Waiting lists

A list for children who were not offered a place at their preferred school.

A waiting list is a list of children who could not be offered a place at their preferred school but whose parents want them to be considered in case a place becomes available later. Each school has its own waiting list. 


We recommend that you accept the offered school to ensure a place for your child in September.

How to add your child to a waiting list

We do not automatically add a child to the waiting lists of schools we did not offer.  Parents must request this (see below).  This is called the ‘opt-in system.

If you applied online

You can add your child to a waiting list through the Parent Portal when you view your offer.

If you made a paper application

You'll need to complete a paper form. We include the waiting list form with your offer letter.

Some local authorities automatically add children to waiting lists of preferred schools not offered. Parents then request to have their child’s name deleted from the waiting list.  This is called the ‘opt-out’ system.  Where the school is in Oxfordshire, we honour this commitment from the child’s home local authority. We do not automatically add children living in Oxfordshire to lists for Oxfordshire schools.Some local authorities also automatically add children to waiting lists of preferred schools not offered even if the child lives in Oxfordshire.  We recommend that parents still register their continued interest via us for a place at a school that is not in Oxfordshire to make sure their child is re-considered.  We will liaise with the home local authority for the school.

Which waiting lists you can add your child to

Your child can only be added to the waiting list of a school if:

  • you selected on your application and were refused a place
  • it is a higher preference than the school offered.

For example, if your child has been offered a place at your third preference school, they can be added to the waiting list of your first and second preference schools.

If you place your child on a school's waiting list, you are stating that you want this school:

  • more than the school we offered
  • instead of the school we offered.

If we offer you a place at the school your child is on the waiting list school for, we'll withdraw your previous offer.

Which waiting lists you cannot add your child to

You cannot add your child to the waiting list of:

  • a lower preference school if we've offered your first preference
  • a school that was not on your preference list.

It is possible to change the preference order but we'd have to consider your updated application first. Read changes of preference (pdf format) for guidance.

You will only be able to add your child to waiting lists after we have made a new decision about your new application if a place is not offered.

How many waiting lists you can place your child on

There is no limit to the number of lists your child can join.  But all of the schools must be listed as a higher preference than the school your child was offered.

How the order on the waiting list is decided

The published admission rules for the school determine the order.  Lists are not ordered by how long a child has been waiting.

For example, a child outside the school's catchment area may be pushed down the list if a child inside the catchment area is added.

We publish the admission rules for community and voluntary controlled schools.  Admission rules for other types of school should be available on school websites.  Visit our list of schools to find links to school websites

How a place becomes available

A school place can become available:

  • if the number of children in the year group goes below the admission number
  • a parent accepts an offer from another waiting list.

We will look at thewaiting lists and new applications during the second and subsequent rounds of offers while the list continues to exist (see below). Places are offered using the published admission rules for the school.

How long your child’s name will remain on a waiting list

Your child’s name will remain on the waiting list until one of the following happens:

  • We offer your child a place
  • You tell us in writing that you want to delete your child’s name from the waiting list.
  • The end date of the list is reached (see below) and the list is discontinued and all names are deleted.

Sometimes waiting lists do not change.  It is possible for a child to remain on a waiting list until it is discontinued and for a place never to be offered.

Where Oxfordshire County Council is the admissions authority

We hold waiting lists until 30 June of each academic year.  We then discontinue the list and remove all of the names.

If your child has still not been offered a place and you still want one, you can make an application for the following academic year. You can make the application no earlier than the first Monday after the summer half-term break in June. 

Visit our in-year admissions page for information about how to re-apply

If you have not received an offer, you can add your child to the school's waiting list at the start of each academic year.

Where the school is its own admissions authority (OAA)

Waitingt lists are generally held until 30 June each year but some schools may use different dates which they will publish in their admissions policy.

You should be able to find school admissions policies on individual school websites.

Admission appeals and Waiting lists

You can add your child to the waiting list for a school without making an appeal.

If you request an appeal, we do not automatically add your child to the waiting list of the school. 

You can appeal for any of the schools your child has been refused admission to.

The Independent Appeals Panel (IAP) does not take into account a child’s position on a waiting list. For appeals organised by Oxfordshire County Council, the IAP will not ask about the child's position on a list. The IAP will ask parents not to tell them.

Where an appeal is successful

If the IAP offers your child a place, the admissions authority must make a place available and your child will be entitled to join the school.  Your child’s name will be removed from the waiting list if you win your appeal.

Admission appeals can affect waiting lists

Successful appeals can affect how waiting lists work. There could be more children attending or due to join the school than the Published Admission Number (PAN). So, even if a child leaves the school, there may not be a place to offer to a child on the waiting list. 

For example, a school has an admission number of 180 and a waiting list with 10 children on it.  The parents of three children win their appeal.  The number of children at the school increases to 183 and the number on the waiting list reduces to 7 (if all three children appealing had also joined the waiting list).  Later, one other child leaves the school and the number reduces from 183 to 182.  A place is not offered via thewaiting list because the number of children is still higher than the admission number.

School transport

Your child may have been eligible for free travel assistance to the school originally offered. If a place is offered later via a waiting list, a new decision will be made and the eligibility for travel to the original school may be withdrawn.  This could happen even if you do not accept the offer via the waiting list and decide your child will remain at the original school.  If a place is offered via a waiting list a new decision will also be made at the same time whether free travel assistance will be offered to the new school.

This means you need to consider very carefully whether to add your child’s name to waiting list(s).

Read our school transport pages for more information.

The legislation for waiting lists

Section 86 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 sets out the duties of local authorities to make arrangements for parents to express a preference and their reasons for it. Further, it requires admission authorities to comply with a preference unless such compliance would 

prejudice the provision of efficient education of the efficient use of resources (e.g. because of over-subscription).

Paragraph 2.15 of the 2021 School Admissions Code states:

  • 2.15 Each admission authority must maintain a clear, fair and objective waiting list until at least 31 December of each school year of admission, stating in their arrangements that each added child will require the list to be ranked again in line with the published oversubscription criteria. Priority must not be given to children based on the date their application was received or their name was added to the list.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Co-ordinated Admissions Scheme clearly states that the local authority must offer, on behalf of the relevant admission authority, a place at the school that is the highest preference listed where it is possible to offer a place according to the published Admissions Rules.

If a parent adds their child's name to the waiting list for a school that could not be offered, they are stating that they want this school more than (and instead of) the school offered if it is possible to make an offer at a later date.