Summary of an appeal against a school admission decision

  1. The admission authority will explain why they turned down your application
  2. You'll be able to give your own reasons why your child should be admitted. 
  3. The appeals panel must decide if the school's admission criteria were properly followed and comply with the school admissions code.
  4. If the criteria were not properly followed or do not comply with the school admissions code your appeal must be upheld.
  5. If your reasons for your child to be admitted outweigh the school's reasons for not admitting any more children at all, your appeal will be upheld.
  6. You will usually be sent the decision within 5 school days. 

This guide covers the arrangements for parents who want to appeal against admission decisions about schools in Dorset. 

The appeal arrangements in this guide have been made according to the provisions of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and the School Admissions Appeals Code which was issued to offer advice and guidance on appeal procedures and arrangements. You should also read our parents' guide about admissions to Dorset schools. 

Contact our 0 to 25 SEND Assessment Team in Children's Services if your child has special educational needs and/or disability (SEND). They can give you advice and guidance. The School Admissions Team won't be involved. 

Separate appeal arrangements exist under the Education Act 1996 for you to appeal against the SEND provision proposed for your child. 

Independent panel

The law says you can appeal to an independent appeal panel if you're not satisfied with an admission decision. 

The independent appeal panel will take account of:

  • any preference you had made
  • our published admission arrangements

The independent appeal panel reach a decision using all available information as well as the individual details of each case. 

Our Appeals Team arrange:

  • the appeal
  • the appeal hearing
  • contact with parents

Contact the Appeals Team for advice about the appeal arrangements, including for example, facilities for disabled people. They can't give you advice about how to organise your appeal.

Read the school admissions appeals code on GOV.UK.

What is the basis of my appeal?

You have the right of appeal to an independent appeal panel if you're not satisfied with an admission decision. 

Normally this means you've applied for a place at a school that's oversubscribed, and:

  • either you've not been offered a place because the available places have been offered to children who have a higher priority for a place at that school than your child (according to the admission authority's published criteria)
  • or the class or teaching group at the school is full and there are no further spare places available for your child

What's an admission authority?

The admission authority decides what criteria to use if there are more applications than places in a school year. 

For community schools in Dorset the admission authority is us, Dorset Council. 

For all other schools, the admission authority is the governing body; this means the group of governors that runs the school. These schools include:

  • voluntary aided schools
  • voluntary controlled schools
  • foundation schools
  • academies

Appeal a decision

We, the School Admissions Team at Dorset Council, will let you know the outcome of your request for a place for your child in your preferred school(s). If the decision we make is to not offer your child a place, we will tell you the reasons why and about your right to appeal.

You then have 20 days to make an appeal. 

Appeal a school place refusal

You can appeal if your child has been refused a place at your preferred school.

Ask us to send you a paper form if you want to apply in paper format.

Send the complete appeal form to:

Provide information

It's your appeal and you need to make sure all relevant information is available to the independent appeal panel. This helps the members of the panel make an informed decision. 

You can state your reasons for wanting your child to attend your preferred school on the appeal form and your grounds for your appeal. 

Attach any other documents to your appeal form, such as:

  • medical reports
  • educational letters
  • other professional reports

Send them to the appeals team as soon as possible if you can't attach them to your appeal form. All information needs to be with the appeals team at least 5 school days before the appeal hearing. 

Your appeal could be delayed if you try to provide evidence later. This means your decision could be delayed. The appeal panel can refuse to admit late evidence and can delay the hearing while they consider this. The presenting officer can also request a delay for this reason. 

What happens when we receive your appeal

We will let you know when we receive your appeal. We'll send a copy to the person who'll represent the admission authority at the appeal.

For community and voluntary controlled schools this will be an officer from our School Admissions Team.

For academies, voluntary aided and foundation schools this will usually be the head teacher and/or governor of the school.

We will then arrange for the appeal panel to consider the appeal. The appeal panel will usually hear all appeals for the same school together.  These are the arrangements for the appeal hearings:

  • admissions and transfers in September: appeal hearings are scheduled to take place between April and the end of July
  • admissions at other times of the year: appeal hearings take place as soon as we can arrange them, within 30 school days of receiving the appeal form

View the admissions appeal timetable

You are normally given at least 10 school days' notice of the appeal hearing, unless you agree to a shorter notice period, for example, when it's close to the beginning of the school year. 

Before the hearing we will give you a written statement detailing the reasons why it's not been possible to allow your child to attend your preferred school. 

Where the appeals are heard

Appeals are heard in 2 venues in Dorset:

  • County Hall, Colliton Park, Dorchester
  • Allendale House, Hanham Road, Wimborne

We may use other venues sometimes, mostly for appeals for admissions and transfers in September. 

We will arrange for your appeal to be heard at the venue closest to where you live.

Can I attend the hearing?

You should attend the hearing if possible. It's very helpful for the members of the appeal panel to hear first-hand why you want your child to attend a particular school. 

You can bring someone along to accompany or represent you. They can be a friend, adviser, interpreter or signer who may speak on your behalf at the hearing. This person can be:

  • a Choice Adviser
  • a locally elected politician
  • an employee of the local education authority, for example, an educational social worker

You need to make sure your choice of person to accompany you won't lead to a conflict of interest. 

You must make sure you inform the Appeals Team before the hearing if you plan to be represented or accompanied by someone. This is so that the Appeals Panel is aware of who will be attending the hearing. 

It's up to you to decide whether to bring your child to the hearing.

Special requirements 

Let the Appeals Team know as soon as possible if you have any special requirements for the school admission hearing, for example, you need:

  • a translator; let us know which language
  • information in large print or another format
  • a British Sign Language interpreter
  • hearing loop

If you can't attend your appeal, it will still be heard in your absence and a decision will be reached on all the written information that's available to the appeal panel. 

Inform the Appeals Team before the date of your appeal hearing if you're planning not to attend. 

If you fail to attend your appeal hearing without informing the Appeals Team beforehand that you won't attend or that you wish the hearing to be rearranged, your appeal will go ahead and will be decided on the written information submitted. 

Who else is present at the hearing?

A presenting officer who represents the admission authority presents the case as to why your child can't be admitted to your preferred school. 

For community and voluntary controlled schools this is an officer from the Schools Admissions Team. 

For academies, voluntary aided and foundation schools this will usually be the headteacher and/or governor of the school.

A clerk to the appeal panel is at the hearing. They take notes of the hearing and provide advice and guidance about the procedure and arrangements. The clerk doesn't have any say in the decision about your case, but stays with the appeal panel members while they make their decision. 

You won't be left alone with the members of the appeal panel at any time and neither will the presenting officer. The only exception to this is if you decide not to attend the appeal hearing. If this happens, the presenting officer still has to attend the hearing to present the authority's case. 

Who are the members of the appeal panel?

The appeal panel is independent of the admission authority. This means they don't have anything to do with Dorset Council. There are 3 members that include:

  • at least one person who has no personal experience in the management of any school, or in providing education in any school (other than as a school governor or any other voluntary role); they are called a 'lay member'
  • at least one person with experience in education who is familiar with educational conditions in Dorset, or is the parent of a pupil registered at a school

A member can't hear your appeal if he/she:

  • knows you directly
  • is a governor of your preferred school
  • has had any previous involvement in your case

Members of Dorset Council aren't eligible to sit as appeal panel members. 

What happens at the appeal hearing

The chairman welcomes you to the hearing and introduces the members of the appeal panel and anyone else there. The chairman explains the procedure they will follow. 

The appeal panel members will have closely read the information about the appeal that you and the admission authority have provided. The members have these documents with them at the hearing so that they can refer to them during the hearing. 

See Infant Class Size appeal process information. 

The appeal panel follows this two-stage process: 

Stage 1

At this stage the authority (Dorset Council) must satisfy the appeal panel that the school's published admission arrangements:

  • have complied with the mandatory requirements of the School Admissions Code and part 3 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998
  • have been correctly and impartially applied in your case
  • show that your child's admission to the school would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources

The presenting officer presents Dorset Council's case to:

  • the appeal panel
  • you
  • any other parents appealing for a place at the same school

The members of the appeal panel, you and any other parents can ask questions of the presenting officer, or complain officially about the admission authority's case.

You, the presenting officer and anyone else appealing will have to leave the room so that the members of the appeal panel can decide:

  • whether the Authority has followed the published admission arrangements correctly 
  • that they were correctly and impartially applied
  • that additional admissions to the school would prejudice (or cause problems to) the efficient education or use of resources

Stage 2

If the authority does satisfy the appeal panel at Stage 1, the panel then has to consider:

  • the reasons why you wish your child to attend the school
  • balancing these reasons against the Authority's case
  • their decision as to which should win

You will all be asked to come back individually to put your own case. There may be personal circumstances which outweigh the fact that the year group is full. 

Where 2 or more appeals are being decided at the same time for the same school, the panel will consider each appeal individually. Your own personal appeal will be heard privately without any other parents present. 

The panel and the presenting officer may question you on what you've said about your personal circumstances and the reasons you've given for wishing your child to be admitted.

Both you and the presenting officer will be asked to summarise your respective cases and then to leave the room. The panel then make their decision. 

At this second stage of the appeal hearing, all parents appealing for the preferred school must have the chance to present their case personally and individually before any final decisions on admission are made. 

The appeal panel will give careful consideration to:

  • the reasons you've given
  • the authority's published admission arrangements
  • the way the admission arrangements have been applied

The panel will consider the consequences for the school and the authority of complying with your preference and how serious they would be. The panel must balance these conflicting factors and reach a decision. 

Infant Class Size appeals

You need to go through the same process if you're appealing a decision about an infant class. In reception, year 1 and year 2 the class size is limited to 30. Your application can be turned down if all the classes already have 30 children. 

Your appeal could be successful if:

  • giving your child a place will not increase the class size above the limit
  • the admission arrangements have not been properly followed
  • the admission criteria do not comply with the school admissions code

You can only appeal against the decision if the Appeal Panel finds that:

  • giving your child a place will not increase the class size above the limit, or
  • the admission arrangements didn't comply with admissions law, or were not correctly and impartially applied and the child would've been offered a place if the arrangements had complied or had been correctly and impartially applied, or
  • the decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case

This two-stage process does not normally apply to appeals for places in reception, year 1 and year 2, apart from cases where admitting another child would be prejudicial to the overall provision of efficient education and the efficient use of resources. This is likely to be the case for schools with a published admission number of below 30.

When will I know the panel's decision?

Normally the clerk to the appeal panel will contact you the same day to let you know the decision. The clerk will follow the phone call up with a letter confirming their decision within 5 school days of the appeal hearing. 

If the appeal hearings have taken more than one day, the clerk will contact you with a decision on the final day of the hearings, once all the individual appeals have been heard. The clerk will follow up with a letter confirming the decision within 5 school days. 

The appeal panel will let the school admissions team know their decision. 

What to do if your appeal is successful

If you're appealing for your child to attend your preferred school immediately you should contact the school as soon as possible to make arrangements.

If you're appealing for your child to attend your preferred school in September your school will contact you with information about what to do. 

If your child has been offered a place at an alternative school, we will withdraw it within 4 weeks of the appeal hearing unless you tell us otherwise. 

What if I'm not happy with the decision?

We know that you may not be happy if your appeal is refused. The members of the appeal panel will have given careful consideration to all the information available in your case. They assess the merits of each appeal and decide if they should be allowed or refused. 

Some parents request a re-hearing of their appeal. There have to be new facts for us to re-hear an appeal. 

You may only be allowed a further appeal in the same academic year if we've accepted a second applications from you. This is only if we're satisfied that there's evidence available to show a significant and material change in circumstances since the original hearing. The circumstances can be yours or your child's and your preferred school has still refused admission. 

Write to our school admissions manager with full details if you think your circumstances have changed significantly:

It's the school admissions manager's responsibility to decided whether to reach a new decision about your case. 

You can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if you think the appeal panel has not handled your case correctly. They can investigate written complaints about maladministration* on the part of a panel hearing appeals for a maintained school.

*Maladministration means the way something has been handled, for example, if there's been:

  • unjustifiable delay; this means delay without good reason
  • procedural error; this means someone hasn't followed correct procedure
  • incompetence; this means someone hasn't done something properly
  • neglect; this means your case hasn't been properly looked after
  • prejudice; this means your case is harmed because of someone's action or judgement

This doesn't mean the standard of the decision they make.

The Ombudsman cannot overturn an appeal panel's decision but he may make recommendations for a suitable remedy if you feel that the appeal panel was incorrectly constituted or the admission authority has:

  • acted unreasonably in exercising functions during the appeal process
  • failed to discharge any legal or funding agreement duty in relation to this process

The agency appointed to investigate complaints about academies on behalf of the Secretary of State investigate complaints about:

  • maladministration on the part of an appeal panel for an academy
  • an academy trust failing to comply with the appeals code in setting up a panel

If you're appealing and you want to make a complaint you can email or write to the Education Funding Agency (EFA):

Education and Early Help (SEND) Team

Name: Education and Early Help (SEND) Team near you
Full contact details

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