Academic Year 2021/22

Admission appeals in England

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Introduction

These statistics provide information about appeals made following the refusal of a school place application.

Most appeals are made when an applicant has not received an offer, via the annual coordinated admissions process, of a place at their first preference school for entry into primary or secondary school. However, appeals relating to other transfers at the start of the school year are also included.

Appeals relating to community and voluntary controlled schools are provided as aggregated totals by local authorities. Academy, foundation and voluntary aided schools provide their own appeal figures via the school census.

The latest data covers appeals relating to admissions at the start of the 2021/2022 academic year. The appeals must have been lodged with the appropriate admissions authority by 1 September 2021. A comparable time series back to the 2015/ 2016 academic year is available.

The figures detail the number of appeals lodged, heard (by an appeals panel) and successful. Appeal rates are calculated on the number of new admissions or, for successful appeals, the number heard.

The figures are provided by school phase, with primary schools split into infant and other primary classes where appropriate. The data is further divided by governance or, separately, broken down by national, regional and local authority level.

The appeal process reported on took place during a period of restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Measures were put in place to ensure parents and carers were still afforded the right to appeal when they had been refused a school place, and for that appeal to be heard. Further details are provided in the methodology document.


Headline facts and figures - 2021/22

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Appeals lodged

Applicants can lodge appeals for any school they have not been awarded a place in, but not all lodged appeals are heard at an appeal panel. A number are withdrawn before that point, for example because the child has been offered a place at the school via the waiting list. 

Therefore the best measure is the number of appeals which actually reach the stage of being heard by the appropriate authority, and this release focuses on these figures. 

However, in 2021/22 15,157 primary appeals were lodged, with 9,672 reaching the stage of being heard by an appeals panel. At secondary level, 36,291 appeals were lodged and 28,687 heard.

Appeals by school type

There were 38,359 appeals in total heard for 2021/22, or 2.5% of all new admissions. The rates by type of school varied from 2.8% for academy schools to 1.9% for community and voluntary aided schools.

There were 7,722 successful appeals for the same time period, or 20.1% of all appeals heard. The rates by school type varied from 25.7% for foundation schools to 16.8% for community and voluntary aided schools.

For 2021/22 a total of 66.6% of all appeals heard related to academy schools, compared to 65.0% in 2020/21. This is against a background of continuing increases in the proportion of the school population attending academy schools.

Primary appeals

Primary and infant classes

The primary level data is further split into infant (reception and years one and two) and other primary classes. There are regulations in place which require infant classes (reception and years 1 and 2) to be limited to 30 children[1]. This reduces the possibilities for appeal for these years.

The rate of appeals heard is 1.0% for infant classes and 2.2% for other primary classes. 

As would be expected, there is also a contrast in the success rates, with 9.5% of heard infant class appeals being successful (622) compared to 33.2% of other primary classes (1,045).

There has been a decrease in the proportion of infant appeals lodged over time, which is likely to be a result of the more limited chances of success.

[1] The School Admissions (Infant Class Sizes) (England) Regulations 2012 prescribe certain limited circumstances in which pupils may be admitted as lawful exceptions to the infant class size limit of 30 for one-teacher classes. This means that a class of, for example, 32 pupils is lawful if two or more of those pupils have been admitted under lawful exceptions.

Primary timeseries

The number of appeals heard has dropped since 2015/16, from 2.6% to 1.2% in 2021/22. Although we can’t know why each appeal was submitted, there have been a reducing number of new admissions recorded year on year, and, separately, increases in the preference rate for applications for a primary school place[2].
 

The number of successful appeals has dropped over the whole time period. However, as the number of appeals heard has dropped by differing levels the success rate has fluctuated rather than consistently declined. The success rate was at its lowest in 2020/21, but has increased by 1 percentage point to 17.2% for 2021/22.

Primary geographic variation

Figures are provided at LA level, both for infant classes, total primary appeals (including the infant appeals), and secondary classes. Differences in success rates can be driven by the results of a small number of appeals and therefore can be volatile. Caution should be used when comparing the figures.

By rate of appeals heard, the highest and lowest local authorities were:

  • Bolton (5.1%)
  • Blackburn with Darwen (3.8%)
  • Wokingham (3.7%)
  • City of London and Isles of Scilly (0.0%, on 40 and 21 admissions respectively)
  • Westminster, Hillingdon and Herefordshire (all on 0.1%)

[2] https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/secondary-and-primary-school-applications-and-offers#releaseHeadlines-dataBlock-1

Secondary appeals

Secondary timeseries

At secondary level the rate of appeals heard is higher than for primary, at 3.9% in 2021/22. The proportion has dropped slightly from last year (4.1%), and this was the second consecutive drop after a high rate of appeals heard in 2019/20 (4.9%).

After a slight drop in the number of new admissions in 2020/21, an increase was seen in 2021/22 to 729,900, the highest number since the timeseries started in 2015/16.

The number of successful appeals was very slightly higher in 2021/22 (6,055) than it was in 2020/21 (6,000). However, because of a drop in the number of appeals heard the success rate rose by a greater amount, from 20.1% in 2020/21 to 21.1% in 2021/22.

This is still notably lower than the rate in the first year of the timeseries, 2015/16, when 26.3% of the secondary appeals heard were successful.

Secondary geographic variation

As at primary level caution should be taken with the local authority data, which can vary notably year on year, although the overall number of appeals is higher at secondary level which can reduce extreme variability in the rates.

By rate of appeals heard, the highest and lowest local authorities were:

  • Slough (17.7%)
  • Trafford (12.1%)
  • Liverpool (11.3%)
  • Isles of Scilly (0.0%, only 3 admissions)
  • Hartlepool (0.1%)
  • North Somerset and Rutland (both on 0.6%)

Differences in success rates can be driven by the results of a small number of appeals and can vary significantly from year to year. Therefore caution should be used when comparing the figures, which are illustrated in the map below.

Further information available

This release concentrates on the headline figures for the proportion of appeals heard and which were successful by school phase. However, the underlying data provides more information including:

  • The governance of the school being appealed by school phase
  • The number and proportion of appeals initially lodged
  • A full list of local authority and regional figures

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Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics

National statistics

The United Kingdom Statistics Authority designated these statistics as National Statistics in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Designation signifying their compliance with the authority's Code of Practice for Statistics which broadly means these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Once designated as National Statistics it's a statutory requirement for statistics to follow and comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics to be observed.

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Contact us

Ask questions and provide feedback

If you have a specific enquiry about Admission appeals in England statistics and data:

Admission appeals statistics team

Email
admissions.appeals@education.gov.uk

Telephone: Helen Bray
0370 000 2288

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