntary aided, foundation or trust school it is the governing body; and
  • you ('the appellant').  

The hearing goes as follows:

  1. the officer from the admission authority will state their case for not meeting your preference;
  2. you and the panel can question the authority's officer;
  3. you will be given the opportunity to explain the reasons why you wish your child to attend that particular school;
  4. the admission authority's officer and the panel can ask you questions or comments;
  5. the admission authority's officer sums up their case; and
  6. you then sum up your case for your child.

You and the admissions authority's officer will then be asked to leave so that the panel can make their decision. The panel's decision is based around balancing the needs of the child against the effect of admitting another child into the school. You can read more details on how the decision is reached in the downloadable notes below.

All admission appeals panels act independently and their decisions are binding on all parties.

What happens after the hearing

The clerk to the panel will write to you to tell you the decision. You may also be given a telephone number to ring to find out the result before you receive the letter. 

There is no further right of appeal for a place in the same school in the same year group unless there is a significant change in your circumstances. The Local Government Ombudsman can investigate complaints of maladministration in relation to maintained schools, for Academy and Academy Trust schools this would be the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Special circumstances

  • Applying to an infant class (reception, year 1 or year 2): you may have a more limited right of appeal because the law states infant class sizes must be restricted to 30 children. In such cases the panel may only uphold your appeal if the admission rules were not administered correctly and your child should have been offered a place, or the decision to refuse a place was not one which a reasonable admission authority would make under the circumstances. You can download the full policy under 'key documents' above.

  • Special educational needs: if your child has an education, health and care plan or EHCP please contact the SEN team for information on how to appeal, on 01609 535002.

  • Voluntary aided and foundation schools: please contact the clerk to the governing body of the school to request the form and notes. They are responsible for all the arrangements and for contacting you about the appeal.

More sources of help and advice

Parents may also wish to contact ACE Ltd which is an independent national advice centre. ACE Ltd can provide advice and information on admission appeals through a national advice line and a wide range of publications.