Secondary school admissions appeals



When to appeal | How to appeal | What happens during the appeal | What happens after the appeal

What do you do if, after all the interminable angst of the application process, your child doesn't get a place in the secondary school you wanted them to go to? One option is to appeal against the admission decision - you have the right to do so. In 2008, about 20,000 parents appealed against their local education authority's decision, and about a third of those appeals were successful.

"We have lost our first appeal (my second choice school). We are now going for our second appeal (my first choice school). My head is frazzled. I need to win this appeal, but how? What can I do to provide concrete evidence that what they are suggesting is impossible for me? I am really stuck and stressed to the limit." littlesara

When do you appeal?

In England, D-day is 3 March because this is when confirmation of secondary school places is sent out.

The letter or email you receive will include details about how to make your appeal, which will be heard by an independent panel of a handful of members of the public.

The appeal hearing should take place by early July.

How do you make an appeal?

The admissions letter or email specifies the deadline you must meet if you want to appeal. In some areas, you may be able to submit your appeal online.

If more than one school declines to admit your child, you can make separate appeals. Try not to be over-emotional during your appeal (easier said than done) and don't rely simply on how special your darling child to win over the appeal panel - every parent thinks that or they wouldn't be at the appeal in the first place.

The school cannot give you a place if it doesn't have one, so be realistic about the grounds for your appeal. Do your homework about the school beforehand and bear in mind the following advice from Mumsnetters:

  • To win a first appeal, you have (broadly speaking) to show that the LEA has not applied its admissions criteria properly or there has been an error in the way your application was handled: in other words, that you should have got a place when they were first awarded. If you lose that appeal, your only chance to overturn that decision is (again) if you can demonstrate that the appeal panel misdirected itself or failed to follow proper procedure. That will probably mean going to court, which is slow and potentially expensive. BoccaDellaNativita
  • Our appeal lasted for a full hour. We did dress smartly, it can't hurt. I had planned to use my notes to glance at and speak off the cuff, but it was a bit intimidating and in the end I found it easier to just read everything out. I went armed with lots of facts regarding the numbers in each year group, pupil teacher ratios, class size comparisons nationally. I wish you lots of luck (we won ours by the way). Elsiepiddock
  • Know the school you want your child to go to inside out, and argue for that, not against the other school. You should be looking for positive reasons why your child needs to attend that school as opposed to any other, not why your child should not go to the allocated school. Don't let the school/LA get away with unsupported statements - you will have the opportunity at the appeal to put questions to them so use it. UnquietDad
  • One of the panel members really threw me. When it was time for them to question me, I felt that I had blown the whole thing and just wanted it over. I did not realise that I would be asked to do a summing up at the end and was so flappy that I felt I wasted those few closing words. I went alone and feel now that having someone with me would have helped, maybe they would have jogged my memory about things." heronsfly
What happens during the appeal? One mum describes her son's appeal

LEA rep read out a statement (school was oversubscribed).
Panel asked me if I had questions for the LEA rep (try to have a question as it makes you look prepared).
I gave my statement (I'd scribbled what I wanted to say).
Questions from the panel.
They asked me if I had anything new to add.
LEA rep summed up (basically repeated what she said earlier).
I summed up (start by thanking them for listening to you - it's polite!) - you can't add any new evidence in your summing up, just reiterate your points again.
Good luck - the panel were nice but it's very stressful. We won our son's appeal, so lots of big smiles here! swedishmum

What happens after the appeal?

Once your appeal has been heard, you'll be told the result within seven days by post. If you fail, you can still keep your child's name on the school's waiting list.

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

If you've got the patience (and pounds and pence), you can also think about applying for judicial review in the High Court.

There's a deadline for doing so - you must apply within three months of the decision - but don't take this step without talking to a lawyer who specialises in education law and who can advise you whether you have a case.



Last updated: 8 months ago