Academic year 2020/21

Admission appeals in England

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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 2020 to 2021 academic year. The appeals must have been lodged with the appropriate admissions authority by 1 September 2020. A comparable time series back to the 2015 to 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 - 2020/21

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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 A number are withdrawn before that point, for example because the child has been offered a place at the school via the waiting list.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 2020/21, 16,781 primary appeals were lodged, with 11,239 reaching the stage of being heard by an appeals panel. At secondary level, 36,743 appeals were lodged and 29,871 heard.

Appeals by school type

There were 41,110 appeals in total heard for 2020/21, or 2.7% of all new admissions. The rates by type of school varied from 3.0% for academy schools to 2.1% for community and voluntary aided schools.

There were 7,823 successful appeals for the same time period, or 19.0% of all appeals heard. The rates by school type varied from 25.0% for foundation schools to 14.8% for community and voluntary aided schools.

For 2020/21 a total of 65.0% of all appeals heard related to academy schools, virtually unchanged from last year.

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] (opens in a new tab). This reduces the possibilities for appeal for these years.

The rate of appeals heard is 1.2% for infant classes and 2.2% for other primary classes. 

As expected there is a greater contrast in the success rate with 10.5% of heard infant class appeals being successful (849) compared to 30.9% of other primary classes (974).

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] (opens in a new tab) 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 1.4% in 2020/21. Although we can’t know why each appeal was submitted, there were 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] (opens in a new tab).

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 for 2020/21 is the lowest seen for the whole time period.

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 can vary significantly from year to year. Therefore caution should be used when comparing the figures.

By rate of appeals heard, the highest and lowest local authorities for 2020/21 were:

  • Bolton (7.2%)
  • South Tyneside (5.8%)
  • Sandwell (5.4%)
  • City of London and Isles of Scilly (0.0%, on 34 and 17 admissions respectively)
  • Rutland (0.0%)
  • Brent (0.2%)

[2] (opens in a new tab)

Secondary appeals

Secondary timeseries

At secondary level the rate of appeals heard is higher than for primary, at 4.1% in 2020/21. The proportion has dropped from last year, when the heard rate of 4.9% was the highest since this timeseries began.

Up to 2019/20 the number of new admissions had been increasing as the rise in births between 2002 and 2012 fed into the secondary school system. This year however saw a very small drop in the number of new admissions, from 724,700 to 720,600

The number of successful appeals has dropped for the first time, reversing most of the rises seen since 2015/16. The proportion of appeals being successful has however been dropping for the whole time period, and has reached a new low at 20.1%. 

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.

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

  • Slough (17.8%)
  • Kent (12.1%)
  • Trafford (11.1%)
  • Isles of Scilly (0.0%, only 3 admissions)
  • North Somerset (0.7%)
  • Dorset (0.8%)

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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Contact us

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

Admission appeals statistics team

Contact name: Helen Bray

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If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

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If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

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