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Applying for secondary schools in 2021- key dates & tips

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Secondary admissions national offer day is approaching

If your child turns 11 between 1st September 2020 and 31st August 2021, then they will transfer to secondary school at the start of the new school year in September 2021.

The admissions applications window for secondary schools opened on 1st August 2020 and will close on 31 October 2020. Making the application can be a daunting task for parents and is something I have just done for my own child.  

Results, reputation, locality and transport logistics are all important factors for us parents to consider – whilst the children will be keen to go where their friends are hoping to go, what the sports or music departments have to offer and perhaps even how the uniform looks.

You have a right to express a preference about which school you wish your child to go to. When making your decision, it is important to carefully research schools – there will be lots of accessible information on school websites, your local authority website and some virtual tours are now taking place.

You can ask for your child to be considered for a place at more than one school – check the local policy e.g. for up to three schools.

It is worth noting, that if you only put forward one preference and you are not offered a place, your child will be allocated a place at another school where there is space – not necessarily close to your home address.

When completing your application, it is important that you carefully consider the admissions criteria for the prospective schools and determine where your child will meet the same – do they already have a sibling at the school?  Do they have any additional needs or an EHCP that you need to make the admissions team aware of?

If you are applying to a Church / Voluntary Aided school, you also need to make sure that any supplementary forms and evidence are completed and submitted on time – this will allow the Governors to consider your application appropriately.  

Be sure to include such points in your application for consideration and most importantly make sure your application is submitted in time. The closing date for applications is 31st October 2020. Any applications received after this date will be classed as late.

National Offer day is 1st March.

Should you not be successful in securing a place at your preferred (or any of your preferred) schools, you are able to appeal against the same – this should be done within 20 school days of the National Offer day. 

Who considers your appeal depends on the type of school:

Type of schoolAdmission authorityComplaints about arrangementsResponsible for appeal against place refusal
AcademiesAcademy trustSchools adjudicatorAcademy trust
Community schools foundationLocal authoritySchools adjudicatorLocal authority
Foundation schoolsGoverning bodySchools adjudicatorGoverning body
Voluntary aided schoolsGoverning bodySchools adjudicatorGoverning body
Voluntary controlled schoolsLocal authoritySchools adjudicatorLocal authority


If you do need to appeal – we can assist you with this.  We can advise you on your child’s case specifically and highlight relevant points and / or attend at any appeal hearing with you. 

If your appeal is not successful, the next step could be Judicial Review – however, the threshold for bringing such a challenge can be quite difficult in these circumstances.

Our education law team are able to assist with the areas of law associated with education from admissions, exclusions and special educational needs to discrimination claims or Judicial Review of decisions made by the authorities.

Should you wish to speak to someone about secondary school applications please contact us on 0161 696 6229 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.