What were the statistics for admission appeals in England in 2020/21?

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 co-ordinated 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.

Approximately 11,239 appeals were heard relating to primary school places for 2020/21; this represented 1.4% of new admissions. The number and rate have both been dropping since 2015/16, when 22,820 primary appeals were heard (2.6% of new admissions). Of those heard in 2020/21, 1,823 primary appeals were successful, a rate of 16.2%; this rate is the lowest since this collection started in 2015/16.

Approximately 29,871 appeals were heard relating secondary school places for 2020/21; this represented 4.1% of new admissions. This is a decline from last year, when 35,648 (4.9% of new admissions) appeals were heard. This reverses the increases seen since the start of this collection in 2015/16. In that year 22,964 secondary appeals were heard (3.6% of new admissions). Of those heard in 2020/21, 6,000 secondary appeals were successful, representing 20.1% of the number heard; this rate has been gradually dropping since 2015/16, when 26.3% of secondary appeals were successful.

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 A number are withdrawn before that point, for example, because the child has been offered a place at the school via the waiting list.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. 

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

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 to be limited to 30 children. This reduces the possibilities for appeal for these year groups. 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.

Secondary appeals

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 time series 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 over the whole time period, and has reached a new low at 20.1%. 

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