May 20, 2024

Obligate Law

Professional Law Makers

National Offer Day – School Admission Criteria and How to Appeal Against School Place Offer

4 min read
National Offer Day – School Admission Criteria and How to Appeal Against School Place Offer

Admission to primary and secondary schools is not automatic – every parent or guardian has to apply for a place at their preferred choice of schools. All schools have ‘admissions criteria’ which the school’s admission authority uses to allocate places should they receive more applications than they have places available. If you are deciding on what schools to apply for, or have been refused a place at your preferred school for your child, this article on admission criteria will help your appeal.

If your child is not offered a place at their preferred school

If you child is not offered a place at your preferred school, then the first thing you must do is to request for your child to be put on the waiting list. If you contact your Admission Authority to request an appeal, do not assume that you have been put onto the waiting list; you must explicitly request to be put onto the list.

If you are fortunate there may be children who revoke their place at the school you are on the waiting list for and – if you are high in the waiting list – you may be offered a place before your appeal is even heard.

When appealing against the decision, it is important to remember that you are appealing to the Appeal Panel and will need to address your appeal documents to them. For example, if your child has a medical need that wasn’t addressed in the admission criteria, then it is important to get their GP or consultant to write a letter to the Appeal Panel, not just a general letter stating their medical need. The letter will have to contain detailed information as to how their need means they must attend your preferred choice, not just a general letter stating your child’s condition. This personalizes your appeal and will help the Panel understand why your child needs to attend the particular school. You want the Panel on your side is this is one way of achieving this.

Although you will undoubtedly feel very emotional about the decision not to offer a place for your child at your preferred choice, you must ensure that the appeal letter you write is clear, concise and not overly long. If it’s too long then any detail or valid points can get lost in it. It also goes without saying that it should be typed and not handwritten.

How do schools allocate their places?

By law, every child aged 5 to 16 is entitled to a place at a state school. This place, however, is not guaranteed to be at one you wish to send your child to – known as a preferred school choice – as many receive more admissions than they have places to offer.

Every school has an ‘admissions limit‘ and this determines the number of applicants they will accept. Once they filled places according to their admission criteria, they cannot admit any more, unless you appeal against the decision and win.

Admission criteria

Every school has a set of rules, known as the ‘ oversubscription’ or ‘admission’ criteria. Schools that are oversubscribed will follow these rules when allocating places. The admission criteria are set by the school’s admission authority.

The admission authority depends on what sort of school you are applying to.

State schools

  • the local authority (LEA) for ‘community’ or ‘voluntary controlled’ schools; or
  • the school’s governing body for ‘foundation’ or ‘voluntary aided’ schools.
  • Independent school
  • Independent schools decide their own admission criteria.

Does your child meet the criteria?

The School Admissions Code says that children in public care must be given top priority for a place at school.

Other criteria that may be used:

  • your child has a brother or sister who will be at the school when they start there;
  • you or your child has a disability which makes travel to a distant school difficult;
  • you live in the area served by the school;
  • (for religious or faith schools), your child or family is of the particular religion or faith served by the school;
  • (for secondary schools) your child attends a linked primary school;
  • your home is close to the school.

Some of the above can be difficult to define and are therefore open to interpretation. If something is open for interpretation then it’s fair to say that it can be argued against at Appeal. By doing this you are increasing your chances for success.

Some of the admission authorities may also use a random allocation or ‘banding’ system. Banding helps to ensure that a school has pupils with a range of different ability levels.

Certain types of schools may also apply other admission criteria, which may include:

  • church or faith schools may ask for confirmation of attendance at a relevant place of worship;
  • grammar schools, and some other schools that select a proportion of their pupils on the basis of academic ability, award places on the basis of an entrance exam or selection test;
  • schools that award a percentage of their places to pupils with an aptitude for certain subjects may use some form of assessment or audition where appropriate;
  • boarding schools may interview your child to assess their suitability to be a boarder (interviewing is not allowed for admission into any other type of state-funded school).

If your child does not receive an offer of a place at their preferred school place then you have the right to appeal against the decision. There are guides available online that provide insider tips that increase your chance of a successful appeal.

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