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Secondary school admissions

Secondary school admissions

Secondary school admissions

On 1 March 2022, it is National Offer Day for primary school students who will find out their school place offers for secondary school.

The anticipation of waiting to hear if your child has been given a place at their school of preference can be daunting. It could even become complex if a parent wished to appeal a decision refusing to offer their child a place. The School Admissions Code governs the admissions process[1] and its purpose is to ensure that school places are allocated in an open and fair way.


Every school must have published admission arrangements setting out how children will be given a school place and what will happen in the event that there are more applications than places that the school has to offer.

There are different Admission Authorities (“AAs”) for maintained schools and academies, the relevant AA will depend on the type of school that your child attends. The main responsibilities of the AAs are:

  • to determine the admission arrangements;
  • make admission decisions, and;
  • make arrangements to enable appeals against admission decisions.

Parents must apply to their Local Authority expressing a preference of at least three schools by 31 October for their child’s secondary school place for the following year. This can include a school outside the Local Authority.

If a school has the space, then it must offer a school place to any parent that has applied. Where there are more applications made than school places available the AAs must rank applications in line with the school’s published oversubscription criteria. The list of applications is then sent back to the Local Authority and the offers are communicated to parents on 1 March – National Offer Day.

Common oversubscription criterion includes the child having siblings at the school, distance from the school, children of school staff and feeder schools to name a few. The exceptions to this are that looked after children must be given top priority when a school is oversubscribed, and a school named in a child’s Education, Health and Care Plan must offer that child a place.

Should your child’s admission to a school be refused, you must be informed of this decision which must include:

  • the reasons for the decision;
  • that there is a right of appeal;
  • the deadline to lodge an appeal;
  • the contact details for making an appeal; and;
  • the process for hearing such appeals.


Parents have the right to appeal against the decision to refuse their child’s admission to a school. The Admissions Appeals process is governed by the Schools Admission Appeals Code[2].

The AAs must arrange for an independent appeal panel to hear appeals and set a timetable for organising and hearing appeals, this timetable must be published 28 February.


When setting the timetable, the AAs must:

  • include a deadline of at least 20 school days to lodge a written appeal (from the date of the decision to refuse the school place);
  • ensure that parents are given at least 10 school days’ notice of their appeal hearing;
  • give reasonable deadlines to parents to submit any additional evidence, for AAs to submit their evidence and for the clerk to send the appeal papers to the panel and parties, and;
  • ensure that decision letters are circulated within 5 school days of the appeal hearing.

The appeals panel will then decide whether to uphold or dismiss the appeal. Should the appeal be upheld then the school is required to admit the child.

Appeals can become complex depending on the facts of each individual case as there may be legal challenges that can be argued. It can also assist to have a legal representative guide you through the process and advise you on whether the process is being carried out lawfully.

Consult our expert Education law solicitors

We offer an initial consultation for a fixed fee of £250 + VAT to discuss your child’s or your situation and provide clear, practical advice on your options. This consultation can take place over the phone or via video conferencing to suit you.

To book your initial consultation or to find out more about how we can help you, please contact our education law senior administrator, Rachael, on 01895 207230 or  educationteam@ibblaw.co.uk


[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1001050/School_admissions_code_2021.pdf

[2] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/275897/school_admission_appeals_code_1_february_2012.pdf