Primary school admissions: how to appeal

Primary classroom
Offer letters for reception places are sent on 16 April; online results may be available before you receive the letter. So what happens if, come admissions D-day, you discover your child hasn't got a place at your preferred school? One of your options is to appeal.

But a word of warning before we get to appeals: try not to set your sights entirely against the other options in case your appeal fails, and try not to transmit your negative feelings about your less preferred choices to your child. You don't want their starting-school memory to be tarnished with adult angst about school choices. (There's plenty of time for that at the start of secondary school.)

How to appeal against a primary school admissions decision

If your child hasn't been offered a place at the primary school, or schools, of your choice, you can appeal in writing against the decision. The rejection letter will explain why admission has been refused, and will have information about how to appeal, including the deadline for lodging your appeal.

You have to make separate appeals if you're appealing against rejections from different schools.

For five to seven year olds, class size in England and Wales is limited to 30 or fewer children. If all the classes in your preferred school already have 30 children in them, your application for a place can be rejected.

But you can still appeal if you can show that:

  • The school's admission arrangements haven't been followed
  • The admissions criteria don't meet the School Admissions Code
  • The decision to refuse your child a place wasn't reasonable

Do double-check there are no obvious mistakes eg has the distance between your home and the school been measured correctly? But if you've been allocated a place at a school you didn't name on the application form, or one that's outside your catchment area, don't assume this is a mistake. If a child doesn't get a place at any of the schools on their application form, they're allocated a place at the nearest school with a vacancy.

Getting help preparing your appeal

Coram Children's Legal Centre has chapter and verse on preparing an appeal and you can download a free school admission appeals factsheet. It also has a telephone advice line, 08088 020 008, 8am-8pm, Mon-Fri, and an online virtual assistant.

The appeal hearing

The 'admission authority' (ie the school itself or your local council) has to give you at least 10 school days' notice before the hearing to confirm the date. Appeals have to be heard within 40 school days of the appeal deadline.

What happens at the appeal hearing

The admission authority will state why your child has been refused a place and then you'll be given the opportunity to explain why your child should be admitted to the school.

Your appeal is heard by a panel of three people who must be independent. The panel's job is to decide if the school's admission criteria were adhered to fairly and thoroughly, and meet the legally binding School Admissions Code.

If the panel decides the admissions criteria weren't properly followed or are illegal, your appeal will be upheld.

The panel will send you its decision within five school days. You may be able to apply to appeal again if you think there has been a change in your circumstances that could affect the original decision.

If you lose the appeal

If you think your appeal was mishandled, you can challenge the decision. Again, Coram Children's Legal Centre has detail about how to go about this.

If, ultimately, your child can't go to the primary school attached to their pre-school, or where all their little friends from nursery are going, it can induce the first (of much) parental agonising over schools and education. But try not to stress out: many Mumsnetters say parents find the idea of their children missing their friends more worrying than their children's actual experience once they start at their new school.

And never say never - other parents' circumstances change (house moves, new jobs etc) and if your child is top of the school waiting list, in time a place could become vacant.

What Mumsnetters say about primary school admission appeals

  • Do your homework very thoroughly - check previous admission numbers, distance from school of last child offered place (use Google maps pedometer) etc - you may find an error. Lou071
  • Every single parent who hasn't got their first choice of school thinks the decision is unreasonable, so will seize on those words. neepsandtatties
  • The purpose of the appeal is to decide whether you should be given a place at the school. If you win the appeal, your child gets a place. Where you are on the waiting lists makes no difference. You could be 99th on the waiting list and still win the appeal. PanelChair
  • If yours is an Infant Class Size (ICS) appeal (ie where the school admits in classes of 30) you will win only if you can show that there was an error which deprived your child of a place or the decision to refuse a place was so unreasonable that it should be overturned. Panelmember
  • Going to the attached pre-school generally does not give priority for admissions. prh47bridge
  • You need to appeal FOR a school and never mention the against. exoticfruits
  • You can appeal even if you don't think the LA made a mistake because it is everybody's right to do so BUT you are not able to win an appeal just on the basis that you don't like the school you've been given. SchoolsNightmare 


Last updated: 8 months ago