General information about schools admissions can be found on GOV.UK.  All school admissions in England are governed by the Schools Admissions Code 2021.

School admissions for Service children in England

The following clip provides information about school admissions for Service children in England, produced by Hampshire County Council on behalf of Forces Connect South East.

Section 2.21 of the Schools Admissions Code

Under the above code, all admissions authorities in England must accept an application and allocate a place (if one is available) for children of Armed Forces personnel in advance of moving to the area, provided the application is accompanied by an official letter that declares a relocation date.

Parents do not need to have an allocated address and applications can be processed on the basis of the unit address or general quartering address, as long as parents/carers provide evidence of their intended address. Places may not be allocated a long time in advance of the move, as this may result in a school having to hold a place open for an unreasonable amount of time.

The Armed Forces Covenant and school admissions

The Armed Forces Covenant is intended to prevent disadvantage by service life. Therefore, it will not automatically ensure parents to get the school of their choice. Local authorities must find a school place for all children who move into their area. However, if no places are available at the parents’ preferred school, there is no duty to comply with parental preference.

The Covenant Duty will come into force on 22 November 2022 and the new Duty is supported by Statutory Guidance to help specific bodies, including in Education, understand what is required of them under the new Covenant Duty. The Armed Forces Community will benefit from this statutory guidance as it will raise awareness of education-related disadvantages that can arise for Service children as well as help schools and academies dealing with school admissions criteria.

Applications for admissions into Reception year and year 7

Applications for admissions into Reception year and year 7 are governed by a national statutory timetable. Parents who are posted after the statutory deadlines may have to make ‘late application’. Admission authorities cannot refuse applications because they are late and cannot give priority based on the date applications were received. However, in practice many school places will already be allocated, offered and accepted by other families. Local authorities are not permitted to reserve blocks of school places for service pupils even where there are likely to be significant numbers.

If there are no places available at their chosen school, pupils may be put onto waiting lists for places as well as being offered a place at another school. Waiting lists are determined by the over-subscription criteria for each school. By law looked after children must be the first priority for all over-subscription criteria as these are deemed to be the children most in need. Under section 1.41 of the Schools Admissions Code children eligible for the service premium may be given priority in over-subscription criteria. In practice many over-subscription criteria do not mention service pupils or these may come low down the list behind criteria such as distance from school or siblings in the school.

Infant class size limits

By law, classes for children in Key Stage 1 in England cannot exceed 30 pupils per teacher other than in specific exceptional circumstances. Under the Schools Admissions Code in England, children of Service personnel who move outside of the normal round of admissions may be admitted as excepted pupils. It is important to note that this only applies to ‘in year’ admissions and will not assist Service parents who are applying for a Reception or Year 7 place under the normal admissions process. It is also important to know many local authorities are reluctant to exercise this power as standard practice. In these circumstances, we would advise parents to seek specialist advice from the Education Advisory Team as appeals against infant class size limits are notoriously difficult to win.

Admissions in the Devolved Administrations

Admissions in Scotland

The Scottish Government has produced some really useful resources for service personnel and their families moving to Scotland.

Further information about schools and admissions can be requested from the Education Advisory Team via email at: [email protected].

Forces Children Education also provides useful information and resources on education on Scotland as does the Forces Children Scotland.

Admissions in Wales

Admissions to schools in Wales are governed by the Welsh Schools Admissions and Appeals Code. Further information is available on the Welsh government websiteSupporting Service Children in Education Wales or from the Education Advisory Team.

Admissions in Northern Ireland

Information regarding children’s education within Northern Ireland can be found on the Department of Education and Education Authority websites.

For those personnel being posted to Northern Ireland, it is recommended that local advice is obtained through the Children’s Education Support Officer located within 38 (Irish) Brigade who can be contacted on: [email protected]

Education Advisory Team

The Education Advisory Team (EAT) provides expert and impartial advice about the education of service children. EAT can be contacted via email at: [email protected] for information and guidance on school admissions and appeals.

How we can help

What can I do if my child is not offered a place at our preferred school?

The RAF Families Federation can provide information and guidance to support the RAF community with enquiries about school admissions and appeals. If you are struggling to get a school place, please contact us so we can offer support and signposting.

Read our National Offer Day guidance >

Read our School place allocations case study>

“Thank you very much for all your help with regards to our school appeal, it was very much appreciated… I am very grateful for all your support and advice during this very stressful time.”

Service family testimonial

I wanted to let you know that we won our appeal. What a stressful process, we are so happy and relieved! Thank you for your help and support throughout the process.”

Service family testimonial

Need Help?

We can offer information and guidance to support with school admissions and appeals. Or, if you are struggling to get a school place we can offer support and signposting.