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Disappointed with the school place offered to your child?

Secondary school offers March 2015

We know that it can be very upsetting for you and your child if you have not got a place at the school that you wanted but there are a number of things that you can do to try and change the situation. These are outlined below.

It is best to contact your local authority Admissions Department with any initial queries that you may have about school places. They will advise you on whether you need to contact the school directly or whether they can help you.

1. Waiting Lists

Ask to add your child's name to the waiting list for any school that you applied for but did not get a place. This may happen automatically but it is always worth checking that it has been done.

You could also ask Admissions if you could add your child's name to the waiting lists for schools that you did not apply to but would consider now.

The Admission Authority for the school must keep a waiting list for at least one term. It may also be called a continued interest list. Ask how the waiting list is ordered. It will usually be ordered according to the school's oversubscription criteria.

Find out what your position is on the waiting list. You could also ask how many children were admitted from the waiting list last year, this may help to give you some idea of how likely you are to get a place this way. It may take a while for the waiting list to be compiled.

NOTE: Be aware that your child can also move down a waiting list if other children join the list who have greater priority.

2. Other schools with vacancies

There may be vacancies at other schools that you did not include on your original application. Very popular, oversubscribed schools will not have vacancies at this stage but it may be worth looking at any alternatives that are available locally.

Contact your Admissions Department to ask about vacancies in other schools.

3. Think about appealing for a school place

If you are refused a place at any school you applied for, you have the right to make an appeal.


Secondary/Non-infant class size appeals:

If you think there are good reasons why your child should go to a particular school then you can present your case to an independent appeal panel.

The school will present their case for why they cannot take extra children and why it would be bad for the school if they had to. You present your reasons for why your child must go to this school and why it would be bad for your child if they had to go to a different school. Try to to support your case with evidence if you can. The panel listen to both cases, ask questions and then decide which case is stronger.

If you are successful your child will be given a place at the school even though it is already full.

Infant class appeals:

There is a legal limit of 30 children per teacher in an infant class and this limits the powers of the appeal panel hearing your appeal. They can only consider:

  1. the lawfulness of the school's admission arrangements
  2. whether a mistake has been made with your application
  3. if the decision to refuse your child a place was unreasonable. Unreasonable in relation to an appeal, is used in the legal sense and means that the decision to refuse your child a place at the school was peverse or illogical.

You will need to make your appeal on one of the three grounds listed above.

If you appeal on the grounds that it was unreasonable to refuse your child a place at the school. The panel will take into account information that was available to the admission authority at the time it made its decision to refuse. If you introduce new information about your child and your circumstances at your appeal hearing, the panel may not be able to take this information into account, as the admission authority were not aware of the information at the time they made their decision.

You should be aware that it is very difficult to win an infant class size appeal on the grounds that the decision was unreasonable.

Lodging an appeal:

You must be given 20 school days to lodge an appeal so you have time to consider what you could include in your case.

ACE produces a comprehensive advice booklet called Appealing for a school which explains the appeals process and helps you to put your case together.

4. Try not to panic!

Remember that your child is not starting school until September so there is still quite a lot of time for your situation to change. In most areas there will be a lot of movement of school places and offers in the next few weeks and months. Keep in touch with your Admissions Department and make sure you are on waiting lists.

Your child may already be feeling anxious about transferring to secondary school or starting school for the first time so it is important to try and remain calm when talking to them about school places. You can reassure them that you are doing everything you can to try and change the situation.


  • Accept the school place you have been offered as you can always reject it later on if you manage to get another school place you prefer more.
  • If you are not familiar with the school you have been offered make an appointment to visit during the school day. If you have particular questions or concerns ask to meet with a member of staff to discuss these.
  • Try to be positive about the school you have been given even if that is difficult, as your child may have to attend there if you cannot get another place in a different school.