Parents can appeal if their child does not get a place at their preferred school and they think there is a strong reason why the child should go to the school. Students can appeal themselves in the case of admission to a school sixth form.
Why schools refuse places
Your admission decision notice will tell you why your child did not get a place. In most cases, it will be because the year group was full.
When a school is full, the school's admissions authority follow their admissions policy to allocate places. If your child did not get a place because the school was full, this will be because other children met the criteria in the oversubscription policy more closely.
A sixth form can refuse places on the grounds that the student did not meet entry requirements.
Decisions about maximum numbers
Except for in the case of infant classes (reception, year 1, year 2), decisions about maximum numbers are made by admissions authorities. There is no fixed maximum number published in advance. The school's annual published admissions number (PAN) is only for guidance - admissions authorities sometimes choose to take more children in a year.
But for infant classes, there is a legal maximum of 30 children unless the extra children are exceptions to infant class size rules.
When an appeals panel can tell a school to offer a place
The rules about when an appeals panel can tell a school to offer a place depend on the type of appeal.
Infant class size appeals
Infant class size appeals are appeals for places that would lead to an infant class (reception, year 1, year 2) having more than 30 children.
Infant class size appeals are only successful in limited circumstances, because of national infant class size rules.
With an infant class size appeal, the panel can only tell a school to take an extra child if the panel decides either of the following apply:
- admissions arrangements did not meet the school admissions code or were not fairly applied, and the child would have got a place if the arrangements had met the code or been correctly applied
- the decision not to offer a place was unreasonable - it is unusual for panels to find this to be the case because the legal threshold for finding that a decision was unreasonable is high.
School place appeals for places refused on the grounds a year group is full
If you were refused place on the grounds the year group is full and infant class size rules do not apply, an appeal panel must tell the school to offer you a place if the panel finds either of the following:
- the reason the child did not get a place was because admissions arrangements did not meet the school admissions code or were not fairly applied
- admitting an extra child or children will not 'prejudice' (harm) the education of the other children in the school or the efficient use of resources
Where neither of these apply, then the panel will consider the case for each individual child making an appeal.
If your child is the only one making an appeal for the school and year, the panel will tell the school to offer your child a place if they decide your child's case for going to the school outweighs any problems the school may face in ensuring the quality of education overall does not suffer if they take an extra child.
If there is more than one child making an appeal for the school and year, the panel must balance each child's case against any problems the school may face in ensuring the quality of education overall does not suffer if they take more children. The panel may tell the school they must take one particular child or several particular children but not others. The panel will decide which children have the strongest case.
Sixth form appeals for places refused on the grounds of not meeting entry requirements
Where a sixth form place is refused on the grounds that the student did not meet entry requirements, an appeals panel can say the school must offer a place if the panel agrees the decision was unreasonable in the light of the information available. An example would be if the child was unable to meet the entry requirements because they had not been studying in England and did not have GCSEs.
In doing this, the panel must look at whether the school had a consistent and objective process for making such decisions.
The appeals process
What happens when you make an appeal
Appeals are dealt with through the admissions authority for each school.
When you make an appeal, you have to set out your case in writing for an appeal panel. To have the best chance of success you will then need to also take part in the an appeal panel hearing (meeting). Appeal panels are independent.
You can only normally only appeal once for a place in the same school in the same academic year. You can appeal again if you make a second application after your circumstances have changed and you still do not get a place.
An independent appeal panel will decide whether or not the school must give the child a place. The panel must follow strict rules when they make their decision. This means more appeals are unsuccessful than are successful.
Before you appeal, we advise you to accept the offer we have sent you. This makes sure your child has a school place if your appeal does not succeed. You can also ask to go on one or more school waiting lists.
Preparing your case for the appeal
It is important to give full information about why you think your child should get a place at your preferred school.
If you are appealing because you believe the school is the best option for your child, explain why you think this school can meet your child's needs better than any other school in the area.
If you are appealing because you think the reason your child did not get a place was because the admission authority did not apply its admissions policy correctly, you should explain clearly what you think the mistake was.
Any evidence you can give will help your case. Examples of helpful evidence include:
- for appeals on medical grounds - a letter from a doctor saying why they think the child's medical condition means they must go to the school you prefer
- for appeals on the grounds you have changed address - evidence of your new address, such as a council tax bill, a tenancy agreement, a utility bill, or a letter from a solicitor
You will need to send all the information in writing before the appeal hearing.
Appeal hearings are informal and usually held in the area local to the schools concerned.
Appeal hearings during the coronavirus pandemic
New Appeal Arrangements Regulations allow for school appeals to take place differently during the coronavirus pandemic. Appeals may be held virtually so you do not need to physically attend, and may take place later than planned. The admissions authority for the relevant school will tell you what to expect.
The appeal panel is made up of 3-5 people who are independent and impartial. A representative from the admissions authority will make the case for the refusal to offer a place.
You do not have to attend the hearing, but if you do attend, you can ask and answer questions.
At the hearing you may
- ask questions about why your child was not offered a place
- explain the case for your child
- answer questions
It is a good idea to write down what you want to say, so you can make sure you tell the panel everything you want them to know.
You can bring someone to the hearing to support you or speak for you. You can also bring witnesses, but it is up to the panel to decide how and if the witness is allowed to speak. You can choose to bring a lawyer, but you do not need one. Your child can come to the hearing if you think it is appropriate, but in most cases parents do not bring children.
No other parents will be in the room when you talk about your child's case.
If you are not happy with the outcome of the appeal
Appeal panel decisions are final and you can only complain if you think the appeal panel did not handle your appeal correctly.
Who to complain to depends on the type of school:
How to make an appeal
Your decision notice will tell you how to make an appeal - you must appeal to the admissions authority for the school. Once you have made your appeal, you will get detailed notice about the next stage and how the appeal hearing will work.
For schools for which Cheshire East is the admissions authority, you should make your appeal using our online admissions appeal form.
If you do not have access to the internet, or need support to use the online form, you can call us on 0300 123 5012.
When to appeal
For reception and year 7 September intake appeals, see admissions timetable for appeal deadlines.
For appeals for places at other times, you must send your appeal within 20 school days of the date of notification that you did not get a place.
Make an appeal for a Cheshire East admissions authority school
More information about school appeals
GOV.UK advice for parents and guardians on school admissions appeals