Didn't get your first choice school?

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Boy at school
It's the time of year when schools reveal who will be getting a place in their classes in September. But with many schools over-subscribed, not all children will get into the school of their choice.

So if you're waiting to hear or already have the bad news, read our Q+A on what to do next.

How do the schools decide who gets in?

Schools can have different policies for accepting pupils, but generally these are the main criteria:
  • Social and medical needs: If the child or parent has a disability which makes it difficult for them to travel, a school close to their home might be more likely to accept them.
  • Siblings: Children who have older siblings in a school are generally more likely to get accepted too.
  • Distance to the school: Children living close to a school are more likely to get in.
  • Catchment area: This is slightly different to distance as a catchment area may be an odd shape.
  • Random allocation: For places that are left, or when schools are over-subscribed, random allocation is sometimes used.

Can I appeal?

If you think your child should have been accepted into a school, you have the right to appeal. If you appeal, you'll have the chance to argue that the school didn't stick to its admissions policy or that there are additional reasons that your child should be accepted to that school.

If the appeals panel decides your cases is strong enough, your child will get a place at the school.

For more info on how to appeal, visit

My child wasn't accepted to any school, what can I do?

It's very unlikely that your child won't be accepted to any of the schools you applied to, but don't panic if that happens. You can appeal against all of the schools if you feel it's unfair that your child hasn't been accepted.

You should also contact the school admissions team at your local authority to see which schools do have places available. You may be able to get your child onto the waiting list for one of your preferred schools.

Find your local authority

I've been through all this and still didn't get my first choice

You're bound to be disappointed if your child didn't get in where you'd hoped, but remember it's a lot more important to you than it is to them. Your child will still have a great school experience wherever they go, and they'll get skills and memories they'll keep for life!

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If your child ends up going to a school that wasn't your first choice, there are a few things you can do to make it a positive experience:
  • Try getting involved with the school. You could join the PTA or help out with events.
  • Remember, you still have a huge involvement in your child's education - little things like going along to parents' evenings and helping them with their homework make a big difference.
  • Talk to other mums if there are issues you're concerned about. Chances are you're not alone and together you stand a better chance of getting heard.

Get more info on the admissions and appeals process from the department of schools and families.

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