What You Need to Know if Your Child Didn’t Get Into Your Chosen Primary

Portrait of Emma Davies
Emma Davies
Senior Associate Lawyer, Education and Community Care

The law is always changing, and we’re dedicated to making sure our information is accurate and up to date.

This article was reviewed and updated on 12 April 2022.

Did you know that there’s a law in England and Wales that says there can’t be more than 30 children per qualified teacher in a Reception, Year One or Year Two class?

This makes appealing a primary school’s decision really difficult. Class size is probably the reason your child didn’t get a place and it’s likely that you will only be able to make an appeal if you can show one of the legal grounds described below applies.

We know how stressed you might be if your child hasn’t got into your preferred primary school on National Offer Day. You may feel like you don’t stand a chance of making a successful appeal with these strict laws in place, but our Education Lawyers can help families whose children have wrongly missed out on a school place.

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You should always consider getting legal advice before you lose all hope, because there’s a chance we can help you make an appeal. And if not, we can tell you quickly if you don’t have grounds to make your appeal, so you won’t waste time fighting a losing battle.

Before you dive head first into the school appeals process, here’s what you should know about challenging a primary school’s decision on National Offer Day:

  1. The Grounds for a School Appeal

There are only a few reasons for making a primary school admissions appeal. You must show one of the following:

  • The school’s admissions process did not comply with the School Admissions Code and your child would have been allocated a place at the school had this not been the case;
  • The school’s admissions criteria were not applied correctly, for example if they wrongly calculated the distance you live from the school and your child would have been given a place had this not happened; and/or
  • The decision made ‘was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made’.

This last one is extremely difficult to prove, as this is a legal term. What many parents consider unreasonable would not be enough to mean that an appeal would succeed on this basis.  

It’s likely that you already think the decision was not ‘reasonable’ if you’re making an appeal, but you’ll have to prove that is was legally unreasonable. This means the decision was outrageous, illogical or immoral, but it’s much harder to define if you’re not a legal expert and even harder to prove to an Independent Appeal Panel.

If you’re going to make an appeal on the grounds that the decision was not reasonable, you should get legal advice from a specialist Education Lawyer.

  1. You Must Accept the School Place Offered

Even if you’re making an appeal, you should always accept the school offered to you. If you don’t, and you don’t win your appeal, the Local Authority have no legal duty to offer you another school place somewhere else. Also, you may be allocated a place at another school which you are even more unhappy with.

Accepting the offer means your child will definitely have a place in September, and the fact that you’ve accepted an offer won’t affect your appeal at all.

If your appeal doesn’t succeed, then you could go and visit the school and speak to the parents that are already there. You might just find it better than you thought it would be.

  1. Getting on the Waiting List for Your Preferred School Could Pay Off

School placements often shift around a bit before September so putting your name on the waiting list could really make a difference.

Another family might move away from the area and other parents might be making appeals to get into different schools too, so this leaves a bit of wiggle room for your child. Sometimes, places even become available early in September, as families have moved away without letting the school know, so children just don’t turn up at the start of term.

  1. Using an Education Lawyer Will Save You a Lot of Time

Trying to identify a procedural error in the school’s admissions process can be daunting and you might have never looked at the School Admissions Code before, never mind digested all the information well enough to argue its points.

A good Education Lawyer will know the School Admissions Code inside out, and will have both advised and represented parents through primary admissions appeals before.

We are the Open Lawyers, which is why we will always be open and honest with parents, and we will only take your appeal forward if we think you have a chance of winning.

It’s also really important to remember that making a primary school admissions appeal can be really difficult, even with legal representation. But you can rest assured that our Education Lawyers will always be realistic with you about your appeal, and if we represent you we will always work to a high standard with a level of expertise that will likely improve your chances of success.

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