Parents encouraged to think carefully before lodging an appeal on school places

Today (Monday 2 March) is National Offer Day, the date that secondary school places are allocated for children due to start Year 7 in September 2020.

For many parents and children it is an anxious time, waiting to find out if they have been allocated a place at the school of their choice. While the majority of children in Buckinghamshire do get offered their first choice school, inevitably there are some who don’t.

If parents are unhappy with the school allocated they can lodge an appeal. Appeals are heard by an independent panel which makes a final decision on whether to allow or refuse the appeal.

Buckinghamshire faces additional pressure on school places due to its grammar school system which attracts applications from children in neighbouring authorities. As a result, many schools are oversubscribed and even if a child qualifies for a place at grammar school (having achieved the qualifying score in the Transfer Test or been successful in a Selection Review), there are no guarantees that they will get their first choice school.

Figures show that the number of appeals lodged every year is increasing. However the success rate of these appeals is reducing. In 2019, a total of 680 appeals were lodged but only 22 were successful, equating to less than 4%.

All schools have their own admissions criteria which they use to prioritise applications. These vary from school to school but generally places are allocated firstly to children with Education, Health and Care Plans and looked after children. Then places are usually allocated to children with siblings already at the school and those within the catchment area. If places are still available, children who live further away and out of county may be allocated a place but in recent years the trend has been that the distance to which schools are able to offer places is reducing due to increased populations living near the schools.

Cllr Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills said: “We understand that parents want the best for their children, which includes sending them to the school of their choice. While parents are perfectly within their rights to appeal if their child doesn’t get a place at their first-choice school, the fact remains, if there are no spaces available, the chances of successfully winning the appeal are very slim.

“In addition, the process of going through one or more appeals can be stressful and time-consuming for all those involved and there is a cost implication which is borne by the taxpayer. We would urge parents who may think that an appeal is the best way to go forward to take a moment to really consider if it is the correct path to follow.”

Further guidance on school admissions can be found on our website: