Appeal a secondary school decision

If you have been refused a place at a higher preference secondary school, you can make an appeal to an Independent Appeal Panel.

The Department for Education advises parents that:

  • some schools receive more applications than they have places available
  • the appeals process can be burdensome for all involved, so admission authorities do not take lightly the decision to refuse a place
  • in most cases your child will not have been offered a place because there were other children who more closely met the school’s oversubscription criteria

Appeals are heard by unpaid, trained, volunteers. Your appeal will take place as soon as possible depending on the number of appeals and availability of the Appeal Panel members. The Appeals Team is unable to offer a choice of hearing date.

Your appeal will be heard remotely by video conference.

Your decision to appeal

The admission authority for a school usually only refuses a place if:

  • it has received more applications than there are places available, or
  • the parent has applied for grammar school and their child is unqualified.

You may want to appeal because:

  • your child has a particular interest in the subjects offered by the school
  • your child has medical, social or educational reasons for wanting the place
  • you have recently moved house
  • you believe your unqualified child should be qualified for grammar school.

Think carefully before appealing.

Most appeals fail because:

  • the secondary school is full and cannot admit an additional child without harming the education of the existing children or
  • in unqualified grammar school appeals, the child is not of the required academic standards, or the Selection Review was carried out correctly

Appeals can be stressful for parents and are expensive for schools.

The Department for Education advises parents: “You should be aware that an appeal can prolong the period of uncertainty for parents and children, so it’s important to be realistic about your reasons for appealing and the chances of being successful.”

Read advice for parents on school admission appeals from the Department for Education.

When to appeal

If you were refused a higher preference school place on 1 March 2024 for Year 7, September 2024 entry, make your appeal before midday, 28 March 2024.

Appeals submitted by midday on 28 March 2024 should be heard by the end of the summer term. Delays may occur due to panel availability and numbers of appeals.

Appeals made after midday on 28 March 2024 will be heard from September 2023 onwards.

For late transfer appeals for September entry into Year 8 or 9 or in-year appeals for immediate entry, make your appeal within 20 school days of the refusal letter. The appeal will be heard as soon as possible.

Secondary school appeal timetable 2024
Date Event
1 March 2024 Secondary Transfer Allocation Day
28 March 2024, midday Deadline for submitting completed appeal forms
At least 10 school days before appeal hearing The Appeals Team sends the appeal date & time letters to parents.

The Appeals Team also tells parents the evidence deadline date.
6 calendar days before appeal hearing Appeals Team sends appeal papers to parents, admission authority, school and Appeal Panel
May to July Secondary Admission Appeals heard
Within 5 school days of the appeal decision Decision letter sent to parents, admission authority and school

How to appeal

Preparing your evidence

When you appeal, you will need to provide evidence supporting your reasons why you want a place for your child at the particular school.

You will need to provide exceptional medical, social or educational reasons for your preferred school, with evidence, where possible.

Strong academic evidence should also be provided for unqualified grammar school appeals.

You can read more about evidence you can use.

The Department for Education advises parents that:

  • the stronger your reasons the better chance you have of your appeal being successful (for example, wanting your child to go to a particular school because it's the best in the area is not likely to convince the panel that your child should get a place at the school over another child)
  • you should focus on what the school can offer that meets your child’s needs. This can include what the school can offer that other schools cannot and what the impact will be on your child not attending the school of your choice.

Appeal online

Before you start your appeal, you should:

You should:

  • ensure you submit your appeal and evidence within the timelines
  • complete your appeal form correctly, or your appeal may be delayed

After you make your appeal, the Appeal Team will send you an acknowledgement letter with your unique appeal reference number. Refer to this number if you contact the Appeals Team.

You cannot make appeals for all Buckinghamshire schools here. For example, the Appeals Team does not arrange appeals for Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, Dr Challoner’s High School, or Waddesdon C of E School. If the school you are appealing for is not listed on the appeal form, contact the school directly to find out how to make your appeal.

Start now

If you would like a paper form, contact the Admissions Team.

If you need help making your appeal online, view our school appeals portal user guide.

Appeal hearing and outcome

The Appeals Team will email you the date and time of your remote appeal hearing at least 10 days before the hearing. You will also be told the deadline date for submitting extra evidence.

Late evidence is unlikely to be seen by the Appeal Panel.

About a week before the hearing, you will be sent copies of the appeal papers including:

  • your appeal form, and any evidence submitted by the deadline date and
  • the admission authority’s written case explaining why the place was refused

At the appeal hearing, you will be invited to explain your reasons for appealing for the particular school and the admission authority will explain why it did not offer a place. The Appeal Panel will uphold or dismiss your appeal depending on whether it decides you or the admission authority have the stronger case.

A decision letter will be sent to you no later than 5 school days after the appeal decision is made. Where there are multiple appeals for a school, the decision letters will be sent out no later than 5 school days after all the appeals for the school have been heard.

Buckinghamshire Schools appeal success rates

Last year:

  • 13% of appeals were successful
  • 87% of appeals were unsuccessful

This is because in most cases the Appeal Panel decided:

  • the school was full and it could not admit an additional pupil without harming the education of the existing pupils, or
  • in unqualified grammar school appeals, the child was not of the required academic standards or the Selection Review had been carried out correctly

If your appeal is unsuccessful, there is no further right of appeal.

Important things to remember

Remember the following information:

  • very few appeals succeed because the school appealed for is already full and cannot admit an additional child without harming the education of the existing children
  • you are unlikely to be successful, even if you have difficulty in getting your child to school (as this is the parent’s responsibility in law)
  • you are unlikely to be successful where you have been allocated another school place reasonably near to your home, even a non-preference school
  • appeals are expensive for schools, and they prolong uncertainty for parents and may be stressful
  • you will need strong medical, educational or social reasons for appealing and strong supporting evidence
  • out of county appeals for grammar school are highly unlikely to be successful even where the child is qualified, as the grammar schools are full and oversubscribed.
  • if you submit your appeal and/or evidence late, your appeal may be delayed
  • it is the parent’s responsibility to make the appeal correctly and provide supporting evidence
  • if you do not keep the Appeals Team updated with your contact details, you may not receive emails/letters/decisions.

Get help with your appeal

View important information about your appeal in the appeals guidance for parents and guardians.

If you have a further query you can contact the Appeals Team.

The Appeals Team aims to reply in 48 hours, but a response may be delayed if you do not provide:

  • your name
  • your child’s name
  • the school and year group you are appealing for
  • your appeal reference number, if provided
  • the date and time of your appeal hearing, if provided
  • your correct contact details
  • full details of your query

For advice on admissions, allocations, waiting lists, Transfer Tests and Selection Reviews, contact the Admissions Team.