Appealing a school place decision
If your child doesn't get a place in the school you prefer, you can appeal the decision. You can appeal if you think the school didn’t apply their admissions criteria or didn’t apply them correctly. You can't appeal a decision about a place in a voluntary or private pre-school setting.
Your child didn't get a place at your preferred school
Parents/guardians whose child has not been offered a place in a school which had considered the application will be advised of where they can access information about how to appeal the decision via The Education Authority (EA) website and the closing date for appeals. Additionally the EA will tell you which schools have places available.
Appealing a school's decision
You can appeal a decision about a pre-school, primary or post-primary school place if you think the school didn't apply or correctly apply its published admissions criteria.
How to access an appeal form
To appeal a school's decision that has refused your child a place, go to the EA website where you can send the appeal form (AT1 Form). There are different deadlines to appeal decisions about places in:
- a nursery school/unit
- a primary school
- a post-primary school
- a 14+ (The Dickson Plan) school
Independent Admissions Appeal tribunal
When you appeal a school's decision to refuse your child a place, an Independent Admissions Appeal tribunal decides if the school has correctly applied its admissions criteria.
What the tribunal considers
The tribunal considers the evidence available to the school's board of governors when they offered school places to children. The tribunal cannot take into account any additional information that wasn't available to the board of governors when they offered places. The tribunal doesn't challenge a school's admissions criteria.
The tribunal can only uphold an appeal if:
- they find the school didn't apply or didn't apply correctly its admissions criteria
- and they find the school would have offered the child a place if it had applied its admissions criteria correctly
When your appeal will be heard
The EA will tell you when your appeal will be heard.
The appeal decision
The tribunal's decision is legally binding on you and the school.
They will write and tell you their decision by post. If your appeal is successful, the school will offer your child a place.
Appeal process for post-primary schools only
The Exceptional Circumstances Body (ECB) processes applications from parents/guardians for admissions to post-primary school (years 8-12 only) where it is claimed that a child must be at a particular school but an application made through the normal admissions process has failed.
There is no deadline for applications to the ECB.
If you decide to appeal a school’s decision and also apply to the ECB you can do this at the same time but it is not necessary to await the decision of an Independent Admissions Appeal Tribunal before applying to ECB.
If you think that your child has an exceptional need for admission to a particular post-primary school, then the 'exceptional circumstances' process can help you with this, as long as you can show that you have already applied to that post-primary school for admission, and your child was not admitted.
About 'exceptional circumstances'
When considering an application the ECB will focus on the following three tests that are considered under the 'exceptional circumstances' process:
- are the circumstances that are claimed exceptional?
- are the circumstances that are claimed 'personal to the child'?
- do the circumstances that are claimed require the child’s admission to the named school, and only that school?
A case for admission under the exceptional circumstances process will exist only where the ECB can answer ‘yes’ to all three questions.
Circumstances that aren't exceptional
The ECB may not find the following circumstances exceptional:
- type of education provided at a school
- a child’s academic ability
- availability of transport to a school
Venue for hearings
Exceptional Circumstances Body (ECB) hearings normally take place in venues throughout Northern Ireland. At present, hearings will be conducted at Rathgael House, Bangor in order to allow social distancing.
Attendance at a hearing
Attendance at a hearing is not required and you can request that the ECB panel reach its determination in your absence. Alternatively, any applicants who can’t travel to Bangor, for example for medical reasons, may be able to use video/tele conferencing. Our aim is to make sure that your application is considered quickly, but in the safest way in order to meet current restrictions.
Timescales for ECB applications
Under normal circumstances, following receipt of completed applications, the ECB Secretariat aim to arrange a hearing within 28 days. The panel's decision will issue within three weeks, or as soon as possible afterwards. However due to the current Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, it may not be possible to meet these deadlines.
To speed up the application process
Check that your application is fully completed, signed, and if required, a Declaration of Consent signed by the child, if 13 years or over. Make sure that original supporting evidence is also included as incomplete applications will be returned. Copies of the AP1 Transfer Form are accepted.
Incomplete applications will be returned so to speed up the process.
Make sure your application is fully completed, signed, and a Declaration of Consent signed by the child, if 13 years or over.
Provide an email address if available.
Attach all relevant evidence - normally this should be originals, however due to the Pandemic these may be difficult to obtain. If so, copies will be accepted.
A copy of the Transfer Form must be included (Year 8 only). As applications were completed online this year, a screenshot will be acceptable. If you need any assistance with this email email@example.com .
Applying to the ECB
To send an application to the ECB, there are two options you can use:
- download a copy of the application form and complete using a black ballpoint pen
- save a copy of the application and complete by typing in the spaces available
As you must sign the form and provide supporting evidence, the ECB will not accept applications sent by email. Hand delivered applications will not be accepted.
To read more information about applying to the ECB, go to: