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Reasons you may be refused a school place

This advice applies to Wales

You may be unsuccessful if you asked for a place at a school which has more applicants than places - when it is oversubscribed. This page tells you what oversubscription criteria are and how schools use them to decide who gets a place.

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Your local authority's website will probably have information about admission to schools in the area. You may be able to find information about how places are allocated if there are more applications than there are places in a school.

Reasons a local authority may refuse your child a place

The local authority (LA) must allow your child a place at your chosen school unless one of the following would apply:

  • allowing the place would affect the provision of 'efficient education or efficient use of resources' (including the infant class size limit - see below)
  • the application is for a sixth form place and arrangements for entry to the school’s sixth form are based completely on selection by ability or aptitude, and your child does not meet the conditions
  • your child has been permanently excluded from two or more schools and the latest exclusion took place within the last two years.

What are oversubscription criteria

Because the LA needs to ensure that there is 'efficient education or efficient use of resources', it has to have a fair way to decide which applicants to admit to which schools.

You may have applied for a place at a school which has more applicants than it has places available. In this situation the decision about who gets a place should be based on the oversubscription criteria for that school. These are the circumstances taken into account to decide who gets priority for a place.

Some commonly used oversubscription criteria are:

  • if the child applying for a place has a brother or sister at the school
  • the distance from your home to the school
  • availability of public transport
  • whether you live in the school catchment area
  • whether the child is transferring from a 'feeder' school
  • membership of a particular faith or denomination, if the school is a 'faith school'
  • medical or social need.

Unfair oversubscription criteria

The School Admissions Code tells local authorities and school governors how they must decide which oversubscription criteria to use.

The Code says that admission authorities must not use oversubscription criteria which:

  • give higher priority to children whose parents are more able or willing to support the 'ethos' of the school, or to support the school financially or in some other way
  • give higher priority to children according to the background or status of parents, including marital status or sexual orientation
  • take account of reports about past behaviour, attitude or achievement
  • discriminate against, or disadvantage children with special educational needs or disabilities
  • allocate places at a school because a brother, sister or other relative is a former pupil
  • take account of the behaviour of other members of a child’s family, whether good or bad, including attendance record
  • give priority to children whose parents are current or former staff or governors or who have another connection to the school
  • give priority to children who (or whose parents) have particular interests, specialist knowledge or hobbies
  • prioritise in the order in which applications were received
  • exclude applicants from a particular social or religious group, or limit applications to a particular social or religious group
  • give priority to children based on religious faith except where the school has been designated as a 'faith school'
  • allocate places on the basis of chronological age
  • in the case of application to a reception class, give priority to children who have attended the school’s nursery class
  • make admission conditional on parents signing a home-school agreement
  • use random allocation, for example, a lottery.

Also, selection must not be on the basis of a pupil's ability or aptitude (except in relation to sixth forms or schools with partially selective arrangements, of which there is only one in Wales). For Welsh medium schools, the ability to speak Welsh should not be a selection criteria.

Independent schools may use whichever admissions criteria they like, but cannot unlawfully discriminate against a prospective pupil. A single sex school can select pupils because of sex and faith schools may select pupils because of religion or belief.

Infant class size limit

Infant classes should be limited to 30 pupils for every qualified teacher. This may lead to your application being refused.

The School Admissions Code explains the circumstances in which more than 30 children can be allowed in a class.


If you've been treated differently from other people because of who you are, you might have been discriminated against.

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