Before you appeal

Before you start the appeals process, you should consider the alternatives that are open to you:

Accept the school place you have been offered

If you are a Dorset resident, you will have been offered an alternative school place. Accepting this place will guarantee that your child can start school, even if no places become available at your preferred school. This will not affect your right to submit an appeal or your child's current position on a waiting list.

Remain on the waiting list for your preferred schools

Your child’s name will automatically be added to any waiting list where your application has been unsuccessful. When a place becomes available, it will be offered to the child who is at the top of this list at that time. The waiting list is ordered in accordance with each school's admissions policy.

Apply for an alternative school

If you wish to apply for a school that was not on your original application, you can do this by contacting the admissions team.

SEND provision appeals

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

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 will not be involved.  

The appeals process

This guide will help you appeal against admission decisions for schools in the Dorset Council area.

A brief summary

Once you have received the outcome of your school application, if it's not your preferred choice: 

  1. The admission authority will explain why they turned down your application 
  2. you will be able to lodge an appeal giving your reasons why your child should be admitted to your preferred school 
  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, unless there are multiple appeals being heard, and to admit all applicants would seriously prejudice the provision or efficient education and/or resources at the school. 
  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 
You will have 20 days to make an appeal from the date we notify you of the decision not to offer your child a place. 

Your right to appeal

You have the right to appeal if you are not satisfied with the decision. Your appeal will be considered by an independent appeal panel.

Your child will usually have been refused a place because:

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

What is 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 we are the admission authority. 

For all other schools, the admission authority is the governing body, this means the group of governors that runs the school and or academy trust. 

These schools include:

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

Appeals team

Our appeals team are responsible for running the independent appeals service and until such time as an appeal is lodged, have had no involvement with your application, meaning that the advice and support that your receive is independent of the school and the admissions team.

The team are responsible for: 

  • organising the appeal
  • running the appeal hearing
  • contact with parents

Contact the appeals team for advice about the appeal arrangements, for example, facilities for disabled people. They cannot give you advice about how to organise your appeal.

School Appeals Team 

Read the school admissions appeals code on GOV.UK.

After we receive your appeal


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


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.  

For admissions and transfers in September the appeal hearings are scheduled to take place between April and the end of July 

For admissions at other times of the year the 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 you will be provided with 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 normally heard at County Hall, Colliton Park, Dorchester 

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

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. 

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 be accompanied by someone. This is so that the appeals panel is aware of who will be attending 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 based on the written information that's available to the appeal panel.  

Inform the appeals team before the date of your appeal hearing if you are not planning to attend.  

If you do not attend your appeal hearing without informing the appeals team beforehand, your appeal will still go ahead and will be decided on the written information submitted.  

Who else is present at the hearing? 

A presenting officer will put forward the case relating to the reasons why your child did not get a place. 

For the majority of schools in Dorset, this will be an officer from our school admissions team, although in some cases it will be the head teacher and/or governor of the school in question. 

A clerk to the appeal panel is at the hearing. The clerk's role is to take notes and to provide advice and guidance about the procedures and arrangements. The clerk does not 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 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 case. 

Who are the members of the appeal panel? 

The appeal panel is independent of the admission authority. This means they do not 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 they: 

  • Have a vested interest in the outcome 

  • are a governor of your preferred school 

Neither Elected Members (Councillors) nor Officers employed by Dorset Council are eligible to sit as appeal panel members.  Officers may provide evidence for or on behalf of the Admission Authority, or indeed the appellant, depending on their role. 

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 read the information about the appeal. The members have these documents with them at the hearing so that they can refer to them during the hearing. 

Most appeal panel hearings follow this two-stage process:  

Stage 1 

At this stage the admission authority 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 the 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 authorities 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 the provision of efficient education or the efficient 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 authorities case 
  • their decision as to which should win 

You will be asked to come back to put forward 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 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 before any final decisions are made.  

The appeal panel will give careful consideration to: 

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

The panel will consider the consequences for the school and the authority. The panel must balance these conflicting factors and reach a decision.  

There is a separate appeals process for reception, years 1 and 2. That process can be found in infant class appeals. 

Infant class size appeals

Appealing a decision about an infant class application differs from the two stage appeal process and is set out below

In reception, year 1 and year 2 the class size limit is 30. Your application can refused 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 were not followed 
  • the admission criteria do not follow 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 
  • admission arrangements didn't comply with admissions law 
  • admission arrangements were not applied and the child would have a place if the arrangements had been 
  • the decision to refuse admission was unreasonable 

Note that threshold for finding that the admission authorities decision was not reasonable is very high. The panel will need to be satisfied that the decision to refuse to admit the child was "perverse in the light of the admission arrangements"

This means that it was "beyond the range of responses open to a reasonable decision maker" or "a decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question could have arrived at it".

There may be times when the infant class appeals process does not apply and the panel need to use the two-stage process instead.

We will tell you which process will be followed before your appeal hearing

After your appeal

The outcome of your appeal 

Normally the clerk to the appeal panel will contact you via email and/or SMS the same day to let you know the decision. The clerk will follow this up with a letter, which will be sent via email, confirming the Panel's 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 to do if you are still unhappy 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.  

Lodging a second appeal

You may only appeal again in the same academic year if the admission authority have accepted a second application from you. 

This is only if we're satisfied that there's evidence available to show a significant 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 the school admissions manager with full details if you think your circumstances have changed significantly.


Maintained Schools 

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. 


You can complain to the Department for Education (DfE) if you think the appeal panel has not handled your case correctly. 

They can investigate written complaints on behalf of the Secretary of State 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 


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 

The Ombudsman and the Department for Education cannot overturn an appeal panel's decision. But they can make recommendations for a suitable remedy in certain circumstances. 


Make your appeal

We will let you know the outcome of your request for a place for your child in your preferred school. 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.  

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.   

Include any other documents that you feel are relevant with your appeal, such as:  

  • medical reports  
  • educational letters  
  • other professional reports  

if you can't attach documentation to your appeal at time of submission, please upload them to your portal account or send them to the appeals team as soon as possible.  

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 delay the hearing while they consider this. The presenting officer can also request a delay for this reason

Online appeals system 

Use our secure online system to make your appeal. With this system you can manage everything all in one place. 

Your appeal will also get where it needs to go, avoiding any delays caused by external factors. 

Start now 

Paper forms 

If you need to send a paper form due to accessibility reasons, please request this by emailing or calling us

Email completed forms to us or post to:  

Clerk to the Independent Appeal Panel 

Democratic Services 

County Hall 


DT1 1XJ 

Please note:  Appeals that are posted may not be received for up to 10 working days, which could delay your hearing. It is therefore strongly recommended that you make use of the online system to avoid such delays.