My child didn’t get the school that we wanted. What should I do?

5 mins

Posted on 14 Apr 2021

My child didn’t get the school that we wanted. What should I do?

Primary school admissions letters are out on Friday 16 April. As in previous years, it is likely that many parents will not get their child into their preferred school. Families will therefore need to think hard about what to do and whether making an appeal is their next step.

Above all else - don’t panic, keep calm and look at all of your options.

What should you do if your child doesn't get the school of their choice? 

Step one

Accept the school that has been offered and arrange to visit it with your child. This will give you a safety net and ensure that you don’t lose the place and end up having to send your child to a less desirable school. 

Step two 

Ask to be put on the school you want’s waiting list. Even with the most popular schools places can come up all the way to the beginning of term.

Even if the waiting list is long, there’s lots of movement after offer letters come out, with some parents rejecting their place in favour of another school. If this happens the available places are offered to the next person on the list. Importantly, being on the list or your position on it has no bearing on your right of appeal or your likely success with an appeal, but it is a good indicator of where your child is in the queue. You can stay on the waiting list indefinitely, however, you may not want to move your child once the autumn term has started. 

Step three

Get in touch with your local authority and let them know that you want to appeal. All of the information you’ll need and deadlines etc. will be on the authority’s website in the schools and education section and you will be sent all of the forms etc that you’ll need to complete. 

Step four

Look over the appeal notification form and fill it in - the timescales for appealing can be quite tight. If you change your mind about appealing, you can always withdraw the notification. It’s at this point that you may want the help of a specialist Education lawyer who will be able to help you fill in the forms and guide you through the appeal process and hearing.

primary school children running

School Admission Appeals - FAQ's

When will the appeal be heard? 

All of the appeals must be heard before the last day of the summer term - so, before the school holidays start. 

Who decides the appeal? 

Appeal panels are made up of members of the public, who are independent of the school and local authority. There are usually three or occasionally five panel members made up of a chairperson, a lay member and a person with education experience all unconnected to your chosen school. 

Who else is present at the hearing? 

The local authority governance team clerk the hearing or sometimes outsource this to a law firm or barristers chambers in order to make sure that the appeal hearing is procedurally sound. The school is represented by the head teacher or deputy head teacher. 

What if the school is an academy?

Academies administer their own appeals but are subject to the same statutory guidance set out in the School Admissions Code, School Admission Appeals Code and School Standards Framework Act 1998. 

What does the panel need to know?

This depends largely on the basis of your appeal and your circumstances but can include:

  • The choices you made on the original application form. Have you been consistent?
  • The focus of the chosen school
  • The aptitude of the child
  • Is there a sibling or step sibling at the school or a blended family?
  • The geographical factors. In other words, how close is the school? What is the catchment area
  • What are the arrangements for transport to and from school and for other siblings?
  • Are childcare arrangements impacted?
  • Is the child vulnerable or susceptible to bullying?
  • Why is the alternative school offered not appropriate?

Panels can be tough but are fair, so be prepared to answer their questions as fully as possible. 

How does the panel make its decision?

The independent panel will consider the school’s situation - that it cannot take further children weighed against your case that your child really needs to attend that particular school. You must show that the prejudice caused to your child in not attending outweighs the prejudice caused to the school in admitting one extra pupil above the school’s published admission number.

The decision The decision of the appeal panel is not given on the day. It is provided after all of the appeals for that particular school have been heard and it is sent to the parents in writing. 

Can we appeal the appeal? The written decision is binding, and it is only appealable on procedural grounds or if there has been an error of law. If so, the decision can be challenged by bringing a judicial review. 

Contact Doyle Clayton

We have an experienced team of education lawyers who can help you. Contact us for a friendly chat and we will work out the best way to approach your situation. Contact us on +44 (0)20 7329 9090 or email us at

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The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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