Guidance for parents and guardians on school admission appeals

Last updated: 6 February 2023

Primary school appeals

Reception to year 2 (Infant Class Size Appeals)

Most appeals for a school place in reception, year 1 or year 2 are called Infant Class Size (ICS) appeals.

The majority of ICS appeals fail because of the law limiting class sizes.

Your chances of success

In 2022, 45 ICS appeals were heard. 3 appeals were successful.

The law says that it is extremely unlikely that your appeal will succeed. This is true even if it is impossible for you to continue working or get your children to school on time.

Think carefully before you appeal. Appeals are time-consuming and stressful for parents, and expensive for schools.

What the Appeal Panel can do

The Appeal Panel can only:

  • review the admission authority’s decision to refuse your child a place
  • consider what the admission authority knew at the time you made your application

In a class where most children will reach the age of 5, 6 or 7 during the school year, the law limits class size to 30 pupils per teacher.  Admission over the limit is only allowed in very limited and exceptional circumstances.

The Appeal Panel can only uphold your ICS appeal in exceptional circumstances and when it decides that:

a) there will not be more than 30 children in the class if your child is given a place; or

b) school places were allocated unlawfully, and you would have been offered a place if they had been allocated lawfully; or

c) the admission authority’s decision to refuse admission was completely unreasonable, perverse or irrational under the admission rules

When you submit your appeal, explain if you are appealing on grounds a, b or c above. You should provide supporting evidence.

What the Appeal Panel cannot do

By law, it cannot take into account your personal circumstances or your practical difficulties. You may be disappointed that the Appeal Panel cannot consider your reasons for wanting the school.

If you have been offered a place at another school reasonably near your home, your appeal is almost certain to fail. This is the case even if you have other children at the school you want.

In very exceptional circumstances, an Appeal Panel may uphold an appeal if it decides that the admission authority's refusal was:

  • completely unreasonable
  • perverse
  • irrational

For example, when a family moves house under a witness protection scheme.

Independent advice about ICS appeals

Primary school appeals for years 3 to 6

If you applied for a year 3 to 6 primary school place and were refused, this is because:

  • the admission authority has allocated all its places under the school’s published admission arrangements (rules) and
  • the school is full and to admit another child will harm the education of the other pupils.

When there are more applicants for school places than there are places available, the admission authority of the school will offer places according to oversubscription criteria or rules. These are published on schools’ websites.

Under these rules, places are more likely to be offered to children who have siblings at the school or who live near the school. Once all the places have been allocated to applicants under the rules, other applicants will be refused.

If you have been refused a place in a higher preference school, you can make an appeal. You should submit your appeal and evidence as explained in this guidance, particularly how to make an appeal and evidence you can use.

At your appeal hearing, the Appeal Panel will consider your reasons for wanting the place at your preferred school. It will also consider the admission authority’s case that all the school’s places have been allocated correctly under the rules and the admission of another child will harm the education of its pupils. The Appeal Panel will decide if you or the admission authority has the stronger case.

Most appeals are unsuccessful because the admission authority shows:

  • the school is already full
  • the school does not have the resources to admit an additional child without harming the education of the existing pupils
  • this harm outweighs the parent’s reasons for appealing for the school