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Our Guide to Understanding School Admission Appeals

Posted on: 8 mins read
Sarah Woosey Profile Picture
Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

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It might be really scary if your child or children isn’t admitted to the right school.

At the end of the day, every parent will want what’s best for their child, even more so if they have additional needs, meaning there are more requirements as to the best type of school that suits them.

For this reason, it’s super important to understand the school admission appeals process, in case you believe your child should have been admitted into another school.

At Simpson Millar, our team of School Admissions Appeal Solicitors can walk you through the process of appealing this decision.

What to Do if Your Child Didn’t Get a Place at their Preferred School

Every year, that time comes along where you find out whether your child got a place at their preferred school.

If your child unfortunately didn’t get a place, there are things you can do to challenge this decision – this is called an appeal.

If you need additional help and support on how to do this, our team of specialists at Simpson Millar can walk you through this process. It doesn’t have to be a stressful and worrying one if you have us in your corner to advise you along the way.

What are School Admissions Appeals?

A Schools Admissions Appeal, as we’ve touched on above, is where you can challenge the decision of an Admissions Authority to not admit your child.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, you or your child will have a particular school in mind for them to attend. It can be tricky to know what to do when this happens, and you can be left feeling confused and a little helpless about what to do and what exactly your options are.

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What are Some of the Reasons Why I Might Appeal the School Admissions Process?

There are a few different reasons as to why you might feel the need to appeal the School Admissions Process. These are as follows:

  • The school’s admission process didn’t adhere to the School Admissions Code, and your child would’ve been admitted to the school if they had adhered to it;
  • The school didn’t use their admission criteria properly, and your child would’ve had a place if this had been used;
  • The decision that was made as to your child’s acceptance wasn’t “one that a reasonable authority would have made”.

If one or more of these apply to your situation, and your appeal should be successful.

But, if you’re not quite sure, you can still check with us, and we’ll look over your case to advise on your chances of successfully appealing.

Discrimination in School Admissions

Under the Equality Act 2010, the law states that places that provide education, from schools to universities and more, shouldn’t discriminate against their pupils.

This means that, if your child has any Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), or indeed another protected characteristic they shouldn’t be discriminated against because of this, because that would be contrary to this Act.

Unfortunately, people and/or systems do still discriminate in this way. That’s why, at Simpson Millar, if you believe this has happened to your child, our Education Lawyers can look over your case and figure out if you can appeal the decision on the grounds of discrimination.

Appealing against a Primary School Admission Decision

If your child doesn’t get into their preferred Primary School, you have the right to appeal this decision.

When you get the decision letter, you’ll also get an appeal form, should you decide to exercise this right. You need to send this back within the deadline of 20 days from sending date, and you need to explain why your child should have been given a place at that particular school.

If it comes to this, an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) will hear your case, and look through the reasons and information you’ve given as to why your child should have been admitted into that school.

Of course, sometimes, schools are just so oversubscribed that they can’t take on anyone else. This may also be influenced by the maximum class size allowed and the number of staff members and classrooms they have to accommodate this. In these cases, sometimes the decision is valid as there is a legal limit of 30 children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 classes.

Appealing against a Secondary School Admission Decision

You might be in a similar situation, but with your child not getting a place in their preferred secondary school.

This can be a difficult transition for children to make, especially if they’ve settled in well at primary school and made some good friends, who they may not be able to join if they don’t get into this particular school.

Whatever the reasons may be for you or your child choosing this as the preferred school, it can be tricky if they don’t get a place, and that’s why the appeals process is there.

Again, you can request an appeal form once you get the decision letter, and you have 20 school days to return the completed form. As with the appeals process for Primary School Admission, your appeal will be heard by an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP).

As with Primary School Admissions Decisions, sometimes, there may be external factors which mean that your child didn’t get in but there is no legal limit on class sizes for secondary schools.

Appealing against a Grammar School Admission Decision

To get into a selective Grammar School, children  have to take some sort of test – usually the 11-plus – to make sure they are at the right ability level to attend the school.

Generally, Grammar Schools are attended by children who exceed academically, so the children who pass this exam have a good chance of getting in.

Appeals for Grammar School Admission Decisions can be difficult, as there are more factors to keep in mind. For example, you may have to prove that your child’s academic abilities are in line with what is required of other pupils at the school.

It’s essential to fully understand the appeals process in this area, which is why in these cases, it could be worth getting legal advice from an expert.

Appealing Admissions into Religious Schools Another more complex area of School Admission Decisions is religious and Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools.

If they’re oversubscribed, for example, religious schools may give priority to pupils who share the same religion as the school promotes.

Alternatively, the opposite could happen, where a Church of England school, for example, may give children of other religions a place, to promote diversity.

Making a Successful Appeal

There are a few tips we can suggest to help you make a successful appeal. But,  do  get in touch with our team of experts for specific advice and support on this topic.

  • How to prepare for the hearing: You’ll need to fill in all the right forms by the correct deadlines. You’ll also have to give reasons, or grounds, for your appeal, which you should be ready to prove if needed.
  • Who is on the Admissions Appeal Panel: The Panel will consist of three people: the chair, and 2 other members, one of whom should be a lay person with no knowledge of the education system or the law, and the other should be someone who knows the education system and how it works, like a teacher.
  • The Clerk to the Independent Appeals Panel: There will be a Clerk to the Independent Appeals, who has nothing to do with the school or the local authority’s education areas. The Clerk is there to advise the panel, talk to all parties and respond to their queries, and deal with the paperwork involved.
  • The Decision: You’ll usually have to wait for a written decision on your appeal, which should happen within 5 days of the hearing.
  • After The Decision: If the appeal is successful, the process of getting your child enrolled will begin. If it is unsuccessful, you won’t be able to appeal again.

Do I Need an Education Lawyer for a Schools Admissions Appeal?

While you don’t need a lawyer to represent you when making a Schools Admissions Appeal, getting legal advice from Education Law Solicitors can really help you understand the laws, procedures and deadlines around appealing against the decision.

If you get legal advice, you’ll be better equipped when it comes to understanding what’s happening with your case and what your options are to hopefully get your child the result they need. 

Benefits of Using an Education Lawyer for an Appeal

There are several benefits to getting advice from an expert in Education Law. Not only will this help take some of the stress off your shoulders, as you won’t be dealing with this alone anymore, it’ll also make sure you’re prepared for the appeal hearing itself, as an expert will be able to advise and suggest what will happen and how you can prepare in terms of evidence and other factors.

Education Law specialists know all about the appeals process and how they work, meaning we know how you can prepare for your appeal, based on what the IAP want to hear.

How Simpson Millar can Help with Your Child’s School Admissions Appeal

If you’re looking to appeal your child’s School Admissions Decision, our team of Education Law Solicitors can help.

We’ll be here at every stage of the appeals process to help you understand what’s going on, and to advise you on how to put together a successful case. We will listen to your story and why your child needs to be in that school, and we’ll tailor our information, support and advice to your particular case.

We want to make sure you get the best result possible for your child and their education.


UK Government. (n.d.). Equality Act 2010: Guidance. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance

UK Government. (n.d.). Academy admissions. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/guidance/academy-admissions

UK Government. (n.d.). Admission appeals for school places: Advice for clerks and appeal panels. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/admission-appeals-for-school-places/advice-for-clerks-and-appeal-panels-on-school-admission-appeals

UK Government. (n.d.). Admission appeals for school places: Advice for clerks and appeal panels. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/admission-appeals-for-school-places/advice-for-clerks-and-appeal-panels-on-school-admission-appeals

Sarah Woosey Profile Picture

Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Sarah re-joined Simpson Millar in 2018 having previously trained at the firm before spending a number of years working for a different national firm. She has a number of years’ experience in a range of Education Law and Social Care issues and has focused particularly on getting suitable education and/or services for children and young adults with a wide range of Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

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