The advice and information offered below is intended for schools where the governing body are the admissions authority, for guidance purposes, and is not exhaustive. Whilst every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of information, admissions is a complex and rapidly changing aspect of education and therefore all information contained below should be checked before implementation.
The use of the terms ‘must’ and ‘must not’ in this document denotes a mandatory requirement in the School Admissions Code (December 2014).
Use of ‘should’, ‘should not’, ‘may’ and ‘may not’ denotes guidance.
List of FAQ's
Who is responsible for admissions?
Do we have to agree the policy every year?
Do we have to put the policy on the website?
Is there anyone else we need to inform?
Can Governors delegate this responsibility to the Headteacher?
Can Governors decide who to admit?
Who offers a place?
What is co-ordinated admissions?
What is in-year co-ordinated admissions?
How do Governors establish their admission policy?
Who should the policy include?
Admission of children below compulsory school age and deferred entry to school
Admission of children outside their normal age group
How many pupils can we admit?
What is a SIF?
Is there an example of fair Oversubscription criteria?
Can children of members of Staff at the school be given priority?
Can attendance in the nursery be taken into account?
What if there are more applications than plans?
Can we legally accept a bribe?
What if someone wants to appeal against the Governors' decision?
Do we have to run an apeal ourselves?
What happens if a vacancy arises whilst appeals are waiting to be heard?
Do Governors have to consult anyone on their admissions policy?
Who has to be consulted?
What is the process?
What is the timescalefor the completion of admissions policies?
Can we keep a waiting list and if so, for how long?
What is the fair access protocol?
Can we delegate the Local Authority to administer our admissions?
In voluntary controlled (VC), community, and foundation schools without a religious trust the admissions authority is the Local Authority (LA), unless the function has been delegated to the governing body.
In voluntary aided (VA) schools and foundation schools with a religious trust the governing body is the admissions authority.
The admission authority for an academy is the Academy Trust. Admissions arrangements for academies must be approved by the Secretary of State as part of the academy’s funding agreement. Academies are subject to the School Admissions Code.
All admission authorities must determine (i.e. formally agree) admission arrangements every year, even if they have not changed from previous years and a consultation has not been required.
For example, admission authorities must determine admission arrangements for entry in September 2018 by 28 February 2017 (School Admissions Code 2014, para: 1.46).
A copy of the determined arrangements must be placed on the school website (where there is one) which must be displayed for the whole offer year (i.e. the school year in which a place is applied for and an offer made/refused), unless amended.
In addition the timetable for appeals must also be displayed on the school website from 28th February each year. The timetable may be obtained from the relevant Local Authority.
During a consultation period, both the determined arrangements and the draft arrangements being consulted upon must be available on the school’s website.
Admission authorities must send a copy of their determined admission arrangements as soon as possible before 15 March in the determination year to the Diocese and the appropriate Local Authority.
No one person may determine admissions (regulation 17(3) and 20(2) of the School Governance (Procedures) Regulations 2003). (School Admissions Code 2014, para 2.7).
The governing body may establish an admissions sub-committee which must have a quorum of a minimum of three governors.
It is considered good practice to appoint the headteacher onto any admissions committee, but headteachers cannot act in place of the governing body in determining the school’s admissions policy, or in deciding on the admission of any individual child.
Where there are fewer applications than places available all applicants must be offered a place. Governing bodies who are the admissions authority for the school must set criteria which will be applied in the event that there are more applications than there are places available for any given year group. The oversubscription criteria must comply with the School Admissions Code.
In VA, foundation schools with a religious trust, and academies it is the governing body which offers places, however the process must be administered by the local authority as part of the co-ordinated admissions schemes for all applications to join the school at the normal point of entry. Therefore the governors rank all applications according to the school’s oversubscription criteria and send the ranked list to the LA. The LA will send out the letter offering / refusing a place at the school on behalf of the governing body. There is a national date, 1st March, for letters to be sent offering places for admission to secondary school (or the next working day, if 1st March is not a working day). The national offer date for primary schools is 16th April (or the next working day).
LAs are required to operate a co-ordinated admissions scheme.
Co-ordinated admissions is where the local authorities co-ordinate the admissions process through a common application form (sometimes called a common preference form or common application form), work within the national dates set for admission forms to be returned and when places will be offered on behalf all schools and academies within that LA, ensuring a simpler standardised system for parents and ensuring that no child would receive more than one offer of a place on the same date. Local authorities also have a duty to co-ordinate with other neighbouring local authorities.
The national closing date for ‘normal round’ application to secondary schools is 31st October and for primary schools is 15th January. Offers of places to secondary schools are made nationally on 1st March (or the next working day). The national date for offers of places to primary schools is 16th April.
From September 2013 there is no longer a requirement for local authorities to co-ordinate in-year applications but they must provide the in the composite prospectus how in-year applications can be made and will be dealt with and produce a common in-year application form.
Where an LA is offering to co-ordinate in-year admissions, it is for governors to decide whether to continue to allow the LA to co-ordinate their in-year applications or to do this themselves – This information must be included in the school’s admission policy.
Where governors administrate in-year applications they must inform parents whether or not the application was successful and parents right of appeal where a place is refused. They must also inform the LA of both the application and its outcome.
Where governors are the admissions authority, it is their responsibility to determine the oversubscription criteria for their particular communities, within the boundaries of the School Admissions Code. It is recommended that governors consider carefully the following points:
- The extent to which the school wishes to give priority to children from Church attending families*, children from different Christian denominations, children from different faith traditions
- The extent to which the school aims to serve its immediate and wider communities
- The priority the school wishes to give to siblings of children who will still be attending the school at the expected time of admission of the younger child
- The extent to which the school wishes to give priority to children with medical or social needs, or those who are eligible for pupil premium funding
- How easy is it for parents to understand the policy and the likelihood that their child will successfully gain a place in the school.
Sample policies are attached as appendices, for guidance.
It is the governors’ responsibility to ensure that the school’s policy complies with the relevant School Admissions Code.
*The following guidance from The National Society is recommended, where fine definitions are required to differentiate between applications made on the basis of attendance at worship:
“at the heart of the church”
“attached to the church”
“known to the church”
An applicant ‘at the heart of the church’ would be a regular worshipper. We suggest that this might normally mean one who worships usually twice a month. To accommodate difficult patterns of work and family relationships account should be taken of week-day worship. The worshipper could be the child for whom application is made or one or both parents...
An applicant ‘attached to the church’ would be a regular but not frequent worshipper, by which is meant (for example) one who usually attends a monthly family or church parade service or is regularly involved in a weekday church activity including an element of worship.
An applicant ‘known to the church’ would not be a frequent but an occasional worshipper, someone who is perhaps known through a family connection, or one or more of whose family would be involved in some church activity, such as a uniformed or other church organisation.
The usual period of time over which church attendance is considered is a minimum of two years prior to the closing date for applications. Where a family has recently moved into the area, worship at their previous church should be considered, unless specifically stated otherwise in the policy.
Admissions authorities must consult on the full details of the admission arrangements they propose to determine and must include:
Planned Admissions Number (PAN) for any year it is intended to admit pupils, including Year 12
Application procedures, including in-year admissions
Oversubscription criteria for each relevant age group
“The highest oversubscription priority be given to looked after children and all previously looked after children. Previously looked after children are children who were looked after, but ceased to be so because they were adopted (or became subject to a child arrangements order or a special guardianship order). (School Admissions Code, 2014, paragraph 1.7)
Church schools must either admit all children in public care (Looked After Children) as their first priority, or must admit all Church of England children in public care as their first faith priority and then admit all other children in public care as their top local priority
- Information about any tests for aptitude or ability, if allowed
- Tie-Breaker(s) that will be used in the event that oversubscription occurs within any given criterion to decide between two or more applications that cannot otherwise be separated.
- Where the school uses a supplementary information form (SIF) to apply its oversubscription criteria, that form should be attached to the policy
- Any separate requirements and oversubscription criteria for Year 12 or nursery applications, where applicable
- Waiting list – how long after the end of the autumn term in the admission year the waiting list will be maintained.
- The School Admissions Code requires that all waiting lists are maintained at least until 31 December of each school year of admissions.
- Information about how late applications can be made and how they will be handled
- Details of any catchment areas to be used.
- Parental right to appeal, where an application is unsuccessful
- The process for requesting admission out of the normal age group. See below **for further guidance
NB All admissions arrangements must be consistent with the co-ordination scheme operating in the year in question.
The following should also be included, and it must be clear that this is not part of the oversubscription criteria:
A statement that children who have a statement of special educational need (SEN) or an education health and care (EHC) plan which names the school have a statutory entitlement to a place (section 324 Education Act 1996) and will be admitted regardless of the number of places available. This is not part of the oversubscription criteria.
Additional requirements for primary/infant schools:
When determining the arrangements for primary/infant schools the admission authority must make it clear that:
- the arrangements do not apply to those being admitted for nursery provision including nursery provision delivered in a co-located children’s centre;
- parents of children who are admitted for nursery provision must apply for a place at the school if they want their child to transfer to the reception class;
- attendance at the nursery or co-located children’s centre does not guarantee admission to the school;
- a child is entitled to a full-time place in the September following his/her fourth birthday
- parents can request that the date their child is admitted to the school is deferred until later in the school year or until the child reaches compulsory school age;
- parents can request that their child attends part-time until the child reaches compulsory school age.
Admission authorities must provide for the admission of all children in the September following their fourth birthday. The authority must make it clear in their arrangements that, where they have offered a child a place at a school:
- that child is entitled to a full-time place in the September following their fourth birthday;
- the child’s parents can defer the date their child is admitted to the school until later in the school year but not beyond the point at which they reach compulsory school age and not beyond the beginning of the final term of the school year for which it was made; and
- where the parents wish, children may attend part-time until later in the school year but not beyond the point at which they reach compulsory school age. (School Admissions Code, 2014, para 2.16)
2.17 Parents may seek a place for their child outside of their normal age group, for example, if the child is gifted and talented or has experienced problems such as ill health. In addition, the parents of a summer born child may choose not to send that child to school until the September following their fifth birthday and may request that they are admitted out of their normal age group – to reception rather than year 1. Admission authorities must make clear in their admission arrangements the process for requesting admission out of the normal age group.
2.17A Admission authorities must make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case and in the best interests of the child concerned. This will include taking account of the parent’s views; information about the child’s academic, social and emotional development; where relevant, their medical history and the views of a medical professional; whether they have previously been educated out of their normal age group; and whether they may naturally have fallen into a lower age group if it were not for being born prematurely. They must also take into account the views of the head teacher of the school concerned. When informing a parent of their decision on the year group the child should be admitted to, the admission authority must set out clearly the reasons for their decision.
2.17B Where an admission authority agrees to a parent’s request for their child to be admitted out of their normal age group and, as a consequence of that decision, the child will be admitted to a relevant age group (i.e. the age group to which pupils are normally admitted to the school) the local authority and admission authority must process the application as part of the main admissions round, unless the parental request is made too late for this to be possible, and on the basis of their determined admission arrangements only, including the application of oversubscription criteria where applicable. They must not give the application lower priority on the basis that the child is being admitted out of their normal age group. Parents have a statutory right to appeal against the refusal of a place at a school for which they have applied. This right does not apply if they are offered a place at the school but it is not in their preferred age group. (School Admissions Code, 2014, para 2.17 / 17A /1.7B)
All schools must have a ‘planned admission number’ (known as PAN) for each relevant age group. It may be necessary for some schools to have more than one admission number. The admission number is set by the admissions authority after consultation with the LA and other relevant admissions authorities and must have regard to the capacity assessment for the school. The admission number applies only to the normal year of admission.
A school may exceed its admissions number if it would not adversely affect the school in the longer term. A school can also admit over the published number as part of the Fair Access Protocol.
Own admission authorities are not required to consult on their PAN where they propose either to increase or to keep the same PAN but they must inform the LA of the school’s intention to admit above the PAN in good time and make specific reference to the change on their website. (School Admissions Code 2014, paras 1.3 – 1.5, 1.48 and 3.6).
All admissions authorities must consult in accordance with School Admissions Code 2014 para 1.42 where they propose to decrease the PAN.
A Supplementary Information Form (SIF) may be used by governors in VA and foundation schools and academies in addition to the common application form / in-year common application form in order to collect additional information that is not provided on the LA common application form but which is needed to apply their oversubscription criteria.
It is against the School Admissions Code to request any personal details about parent’s educational background, qualifications, income or first language as part of the admission process. Schools must not ask parents to agree to support the ethos of the school in a practical way (School Admissions Code 2014, para 1.9e)†, nor should the SIF by implication suggest covert requirements or discrimination, e.g. request for both mother’s name and father’s name could be taken to disadvantage single parent families.
† The exception to this is where parents pay optional nursery fees to the school or school-run nursery, for additional hours on top of their 15-hour funded early education, where children from the school nursery class or school-run nursery are given priority for admission to Reception.
Where a school uses a SIF, a copy of this should be appended to the Admissions Policy.
Application which is made on the relevant Local Authority common application form is a valid application even if it is not accompanied by a SIF. However, if a SIF is not completed, governors will only be able to use the information provided on the common application form. Governors may consider contacting parents where a SIF has not been received, they should also do so if the school has received a SIF but there is no record of a common application form, as the SIF is not a valid application on its own. The relevant information should be notified to parents, including the reasonable expectation that it is the parent’s responsibility to provide all information that they would wish governors to consider in support of their application and the timescale in which this information should be received by the school.
Oversubscription criteria must be reasonable, clear, objective, procedurally fair, and comply with all relevant legislation, including equalities legislation. Admission authorities must ensure that their arrangements will not disadvantage unfairly, either directly or indirectly, a child from a particular social or racial group, or a child with a disability or special educational needs,
A fair admissions system is one that provides parents with clear information about admissions and supports those parents who find it hardest to understand the system.
‘Fair’ oversubscription criteria are those which are:
- clear, in the sense of being free from doubt and easily understood,
- objective and based on known facts. Governing bodies must not make subjective decisions or use subjective criteria,
- procedurally fair for all groups of children,
- comply with relevant legislation, including the mandatory requirements of the School Admissions Code 2014,
and which do not unfairly disadvantage a child from a particular social or racial group or a child with a disability or special educational needs and that other policies around school uniform or school trips do not discourage parents from applying for a place for their child.
The following cover the most common oversubscription criteria but this is not an exhaustive list:
- siblings of children who are still at the school
- social and medical need
- membership or attendance at worship of the faith / denomination of the school
- distance between home and school
- random allocation
- catchment areas
(See School Admissions Code 2014 paragraphs 1.7 - 1.8 and 1.10 – 1.17).
The School Admissions Code (2014) sets out examples of unfair criteria in para 1.9.
Schools must not ask parents to sign, or express a willingness to sign agreements before they have been offered a place at the school.
Documentation to validate proof of address is acceptable where it is unclear whether a child meets the published oversubscription criteria. Proof of date of birth (short birth certificate) may only be requested after a place has been offered. (School admission Code, 2014, para 2.5).
Admission authorities may give priority in their oversubscription criteria to children of staff in either or both of the following circumstances:
- where the member of staff has been employed at the school for two or more years at the time at which the application for admission to the school is made, and/or
- the member of staff is recruited to fill a vacant post for which there is a demonstrable skill shortage. (School Admissions Code 2012, para 1.39)
However, in Church of England schools / Academies in this diocese, it is strongly recommended that children of staff are not given a higher priority than children of local worshipping families, nor local children (e.g. those living within the parish), nor (for primary schools) a higher priority than younger siblings of pupils in school.
Documentation should make it clear to parents that a child’s attendance at the nursery does not guarantee a place in the main school and parents must apply for a place in the same way as all other applicants.
Admission authorities may give priority in their oversubscription criteria to children eligible for the early years pupil premium, the pupil premium or the service premium who:
- are in a nursery class which is part of the school; or
- attend a nursery that is established and run by the school. The nursery must be named in the admission arrangements and its selection must be transparent and made on reasonable grounds
(School Admissions Code 2014, para 1.39B)
In the event that there are more applications received than places available in the year group then the governors must rank all applications in the order determined by the school’s oversubscription criteria. Places will be offered until all places are filled or there are no further applicants. If an applicant refuses the offer of a place (or is offered another place due to a higher preference within an equal preferences scheme) then the child highest on the waiting list must be offered the vacant place.
Equally, schools must not ask parents to agree to make a financial contribution to the school or payment in kind (e.g. services) when applying for a place. Places are allocated according to the oversubscription criteria set out in the school’s published admissions policy. It is against the School Admissions Code to request any personal details about parent’s educational background, qualifications, income or first language as part of the admission process.
Parents have the right to appeal against a refusal of an offer and should do so in writing within the timescale set out in the admissions policy and on the letter informing them that a place has not been offered at the school. The letter refusing a place must also set out the reason for refusing admission, the deadline for lodging an appeal, which must be in writing, and to whom the appeal should be sent. The timescale for appeals must also be published on the school website (where there is one).
The Education Team recommends that schools use the independent appeals panels convened by the local authority or an appropriate independent consultant. Where appeals against Church schools are to be heard by the local authority, the school may request that a suitably trained and experienced panel member (i.e. with understanding of Church school distinctiveness) be included on the panel. Local authorities may make a charge for this service but if they do so there should have been an appropriate sum allocated to the school budget for governing bodies of maintained schools which are admission authorities to meet admission appeals costs, including training for panel members, unless the school and local authority agree that the local authority will carry out the administration on the governing body’s behalf. Academies receive funding in accordance with their funding agreements. (School Admission Appeals Code 2012,para 1.14)
Under Section 94 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, responsibility for making arrangements for appeals against the refusal of a school place rests with the admission authority of the school. The admission authority and appeal panel must act in accordance with this Code, the School Admissions (Appeal Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2012, the School Admissions Code, other law relating to admissions, and relevant human rights and equalities legislation, for example, the Equality Act 2010. (School Admission Appeals Code 2012, para 1.1)
Where a vacancy arises, at any time and regardless of any appeals, the place should be offered to the child whose name is at the top of the relevant waiting list. As waiting lists must be maintained in order of the oversubscription criteria this ensures that the place is offered to the next highest ranked applicant.
Annually, if there are any changes proposed. At least once every seven years, even if there have been no changes.
NB there is no requirement for public consultation for an increase in PAN or to make changes in order to comply with mandatory provisions of the School Admissions Code or School Admissions Regulations 2014.
When changes are proposed to admission arrangements, all admission authorities must consult on their admission arrangements (including any supplementary information form) that will apply for admission applications the following school year. Where the admission arrangements have not changed from the previous year there is no requirement to consult, subject to the requirement that admission authorities must consult on their admission arrangements at least once every 7 years, even if there have been no changes during that period. (School Admissions Code 2014 para 1.42 – 1.45)
Church schools must send their draft policies to the Diocesan Education Team, prior to going out to wider consultation.
Admission authorities must consult with:
- parents of children between the ages of two and eighteen;
- other persons in the relevant area who in the opinion of the admission authority have an interest in the proposed admissions;
- all other admission authorities within the relevant area (except that primary schools need not consult secondary schools);
- whichever of the governing body and the local authority who are not the admission authority;
- any adjoining neighbouring local authorities where the admission authority is the local authority; and
- in the case of schools designated with a religious character, the body or person representing the religion or religious denomination.
For the duration of the consultation period, the admission authority must publish a copy of their full proposed admission arrangements (including the proposed PAN) on their website together with details of the person within the admission authority to whom comments may be sent and the areas on which comments are not sought. Admission authorities must also send upon request a copy of the proposed admission arrangements to any of the persons or bodies listed above inviting comment. Failure to consult effectively may be grounds for subsequent complaints and appeals.
Many LAs offer a service of publishing policies for VA, academies and foundation schools on their website and/or advertising the consultation period on governors’ behalf.
Consultation must last for a minimum of 6 weeks and must take place between 1 October and 31 January in the determination year.
Please see admissions & appeal general page for an exemplar timetable
Following the close of the consultation period, governors should consider any responses received and should determine the final policy by 28 February. The final policy should be then sent to the Diocesan Education Team and to the appropriate local authority for publication in the LA’s admissions booklet.
Schools must also publish their policy in the information to parents (school prospectus, school website).
NB consultation and determination of admissions arrangements are carried out more than a year in advance of the year for which the admissions arrangements will apply; i.e. consultation on admissions arrangements for entry to school in September 2018 will be completed by 31 January 2017. The policy will be determined by 28 February 2017.
What is the timescale for the completion of admissions policies? (School Admissions Code 2014, paragraphs 1.46 – 1.47)
All admission authorities must determine (i.e. formally agree) admission arrangements every year, even if they have not changed from previous years and a consultation has not been required. Admission authorities must determine admission arrangements by 28 February in the determination year.
Once admission authorities have determined their admission arrangements, they must notify the appropriate bodies and must publish a copy of the determined arrangements on their website displaying them for the whole offer year (the school year in which offers for places are made). Admission authorities must send a copy of their full, determined arrangements to the local authority. Admission authorities must send a copy of their determined admission arrangements as soon as possible before 15 March in the determination year. Admission authorities for schools designated with a religious character must also send a copy of their arrangements to the body or person representing their religion or religious denomination.
Paragraph 2.14 of the Admissions Code 2014, requires each admissions authority to maintain a waiting list for every oversubscribed school for at least the first term (i.e. to 31 December) in the normal year of entry. The Education Team recommends that waiting lists are maintained for each oversubscribed year group and for lists to be kept open until the end of the school year for which an application was made, in order to facilitate in-year co-ordination of admissions. Looked after children, previously looked after children and those allocated a place in accordance with a Fair Access Protocol must take precedence over those on a waiting list.
Fair access protocols exist to ensure that access to education is secured quickly for children who have no school place but for whom a place at a mainstream school or alternative provision is appropriate, and to ensure that all schools in an area admit their fair share of children with challenging behaviour, including children excluded from other schools. Fair access protocols are aimed at supporting children deemed to be ‘vulnerable’ as well as those with challenging behaviour.
For further information please refer to School Admissions Code 2014 paragraph 3.9 – 3.15.
Within Co-ordinated Admissions and In-year Co-ordinated Admissions schemes the local authority has a duty to provide common application forms, one for primary schools and one for secondary schools; to exchange information with other local authorities and admissions authorities and to send out the offer of places on dates specified by the scheme. There is a national offer date for places at secondary schools, which is 1st March (or the next working day, if 1st March is not a working day). From 16th April 2014 there will be a national offer date for all primary schools.
If the governing body were to delegate the responsibility for maintaining the waiting list to the LA, legal responsibility for it remains with the governing body.
If your question has not been answered by these FAQs, please contact the Education Team.