What to do if you don’t get your first choice of school

It’s inevitable that not everyone will get their first choice of secondary school. And while you will be keeping your fingers crossed that your child gets a spot, you should be prepared in case your wish doesn’t come true. 


Popular schools will be oversubscribed meaning some applicants will miss out so it’s important to remain realistic when waiting to hear if you’ve been successful. 


Also, it’s vital to spend some time preparing yourself in case you want to appeal a council’s decision. It may well be that you are happy to accept a place at a school further down on your list if you believe it is still a good option for your child. But if you feel the decision made is not reasonable or the procedure has not been followed correctly then you are within your rights to appeal. Your case will be heard by an independent appeals panel and the system allows you to argue that there are extra reasons why your child deserves a place at your top choice. 


For anyone considering appealing the decision, here is some more information on the process:


What are the first steps? 


Parents are advised to accept the place you have been allocated regardless of whether you want it – this is a safety net to ensure you have a place for September if the appeal is unsuccessful.

It can always be rejected at a later date if a space becomes available, or if the appeal is upheld. Then you should contact your preferred school to be put on a waiting list should the school have one. 


This may happen automatically but it is always worth checking that it has been done. This could remove the need for an appeal hearing if a place is freed up by other means, such as a change in circumstances for another pupil. How is an appeal lodged? 

Parents should lodge their intention to appeal with either the local authority or, if it’s a free school or academy, the governing body. 


Details of who to contact, instructions for beginning the appeal process and the deadline will normally be provided with the place offer letter sent to you by the council. If more than one school declines to admit your child, you are allowed to make separate appeals. 


What happens next? 


If you think there are good reasons why your child should go to your preferred school then you can present your case to an independent appeal panel. You should provide a list of reasons why your child needs to go to that school. Focus on positive reasons why your child needs to attend that school as opposed to the allocated one. 


Don’t just state why your child should not go to the allocated school. 


This might include the pupil’s specific talents if the chosen school has specialist science or language facilities. It is recommended that parents take along evidence such as school reports to back up your argument.

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