What are my options if my child doesn’t get a Grammar School place?

Unfortunately, every year there are a number of children who don’t get offered a place at the Grammar School of their choice. Even if your child has passed the 11+, they won’t necessarily be guaranteed a place at a Grammar School; however, there are options, and we're here to help you work through them. 

This article aims to outline the main reasons why children miss out on Grammar School places, what to do if this happens to you (including the appeals process) and other options available to you.

Why your child might not get a grammar school place and the appeals process

Reasons your child may not be offered a place

1. Administrative error. This is where a mistake is made by the admissions authority and a child that would otherwise have been given a place at the school is deprived of one.

2. Non-qualification. Every year, a huge number of children sit the 11+ exams in the UK. And each year, a proportion of very able children fail to reach the expected standard in the test due to extenuating circumstances which affect their performance on the day. This could legitimately include illness, bereavement or other family/personal circumstances.

3. Not meeting the admissions criteria. Some grammar schools, known as ‘super-selective’ schools, operate a system whereby a basic pass is not enough to gain entry. These schools accept a proportion of those with the highest scores and these ‘cut off’ scores can vary from year to year and be a little unpredictable as they depend entirely on the cohort sitting the test. Some schools also have admissions criteria based on distance from the school and other factors such a favourable admission of staff children, students from armed forces families or children of missionaries.    

4. Oversubscription. All state schools are subject to a PAN (Published Admission Number), which is set by the local authority and governing body. This means that each school has a limited number of places to allocate every year. If your chosen school is oversubscribed and you meet the other admissions criteria, you should be able to join a waiting list, either through your local authority or the school themselves.


If you feel that any of these reasons apply, then you might want to consider lodging an appeal.


Where to go for assistance?

Your local authority should provide information when you’re offered a school place about what to do if you wish to appeal the decision. They should also offer advice on how to join waiting lists and on important dates for the appeals process. This information is usually supplied with your school place offer, which you should receive on National Offers day at the beginning of March. Your local authority will also have information on school places and appeals on their website. Some individual schools will publish information on admissions on their website, especially in terms of waiting lists, admissions distances and ‘cut off’ scores.


The appeals process in brief

The School Admission Appeals Code (published in 2012) states that parents must have at least 20 school days from National Offer Day to lodge an appeal. It also states that parents must be given at least 10 school days’ notice of the date of their appeal hearing. This ensures that parents have enough time to gather evidence (which must be submitted before the date of the appeal). Your local authority must publish their appeals timetable on their website by 28th February each year.

If you choose to appeal, you will need to be able to show strong evidence to support the reasons why your child should be granted a place at the Grammar School of your choice. Appeal hearings normally happen approximately 12 weeks after National Offer Day, so could be as late as June. The School Admission Appeals Code advises that decision letters should be sent out to parents within 5 school days of the hearing where practical.

Whatever your reason for an appeal, it’s essential to compile as much supporting evidence as possible and be ready to present your case in person to the appeals panel. It's important to be aware that appealing for a school place can be a stressful process, which quite often doesn’t end in a place being offered at the school in question, so take this into consideration when deciding whether or not to appeal. 

Even if you intend to appeal your child’s school place decision, it’s advisable that you accept the school place offered to you by the Local Authority. Whilst this might not seem ideal, it does mean that your child will have a school place for the beginning of year 7, and will give you breathing room to explore other options, such as joining a waiting list for the school of your choice.


Waiting lists

If your child passes the 11+ but misses out on a place at their chosen Grammar School due to oversubscription or narrowly missing the required ’cut off’ score, then it’s well worth asking to join the waiting list for the individual schools. Every year, there’s a certain amount of movement of school places between National Offer Day and the beginning of Year 7 and the ‘cut off’ scores and admission distances often decrease slightly in this time. Some waiting lists are held by Local authorities, but most are held by the schools themselves. Therefore, it is worth contacting the school to ask to join the waiting list. Joining a waiting list doesn’t affect your chances of appeal, and in most cases, you can appeal while also being on the waiting list. Contact the schools directly and speak to the admissions staff for further advice.  


Further advice

Places you can go for more advice on appeals and waiting lists include:

  • Your local authority website, or admissions department. They should be able to guide you as to your next steps.
  • Your chosen school itself may be able to give you some advice and information, but will not welcome repeated phone calls on the same matter from the same parents. Some parents believe in ‘pester power’, but this is unlikely to get your child a place which they would not otherwise be granted.
  • The National School Admission Appeals Code Document gives a thorough outline of the process and guidelines set by the Government.
  • The Eleven Plus Exam website has an excellent and very thorough appeals section.
  • The Eleven Plus Exam Forum is an online community (linked to the website above) where parents who have personal experience are willing to share their experiences and advice about specific regions and schools here.


How can EdPlace help?

EdPlace is here to help prepare your child for the 11+ exam with our practice papers, activities and exam style questions. 

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This article was last updated on 7th June 2019. The information on this page was correct at the time of writing, and whilst we try to update it as frequently as possible, sometimes there may be a delay. Please double check all information is up to date before making decisions based on the above article, and do share any changes you come across with us if you have the time - we're here to help!