Guidance

Academy admissions

Information about academy admissions and the role of ESFA.

Admissions arrangements

Admission authorities must have determined their admissions arrangements for entry in September 2020 by 28 February 2019. They must publish them on their website and have sent a copy to their local authority before 15 March 2019.

Academies are their own admissions authority and must meet all the mandatory provisions of the School Admissions Code (the Code) that came into force on 19 December 2014 except where variations have been written into their funding agreement to support fair access.

The checklist below reflects common subjects of challenge and complaint in relation to admissions by all types of school.

Requirements for notification and publication

Paragraph of the code Checklist
1.3 As their own admission authority, academies and free schools are not required to consult on their Published Admission Number (PAN) where they propose either to increase or keep the same PAN
1.42 and 1.43 Admission authorities must consult when admission arrangements are changed or if they have not been consulted on within the last 7 years. For entry in 2017 and each subsequent academic year thereafter, admission authorities must consult for a minimum period of 6 weeks and should take place between 1 October and 31 January
1.47 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 academic year in which offers for places are made)
1.47 Admission authorities for faith schools must also send a copy of their arrangements to the body or person representing their religion or religious denomination
1.48 Where an admission authority has determined a PAN that is higher than in previous years, they must notify the local authority that they have done so, and make specific reference to the change on their website

Clarity of definitions

Paragraph of the code Checklist
1.32c Admission authorities must take all reasonable steps to inform parents of the outcome of selection tests before the closing date for secondary applications on 31 October so as to allow parents time to make an informed choice of school - while making clear that this does not equate to a guarantee of a selective place
1.6 The admission authority for the school must set out in its arrangements the criteria against which places will be allocated at the school when there are more applications than places and the order in which the criteria will be applied. All children whose statement of special educational needs (SEN) names the school must be admitted
1.7 All schools must have over-subscription criteria for each relevant age group and the highest priority must be given, unless otherwise provided in the code, to looked after children and previously looked after children. Relevant age group means the age group at which pupils are or will normally be admitted to the school, for example reception, year 7 or year 12
1.8 Admission arrangements must include an effective, clear and fair tie-breaker to decide between two applications that cannot otherwise be separated
1.11 Admission authorities must state clearly in their arrangements what they mean by ‘sibling’ (for example whether this includes step siblings, foster siblings, adopted siblings and other children living permanently at the same address or siblings who are former pupils of the school)
1.14 Catchment areas must be designed so that they’re reasonable and clearly defined
1.16 If admission authorities decide to use social and medical need as an over-subscription criterion, they must set out in their arrangements how they will define this need and give clear details about what supporting evidence will be required (for example a letter from a doctor or social worker) and then make consistent decisions based on the evidence provided
2.8 If the school is not oversubscribed, all applicants must be offered a place, with the exception of designated grammar schools
  Each relevant age group must have admission arrangements, including an admission number and over-subscription criteria. Some schools (for example schools with sixth forms which admit children into the sixth form) may have more than one relevant age group

In-year admissions

Since September 2013, academies and free schools are able to accept in-year admission applications directly from parents.

An in-year admission application is one that is made outside of the normal time of transfer between schools, for example when a family moves house part way through a school year.

Local authorities are still required to co-ordinate admission applications in the normal admissions round.

Your academy should say on its website that it is receiving and deciding in-year applications.

Your academy should say on its website that it is receiving and deciding in-year applications from 1 September 2013, if it plans to do so. Your academy can also continue to use the local authority to co-ordinate in-year admission if this suits local circumstances better.

Your academy must also:

  • allocate places on the basis of the published over-subscription criteria
  • inform local authorities of all applications and their outcome
  • inform parents of their right of appeal against the refusal of a place
  • comply with the code, paying particular attention to chapter 3
  • participate fully in locally agreed fair access protocols

You can read more about fair access protocols and the Secretary of State’s powers to direct an academy to admit a child following an application from a local authority on GOV.UK.

Academy admission appeals

Any applicant refused a place at a maintained school or an academy has a right of appeal to an independent appeal panel established by the admission authority for that school. Admission authorities must publish their appeals timetable on their website by 28 February 2018.

Information about admission appeals can be found on GOV.UK.

Academy admission appeals complaints

Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) receives any complaint made by an applicant about the way admissions appeals are carried out at academies, free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools.

ESFA has reviewed the complaints it received in 2014 about independent appeal panels (IAPs) and has set out the review findings and some suggestions to help you make sure that future appeals comply with the School Admission Appeals Code.

Many of the findings are easily addressed and will reduce the risk of future complaints. Examples include making sure clerks’ records of appeal hearings are full and legible and providing plain English decision letters that clearly explain why the appeal was unsuccessful.

In order to avoid these and other common pitfalls during future rounds of appeals, ESFA strongly advises you to read the review findings and discuss these with your clerking service.

We have also produced a factsheet to help parents understand the types of admission appeals complaints the ESFA can investigate. We ask that clerks include a copy of the factsheet (or a link) with the panel’s decision letter.

Published 11 March 2014
Last updated 30 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. Updated page with dates for when admission authorities must have determined their admissions arrangements for entry in September 2020.
  2. Updated determination and publication dates for admission arrangements
  3. Updated determination and publication dates for admission arrangements
  4. Updated with information about academy admissions arrangements for entry in September 2017
  5. Updated with information about admissions arrangements for entry in September 2016.
  6. Updated with a link to the 2014 review of academy admissions appeals.
  7. Updated to include reference to a new factsheet to help parents understand the types of admission appeals complaints the EFA can investigate and a note to ask that clerks include a copy of the factsheet with the panel’s decision letter.
  8. First published.