National Offer Day: What to do if your child doesn't get the secondary school place they want

Last modified on Thursday 8 February 2024

Secondary schools allocation day

Secondary school allocations will be announced on 1 March 2024, but what if you don't get the offer you're hoping for? Here's what parents need to know and what to do!

More than half a million families with Year 6 children find out on 1 March 2024 what secondary school their child will attend in September. But it’s set to be another tough year for 10-11 year olds.

On the day dubbed ‘National Offer Day’, pupils discover whether they’ve got into their secondary school of choice.

So what should parents do if their child doesn't get offered a place at one of their preferred schools?

1. Accept the offer you got

Whether or not they’re happy with their child’s offer, parents should accept the offer at first, advises The Good Schools Guide. ‘You must accept the place at the school you have been offered,’ the Good Schools Guide website states. ‘The local authority is not obliged to offer you another school place and you would run the risk of having no place at all in September.’

You must accept your place by the given deadline.

In the meantime, if you're not happy with your child's place, follow our list of steps to take, outlined below.

2. Go on a waiting list

Even if you've accepted the place offered, you can go onto a waiting list for another school. This can be done via the admissions authority via your local council or the school itself.

The Good Schools Guide suggests getting pupils on the waiting list for any schools you prefer, as places can sometimes become available between National Offer Day and the start of term.

If your child is on a continued interest or waiting list and the school offers you a place, the admission authority will send you a formal offer. You can still accept the offer even if your child has already started at another school.

'There’s a big shake out between National Offer Day and the start of the academic year in September,' says The Good Schools Guide, 'and places become available even into the start of term, as some people decide to go private, or move, or get offered a place at another school they prefer.'

3. Appeal the education authority’s decision

... but manage your expectations.

While parents who want to appeal the decision made by their local authority have a legal right to do so, it’s hard to say how successful it’ll be. Around 20% of parents successfully appeal the process in England on average. Your offer letter should tell you how to appeal.

4. Understand who wins appeals

Successful school appeals can be approved in 2 circumstances – if a school has applied its admissions procedures incorrectly or when the harm done to your child by not getting a place there will be greater than caused to other children by overcrowding.

In this case, you'll have to prove why going to the allocated school will negatively impact your child.

For example:

  • Will transport to your allocated school be impossible?
  • Does your child have a special aptitude for an instrument or sport that the school excels at?
  • Does your chosen school offer a language that your allocated school doesn’t?

These are all reasons that a local authority may consider.

Concentrate on your child’s education and well-being, not your child’s brownie points, recommends the Good Schools Guide, and remember, you’re not arguing against the school you’ve been offered but rather appealing a school place.

Here's what it will involve should you choose to go down this route:

  • Appeal forms must be submitted as soon as possible and deadlines will be set out on your council's website. If you do miss this deadline, then your appeal may not be heard until the summer holidays or the autumn term has begun. Details for appealing will be included in your offer letter out today.
  • Parents will be questioned at a hearing and will have to show an exceptional case to win the appeal. Try to support your case with evidence, too.

Chat more about schools and offers in the Chat thread, linked to below.

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