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Schools Admissions Procedure

Find out how to choose a school for your child and the school admission criteria. This section explains how to get the best place at a primary or a secondary school for your children.

SCHOOL ADMISSION: There is advice on the application process and admission deadlines. Find out how the appeals procedure works if you have a dispute or a complaint.

When choosing a school for your child, your local council can help with:

  • Finding a list of available schools in your catchment area.
  • Information on school admission criteria for the ones that interested you.

Note: Your council can also help you apply for child places at schools in other areas of the United Kingdom. All regional councils have advice teams to help parents get their children into suitable schools.

Finding Information about a School

There are several methods you can use to find out more information on the schools in your area:

  • Make a personal visit to the school (most schools have open days for this purpose).
  • Research and evaluate the most recent Ofsted inspection report for the school.
  • Discuss the matter with other local parents to learn their views about the school performance.
  • Check the school league tables (they include exam results of schools and colleges in England).

School Website Requirements

Maintained schools must publish specific information on their website such as:

  • Full details of the school admission criteria and the school curriculum.
  • Links to Ofsted reports and performance data.
  • Their student behaviour policy, disability policy, and their Special Educational Needs policy.
  • Their current key stage 2 and 4 attainment and progress measures.
  • How much money the school gets from taking underprivileged children ‘pupil premium‘. They must publish what they do with the revenue and what effect it has.

School Admissions Criteria

As a rule, each school admissions criteria is set by themselves or by the local council. The criteria determines which children will get the available places.

School admission criteria often differs among different education facilities. In general, they all give priority to children who:

  • Already have siblings (brother or sister) attending the school.
  • Live at a location near to the school.
  • Are from a particular religion (for faith schools).
  • Perform well in an entrance exam at a selective school (e.g. grammar or stage schools).
  • Attended a particular primary school (called a ‘feeder school’).
  • Are in care or getting looked after (this is a top priority).
  • Qualify for the special ‘pupil premium‘.

Note: Your local council can provide you with a booklet about the admission criteria. It explains how to apply for a child space.

Schools for Children with Special Educational Needs

Children with SEN will have a statement or education, health and care (EHC) plan. This will recommend a school for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). A recommended school must give a place to your child if you apply to that particular education facility.

School Unfair Criteria Complaint

You may consider that a school has unlawful admission criteria. If so, you should contact the Schools Adjudicator. Unfair criteria complaints must get filed before the 15th of May each year. This is the month when school places get allocated.

Applying for School Places

You must make a school application to secure a place for your child. This will apply even if it links to the nursery or primary school that your child currently attends. The way you apply for a school place depends on whether you are applying at a primary school or a secondary school.

If you are applying from abroad, or recently moved to England, you should apply for a place at school in the same way. Contact your local council if you are changing schools. They can also help if you are applying for a school place after the start of the school year.

Note: The school admissions process is different for private schools. You should apply direct to the facility if you want to send your child to a private school.

How to Delay Starting Primary School

If you want your child to get ‘held back a school year‘ then both of the following must apply:

  1. They were born in the summer (1st of April to the 31st of August).
  2. You feel that they are not ready to start in the September following their 4th birthday.

Your child could then start school in the September following their 5th birthday. You must contact the school admission authority to make this request. This will be at the school itself or at the local council.

When do School Applications Open?

School applications open on different days in different regions of the United Kingdom. The usually take place at the beginning of each autumn term. Thus, yours would be the autumn of the year immediately before your child is due to start school.

Note: The local authorities (council) can tell you when school applications open for child places.

School Application Deadlines

  1. You must apply for a primary school place by the 15th of January.
  2. You must apply for a secondary school place by the 31st of October.

How to Apply for a School Place

You can fill in a school application form either online or using paper format (from the council). You must list three (3) different schools that you are applying for and in the order of your preference.

Your council will confirm if your child got accepted. Regional councils send the school place confirmation:

  1. On the 16th of April each year for Primary Schools.
  2. On the 1st of March each year for Secondary Schools.

Note: Confirmation dates falling on a weekend get sent out the next working day. Always contact your local council as soon as possible if your child has not secured a place.

Appealing a School Decision

You will receive a letter with their decision about your child’s educational facility. It also informs you of how to appeal against the decision. If there is more than one rejection, you must appeal against each one as a separate issue.

Appealing Infant Classes

Infant class sizes have a limit of 30 pupils in reception (year 1 and year 2). That means your application may get turned down if all the classes are full.

Even so, you can still appeal a decision if they would have offered a place to your child. Appeals for infant classes may be successful if:

  • They did not follow the correct admission arrangements.
  • The school admissions appeal code shows the school admission criteria is not legal.
  • It was an ‘unreasonable’ decision to refuse your child a place in reception.

Infant Classes Appeal Hearing

The admission authority must give a minimum of 10 school days of notice before an appeal hearing. Appeals must then get heard within 40 school days of the deadline for making an appeal. There will be a panel of at least 3 people at the appeal hearing who must also be independent.

  1. The admission authority explains why they turned down an application.
  2. You get an opportunity to give your own reasons why your child should get admitted.
  3. The appeals panel must decide if the school’s admission criteria were properly followed. Thus, is it legal according to the school admissions appeals code?
  4. The panel will decide if the criteria was legal, followed fairly, and thoroughly.
  5. They will uphold the appeal if the criteria were not properly followed or are illegal.
  6. The appeal may not already get upheld. Thus, the panel will decide if the reasons for admitting your child outweigh the school’s reasons for not admitting another child.
  7. The panel send their decision to you and the admission authority within five (5) school days.

Only a court can overturn a hearing panel decision. You may appeal again if there is a change in your circumstances which affects the decision.

Complaining about the Appeals Process

You cannot complain about the decision itself. But, you can make a complaint about the way the appeal got carried out. As a rule, you get a decision on your complaint within 9 weeks and a letter explaining the reasons for the decision.

Complain to the Local Government Ombudsman for maintained schools. For other schools, complain to the Education Funding Agency about an appeal made to free schools, academies, university technical colleges, or studio schools.

If the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) determines that something went wrong with the appeals panel, they may either:

  • Request the school to hold a new appeal hearing using a different panel.
  • Make a recommendation that the school reviews its appeals process.

What if a maintained school becomes an academy? Your complaint would be about an admission appeal hearing held by a maintained school which converted to academy status. In this case, it will get investigated by the Local Government Ombudsman.

Note: In this case, the Ombudsman will pass any actions over for further investigation by the Education Funding Agency.

Schools Admissions, Place Criteria, and School Applications in the United Kingdom