School Admission Process

School Admission Process

Children between the age of 5 and 16 in England are entitled to a free place at a state school and although parents can choose which school their child attends, there is nothing in law which obliges schools to take their children in the school admission process.

School Admission Process

Each school will have its own school admission process depending on the nature of how they are managed. State schools and private schools may run very differently and operate under separate laws. For the purposes of this guide however, we will explore the admissions process in relation to state schools only.

Legally binding

Legally binding, The Schools Admission Code must follow the rules which govern how the admissions process functions. When parents suspect a breach has occurred, they can make a referral to the local authority or the schools adjudicator.

Each year, the Local Education Authority are responsible for managing the school admission process, coordinating the new intake of pupils. Schools will have their own processes and procedures for doing this and where a school is oversubscribed it will use criteria to allocate places.

Within the Code there is specific guidance on what information a school can request when they are reaching a decision about applicants.

More often than not, the following information is requested:

  • Details to help the school process the application such as proof of address
  • Information about any siblings who also attend the school
  • That being said, schools cannot ask information such as:
  • Personal details of a parent or child
  • Money to fund the school
  • What efforts you will make to support the school

Depending on the school you may have a different authority responsible for admissions, however they must comply with the School Admissions Code.

  • Academy, foundation and voluntary aided schools will have a governing body who will make decisions in relation to admissions
  • A community school will have an admissions process determined by the local authority
  • An Admission Authority is personally accountable for:
  • Admitting all applicants provided that there are sufficient places for them
  • Ensuring that children in local authority care have priority
  • Implement an unbiased and fair system to address over subscriptions
  • Consider all other schools listed in the application fairly in terms of oversubscription

An Admission Authority is not permitted to:

  • Conduct interviews with children or their parents
  • Only take an application into consideration if the school is first preference
  • Consider whether any siblings currently attend the school or they have left
  • Withdraw an offer of a placement, unless the parent has provided false or misleading information
  • Determine which applicants to accept based on reports from previous schools or nurseries
  • Request that the child sits a test to apply for a place at the school
  • Request photographs of the child unless it is for the purpose of identification
  • Request information about parent criminal records, occupation, education, background, marital status or earnings

Information regarding where parents can find details of admission arrangements must be published in a local newspaper by May 1st for applicants starting in September the following year.

Objecting to a Decision

Where a parent objects to the decision made by the school admission process, these must be submitted within a specific period of time. Even if you object, this should never affect the outcome of an application. To lodge an objection to a decision you will need to complete the relevant form and submit this to the Schools Adjudicator.

A decision will be made within six weeks of receiving your form. Once a decision has been made by the Adjudicator these are legally binding.

Special Educational Needs

Children who have particular needs or Special Educational Needs will have different rights in the admissions process. Where a child requires special assistance, the local authority will be required to carry out a needs assessment and the local authority will be able to identify a school that will address the requirements of the child.

The named school must then issue your child with a place even if the school is oversubscribed or the school year is already underway.

With the exception of a grammar school who will admit applicants based on their aptitude, a school must accept all applicants regardless of their educational ability if there are sufficient places. Some popular schools may receive more applications than there are places. If this happens, they are duty bound to award the places based on oversubscription criteria.

This criteria may vary between schools but it often gives preference to:

  • Children who have siblings at the school
  • The distance of the school from the child’s home
  • Medical conditions which impact on the child’s ability to travel
  • The child’s catchment area
  • Random Selection

Faith Schools – These schools are able to prioritise admissions based on the faith of children, but they must be consistent in the way they request that parents demonstrate the child’s faith

Grammar Schools – Sometimes these schools will require prospective students to sit a test and this will determine who is awarded a place

Boarding Schools – The admissions team can assess children’s suitability for the boarding school, but they must prioritise children in care.


About the Author
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers team and posted by Lloyd Barrett, Admin & Customer Services Manager for online advice service Expert Answers. Expert Answers provides legal advice to users in the UK who post a question on their secure platform.

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