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2. What choice of school do I have for my child?
Your child may not be given a place at the school you prefer, but you are allowed to say which one you'd like them to attend. If you are applying at the normal time that a child starts school, your local education authority (LEA) may limit the number of schools you can apply to. You apply to most schools through your LEA even if the school is in a different area.
If you are applying at a time other than when a child starts school (for example, because you have just moved into the area), you can generally apply to as many schools as you like. In these cases you might be able to apply directly to the school. You should apply in writing to make sure your application is dealt with properly. Most children get a place at their parents' first choice of school, though this is not the case in some areas.
The organisation that decides who gets a place is called the 'admission authority'. For community and voluntary-controlled schools, the admission authority is the LEA. For all other schools, it is the school's governing body.
When can my child be refused a place?
If a school is classified as having serious problems and already has many children with difficult behaviour, it may refuse a child with similar difficulties. But it may do this only if you are applying for a place outside the usual time for joining the school.
If more children apply than there are places at a school, the school will use guidelines known as 'admission oversubscription criteria' to decide who to offer a place to. These criteria should be objective (based on facts), clear and fair. They often include how far the child lives from the school and whether they have a brother or sister there. The criteria must be set out in a printed document that you can see - usually the LEA guide or prospectus.
Most schools have a waiting list. A child's place on the list should not depend on how long they have been waiting. The waiting list should be organised in line with the school's oversubscription criteria.
What can I do if my child has been turned down for a place?
If your child has been refused a place at a school, the admission authority should write to you to:
To make an appeal, you must write to the admission authority saying why you are appealing. You can also send in other information at any time, including at the appeal hearing itself (though the sooner you can send any information, the better). After sending in your appeal, you will be told when there will be a hearing where you can put your case. If the date of the hearing doesn't suit you, the admission authority should try to find another date that does. You can choose to have someone represent you at the hearing, although you will not be able to receive legal aid to cover the cost of this.
If you are applying to an infant or primary school and your child was turned down because the infant classes have reached the legal limit of 30 children to one teacher, your appeal will succeed only if the appeals panel decides that the admission authority:
For all other appeals where the school is full, the hearing is in two stages. The first stage is the factual stage, where the appeals panel decide whether the published admission arrangements were correctly applied. The panel will go on to decide whether the school is full and whether admitting your child would 'prejudice' (harm) the education of other children in the school, or overstretch the school's resources.
If you are appealing because your child was turned down for not meeting the selection criteria, the panel will look at your reasons for saying why you think your child should be given a place.
The panel should always give you their reasons for their decision in writing.
What if my child was refused a place at a nursery?
This leaflet was published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with the Advisory Centre for Education.
Leaflet Version: November 2019
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