School admissions criteria

All schools have admissions criteria. If they get more applications than they have places available, they use this criteria to decide who to offer places to. Before you apply for your child's place at a school, you can read the school's admission criteria.

How schools allocate places

Every child aged between four and 16 is entitled by law to a place at a school. Wherever possible, your child will get a place at one of your preferred schools but this can't be guaranteed.

Many schools get more applications than they have places to offer. Every school has an admissions limit to decide how many pupils they will accept.

Admissions criteria

Every school has admissions criteria. Schools that are oversubscribed follow these criteria when allocating places. The school's Board  of Governors set the criteria.

Finding out a school's admissions criteria

You can read admissions criteria and number of applications schools received for the previous three years.

Criteria vary from school to school but all criteria must be clear, fair and based on facts.


If you think that a school has not applied, or not correctly applied its admissions criteria, you have the right of appeal to an independent tribunal.

These tribunals are set up by the EA and their decisions are binding.

For post-primary admissions decisions, parents can also apply to the independent Exceptional Circumstances Body (ECB) if they believe that there are compelling reasons why their child must go to a particular post-primary school.

The ECB is a body established by the Department of Education to process applications from parents which relate to admissions to post-primary school (years 8 to 12 only) where for “exceptional reasons” a child must go to a particular school but an application through the normal process has failed. There is no deadline for applications to the ECB.

A claim of exceptional circumstances can only be considered after you have applied to the post-primary school through the normal admissions process and been refused a place.

You should be aware that the ECB process is not another route to provide you with the preferred school for your child. It is only for those parents, who for exceptional reasons, think that their child must go to a particular school.

Checking a school's admissions criteria

If you are applying to a popular school, check how closely your child meets the criteria. It's possible that not everyone who applies will be offered a place.

Sending your application

For details on how to put in your application and key deadlines, go to:

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