Detailed guidance on school admission appeals

1. Overview

The complete guide

For detailed advice on the School Admission Appeals process, please read the School Admission Appeals Guide [103.8 KB] [pdf]

You can read excerpts from the complete guide in the following pages.

Already made an appeal?

To track the progress of your appeal or start another appeal using the same account sign in.

Making an appeal

To appeal online see our Considering making an appeal? guidance and online appeal form

Please note if you are appealing for a voluntary aided (faith school) you will need to submit your appeal direct to the school.

You have the right to put forward whatever reasons you feel are relevant to your case. It helps if you use headings or number the points you are making.

Please read the rules on infant class size law appeals, or secondary and primary appeals to understand how panels make decisions on appeals.

If you prefer to make an appeal on paper, request a form at:

East Sussex School Appeals Service
East Sussex County Council
West E, County Hall
St Anne’s Crescent
Lewes BN7 1UE

Please use separate forms for:

  • each school you want to appeal for, and
  • for each child.

Please also use:

  • blue or black ink
  • A4 paper for any extra pages and number them.

We can only provide black and white copies. If you want the panel to see colour items, like maps, photos or papers please include 8 colour copies.

To track the progress of your appeal, or start another appeal using the same account, sign in.

Key dates for school appeals

These deadlines are particularly important for appeals relating to the September 2022 intake.

Deadlines for submitting your appeal
Type Deadline Applies to
Secondary appeals Friday 31 March 2023 Children starting secondary school in September 2023.
Primary appeals Wednesday 17 May 2023 Children starting Reception Year or Year 3 from September 2023 onwards.
In-year appeals Within 25 school days of being told your application was unsuccessful. All applications that are not part of the main primary, junior or secondary intake in September. This could be for any year group at any time of year.

We aim to have all appeals, which are received within the deadline, heard by the following dates.

When will my appeal be heard?
Type Final date appeals will be heard by
Secondary appeals Monday 19 June 2023
Primary appeals Friday 21 July 2023
In-year appeals
(appeals which do not relate to the September intake)
Within 30 school days of receiving the appeal

When will I get the details of my hearing?

We will give you the details in writing at least 10 school days before your appeal hearing.

We will also share:

  • your appeal form and
  • the admission authority’s written response (statement of case).

We will send these 7 working days before the hearing (not including the day of despatch or the hearing day).

When will I know the outcome of my appeal?

We aim to send out written confirmation of the decision within 5 working days of your hearing. At peak times this is not always possible. Sometimes a panel needs to hear many appeals for one school over several days. In these cases we can’t release the decisions until after the last day of hearings for that school.

Please do not call the school appeals team for the outcome of your appeal. We cannot provide this information via telephone calls.

Who will be at the hearing?

You can attend and speak at the hearing.

Also, you can bring:

  • a friend, adviser or legal representative (though you should not need legal representation)
  • witnesses to speak at the hearing (please tell the appeal clerk or administrator ahead of the hearing)
  • an interpreter or signer to speak on your behalf (please tell us when you submit your appeal)

Independent Appeal Panel

Appeal panels are independent of the Admission Authority, and Panel members volunteer their time to hear school appeals. Their decisions are binding on Admission Authorities.

They must not have any direct connections with the school that is the subject of the appeal. There are 3 members on a panel and one will act as the Panel Chair. Members of panels must be:

  • lay people (without experience in school management or teaching – except as a school governor or volunteer)
  • people with experience in education, understand educational conditions in the local authority area, or are parents of school pupils.

Admission Authority representative

The Admission Authority has a presenting officer who gives the reasons why your application was refused. The presenting officer should give information clearly in language you understand. The presenting officer will be there throughout the hearings to answer detailed questions about:

  • the case
  • the school (and its admission arrangements), and
  • local coordinated admission arrangements.

Clerk to the Appeal Panel

The Clerk is not a member of the panel but has an important role. They make sure the panel hears all relevant facts and the appeal hearing is fair. The Clerk’s role is to:

  • explain the appeal process and answer your questions before the hearing (the Chair or Clerk may answer questions during the hearing)
  • be an independent source of advice (or to seek appropriate advice). Clerks advise on procedure, school admissions and school admission appeals codes, and on the law on admissions. Where practicable, they share advice with all parties.
  • make sure that both you and the admission authority can present relevant facts at the hearing.
  • The clerk helps the panel, admission authority and appellants with procedure and seeks advice when the Chair asks.
  • take notes on what happened, who attended, the outcome of votes, panel decisions and reasons. All notes and records the Clerk takes are the property of the panel. They are not normally available after the hearing. Only the Local Government Ombudsman or a court can ask to see them.

Considering making an appeal?

Infant class size law appeals

If you are appealing for a school place in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2 please note the class size rules. By law, in these year groups there is a limit of 30 pupils with a single teacher. Understanding the law will help you decide what to include in your appeal.

What is the infant class size limit?

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA 1998) limits the size of an infant class to 30 pupils with a single teacher.

If class size was the reason your application failed, you can still appeal. However, the appeal panel can only uphold your appeal where:

  1. admitting extra children would not break the infant class size limit
  2. the admission arrangements:
    • did not follow the admissions law or
    • were not properly applied to your case
      and your child would have been offered a place if they had.
  3. it decides that the decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances.

Consideration of ‘reasonableness’

To show that the authority’s decision to refuse was unreasonable the panel need to agree it was ‘perverse in the light of the admission arrangements’. This means that no sensible person would make that decision.

Multiple appeals

When there is:

  • more than one appeal for the same school and year group
  • a number of children would have been offered a place under the paragraph above, and
  • to admit that number would seriously prejudice the provision of efficient education or use of resources

the panel must proceed to a second stage.

Second stage – comparing cases

In multiple appeals the panel must compare each case and decide which of them, if any, to uphold.

Where the school could admit a certain number of children without:

  • breaching the infant class size limit, or
  • needing to take measures to avoid breaching it that would prejudice the provision of efficient education or use of resources

the panel must uphold the appeals of at least that number of children.

Considering making an appeal?

Secondary and primary appeals

The process to appeal for a secondary or primary school (except where the law limits class size) has two stages.

First stage – examining the decision to refuse admission

The panel must consider whether the admissions arrangements (including the area’s coordinated admission arrangements):

  • followed the School Admissions Code and Part 3 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, and
  • were correct and impartial.

The panel must then decide whether admitting more children would prejudice, or have a negative effect, on their education and the school’s resources.

Consideration of prejudice

Whilst the panel will look at the school’s published admission number, the admission authority must be able to show the negative impact of admitting above the published admissions number.

The panel must not reassess the capacity of the school. It must consider the impact on the school of admitting additional children.

The panel may consider:

  • the effect of an extra admission on the school now and in future school years as the year group moves through the school
  • any changes to the school buildings or organisation since they set the admission number
  • the impact of the locally agreed Fair Access Protocol
  • the impact on class size and organisation, available teaching staff, and the children already at the school.

Second stage – balancing the arguments

The panel then makes its decision. They balance the impact on the school against your arguments.

The panel must consider your reasons for expressing a preference for the school. This includes what that school can offer your child that the allocated or other schools cannot. If the panel decides that your case outweighs the prejudice to the school it must uphold your appeal.

If there is more than one appeal for the same school and year group, the panel must not compare cases when deciding if a case. They must decide if each case outweighs the prejudice to the school.

If the panel finds more cases outweigh prejudice than the school can admit, then they compare the cases and uphold the strongest cases.

If the school could admit a number of children without causing prejudice, the panel must uphold the appeals of at least that number.

Considering making an appeal?

School admissions appeal hearing procedures

The panel decides on the conduct of the hearing and it will be as informal as possible.

What happens at the hearing?

  1. Admission Authority’s representative puts their case, calling any witnesses that the Panel may permit
  2. the panel and parent (or representatives) question the Admission Authority’s representative and witnesses*
  3. parents (or representatives) put their case, calling any witnesses that the Panel may permit
  4. the panel and Admissions Authority representative question the parents, and any witnesses called
  5. the Admission Authority’s representative sums up
  6. parents (or representatives) sum up

*Secondary or primary appeals (where the rules on infant class size law don’t apply) can end here. If the Admission Authority does not prove prejudice the parents appeal is upheld.

This is the normal order of proceedings, but the panel can change the order if they need to.

Sometimes all the appeals in a session or part of a session relate to the same school. The panel may ask the Admission Authority’s representative to give general evidence on their admissions policy to all the parents together. Then they do not need to repeat it each time. The evidence will include reference to the allocations made.

The admission authority will give evidence to show why admitting more pupils over the set number will have a negative effect on how they educate the children or use their resources. For infant class size law cases, this will include the measures they would need to take in order to follow the law that limits infant class sizes to 30 pupils.

The hearing will then follow the order above for the evidence relating to a particular case. Each parent will have the chance to question the Admission Authority representative’s evidence.

Extra information

A panel can adjourn the hearing or hearings for any reason at any time. For example, to enable a parent to attend, to receive significant evidence, or because a panel member is ill.

A panel will hear all, or as many as possible, appeals for the same school before it gives its decisions.

Following the school admission appeals code, hearings are in private. As above, if a panel asks a school with many appeals to give general advice, all the parents will hear it together.

Decisions of the panel

  • The panel will either uphold or dismiss the appeal. It must not uphold an appeal subject to any specific conditions.
  • If the panel disagree, the decision will be the majority of the votes. If there is an equal number the panel Chair will have the final decision.
  • The Clerk will give the decision and the panel’s reasons to the parents and the Admissions Authority.
  • The Admission Authority and school governors must follow the panel’s decision to offer a school place.
  • The Panel’s decision is binding on both the appellant and admission authority.

Clerk to the panel

Each panel has a clerk. The clerk stays with the panel at all times to offer advice on procedure and law or remind them of the evidence and issues.

The clerk keeps notes of the proceedings. They record who was there, voting, all decisions made, and why.

If they need to post admissions documents they will go to the address you gave the Admission Authority when you applied.

Procedures can change at any time if the clerk to the panel gets proper notice.

Considering making an appeal?

Start an appeal

Submit an appeal with the Online appeal form

Please note if you are appealing for a voluntary aided (faith) school you need to appeal direct to the school.

To submit an appeal in a paper format, please see our guidance on making an appeal.

Independent advice on making an appeal

Coram Children’s Legal Centre provides a Child Law Advice Service which can help you prepare your appeal.

Statutory guidance on school admissions and appeals

School admissions code – GOV.UK

School admission appeals code – GOV.UK


We can’t advise you on the content of your appeal but we can answer questions.

If you didn’t find the answer to your question on our pages, use our enquiry form.

Don’t use the enquiry form to submit your appeal.