Secondary school admissions 2023: when is national offer day and how can parents appeal places?

Parents across the UK are set to find out which schools their children are attending as they make the jump from primary to secondary school. (Getty Images)Parents across the UK are set to find out which schools their children are attending as they make the jump from primary to secondary school. (Getty Images)
Parents across the UK are set to find out which schools their children are attending as they make the jump from primary to secondary school. (Getty Images) | Getty Images
Parents typically receive a letter from their local council to inform them whether their children have been accepted to their first choice secondary school

Secondary school admission day, otherwise known as national offer day, is an important time for many parents as they find out what school their children will be attending in the next academic year.

The jump from primary school to secondary school is a crucial time in any child’s education journey as they develop into a teenager and prepare to sit their GCSEs. Parents typically receive a letter from their local council to inform them whether their children have been accepted to their first choice secondary school.

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But when is secondary school admission day and can parents appeal the decision? Here is everything you need to know.

What is the process for secondary school applications?

Applications for secondary schools are taken through your local councils application form. These can be taken online and through paper form.

It is important to apply through your local council even if you are applying for schools in a different area. GOV.UK has an online form which helps navigate through the application.

Applications open on different days depending on your local council. But the deadline for applications is 31 October 2023. Parents are told that their child has a reduced chance of being offered a place at their first choice school if the deadline is missed.

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School admission day takes place on 1 March 2023. (Getty Images)School admission day takes place on 1 March 2023. (Getty Images)
School admission day takes place on 1 March 2023. (Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

When is secondary school admission day?

Secondary school admission day takes place on Wednesday 1 March 2023. Parents are informed that they must accept the offer by the deadline given in the offer letter.

Otherwise the offer may be withdrawn and the place could be assigned to someone else. Your local council must provide a place at another school, if your child is not offered a spot in any of the schools that you have applied for.

How do schools decide who gets in?

Admission criteria varies for each school and it is usually set out by the school or local authority. For some schools children may be given priority if:

  • They live close to the school

  • The child has a sibling at the school already

  • If the child has a particular religion (for faith schools)

  • If the child passes an entry exam

  • If they went to a feeder primary school

  • If parents have worked at the school for two or more years

How to appeal a school’s decision

If your child is refused a place at your preferred school of choice then it is possible to appeal the decision. You must appeal each rejection separately.

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The admission authority for the school must give parents at least 20 school days to appeal the decision after they have received the letter. Appeal timelines will be published for your choice of school by 28 February every year.

When deciding the appeal the panel applies a two-stage process. There’s a panel of 3 or more people at the appeal hearing which must be independent and must follow the school’s admission appeals code.

Stage one of the appeal

Erin Smart is an education law lawyer at Irwin Mitchell. She explains stage one of the process: “The panel must consider whether the admission arrangements complied with the law and whether they were correctly and impartially applied in the case in question.

“The panel must then decide whether the admission of additional children would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources. In the event that the answer to these questions are no, the panel must admit the child. If the answer is yes they move to the second stage.”

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Stage two of the appeal

In stage two of the appeal the panel must balance the prejudice to the school against the benefit or reason for the child to be admitted to the school.

Smart explained the panel: “Must take into account the reasons for the school preference, such as what that school can offer the child that the allocated or other schools cannot. If the panel considers that the benefit to the child outweighs the prejudice to the school, it must agree to the placement.

“Whilst the panel must take into account the school’s published admission number, they must be able to demonstrate prejudice over and above the fact that the published admission number has already been reached.”

GOV.UK explains that parents will typically be sent the decision within five school days.

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