Secondary school places: When do parents find out?

A mother and daughter smiling as they look at a phone screenImage source, Getty Images

Councils will soon be offering secondary school places to children in England and Wales.

What are the options if parents are unhappy with the outcome?

When do parents and carers find out about secondary school places?

How do parents and carers accept a school offer?

In England and Wales, parents who applied online will be sent an email on 1 March with details of how to accept the place, and the deadline for doing so.

Those who did not apply online will be sent a letter.

If they do not accept by the date specified, the offer could be withdrawn and the place given to someone else.

What if you don’t get the school you want?

In England, if your child is not offered a place at your preferred school, you will usually be offered a place at one of the other schools listed on your application.

If there isn’t space at any of your chosen schools, your child may be offered a place somewhere else.

You can put your child’s name on the waiting list for your preferred school(s) – and these have to remain open for at least the first term of the school year.

If you are offered a place at a school after being on its waiting list, you can accept even if your child has already started at another school.

Image source, Getty Images

In Wales, any child not given a place at the school parents have applied for will be added to a waiting list.

In Northern Ireland, if your child is not offered a place at any of the schools you wanted, you will be asked to choose a new preference from a list of schools that still have places.

In Scotland, your council decides which school in your local catchment area your child will attend.

You can ask to choose another school, outside of your local catchment area, and the council must allow this if there is space – but it is not guaranteed.

Can you appeal if you’re not offered the school you want?

In England, if your child is not offered a place at the school you wanted, you can appeal within 20 school days, and the case must be heard within 40 days.

The final decision is made by an independent panel at a hearing where the council or school explains why the application was rejected, and the parent makes the case for why their child should be accepted.

Councils allocate places according to strict criteria. Looked-after children are given top priority, followed by those with siblings already at the school, and then those who live closest. Some religious schools have additional requirements.

To appeal successfully, parents have to prove that the proper admissions process was not followed, or that relevant circumstances about their child were not taken into account.

Carers should be informed of the panel’s decision within five days.

If the appeal is successful, the child will be given a place. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the child can still be added to the school’s waiting list.

Again, the percentage of appeals made has not changed significantly over the same period, although the proportion which were successful has dropped from 26.3% in 2016.

Can I get help with school transport?

Parents and carers across the UK may be able to get free or lower-cost transport if their child’s school is far away.

Applications need to go through the relevant local education authority.

What if my child has special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)?

It must offer them a place.

What if you didn’t apply before the 31 October deadline?

If you applied for a place after the deadline in England and Wales, your application will not be considered until after national offer day.

This means your child is less likely to get a place at your preferred school.

However, your child can still be added to the waiting list of the school you wanted.

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