Secondary School Appeals: How to Win a Grammar School Admission Appeal

School uniform and schoolbag hanging on hook

After all weeks, months or even years of preparing for the 11 Plus exams, there is nothing more disappointing for children (and parents) than not getting the offer for the school of choice.

Not being offered a grammar school place can often be more painful than failing the grammar school tests – at least you know that your child has not made the mark. But if your child has passed the grammar school selection tests and still doesn’t get a grammar school offer, it can be confusing and infuriating for many parents.

If you live out of the borough to the grammar school, you have applied for on the secondary application form (the CAF form), not being offered a grammar school place is commonplace. There are so many admissions criteria that schools and local authorities use to determine which children get into the schools – and every school can have different criteria, which can change every year! No wonder it can be a source of confusion for parents.

‘If you’ve applied to a school and it does not offer your child a place, you have the right to appeal this decision,’ that’s the advice from the government (

How to Appeal a Grammar School Place

Watch the following video about appealing secondary (grammar) school places. Many parents often accept the initial offer – even if it is not their school of choice. However, if you do not appeal you could be losing out in the second and subsequent rounds of grammar school offers.

How Grammar School Places Work – The 180 Rule

Most grammar schools and local authorities with grammar schools use the 180 rule. This rule means that children who score in the top 180 scores are offered their school of choice. After this, school use their own admissions criteria.

Secondary School Admissions Criteria

When schools are oversubscribed (i.e. more children apply than there are places available), schools use a list of admissions (or oversubscription) criteria.

Schools may give priority to children:

  • who live close to the school;
  • who have a brother or sister at the school already;
  • from a particular religion (for faith schools);
  • who pass an entrance exam (for selective schools, for example, grammar schools)
  • who went to a particular primary school (a ‘feeder school’);
  • who are eligible for the pupil premium or the service pupil premium; or
  • whose parent has worked at the school for two years or more.

Schools can prioritise the secondary school’s admissions criteria in any order the school chooses in any given year.

What Happens if a Grammar School is Oversubscribed?

The fact is, grammar schools probably have one of the highest subscription rates where secondary schools are concerned. These days, grammar schools and local authorities frequently write about six to 10 children applying for every grammar school place available. That’s clearly heavily oversubscribed – at least at the point of registration for the exams.

When grammar schools are oversubscribed, they use several admissions criteria (in whichever order of priority they choose) to determine the children who are offered a place. Schools can use a set list of admissions criteria, but every school can decide the order of priority themselves. This constant change often makes it a bit confusing for parents to get their heads around. The secondary school admissions criteria can then change every year, so it’s essential to check the criteria before making appeals.

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