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School places in England: applications, allocations and appeals

Published Tuesday, October 15, 2019

This briefing paper provides an overview of how places are allocated at state-funded mainstream schools in England. It covers appeals, and other options for parents and carers unhappy with their child's allocated school.

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School starting age

Children in England can take up a full-time school place in the September following their fourth birthday, but there is no requirement for them to be in education until the start of the school term following their fifth birthday.

Choosing a school

Parents and carers in England can express preferences for particular schools. There’s no absolute right to choose a particular school, but if a school is undersubscribed – i.e., has fewer applicants than there are places available - any child that applies must usually be offered a place.

No automatic allocation of school places

School places are not automatically allocated in England, even when children are attending an attached pre-school or feeder school, or have older siblings already attending. Parents or carers need to apply for a place.  

Options for parents who don’t get the school place they wanted

Parents or carers who are refused a place at a particular school have a right of appeal. Other options include remaining on waiting lists, joining the waiting lists of schools not originally applied for, or arranging other suitable education – e.g., home schooling.

Support and information for parents

Local authorities, voluntary agencies and charities can provide advice and guidance to parents about applying for state-funded schools.

There can be differences in admission processes and the admissions criteria used from school to school and area to area; this note is intended as a general guide only and parents should consult their home local authority for local information.



Commons Briefing papers SN07147

Authors: Nerys Roberts; Shadi Danechi

Topic: Schools

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