PARENTS with children moving up to high school will either be feeling relieved - or frustrated - today.

Secondary school places have now been allocated for all pupils across the region.

While most will be happy with their offers, others will be left bitterly disappointed.

National Offer Day: First choice places up year on year

So where does it leave those who have not been successful in getting the place they had hoped for on on National Offer Day?

Imogen Jolley , a specialist education solicitor from Simpson Millar, said: "First of all don't panic.

“There are still six months before your child starts school and a lot of things can change in that time. There will be movement on pupils and their places between schools.”

Below Imogen gives her handy advice on what to do if today hasn’t gone as planned for your child.

Why did my child miss out on their preferred place?

Imogen says contrary to popular belief Local Authorities DO NOT 'have to' give you a place in a school you applied for. Also putting a school as your first preference doesn't make it more likely that the school will offer you a place.

She said: "There are only a limited number of places and many popular schools are oversubscribed with too many parents wanting to send their children there.”

“If this is the case the local council or school then offers places according to a set of guidelines and rules.”

“These rules are known as oversubscription criteria which vary between schools but can include priority for siblings, compelling medical or social reasons to attend a specific school or how close you live to the school.”

Can my child get on a waiting list for their preferred school(s)?

Any child who doesn't get a place at a school they applied to can be added to a waiting list. Sometimes a place will become available any time after National Offer Day to early September and sometimes beyond, for example if a parent decides not to accept their child’s allocated place or if children move schools

The waiting list is ranked on the basis of where the child comes on the oversubscription criteria and not on a first come first serve basis.

What if I am still not happy?

Ms Jolley said: “There is an appeal process if you are unhappy with the outcome of your application.

“If you are offered a place at a school and it is not one you want always accept a place as the system allows you to change your mind on this later. Having a place is normally better than having none at all.”

How do I begin an appeal?

In your notification, telling you the school your child has been allocated, you should also be provided with information on how to appeal, so make sure you read this carefully as this could differ between schools.

Ms Jolley said: “The first thing I would say is that parents need to try and rule out whether or not the admission arrangements are unlawful or whether they have been wrongly applied to their child's case, because it may be possible to get their child a place through an appeal on that basis alone."

She adds that if that is not enough and it moves to the next stage in the appeal, “the panel is going to consider the prejudice to the child and balance that against the prejudice to the school.”

Traps for parents to avoid.

“Parents sometimes can fall down with their appeals by focusing, for example, on Ofsted ratings, how well the school is regarded in the local community or whether it's their closest school.

"Unfortunately those kind of arguments are not enough for a parent to be successful in an appeal.” adds Ms Jolley.

How can I make my case stronger for appeal?

Ms Jolley said: "What parents really need to be doing is looking at unique arguments for that specific school as to how that child, or the family is going to suffer in some way, if that child doesn't get a place at that particular school.

“But they also need to look at arguments to show that the school isn't going to suffer by being oversubscribed- and I think quite often, parents don't realise they need to argue both sides. For example the school might argue that they have limited resources - they will want to make sure that those resources aren't going to be stretched to a point that is not reasonable.

“They also often state that they do not have the physical capacity to admit another pupil and that they need to be able to ensure that every child admitted has a workspace, and they need to make sure they can provide the same level of education still, that isn't compromised by admitting too many pupils.

“It might be that a parent’s case alone for prejudice to their child may not be really strong, but as long as they can show that their case has more merit than the school's case, then when the appeal panel are carrying out the “balancing test”, hopefully the appeal will then be found in their favour.”

And if you are still not sure then seek legal advice and let a professional help guide you through the process and advise you on how you can potentially strengthen your appeal.

For more advice and tips for concerned parents download a free guide