If your first choice cannot be met, it is likely due to other pupils living closer to the school than you or meeting the admissions criteria more closely than your child, in this case your child will be allocated a place at an alternative school, in the order of your preferences. But you may get offered a school that is not one of your preferences at all. What should you do if the school you have been offered is not the one your were hoping for?

Whilst there a number of options available to you, it is a good idea to accept the place, as a back up, just in case any further action does not work in your favour.

It is a good idea to accept the place, as a backup, just in case any further action does not work in your favour.

In the letter you receive from your local authority there will be instructions on how to proceed, if you do not wish to accept the school on offer. You should read this very carefully. You should also bear in mind that as much as you would like your child to go to a particular school, you don't actually have any rights when it comes to the allocation of school places.

You only have the right to select your preferences; for more information on how best to do this see Essential things to know when applying for a place at an oversubscribed school.

it is worth visiting the school and discussing your concerns with them, it is also a good idea to accept the place as a back stop and calling the school you were hoping for and discussing options with them.

The admission authority for the school must keep a waiting list for at least one term, which you can ask to be place on. There is always some movement after offers as not all will be taken up, e.g. some children will instead attend independent schools. Although, even on the waiting list places are usually offered according to the school's admissions criteria, so if you are a really long way from the school you may never make it to the top.

If your child is on a waiting list and the school offers you a place, you can accept the offer, even if your child has already started at another school.

If your child is on a waiting list and the school offers you a place, you can accept the offer even if your child has already started at another school.

Alternatively you could consider an appeal. It is often difficult to win an appeal; where the school is very popular and over-subscribed, there will be lots of other parents hoping for places. So, you need to have your facts straight and have as much evidence as you can to support your appeal.

All local authorities have to allow 20 days to appeal and you must do so in writing, there are three grounds on which appeals can be successful:

  • The school's admission arrangements do not comply with the law and if they did your child would have been offered a place.
  • A mistake has been made with your child's application and if it had been handled properly your child would have been offered a place.
  • The refusal of a place was unreasonable, taking the admissions arrangements into account.
  • The Advisory Centre for Education offers free legal advice on appeals. They also have resources on their website that you should read, such as: Admissions and Admission Appeals.

    Author: Lewis Tandy