If your child isn’t offered a place at your primary school of choice you have a right to appeal the decision. However, the reality is that most primary school appeals are unsuccessful, so it’s important to understand the process before you decide to go for it.
If you do decide to appeal, you should accept the place you’ve been offered anyway. Doing this won’t have any effect whatsoever on your appeal outcome and it means that your child has a guaranteed place at a school if your appeal is refused.
How it works
In April you’ll receive a letter telling you which primary school your child has been allocated a place at. Hopefully it’s your first choice but if it’s not, you’ll be put on to the waiting list for any school you ranked higher than the one you’ve been given. The admission authority will be able to tell you your child’s position on the waiting list.
If you haven’t got a school you wanted, you have a few options. One of them is to appeal to an independent appeal panel. As we said before, it’s important to accept the place you’ve been given anyway, so that you have a plan B.
How to make a primary school appeal
The admission authority (usually the local council responsible for the school, but sometimes an academy trust or the school itself if it’s a faith or free school) must allow you at least 20 days to appeal from the date you receive the decision letter. You need to make sure that you lodge the appeal within this timeframe.
You should be given details on how to appeal in the decision letter. You’ll need to contact the admissions authority directly for an appeal form – most councils provide this on their website in the school admissions section but if it’s the school itself, contact them. You can appeal against the decision not to admit your child to more than one school.
On the form you’ll be asked to give your reasons for the appeal. You’ll then return this form along with any supporting evidence, for example your child’s medical records. Some people get legal advice to help them with primary school appeals, although you will have to pay for this.
The appeal panel hearing
Your case will be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for making an appeal and you’ll be given at least 10 days’ notice of the hearing. On the day, you can attend and there will be a panel of three or more people to hear your case.
The admissions authority will put forward its case for refusing admission to the school, and then the panel and parents can ask questions about this. After that, you’ll have the opportunity to present your child’s case and you’ll need to answer questions by the panel and authority. Finally, both sides can give a summary of their case.
If you don’t attend the hearing, the panel can hear the case in your absence, based on the written information you provided.
The panel will decide if the school’s admission criteria was properly followed and complies with the school admissions code. You will be sent the final decision within five school days.
If you’re not happy with the outcome, you can appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman or EFSA. The gov.uk website has more useful information about this. However, you can only complain about the way the appeal was carried out, not the actual decision.
Things to know about primary school appeals
The local authority must provide your child with a primary school place, but this doesn’t have to be one that you want. Arguing that you haven’t been given a place at a school you listed on your application isn’t enough grounds for appeal on its own. Nor is arguing that you didn’t get your closest school – even if you can see it from your bathroom window.
Infant class sizes must not exceed 30 children by law. In some areas, schools are heavily oversubscribed and the number of applications far exceed the number of places available. If your child has been refused a place in a reception class which is full to capacity then you only have limited grounds for appeal. They are:
- The admissions arrangements weren’t followed correctly
- The decision not to offer your child a place was not one which a reasonable admissions authority would make in the circumstance of the case.
To give you a rough idea, in 2019 Enfield Council heard 21 appeals. Only one was allowed, 20 were refused.
Not getting your first-choice primary school can be a real blow – we know, we’ve been there ourselves. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Many children go on to thrive at other schools, have a great education and make friends for life.
So whether you decide to appeal or to go down another route, please be assured that the outcome does not have to define your child’s primary school experience.