School Admissions

The Admissions Code

All children in England aged between five and 16 years of age are entitled to a free place at a state school. Parents have the right to have some say as to which schools their children attend, but there are laws dictating the terms of these choices. Different schools have admissions criteria depending on how they are run with independent and private schools being held to separate laws to the ones described below. This article will concentrate on state schools.

Admissions Process

The Schools Admissions Code is a legally binding code, so if a person believes that a school or local authority has not obeyed the rules, it is possible to refer the case to the local authority or the Schools Adjudicator.

The admissions process is managed by the local authority who will set the deadline for applications to schools. Then each school has its own admissions authority that sets admission arrangements annually and decides on the oversubscription criteria used to allocate places if there are more applications than places.

The School Admissions Code says what information a school can and cannot ask for when they are making a decision about applicants. They can ask for:

Information that will help them to process an application (e.g. proof of address)

Information about any other siblings already in attendance at the school

But they cannot ask for:

  • Personal details about you

  • Your child’s personal details

  • Money to support the school

  • Your efforts in supporting the school

Different types of school have different authorities in charge of admissions, even though all must follow the School Admissions Code.

  • Academies have a governing body to decide admissions

  • Foundation schools have a governing body to decide admissions

  • Voluntary-aided schools have a governing body to decide admissions

  • Community schools’ admissions are decided by the local authority

  • Voluntary-controlled schools’ admissions are decided by the local authority

Admission Authorities have to:

  • Admit all applicants as long as there is space for them

  • Prioritise children who are in the local authority’s care over all other children

  • Have a fair and unbiased tiebreaker system for when many children fit the same criteria (this may be distance between home and school or a random ballot, to give two examples)

  • Take into account all the schools listed in your application fairly against the schools’ oversubscription policies

But they cannot:

  • Interview applicants (children and their parents)

  • Only consider an application if the school in question is put as first preference

  • Take into consideration the behaviour of other people in the family, including any family members who are currently enrolled or those who have left the school previously

  • Withdraw an offer unless the application contains false information or if the place is given in error

  • Decide which applicants they accept based on reports from nurseries and previous schools

  • Unless there is an approved aptitude or banding system in operation, they cannot use tests to decide which applicants are admitted

  • Ask for photographs (except for identification purposes when a child must set a test in order to apply to a school)

  • Ask about parents’ marital status, criminal records, occupations, education, earnings or background

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For more information on:

  • Making objections
  • Children with special educational needs
  • Oversubscription
  • Faith schools
  • Grammar Schools
  • Boarding schools