Appealing a school place decision

If your child doesn't get a place in the pre-school, primary or post-primary school you prefer, you can appeal the decision. You can appeal if you think the school didn’t apply their admissions criteria. But you can't appeal a decision about a place in a voluntary or private nursery setting.

How to appeal

You can apply to the Education Authority (EA) in your region if you think the school didn't apply their admissions criteria correctly.

For post-primary schools only, you can also apply to the Exceptional Circumstances Body (ECB) if you think your child should go to a specific post-primary school because of exceptional circumstances. You can use one or both processes to appeal a decision about a post-primary school place.

Your child didn't get a place at your preferred school

The Education Authority (EA) will send you a placement letter offering your child a school place. You'll also get information about how to appeal the decision and the closing date for appeals.

If your child doesn't get a place in one of your preferred schools, the EA will tell you which schools have places available.

Appealing a school's decision

You can appeal a decision about a school place if you think they didn't correctly apply their published admissions criteria. The placement letter will explain your right to appeal the school's decision.  

Asking for an appeal

To appeal a school's decision to refuse your child a place, you should email or write to the Clerk to the Tribunal and say you want to appeal.  There are different deadlines to appeal decisions about places in:

If you ask for an appeal before the deadline, you'll receive an appeal form and information about the appeal procedure.

To read more about appealing a school's decision, read the school admissions booklets:

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 their 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 their admissions criteria
  • they find the school would have offered the child a place if they had applied their admissions criteria correctly 

When your appeal will be heard

The Education Authority  (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 process only accepts applications about post-primary schools admissions (years 8 to 12 only). Parents or guardians can use the process if they think there are  'exceptional reasons' their child must go to a particular school but their application failed. There is no deadline for applications to the Exceptional Circumstances Body (ECB).

You can only claim exceptional circumstances if you applied to the post-primary school through the admissions process and your child was refused a place.

How ECB tests an application

When considering an application, ECB  uses three tests:

  • test one decides if the circumstances claimed are exceptional
  • test two decides if the circumstances claimed are 'personal to the child'
  • test three decides if the circumstances claimed require the child’s admission to the preferred school and only that school

Your claim must pass the three tests to be successful.

Circumstances that aren't exceptional

The ECB mightn't find the following circumstances are exceptional:

  • type of education provided at a school
  • a child’s academic ability
  • availability of transport to a school

To read more information about applying to the ECB, go to:

You can also contact the Exceptional Circumstances Body Secretariat.

Applying to the Exceptional Circumstances Body

To send an application to the ECB:

  • 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, ECB doesn't accept email applications.

More useful links

Share this page


Your comments are anonymous and can’t be responded to - if you would like a reply, use the feedback form.

Your comments
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum. Don't include personal or financial information.