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. Updated for primary national offer day in April 2018.Jump to full report >>
Children in England can take up a full-time school place in the Autumn term 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.
Many children start secondary school in the September following their eleventh birthday, but in some areas state-funded schooling is arranged differently, with intakes and transfers at different ages.
For admission at normal points of entry (for example, entry into the first year of infant/ primary or secondary school) parents apply to their home local authority.
Parents and carers in England can express preferences for particular schools; there’s no absolute right to choose a particular school, if that school is oversubscribed - i.e., it has more applicants than places available.
Where a school is under-subscribed (i.e., has fewer applicants than places available), any child applying during the normal admissions round must usually be offered a place, although there are some exceptions.
Parents who are refused a place for their child 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 provision – e.g., home schooling.
Local authorities, voluntary agencies and charities may be able to provide advice and guidance to parents about applying for state-funded schools.
There can be differences in admission processes and the 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.
Where a school is oversubscribed, the school's admissions authority must rank applications against its published oversubscription criteria. The oversubscription criteria used must be "reasonable, clear, objective, procedurally fair, and comply with all relevant legislation, including equalities legislation" (para 1.8 of the school admissions code).
There's further information in the full PDF briefing about admission rules for:
Admissions authorities determine their own admissions criteria, but the School Admissions Code sets out certain things they cannot do. These include:
Commons Briefing papers SN07147
Author: Nerys Roberts