Circle Insights

Appeals and school admissions: how to handle them efficiently

Marcus Le Brocq

Appeals are an inevitable part of the school admissions process. How can they be effectively and efficiently handled to make the process easy and fair?

Effective and efficient handling of the school admissions process is essential to achieving the goal of a fair and transparent process for all. In this blog, we will look at the appeals process. Appeals are an inevitability. Every admissions authority will have to deal with them every year. In our last blog we looked at oversubscription criteria. They go hand-in-hand with appeals, since they are only required when more applications are received than there are school places available. Evidencing them, and how they’ve been adhered to, is essential to a fair and transparent appeals process.

The central tenets of the appeals process are twofold. Firstly, every parent has the right to appeal a place on behalf of their children. Secondly, the process must be fair and transparent. As we discussed previously, oversubscription criteria must be publicly available and their bespoke ordering by authority laid out.

The appeals process becomes a possibility when the authority rejects a child’s application. In rejecting it, the authority must:

  • Make clear the reasons why the application was rejected
  • Inform the parent of their right to appeal
  • State the deadline for submitting any appeal
  • Provide the necessary details to make any appeal
  • Inform the parent that they must set out their grounds for appeal

The report for the 2022/23 school year shows that there were 53,086 appeals; 38,186 for secondary school applications and 14,900 for primary schools. This that means that 3.5% of applications are appealed by parents. So, how can the process be handled fairly and transparently?

Efficient processing of appeals in the school admissions process

The School Admissions Code lays out that authorities must establish a panel to hear appeals. Where appeals are heard by a panel, the decision is binding; the school must either admit the child or the application is confirmed as rejected.

In the 2022/23 school year, 19.8% of appeals were successful. This shows that authorities are getting the majority of rejections right. Yet, mistakes do happen.

Technology can play a fundamental role in fair provision and oversight of the admissions process. Where a place has been rejected, for example, because a family resides outside of the catchment area, being able to show the working on this is essential. In a manual process, this means revisiting how the decision was reached. Linking to a geo-mapping application provides robust evidence in an instant.

Other criteria, such as faith, can quickly be evidenced, too. Where a parent hasn’t submitted relevant supporting documentation to evidence their child is of the same faith of the school, the authority can quickly demonstrate that other applications were accepted as a result of this.

Making the process easy for parents is paramount, too. With a parent portal, applications and appeals can be made easily and recorded against the child’s record simultaneously. This further helps with timelines, since any appeals process can be withdrawn after the established date for their submission has passed.

If a panel is convened to hear an appeal, they too can have easy access in one place to the process, the rejection and the grounds for appeal. This helps them to make better informed, fairer decisions.


Nothing can prevent appeals from happening. As the statistics show, they are a prevalent part of the school admission process. Rather, authorities need to be in the best possible position to respond to them.

Where the end-to-end process is handled in a central system, it makes evidence gathering, communications and reaching fair and transparent decisions much more straightforward. Messages and outcomes can be submitted and received via a central portal. This means that parents receive information instantly and can appeal via the same method.

Appeals are to be expected, so being in position to administer them is crucial. They are a central part of the overarching school admissions process. Having a system in place, linked to admissions and oversubscription criteria, helps to make the task of implanting a fair and transparent process much easier for everyone. If the system is simpler for schools and authorities, it will be for parents, too.

The technology exists now to make the admissions process easier to administer, as well as fairer and more transparent for children and their families.

This is a topic that we’ve covered in greater detail, examining the entire admissions process, in our recent white paper, A fair school admissions process for all. You can download a free copy here.

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Marcus Le Brocq