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Secondary school offer – can you appeal the decision?

Guidance on the appeal process


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March is the time when schools in England and Wales issue their place offers to children and their parents for the academic year starting in September. Approximately 83% of applicants get their first preference places. But that means that there are always a number of disappointed people.

What is the appeals process if you are not happy with the place your child has been offered?

Different types of schools have different admissions bodies who deal with admissions and appeals but when you get the offer letter it should tell you how to appeal.

It can be a complex legal area and it is understood that in the 21/22 academic year only about 21% of appeals succeeded.

There are also different rules and considerations for Children with and Education Health and Care plan, so this blog does not cover those.

If you want to appeal there are basically two grounds, for non-Infant schools. That the school has not applied its own admissions criteria correctly, or that the reasons for your child being admitted outweigh the schools reasons for not admitting any more children.

It will not be sufficient to just say that the school offered is not good enough or that the one you want is better.

·        An example of the first ground could be that the school says its admission criteria favour siblings and your child already has a sibling in school, so its own criteria have not been properly applied.

·        An example of the second ground could be, that your child is part of a family where different languages are spoken by some family members and your child needs to learn an unusual language to communicate when visiting those family members. That argument might be convincing if, for example, the language is Chinese and only the school you want teaches that, not the one you have been offered. The thrust of this argument is that the reason for admitting your child to the school to learn Chinese outweighs the reasons for not admitting any more children due to oversubscribing. It may obviously not hold water if the language is say French and both schools teach it.

It is more difficult to succeed with an appeal for oversubscribed infant schools because the law limits classes in those to 30.Therefore the school cannot breach that rule.

There are strict time limits for both parents and schools to follow in an appeal so if you do wish to appeal you should not delay. You should also accept the place you have been offered and get on the waiting list for the school you do want, so that you keep your options open and avoid having no place.

You do not have to use a lawyer for a school appeal but there are some law firms who specialise in this area and it can involve some complex legal considerations. So if the outcome is very important to you it is worth considering getting some legal advice.

If you fail in the appeals process it is sometimes possible to launch a Judicial review of that but Judicial reviews can be very expensive and complex. In those circumstances you would almost certainly need a lawyer if you were contemplating it as they also have strict time limits.

Our site will enable you to search for lawyers who specialise in education matters, completely free and without taking your personal data. Check our useful guidance sections too for information on how to help you choose the right solicitor, or how to choose a solicitor with a specialist area of law, like education, which is particularly important, and how to make sure your solicitor is regulated. All solicitors listed on our site are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).