Admissions and Appeals
It’s not always easy to choose a school for your child, or to get your child into the school of your choice if it is popular or oversubscribed.
Admissions worries and appeals are an ongoing part of Service life. AFF is continually providing evidence to policy makers, including local authorities and the Department for Education, to try to improve your experience of the admission process.
Please email email@example.com if you have any comments to make, or issues to discuss.
Where to start
Admissions in England
Admissions everywhere else
School Admission and Appeal Code
How can the covenant help?
Making a complaint
Access to school places in advance of move
It can be stressful getting your child, or children, into your chosen school, or even into the same school.
The Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) has parent support advisors who can help you through the admissions process; email DCYP-CEAS-Enquiries@mod.uk or call +44 (0) 1980 618244 - make sure you include your child’s name and date of birth.
For more information on CEAS, click here
The Gov.UK website gives information on all types of school in England and has a link to each of the devolved administrations; look at OFSTED or the equivalent inspection reports for more information. Read more
The type of school your choose directly affects where you apply for a place; for maintained schools you apply to the local authority (LA) and for academies, faith schools and free schools, you apply directly to their own Admissions Authorities - the school’s website will have more details on this.
The year group also directly affects where you apply for a place. If you are applying for a Reception, Year 3 - for those areas that have junior schools, or Year 7 place, then it is likely that the LA will coordinate all admissions.
Who deals with my application?
Your home address provides you with a Home Authority. They deal with your application including applications to maintained schools outside their boundary; fill in either a paper or an online application form - the process is the same. The school admission form may have a Service child box; make sure you tick it.
You’ll receive an allocations letter either from the LA or Admissions Authority, which should give details of the place you have been allocated, your right to appeal and the date by which you will need to let them know. Keep to this date and let them know if you wish to accept the place.
Moving to somewhere outside England? Read more
The Admissions Authorities are called Education and Library Boards; there is an AWS Children’s Education Support Officer who can help you. Telephone: 028 9226 6347.
Apply through the LA website i.e. Edinburgh City Council website. There are not usually any difficulties for Army families applying for local schools in Scotland.
The Welsh Government website has links to all councils in Wales. Visit gov.wales
Use the pan-London eAdmissions site: This eAdmissions scheme is recognised by all 33 London Local Authorities and also Surrey County Council. NB: This site sometimes closes for maintenance outside the normal admissions round.
Look at the MOD Schools website and contact the MOD Schools themselves. You can also contact CEAS for more information.
Every year, the Local Authority sets admissions deadlines. The following are examples of dates for September admissions for Year R and Year 7. Read more
- Closing date for Year 7 secondary applications is usually the last day in October the year before your child needs a place. National offer day is usually the first working day in March of the year they wish to start. Letters are posted first class to parents who applied by the October deadline, offering them a place at one school - some parents are emailed if applicable.
- Closing date for Reception Year primary applications is in January of the same year your child needs a place. National offer day is in April of the same year. Letters are posted first class to parents who applied by the January deadline, offering them a place at one school - parents are emailed if applicable.
If you’ve not been able to apply for a school place by the deadline due to postings etc. then let the LA know as soon as you know where you are posted to.
If you make a late application before offers of places have been made, it’s worth asking for your circumstances to be taken into consideration.
If you don’t know where you’ll be living in September, apply in the area you currently live by the deadline.
When you know where you are going to next, and have an assignment order, let the LA know and ask for an in-authority transfer. This may not give you priority, but it should save you at the very least having to write out all the forms again.
You don’t have to wait for your new SFA address; you can use a unit address if applicable. You may be classed as a late application, but they will let you know when you will hear about the school place allocation.
The School Admission Code says that it’s up to the Admission Authority or LA to decide how they will deal with late applications, and many cite ‘exceptional circumstances’ as a reason for accepting a late application.
If you’ve been given one of the schools on your preference list, that’s great. However, if you haven’t, then you may wish to appeal. Read more
Helpful info for appeals:
- You can appeal for a place to more than one school, but only to each school once.
- You don’t have to turn down the place offered by the LA in order to appeal; the appeals process is independent.
- Take copies of everything you send to the LA and ask them to notify you by email as well as by post, particularly if you are moving house, as some families have experienced things going astray or being delayed in the post.
- Apply to go on the waiting list for preferred schools.
- The appeal hearing is a pre-set date for a large number of appeals for many different schools; don’t worry that everyone there needs a place at the same school as you!
- If you are actively seeking a school place, you don’t have to send your child to the allocated school while you wait for an appeal hearing.
The School Admission Code 2014 for England has now been published. AFF was involved in the consultation, and now Army families are mentioned in more places in the code, which is great news. Read more
In summary, children eligible for the Service Pupil Premium can receive priority (along with other groups of children) in oversubscribed schools, and Service children feature on the priority list for state boarding school admissions.
Bear in mind that this is now under a consultation process for many Admissions Authorities across England and so may not feature in the admissions criteria of your school just yet.
School Admission Code 2014 references applicable to Service Children, in brief:
- Oversubscription Criteria 1.8 – criteria must be clear, fair and ensure no particular social or racial groups are disadvantaged
- 1.9 specifically paragraphs 1.39 – 1.39B – priority may be given to, amongst others, those who receive Service Premium.
- Maintained Boarding Schools 1.41 - boarding schools must give priority in their oversubscription criteria to, amongst others, Service children who qualify for MOD assistance with the cost of boarding school fees.
- Children of UK service personnel (UK Armed Forces) 2.18 – authorities must accept a unit or quartering area address if needed and must ensure the Service child faces no unfair disadvantage.
To read the code in full, click here.
Find out about your new LA’s Armed Forces Community Covenant (AFC) by checking their website; all LAs have signed up.
The AFC is designed to negate disadvantage experienced by Service families, particularly due to mobility. The covenant won’t automatically secure you a place at your first-choice school, but it will help in ensuring that you have been treated fairly and without disadvantage in comparison to civilian families.
AFF has an AFC section on our website, with links to the document itself and further information.
If you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly, or that you’ve been given the wrong information, and would like to make a formal complaint, contact the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) via www.gov.uk/schools-admissions/appealing-a-schools-decision Read more
School admissions can be a worrying time for Army families; it may help to read about others in a similar situation and how they have been helped.
The LGO published a report that featured an important case study (on page 4) highlighting an example of an admissions case that was resolved for a Service family. Read the full report here.
For the covering press statement for the LGO website, click here.
The following is a list of the most frequent questions we receive about finding a new school for your child, and our responses. Read more
Q - What should I do when I find out we’re moving?
- Contact the local HIVE at your new location – they will have information on schools in the area.
- Use the internet – website links are on the right hand side of this page and can provide basic information about UK schools and often provide links to the schools’ own sites and Ofsted reports. Most local authorities (LAs) have comprehensive websites of their own detailing their admissions procedure.
- Contact the schools you’re interested in and ask them to send you an admissions pack.
- Visit schools where possible before you make a choice.
- Apply for school places either by the deadline or as soon as you have a suitable unit or SFA address.
Q - I don’t have an address yet so can I still apply?
Yes. The School Admission Code states that schools and Admissions Authorities must accept either a unit address or, if appropriate, a ‘quartering area’ address (the address of the closest house in the nearest “quartering area”) for applications from Service personnel in the absence of your new postal address. However, when the Unit address is in a different LA to your new home address, this system doesn’t apply.
In this case, you will usually have to be physically living at the address before you can apply.
Q - Our first choice of school is an Academy. Does this make a difference to applying for a school place?
With Academies, families normally apply directly to the school for a place unless it is for Reception or Year 7. In these years, the LA may coordinate the admissions. Academies (including Free Schools) are required to comply with the Schools Admissions Code 2014 as a condition of their funding agreement.
Q - We have been posted to London. Which LA do I contact?
Some families find themselves housed in an unknown area or can find themselves on the edge of a borough and want to apply to schools in more than one LA. This is how the system works:
- Your new address provides you with a Home Authority. This LA deals with your application including applications to schools outside their boundary. You can fill in either a paper application form or an online form - the process is the same.
- You can use the pan-London eAdmissions site.
- This eAdmissions scheme is recognised by all 33 London Local Authorities and also Surrey County Council. NB: This site sometimes closes for maintenance outside the normal admissions round.
- Reception and Y7 admissions can usually be done online. Seven LA’s allow online admissions for Y3 children and three further LA’s allow admissions for nursery places. If you are unsure please contact your LA direct.
Q - What if my child does not get into the school of our choice?
The information on this webpage will take you through the process. You can also contact the Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS).
Put your child’s name on the waiting list if one is operated; some schools insist on having a formal written letter.
A child’s place on a waiting list is determined by how closely, in relation to the other children on the list, they match the published admission criteria for the school (usually found in the school’s prospectus). This may mean you move up or down whilst waiting for a place.
You can also appeal; information on how to appeal will be contained in the letter you receive from the LA.
It’s always worth going to visit the school that you have been allocated because it may be just as suitable. It’s difficult to assess a school entirely by its website and online information. Also consider widening the area you are looking in.
Remember: schools in an area with a military presence tend to have a high turnover, so it is always possible that a place will become available.
Q - I am looking for an infant class place and all the schools I have applied for are full. What should I do?
Every child is entitled to a school place. Apply in the usual way; the information found on this page can help you.
Q – How do I get all my children into the same school?
Sometimes you may be allocated more than one school for your family; it’s possible to appeal for a school place to enable them to all be together.
Certain groups of children may appear higher up the admissions criteria for individual schools, so take a look at the school’s website for more details.
AFF recognises that it’s impossible to be in more than one place at the same time. It is also not acceptable for a child to be late because of this. If this applies to you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org as we are interested to hear about your experience.
Q – I am moving from one devolved area to another and don’t know which year my child will be in?
Please click here for a link to our table that highlights the different year groups depending on birthdays.
Q – My child started school in England and is now going to be in a nursery class in Scotland – is there anything I can do?
Because education is a devolved issue, the school years, school times, year groups and curriculum are all different.
Whilst it’s not ideal that a child who has started school is going into a new nursery class, remember that the class will be filled with children who are the same age as your child, they will all start the new school together in Scotland and the curriculum is age appropriate.
Please contact CEAS and with details of your child’s name and date of birth for more advice on this. Click here for contact details.
It is also worth speaking to the new nursery and asking them about how they support new children; they may well have had experience of this already.
Q – What shall I put in my appeal letter?
There are four key words for appeal writing: history, reason, impact and result.
Think about why your preferred school is better and more suitable for your child rather than why the allocated school is not. Consider including information about:
- School history, including the number of schools
- Ability to establish local friendship groups which are vital for mobile families
- The LA’s website Armed Forces Community Covenant section on their website
- Catchment area school, distance away, unable to drive?
- Unreasonably being expected to be in two places at once
- Matching curriculum, exam boards, interests and hobbies
- Settling for continuity so important to get the school right from the beginning
Appeal letters should always be written by you, as you know your children best.
AFF has been contacted by families highlighting the issues of accessing school places in advance of moving on posting; this was one of the questions asked of the Minister at our last Germany conference.
This affects families moving to local authorities in England from anywhere in the world.
AFF believes that this issue disadvantages Army families and that there is no option for forward planning. This may have a detrimental effect on your child’s education and cause unnecessary stress for all concerned.
To find out more, click here to download the AFF Brief.
If you have any further questions or comments about school admissions, please contact AFF Education & Childcare Specialist, Lucy Scott at email@example.com
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