Secondary school admission appeals fall for first time in six years

The number of secondary school admission appeals heard in England has fallen for the first time in at least six years, new figures show.

Parents whose children are refused a place at a school they applied for have the right to appeal against the decision. These appeals are heard by independent panels.

Data published by the Department for Education today shows 29,871 appeals relating to secondary school admissions were heard in 2020-21, representing 4.1 per cent of new admissions.

This is down from 35,648 appeals, or 4.9 per cent of admissions, in 2019-20, and ends an upwards trend seen since 2015-16, when the DfE began collecting the data.

At primary level, 11,239 appeals were heard in 2020-21, representing 1.4 per cent of new admissions, down from 12,465, or 1.5 per cent of admissions last year. This continues a downward trend seen over the past six years.

Of the secondary appeals heard, 6,000, or 20.1 per cent were successful. The DfE said this rate had been “gradually dropping” since 2015-16. At primary level, 1,823, or 16.2 per cent of appeals were successful, the lowest level in six years.

Academy admissions more likely to be heard

Academy admissions were most likely to be challenged in front of a panel, with appeals heard representing 3 per cent of new admissions, compared to 2.1 per cent for community and voluntary controlled schools, 2.3 per cent for foundation schools and 2.7 per cent for voluntary aided schools.

Appeals relating to foundation schools were most likely to be successful, with 25 per cent of appeals heard succeeding, compared to 21.4 per cent for VA schools, 19.8 per cent for academies and 14.8 per cent for community and VC schools.

The data is also broken down by region, showing that admissions were more likely to be challenged in the north west (3.9 per cent of admissions) and the south east and West Midlands (3.1 per cent) than other areas.

Data also shows that appeals were more likely to succeed in the East Midlands (24.9 per cent) and south west (24 per cent) than other areas. In comparison, the success rate in London was just 9.5 per cent.

Last year, the government announced flexibilities in the way admission appeals are handled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In June this year, ministers announced these flexibilities would be extended to this September.

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