School Place Offer and Appeals Guidance title image

Friday 1st March 2024

It’s National Offer Day: For families in England and Wales who have applied in the normal admissions round, parents/carers with children starting secondary school in September 2024 will find out which school has offered their child a place on Friday 1st March. 

Education is a devolved matter, meaning overall policy and regulations are set by the Devolved Administrations. School admissions timelines and processes vary in different areas of the UK. Some processes are centrally administered and other local to the area within which you live. The UK Government website has information and guidance on school admissions with links to support those who have applied for school places in each of the four countries.

What is National Offer day?

Children starting secondary school for the first time in September 2024 will receive confirmation of the school allocated to them by the authority they applied to. In England and Wales this is often referred to as National Offer Day.

Note: Children with a statutory plan of Special Educational Needs such as an EHCP will have a school named in the plan for the child to attend. The following dates and processes do not apply. Please seek alternative advice in this circumstance.


England Wales Scotland N. Ireland
Primary 16/04/2024 16/04/2024 Children are offered a place in their local catchment school.

Refer to your council’s website for enrolment details and the relevant dates.

Secondary 01/03/2024 01/03/2024 As above 11/05/2024


Receiving the school placement

Depending upon local arrangements, you should receive a letter or e-mail from your local council, telling you which school your child has been offered a place at. If they haven’t been given a place at one of the schools you had requested they will have been allocated to the nearest school to you which has places.

In Scotland there is an assumption that children will be offered a place at their catchment school. If a parent wishes to apply elsewhere, the parent will need to submit a Placing Request to their Local Authority.

Once your child has been offered a place you will need to accept the offer by the deadline given, otherwise your offer may be withdrawn and the school place reallocated. Even if you aren’t happy with the school place offered, you are recommended to accept it to avoid your child ending up without a school place. Accepting a place doesn’t stop you appealing the decision or placing your child on the waiting list of your preferred school.

What to do if you are not happy with the school your child is given

It can be really disappointing not to get offered your preferred school for your child. This usually happens because a school is oversubscribed, and other applicants are assessed as higher priority for a place when the admissions criteria is applied. If this happens to you there are several things that you can consider doing:

  1. Check out the school that your child has been allocated a place at. Try and be open minded. Schools can change quite quickly and reputations can improve. Sometimes a school that isn’t suitable for another person’s child may be suitable for yours- schools are as unique as individual children!
    If there are still schools you prefer above the one your child has been offered, you may wish to ensure that your child is on the waiting list for your preferred schools. A particular school may be your preferred school, but it might not be for another family or there could be families who move elsewhere between now and the date your child requires a place. For months after school places have been offered, there are new applicants and also families who withdraw from offers. This is a dynamic time for school admissions teams!
    Positions on a waiting list are prioritised according to the school’s published oversubscription criteria. This means a position on a waiting list can move up and down. The position is never reliant on the time spent on a waiting list. Requesting to go on a waiting list for your preferred school does not guarantee that your child will be offered a place at the school so we suggest that you consider alternative options also.
  2. If you remain unhappy with the school place offered to your child, you can appeal the decision. Appeals are only successful in limited circumstances. Admissions authorities will consider all of their schools to be able to provide a suitable and accessible education for your child. Appeals are more likely to be successful if there is evidence that your preferred school is the only one that can meet your child’s needs, or due to the potential impact on your child if they don’t attend a particular school. An appeal based on your preferred school being the best school in the area won’t be sufficient. If you think you have a case for making an appeal your local authority website will have details of the appeals process and information on how to apply. Please note relevant key dates and timescales.

School place appeals

An appeal hearing is a formal procedure. The admissions authority will offer you a date for a hearing. An independent panel of people will be drawn together to hear from both the school and the family.

The evidence the school has in support of refusing a place for your child will be considered. It is likely that issues such as the impact of larger class sizes, teacher workload, physical space, health and safety issues etc. will be presented by the school.

You will need to present why your child should be offered a place at your preferred school and why the needs of your child outweigh the potential impact upon the school of accepting an additional child.

The appeal panel will consider both sets of evidence and decide whether the school should be directed to take an additional child into a year group or not.

You are the expert on your child and their circumstances and therefore are best placed to consider why your preferred school is the most suitable for your child. EAT(UK) recommend that you prepare a written case about why your child should attend your preferred school. You should try and show how your preferred school is the only one that can sensibly meet your child’s needs. You should not criticise schools that you do not wish your child to attend but be positive about the school you prefer. The following notes may assist you in preparing your case- this is in no way a definitive list, but intended to help the thought process.

The appeal panel decides whether

A) it is more prejudicial to the school to make another place available
B) it is more prejudicial to the child not to have a place in the school.

Consider your child and relate the circumstances to the preferred school:

  • What is your child good at and why does this matter when related to your preferred school?
  • What does your child like to do and why does this matter when related to your preferred school?
  • Are there any past or present exceptional health problems which may be relevant to your child and the location of the preferred school?
  • Any family problems affecting child (bereavement, divorce, medical, deployments)?
  • Any emotional problems (anxiety, self-esteem issues)?
  • Any social problems (shyness, bullying, problems making friends)?
  • Any difficulties with accessing learning?
  • Any historical problems at school which may be alleviated by attendance at a specific school?
  • Has your child experienced problems following recent changes?

Personal family circumstances:

(Service reasons- you may wish to seek localised advice about disclosing Service connections if you are located in Northern Ireland)

  • Posting not your choice / timings etc?
  • Possible appeals each time the family move?
  • Number of past schools attended?
  • Length of notice of posting?
  • Any siblings, where will they be schooled?
  • Links with the area – (family, familiar peer groups, past postings)?
  • Child is used to Service environments abroad or on stations so child may not be “street wise” and could not cope with long journey on public transport?

About the school

  • What are the admissions criteria of the preferred school – do you fulfil them?
  • Distance from where you live to the school?
  • Is the journey easy? Could the child walk? The government expects parents to escort children to school if they cannot independently make the journey.
  • Friends or other Service families attending school?
  • Facilities on offer – breakfast/after school clubs/particular sports or musical facilities etc.
  • Extra curricular activities which my child is interested in?
  • Curriculum – does it do subjects that cannot be taken elsewhere (e.g. – German, Single Sciences, Law)? Why is this important to your child?
  • Is it a specialist college in a subject that your child is interested in?
  • Is it a faith school- what is the relevance to your child?

Points for your case relevant to Service personnel

  1. Service families are posted at the needs of the Service. They have limited input into the timing of the posting or its location and have little choice of where they live. The move cannot often fit in with admission procedures or with school terms.
  2. The family can be subject to frequent moves and may not have the support of friends / or extended family. There is a reliance on the Service community to support at times.
  3. The Serving member of the family can be away from home for weeks or months on military duties, so the family can be a lone parent family part of the time- how might this impact the child if the preferred school is not offered?
  4. Support of siblings is very important to a Service child, as they could be the only stable influence in a mobile lifestyle. Does the child have siblings at the preferred school?

Relevant literature for reference

You may wish to refer to published findings in relation to best practice and recommendations in relation to meeting the needs of children from Service families to support your personal circumstances. The content of the reports apply regardless of which Service you are in or where you are posted:

How can the Armed Forces Covenant help?

The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect. The Armed Forces Covenant Duty will not automatically secure you a place at your preferred school, but it may help in ensuring that you have been treated fairly and without disadvantage in comparison to civilian families.

You can also refer to the emotional cycle of deployment which is referenced in the following report and applicable regardless of here you serve:

Further sources of information:


School admissions in England are governed by the Schools Admissions Code 2021. Section 2.21 has guidance for admissions authorities regarding the families of Service personnel with a confirmed posting and highlights that admissions authorities must “ensure that arrangements in their area support the Government’s commitment to removing disadvantage for service children.”

Northern Ireland

For those personnel being posted to Northern Ireland or within Northern Ireland, it is recommended that local advice is obtained through the Children’s Education Support Officer located within 38 (Irish) Brigade who can be contacted on: [email protected]


The Scottish Government has produced some useful resources for Service personnel and their families moving to Scotland which includes information on applying for school places.
Forces Children Education also provides useful information and resources on education on Scotland.


Admissions to schools in Wales are governed by the Welsh Schools Admissions and Appeals Code. Further information is available on the Welsh Government website and from Supporting Service Children in Education Wales (SSCE Cymru).

MOD Support

Further information about admissions and appeals can be requested from the Education Advisory Team via email at: [email protected].

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