School admissions appeals forms: a step-by-step guide
Applying for a new school can be stressful enough without the added disappointment of finding out your child didn’t get a place in the school you really wanted. It’s easy to feel helpless when this happens, but there is a standard appeals process in place that you can follow if you want to try to reverse the school’s decision. Approximately 25% of secondary schools appeals are successful, so it’s well worth having a go if you feel you have a solid argument.
Coronavirus update 2020
The current situation with coronavirus and social distancing has led to some changes in the appeals pathway.
Parents will still need to submit their appeal request as usual, following the school's or local authority's normal process, which you'll find on their website.
The big difference is that because appeals hearings involve more than two people, they don't comply with social distancing rules and so can't be held face to face.
Instead, the hearing could be held by phone, video conferencing or by letter, with each party submitting a written report. The appeals clerk has to contact all parties to check they have what they need to participate in their hearing, e.g. access to video conferencing facilities.
Other changes mean that the appeal panel may consist of two instead of three members, if the third withdraws (e.g. due to illness).
You'll also have at least 28 days' written notice of a new appeals deadline, and 14 days' notice of your appeal hearing. This gives more flexibility for appeals teams to adapt to the new way of working.
Once current lockdown and social distancing rules are relaxed, appeals may revert to taking place in person, but the possibility to conduct them remotely will remain until 31 January 2021. This gives admissions authorities sufficient time to deal with appeals in September, when children start school.
1. Accept the place you have been given, and go on waiting lists.
The most important thing to happen out of this process is that your child has a school to go to at the start of the autumn term. So, accept a place that you have been given, and make sure you’re on the waiting list of your preferred school even if this is the decision you’re appealing. This may not happen automatically, so it’s best to check that your child’s name is on the right waiting lists yourself.
Remember that your child can be on waiting lists for more than one school – even schools that you haven’t applied for. You can also submit more than one appeal to different schools.
2. Obtain an appeals form.
The appeals form is provided by the local authority, and should either be submitted to the local authority (for schools they run) or to the school itself (if they are not run by the local authority).
3. State your reasons for appeal clearly and concisely.
Filling in the appeals form is your opportunity to make a strong initial case – you don’t need to give a great deal of detail at this stage, but you can outline the main grounds for the appeal. Unless you believe there is a legal problem with the admissions rules, or that there has been a mistake in applying them, you’ll probably be appealing on the basis that there is an overwhelming reason why your child should attend this particular school. Remember that you can also bring supporters to your appeals panel hearing, such as a lawyer, child psychologist or friend.
The Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) suggests that you separate your appeal case into three sections:
- A description of your child and why they would be well-suited to this school – Are they very shy? Have they been bullied in the past? Do they have a special educational need (SEN)? Are their friends at this school? Do they need a place where they can make a fresh start?
- Why your child needs to go to this school in particular – Is it a single-sex school that would help your child to feel less self-conscious? Do they specialise in working with your child’s SEN? Do they excel in an academic area that your child has a real aptitude for (languages, music, maths, etc.)?
- Why it would be detrimental for your child to go to the school that they have been offered – Do not say negative things about the school’s performance here or at any point in the appeals process, but rather focus on social and practical aspects such as distance from home (if your child is wary of using public transport), academic requirements (only lets students take one language GCSE when your child would do more) or general size (too intimidating for a child who is very shy).
Include any relevant supporting documentation such as the school prospectus, a map of the school’s layout, the most recent Ofsted report, or a letter from your GP or child psychologist supporting the reasons that you have written about in your letter.
4. Make sure your appeals form has been received.
You should have confirmation of the receipt of your form within a week after you’ve sent it in, and then be notified when your appeals panel hearing is going to take place..
For more information about the secondary schools admission appeals process, read our step-by-step guide on appeals panel hearings.
Free school appeal letter templates to download
We also have appeal letter templates to download to help you compose your own appeal letter: