A Guide to Primary School Admissions Appeals


National Offer Day (18 April 2015) for primary school places is fast approaching - you need to be aware of your options, including 'Infant Class Size' appeals.

Primary School Admissions

Is your child due to start reception class in September 2016? Are you anxious about what to do if your child doesn’t get your preferred school place?

The Application Process

Your child should be attending when they have reached compulsory school age, and this will be different for children depending on when they were born. In order to be offered a place on National Offer Day you should have submitted a formal application in January (either online or on paper). In exceptional cases , i.e. if you have recently moved to a new area, applications may be considered for a limited time after that date.

18 April 2016 is National Offer Day, you should be told (via letter or online if you applied online) the outcome of your application.

Options if You Don’t Get the Place You Want

It can be extremely upsetting if you are told that your child has not got a place at your preferred school and it is good to be aware of your options so you can make informed choices. There are a number of options that will be open to you:

Waiting Lists - Your child's name can be added to the waiting list for any schools that you have applied for but haven't been offered a place. The relevant Admission Authority (see below) must keep a waiting list for at least one term. You can ask the Admission Authority how places on the list will be prioritised, a copy of their criteria should be available online and in hard copy upon request. Your child's place on a waiting list will change as other children leave, or if children join, who have greater priority.

Applying to Other Schools - If there are other schools that you did not previously apply for, but would prefer to the school you have been offered, you can ask your Local Authority Admissions Department if there are places available. If not, you can still apply and ask to join their waiting list and/or appeal for a place at that school.

Appealing - You have the right to make an appeal to an independent appeal panel. School admission appeals must be carried out in accordance with the School Admission Appeals Code 2012.

Primary school admission appeals can be very difficult, particularly if you are applying for a place in an infant class - this includes Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

Have a look at our infographic to see a simple step-by-step guide to the school admissions appeals process. You can also look up the specific statistics for Infant Class Size appeals in your local authority.

Infant Class Size Appeals

By law there is an upper limit of 30 pupils per class in infant classes (Reception, Year 1 and 2). This is to ensure the right pupil to teacher ratio. If you are appealing for a place in Reception, Year 1 or 2, and the successful admission of your child would bring the class size above 30 the appeal will be considered an 'Infant Class Size' appeal. This limits your grounds for appeal and chances of success.

Only in exceptional circumstances can a school exceed the infant class size limit of 30 pupils in one class. For example:

  • Where a child has a Statement of Special Educational Needs or Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) which states they are to attend a particular school
  • Where a child whose twin or sibling from a multiple birth is admitted and is not an excepted pupil
  • Where a child is admitted due to a successful independent appeal panel hearing
  • Where a child moves into the area outside the normal admissions round and no other school is within a reasonable distance

When an appeal is considered an 'Infant Class Size' Appeal the panel making the decision on the matter can only consider the following:

  1. Whether the admission of an additional child/children would in fact exceed the infant class size limit (i.e. take the class over 30 pupils)
  2. Whether the admission arrangements are lawful (do they comply with the mandatory requirements of the Schools Admissions Code and the School Standards and Frameworks Act 1998)
  3. Whether a mistake was made in not offering the child a place (i.e. have the admission arrangements been correctly and impartially applied in the case); and/or
  4. Whether the decision to refuse admission was 'unreasonable'. Whilst an admissions decision not allowing a child to attend a specific school may not seem reasonable, 'unreasonable' is tightly defined in legal terms and is a difficult threshold to satisfy. The panel will consider whether the decision was one that no reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case

If a number of parents are arguing that the admission arrangements are unlawful or have been incorrectly applied their cases may initially be heard together. In a situation where there is a multiple appeal and the panel finds that several children would have been offered a place had the initial process operated properly but admitting all of those children would interfere with the efficient education of the pupils in the class, a second stage of the appeal is held where each child is considered on a case by case basis and the panel will decide which pupils should receive an offer of place at the school.

Appeals for Primary School Places Which Are Not 'Infant Class Size' Appeals

Not all applications for infant class places will be refused on infant class size grounds. Infant class size appeals are only used when the reason for the application being refused is due to a breach of the class size rule, for all other reasons parents should follow the normal appeals procedure. The infant class size rules do not apply to any appeals for places in junior classes (years 3-6 in Primary school).

Who Is The 'Relevant Admission Authority'?

The relevant Admission Authority is responsible for overseeing the admission arrangements and process, and for arranging appeals. The responsible body differs depending on the type of school.

For Community Schools (maintained schools) and Voluntary Controlled Schools it is the Local Authority. For Foundation Schools and Voluntary Aided Schools it is the Governing body. And for Academies it is the Academy Trust that is responsible.

Time Frame For Appeals

Admissions authorities must publish an appeals timetable on their website by no later than the 28th of February each year. Admissions authorities can set their own dates within the constraints of the Admissions Appeals Code. Any appeal deadline must be at least 20 school days from being informed that an application was unsuccessful and for applications to primary school within the normal admissions round parents should have 40 school days for lodging appeals. Parents can expect to receive notification of their appeal and information related to the hearing 10 school days before hearing.

Contact Our Education Law Specialists

Simpson Millar’s Education Law team is made up of experts with proven expertise handling school admissions appeals. Appealing for a child’s school place alone can be incredibly stressful and difficult; often, parents become overwhelmed and rely on emotional arguments that the panel is unfortunately unable to take into account.

With the support of our legal experts, you can get the assistance you need to form a persuasive and evidentially sound argument, giving you the best chances of a successful result.

If you would like more information you can also request a copy of our free guide to school admissions.

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