On April 16 2024, it's Primary Schools Offers Day in England and Wales, when parents will find out which of the primary schools they have applied for has offered their child a place.


Most of us, thankfully, will get an offer we're happy with: according to the latest (2023) Government figures on school applications and offers, 92.5% of families received an offer from their 1st preferred primary school, with 98.6% of families receiving an offer from one of their 3 preferred schools (both figures are up slightly from 2022).

But obviously that does still mean some parents do find out that their child hasn't been offered a primary-school place at the school that they're happy with. If that's the case for you, what can you do?

Here's your 8-step guide to how to appeal your child's school place

Step 1: Try not to get stressed in front of your child

Keep calm – easier said than done, we know! But no matter how devastated you're feeling, try not to let your child pick up on your worries and stress.

It's probably also wise not to them overhear you expressing any negative views of the school where your child has been offered a place. If your appeal is not successful, your child may well end up going to this school and it won't make the situation any easier if they know you don't rate it.

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When are Primary School Offers Days in Northern Ireland and Scotland?

  • Nothern Ireland: April 25.
  • Scotland: There is no Offers Day as such. Each local council uses catchment areas to decide in which school they're placing children in their area. Some councils will send out letters confirming the school place; in other council areas, parents will need to enroll their child at their catchment area school.

Step 2: Don't reject the place you have been offered

Accept the school place you have been offered, so you have a safety net. You don't want to lose that place and then, if your appeal is unsuccessful, end up with a place at another school you may be even less happy with – or (unlikely but not impossible) no place at all.

Accepting the place you have been offered won't affect your appeal.

What if my child hasn't been offered any primary-school place at all?

Your local council is obliged to provide schooling for your child from the age of 5, so if there are a large number of children without places, it will have to consider adding classes at local schools. Usually, a council will wait till several months to see how the situation pans out – which is not very helpful to stressed-out parents, we know...

Step 3: Get your child on the waiting list for the school of your choice

There's a lot of movement on primary-school waiting lists, even with the most popular schools – families with a place may move to a different area, for example, or they may decide to send their child to private school instead.

The waiting list for your chosen school may be operated by the school itself or by your local council. Your offer letter may tell you which; if not, the local council's website should.

Once you've found out who to contact, mail the contact address or give them a call (be patient; the lines are likely to be busy on Offers Day) and ask to be put on a waiting list, even if it’s a long one.

All schools must keep a waiting list open for at least the first term of each school year and it’s not uncommon for a child to get a place on the first day of term. If your child is on the waiting list and is offered a place, you can still accept the offer even if they have already started at another school.

Can I defer my child's school entry?

If your child is due to go to primary school and was born in June, July or August, you may be able to defer their entry until the next year, although they will then go straight into Year 1, rather than Reception.

Due to a growing demand for school places in some areas, some councils are adding extra classes to the most popular primary schools, so there’s a small chance that suddenly another 30 places become available. Often this happens for just one year only, so if it happened last year it doesn’t mean it will happen this year.

Step 4: Carefully read the offer letter and work out if you have grounds for appeal

The letter which contains the decision about your child's school place should set out the reason why your preference was refused. Read it through carefully.

Making an appeal can be a very stressful and intensive process, for your child as well as you. While every parent has a right to appeal, it's good sense to make sure you have a solid reason for appealing before you start the process.

Believing strongly that the school you've been refused is the best one for your child will not, sadly, be accepted as a valid reason by the appeal panel. You will need, instead, either to show:

  • An admissions procedure mistake: Has the school/council made an error when applying the school's admissions criteria to your child? Perhaps your home's distance from the school has been incorrectly measured, for example, putting you wrongly outside the catchment area?
  • A social or medical need: Does your child have specific needs that can be clearly met by the school you've been refused but cannot be met by the school you have been offered?

Step 5: Find out when the appeal deadline is

Your offer letter will tell you what to do if you are not happy with the school place you have been offered. This should include information about how to appeal, including where to send your appeal, what documentation you'll need to supply, and the deadline for appealing.

The admission authority must allow you at least 20 school days – from when they sent the decision letter – to appeal.

Step 6: Assemble your evidence and documentation

You'll need to submit your appeal in writing and clearly explain why you think your child should attend the school in question – and what the impact will be on them if they don't.

It will help if you submit supporting information and documentation that backs up the case you are making.

This documentation may include letters or reports, maps showing the distance between your house and the school, evidence of transport costs, bus or train timetables, and so on.

Try to collect as much independent evidence as possible to support your case. In particular, if you are making a case about your child's medical or social needs, you should get a supporting letter from a medical or social-care professional.

You may want to get a solicitor or member of a school's appeals organisation to help your appeal. You will be charged a fee for this, so make sure you get clear information about the cost up front.

The Coram Children's Legal Centre specialises in advice on school appeals. You may also find it really useful to read the government's guidance for parents and guardians on making a school appeal.

Step 7: Send in your appeal and prepare for the hearing

Your appeal case must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline you were set for sending in your appeal, and the admission authority must give you at least 10 school days' notice of when and where the hearing will be taking place.

The panel will also decide the format of the appeal hearing: it may take place in person or remotely by video call, or a hybrid of the two.

Your appeal will be heard by an independent panel of 3 or more people who will follow the school admissions appeal code.

First, an office will present the school's or admission authority's case for refusing to admit any more children to the school in question. Then – usually – the panel will ask you to present your reasons for why the school should admit your child. You may bring a friend, family member or someone else with you for support.

Step 8: Wait for the verdict

You will usually find out, in writing, within 5 school days whether your appeal has been successful or not.

The panel will uphold your appeal if it find the admission arrangements weren't properly applied or if the negative impact on your child of not attending your preferred school is stronger than the case put forward by the school.

The panel's decision is binding and can only be overturned by a court.

What happens if you lose an appeal?

Don't despair! If you lose, you can still put your child's name on the waiting list for your school of choice. Bear in mind that a lot can happen between spring and autumn, and places may become available.

You should be able to remain on the waiting list as long as you like – which means even if a place doesn't become available before the start of the school year, you could snap one up that becomes available later on.

In the meantime, try to keep an open mind about the school you have been offered. Find out more about it, ask to visit, and talk to other parents who send their children there. You may well find you feel reassured about your child going there.

What about school appeals in Scotland and Northern Ireland?

  • Northern Ireland. You can appeal a decision about a school place if you think the school didn't apply or didn't correctly apply its published admissions criteria. To appeal, you must go to the Education Authority website where you can send the appeal form (AT1 form). When you submit an appeal, an Independent Admissions Appeal tribunal will consider the appeal and decide if the school has applied its admissions criteria correctly or not.
  • Scotland. If your request for a different school place to the one you have been allocated is refused, you are advised to first talk to your council to check that they're aware of all the reasons for your request. If this does not help, you can make a formal appeal. Each council has their own rules so check with your local council to find out more information about what you need to do.

Pic: Getty


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Emily Longman WallDigital Content Producer

Emily is the Digital Content Producer at MadeForMums and creates editorial and video content across the brand. She also edits the weekly editorial newsletter, oversees our reviews process and loves creating our craft articles and videos. She specialises predominantly in car seats and pushchairs, and has yet to meet a buggy she couldn’t fold! With a 1st class degree in History, she always researches topics thoroughly to find the best recommendations for parents.