Secondary school places: How do you appeal decision?

Thousands of children across England find out on Wednesday which secondary school they will be attending this autumn, on what is known as 'National Offer Day'.

More than half (57%) of authorities, 85 in total, have seen a fall in the proportion of 11-year-olds offered their first secondary school preference over the past five years.

And around two-thirds, 98 councils (65%), have seen a drop in overall choices during this time.

Here we explain your rights and what to do if you're not happy with the school your child has been offered.

Fewer children are getting their preferred choice school than five years ago. Credit: PA

School places: What are your rights?

You do not have a right to choose a particular school for your child, you have a right to express a preference.

Your local authority may offer your child a place that you did not apply for if your preferences cannot be met.

If you are allocated a school that is over the statutory walking distance of three miles for children over the age of eight, you should contact the local authority and ask what arrangements they will make for transport. This will not apply if the school is one of your preferences.

I've been refused my preferred choice, what should I do?

If your child has been refused a place at your preferred school in England, the local authority is obliged to let you know in writing and give you the right to appeal.

The appeal must be made in writing using a special form. You'll be told how to get hold of this form when your local authority gets in touch.

You'll need to explain the following:

  • Why you disagree with the decision

  • Why your child deserves a place at the school

  • Why authorities haven't, in your opinion, followed the correct processes

  • Any change of circumstance since your original application

Check the form for the appeal deadline. Admission authorities must publish their appeals timetable on their website by 28 February each year.

Parents can appeal against a decision made on which school their children go to. Credit: PA

You must be given 20 school days to lodge an appeal so you have time to consider what you could include in your case.

What happens next?

The local authority will examine the form and compare it with your original application.

In particular, they will look out for:

  • Any new exceptional circumstances (e.g. moving house, medical)

  • Any mistakes which may have been made with the original application

Admission authorities must set a timetable for organising and hearing appeals that:

  • ensures that parents receive at least 10 school days' notice of their appeal hearing;

  • includes reasonable deadlines for parents to submit additional evidence, for admission authorities to submit their evidence and for the clerk to send appeal papers to the panel and parties;

  • ensures that decision letters are sent within five school days of the hearing wherever possible.

Appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for lodging appeals.

If you submit your appeal late, it must still be heard within the timescale set out in the timetable published by the admission authority.

Who hears the appeal?

If the case is pursued, appeal members will be chosen who haven't played any part in the original decision and will be independent of the admission authority.

  • You can go along to the hearing yourself to give your case in person

  • You will face three or more panel members

  • There is usually a decision the same day, and you'll be told shortly after in writing

Appeals must be heard within 40 days of the deadline for lodging appeals. Credit: PA

If I'm unsuccessful can I try another appeal?

You can't appeal again in the same academic year, unless there is a significant change in personal circumstances.

However the local authority will add your child's name to a waiting list.

If I'm still not happy is there anything else I can do?

If you still feel your case hasn't been dealt with properly, you can take it to the Local Government Ombudsman.

You can also get more advice from the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE).