Appeal for a school place

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

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  appeal form (docx / 42 KB) to submit an appeal.

There is an address on the form that tells you where to send it. Make sure that 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 are applying for your child to start in Year 7 or Reception in September.

If you submit an appeal, you will receive a reply from the clerk telling you when and where your appeal will be heard. About a week before the hearing, you will be sent a 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.

  1. Written evidence to support your appeal should be sent in advance of the hearing. If you intend to rely upon special social or medical reasons for admission as part of your appeal, the appeal panel will expect to see written independent supporting evidence from a relevant professional.
  2. Make sure you are familiar with the admissions policies, and, depending on the nature of your appeal, various other information, such as the guidance on grammar school appeals, infant class size limit appeals, special circumstances and permanent residence. Our school admissions glossary includes lots of useful information and you are strongly advised to read all of the notes, guidance and frequently asked questions downloadable on this page.
  3. 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 on our admission policies and statistics page.
  4. 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

School admission appeals are heard remotely by video conference. 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 admission 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 academy, voluntary aided, foundation or trust schools it is the governing body; and
  • sometimes an observer, for training purposes, although you can ask that they do not attend if you prefer
  • you (the ‘appellant’)

The hearing goes as follows:

  1. the representative from the admission authority will state the case for not meeting your preference
  2. you and the panel can question the authority’s representative
  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 representative and the panel can ask you questions
  5. the admission authority representative sums up their case
  6. you then sum up your case for the child

You and the admission authority’s representative 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 in the key documents box.

All admission appeal panels act independently, their decisions are binding on all parties.

What happens after the hearing?

The clerk to the panel will write 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 at the same school in the same school year group unless there is a significant change in circumstances. The local government and social care Ombudsman can investigate complaints of maladministration in relation to maintained schools. For academy schools this would be the department for education.

Infant class size appeals

If you are applying for a place in an infant class (reception, Year 1 or Year 2), you may have a more limited right of appeal because the law states that infant classes must be restricted to 30 children. In such cases the appeal 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 find more detailed guidance in the “key documents” box above.

Education, Health and Care Plan

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan, please contact us.

Further help and advice

You can find further information about the school admission appeal process on the school admissions GOV page.