Schools Advice

What to do when a school says “no”.

In a recent conversation with a parent, my jaw stuck the floor when the mother claimed, without a hint of irony, that “our children are more special than others.”

At the heart of this comment, I think, lay some hurt. In trying to move home, they found that many schools, that on paper looked perfect, did not have spaces for their children.

As parents, we all want our children to have the best chance for a decent education.

However schools – both private and state – have finite space and resources and often have to turn down applications to join them.

So what can parents do when they can’t get into a school.


Join the waiting list; every private school holds a waiting list for occasional places. Most state schools now leave this in the care of the local authority. However, there is very often some movement within schools, especially over the summer, so the waiting game can often be worthwhile.

Stay in touch; many families will put their names down on a waiting list then either lose interest or make other plans. It pays to find a gentle, polite way to occasionally remind a school office of your interest without being over-bearing. A call every half-term might suit, a call every week might be viewed as harassment!

Consider an appeal; an option for state schools. It is a slow process, and time consuming, but you may have a case. Does your child have special educational needs? Do they have family ties with the school? Or any particular aptitude that matches with that of the school? If so, then an appeal could be a route worth exploring.

Have a back-up
; at Schools Advice we believe that there is more than one way to skin the school cat. Maybe fate plays a part in affairs of the heart, but in matters of the mind, you will often find that there is more than one school that can help your child flourish. They key here is flexibility, an open mind, and an ability to research options.


Harangue the school; schools want to help but sometimes we, as parents, have to understand that it isn’t to be. This shouldn’t be the cue to start phoning the school on a daily basis, door-stepping governors or the head-teacher, or generally tipping into madness.

Raise the standard of status; “does the school know who I am / who I work for?” The answer is usually, yes. They are trying to deal with applications with an even-hand.

Be passive; make sure that in the application process that you provide the school will all necessary information to support your case – school reports, teacher recommendation, information on interests and achievements. Take the time to keep in touch with a school, with the headteacher and staff in the office, and in developments going on within the school.

Labels School Admissions.