Disappointed with the school place offered to your child?

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 preferred but there are a number of things that you can do to try and change your situation. These are outlined below.

Remember that you do not have a right to choose a particular school for your child - you have a right to express a preference. If your preferences cannot be met because other children had higher priority for the school than your child, the local authority will offer your child a place at an alternative school. This may be at a school that you did not even apply for.  This can be very frustrating but it is how the system works. 

If you are allocated a school that is over the statutory walking distance (2 miles for under 8 years old and 3 miles for over 8 years old) contact the local authority and ask what arrangements they will make for transport. This may not apply if the school is one of your preferences.

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.  Please bear in mind that Admissions Departments will be very very busy over the next few weeks and may not be able to give you all the information you want quickly.  They will need to wait for all parents to accept or reject their school offers before they know where places are available or what waiting lists look like.


Ask to add your child's name to the waiting list for any school that you applied for but did not get offered a place. This may happen automatically but it is always worth checking that it has been done.  Waiting lists are sometimes called Continued Interest Lists.  Your child's name can be on more than one waiting list at the same time.  

You could also ask the Admissions Department if you could add your child's name to the waiting lists for schools that you did not apply to before but would consider now. The more waiting lists you are on the more chance you have of getting a place at a school you prefer.

The Admission Authority for the school must keep a waiting list for at least one term. 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 and you may have to wait a few weeks after offer day for this information.  There will be lots of movement on waiting lists from offer day right up until term starts in September.  There will be many parents who get school places allocated this way.

NOTE: Be aware that your child can also move down a waiting list if other children join the list who have greater priority.  Priority will always be based on the school's oversubscription criteria.


There may be vacancies at other schools that you did not include on your original list of preferences.  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 local schools.


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

IF YOU ARE APPEALING FOR A PLACE IN AN INFANT CLASS (that already has 30 pupils) THE APPEAL IS HANDLED DIFFERENTLY - see the Infant Class Appeals section 3.2 below


If you think there are good reasons why your child should go to a particular school, even though it is already full, then you can present your case to an independent appeal panel. 

At an appeal, the school will present their case for why they cannot take any extra children and why it would be bad for the school if they had to admit more children. You then present your reasons for why your child must go to this school even though it is full 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 appeal 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.

You can present whatever reasons you want at an appeal but you are unlikely to win an appeal if your case is simply that you prefer one school to another or that you think one school is better than another.  You will need to set out a case that shows why your child must be at this school and only this school and why it would be bad for them if they weren't.  This is not easy as most schools generally do the same the same things and most schools can support most needs.  You will need to focus on your child and their particular needs.  You will need to try and find evidence to support your case - this could be letters or statements from relevant people involved with your child and/or your family.  


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. If the school's admission arrangements (the admission rules) comply with the law
  2. Whether a mistake has been made with your child's application
  3. If admitting further children would breach the infant class limit of 30 pupils per teacher
  4. If the decision to refuse your child a place at the school 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 perverse or illogical in light of the rules and the circumstances of the case

You will need to make your appeal on at least one of the four grounds listed above.

  1. If you appeal on the grounds that the admission rules did not comply with the law you will need to make a case that shows that if the admission rules had been lawful your child would have been offered a place at the school.
  2. If you appeal on the grounds that a mistake has been made you will need to make a case that shows that your application was not handled properly and that if it had been handled properly your child would have been offered a place at the school.
  3. If you appeal on the grounds that admitting further children would not breach the infant class limit of 30 pupils per teacher you will need to make a case that shows that the school could admit further children without going over the limit of 30 children per teacher.
  4. If you appeal on the grounds that it was unreasonable to refuse your child a place at the school you will need to make a case that shows that the decision to refuse your child's application was illogical or perverse.

The panel will take into account the information that was available to the admission authority at the time it made its decision to refuse your application. 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 it at the time they made their original decision.

You should be aware that it is very difficult to win an infant class size appeal on the grounds that it was unreasonable - very few appeals will be successful for this reason.

Note:  If you are appealing for a place in an infant class that does not have 30 pupils - for example a small school may only have 21 children in Reception class - the appeal will be heard differently and the panel will treat it as a non-infant class size appeal (see below).  Make sure you find out from the school exactly how the appeal will be handled.


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 parent advice booklet called Appealing for a school which explains the appeals process and helps you to put your case together.  This is available as a pdf download.


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 but despite your best efforts you may not be able to get a place at another school.


  • 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. It is better to have a school place than no school place at all.  If you reject your offer and cannot find an alternative place you will have to go back to Admissions at a later date and there may be even less availability at that stage.  
  • 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. Visit with an open mind.  There are many schools that despite having a less than positive reputation locally are actually doing really good things with their students.  Remember people's views on local schools can be based on out of date information or hearsay.  The best thing to do is to go and see for yourself and ask questions that relate to your child's needs.
  • Try to be positive about the school you have been given even if that is difficult.  Your child may have to go there if you cannot get another place in a different school.