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Fair Access Protocol for children without a school place


The School Admissions Code (September 2021) requires every local authority must have a Fair Access Protocol. This protocol is agreed by the majority of schools in the area and is there to make sure that, outside the normal admissions round, unplaced children, especially the most vulnerable, are offered a place at a suitable school as quickly as possible.

If your child is without a school place

If, after applying for a school place through the normal in-year process, your child remains without a school place, within a reasonable distance from your home address, your application will be referred to the Fair Access Panel for consideration.

If your child has a school place but there are exceptional vulnerabilities

If, after applying for a school place through the normal in-year process, your child is unsuccessful in securing a place at an alternative school and there is evidence highlighting there are exceptional circumstances or vulnerabilities, your application will be referred to the Fair Access Panel for consideration.

Exceptional circumstances or vulnerabilities are detailed in the Fair Access Criteria below.

If your application is to be considered by under the Fair Access Protocol, you will be advised by the School Admissions Team. When an application meets the criteria for fair access consideration, a request for background information is sent to the existing/previous school.

The Fair Access Protocol does not apply to Looked After Children or children Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP), for whom separate admission arrangements apply.


The School Admissions Code sets out the Fair Access criteria as follows:

A) Children either subject to a Child In Need Plan or a Child Protection Plan or having had a Child in Need Plan or a Child Protection Plan within 12 months at the point of being referred to the Protocol. 
B)Children living in a refuge or in other Relevant Accommodation at the point of being referred.
C) Children from the criminal justice system. 
D) Children in alternative provision who need to be reintegrated into mainstream education or who have been permanently excluded but are deemed suitable for mainstream education.
E) Children with special educational needs (but without an EHCP), disabilities or medical conditions.
F) Children who are carers. 
G) Children who are homeless.
H) Children in formal kinship care arrangements. 
I) Children of, or who are, Gypsies, Roma, Travellers, refugees and asylum seekers. 
J) Children who have been refused a school place on the grounds of their challenging behaviour and referred to the Protocol in accordance with paragraph 3.10 of this Code. 
K) Children for whom a place has not been sought due to exceptional circumstances. 
L) Children who have been out of education for four or more weeks where it can be demonstrated that there are no places available at any school within a reasonable distance from their home.  This does not include circumstances where a suitable place has been offered to a child and this has not been accepted. 
M) Previously looked after children for whom the local authority has been unable to promptly secure a school place. 

What happens next

The Fair Access Panel will consider your application and review the information sought from your child’s previous/current school and, where appropriate, from you as the parent.

The Fair Access Panel will carefully review several factors, including:

  • Whether your child has access to a school place and is that place secure;
  • Relevant information about any additional support your child may require in school;
  • Information provided by the school you are requesting a place at, relating to pressures on staffing and resources within the year group;
  • The most appropriate education setting for your child, given their circumstances.

If your child is without a school place, the Panel will be required to identify a school placement for you. This could be an offer of a school place that is not one you submitted a preference for.

Regardless of any place secured by the Panel, you retain your right to appeal for a place at any school you have submitted an application for and been refused.

Where possible, your child should continue to attend their current school (if they are able to) until an alternative place has been secured.

If your child is without a school place and resides in Cambridgeshire, the Local Authority will ensure that appropriate education provision is in place, in the interim period until a school placement has been secured.

Upon a school place being secured, you will receive a formal offer letter confirming the offer of a place and, if appropriate, receive a refusal letter and right of appeal for any school that you have submitted a preference for and not received the offer of a place.

Contact us

If you have any queries or concerns, please contact:

Libby Walker, Admissions and Attendance Manager via email to