The Secondary School Admission Appeals Process Explained

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For many children and parents in the UK, the transition from primary school to secondary school education is an exciting time. But for those children who fail to receive an offer of placement from their preferred secondary school, and their parents, it can also be a source of great worry. Fortunately, action can be taken if this occurs.

For initial advice get in touch with our Education Law Solicitors.

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You should find out from your Local Authority whether or not your child has received an offer of placement from their preferred school by the 1st of March, or the next working day should this date fall on a weekend.

A letter will be sent to you with the decision about your child’s place at a particular school. If your child hasn’t been offered a place at the school they wanted, there is an appeals process you can follow to challenge this decision.

The Appeal Process

If you wish to appeal against a decision, our Education Solicitors can offer you advice and assistance on the process. You should be given 20 school days from the date on the decision letter to submit your initial appeal, so it is essential that you get in touch with our team as soon as possible if you think you will need assistance.

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After your appeal has been lodged and your arguments and evidence submitted, the Admissions Authority must give you at least 10 working days’ notice of the hearing. Appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for making an appeal. You can take support in the form of experts or friends to the hearing should you wish.

At the hearing, an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) of three or more people will hear the appeal. The IAP does not include a Judge and consists of lay people who must have training in the area. A Clerk will assist the IAP, but must not take part in any decision making. The Admissions Authority (who may be your Local Authority, or the school itself) will put forward their case as to why they turned down your admission application, and you will have an opportunity to respond with your reasons as to why your child ought to be admitted.

The role of the IAP at the hearing is first to make a decision as to whether the published admissions code of the school is in accordance with the Admissions Appeal Code 2012 and the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, and that the admissions arrangements were properly followed. Once this has been established, the IAP will then consider whether the admission of your child to the school in question might prejudice the efficient education of other pupils in the school and the school’s resources. If the IAP finds there might be prejudice, they will go on to consider your reasons for needing a place at that school for your child and whether they outweigh any prejudice to the school.

Essentially, the IAP must balance the difficulties the Admissions Authority say would be caused to other pupils and the school’s resources should another child attend against your reasons for needing a place at that particular school. If they decide that your reasons outweigh the Admissions Authority’s then they should uphold your appeal. However if the IAP decide that a number of appeals should be upheld, they will have to consider how many children can be reasonably admitted and allocate places to those the IAP considers have the strongest case.


After the hearing, you will usually be sent the Panel’s decision within five school days. Should you have concerns as to how the appeal was conducted, you may be able to make a complaint, or in some cases it may be appropriate to consider formal legal action. You cannot, however, make a complaint about the decision itself – the Panel’s decision is final. Again, if you have concerns about an IAP decision, our experienced team can advise on any action you may be able to take.

For maintained schools, complaints must be made to the Local Government Ombudsman. For other schools, complaints must be made to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). If your complaint is upheld, the Admissions Authority may be asked to hold a new appeal with a different panel, or that it reviews its appeals process.


Navigating the secondary school admissions appeals process can be daunting for many parents. However, our Education Solicitors can help you. Get in touch for initial advice and for details of the support packages we offer to parents.

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