Applying for a place under the exceptional and compelling category

How to request priority for a place at your preferred school.

About the exceptional and compelling category

Many, but not all, admission authorities have criteria which give priority to applicants if there is a strong medical case or exceptional need for the child to attend the school named first on their application.

All schools can manage a child’s special educational needs, such as Asperger's Syndrome or dyslexia. All schools can also accommodate common childhood complaints such as asthma and allergies.

The exceptional and compelling criteria does not cover issues such as difficulties with childcare arrangements. It also does not cover the child’s ability or school performance.

It is rare for a case to meet the exceptional and compelling criteria.

If your application does not meet the exceptional and compelling criteria, we will consider it against the remaining over-subscription criteria.

Making an application

Discuss the child’s needs before making the application

  • To apply to a school where West Sussex County Council (WSCC) are the admissions authority, contact our Pupil Admissions team. We hold all correspondence in the strictest confidence. Our team can advise if your circumstances are likely to meet the criteria.
  • To apply on exceptional and compelling grounds to church voluntary aided schools, foundation schools and academies, and schools in other local authority areas, you should contact the school to discuss:
    • the child’s needs
    • the school’s over-subscription criteria
    • whether the exceptional and compelling criteria are applicable in your case.

Submit your application

If, after discussing the child’s needs, you will be submitting an application under the exceptional and compelling category you must:

Be aware that:

  • we strongly recommend naming three preferences on your application – doing so will not negatively affect the application for your first preference
  • if you apply using the exceptional and compelling category for second or third preference schools, Pupil Admissions will amend your application and consider it against the remaining over-subscription criteria.

Supplying supporting evidence

Supporting evidence must come from a qualified professional (for example, a medical consultant or psychologist). It must explain clearly why it is essential for the child to attend the school named as the first preference and fully detail the child’s needs. It must also specify why only the preferred school is able to meet those needs.

Letters from parents alone are not sufficient, nor are letters that do not address the question of which school the child must attend. Letters from teachers at the child’s current school will not normally be considered.

The Pupil Admissions team will not contact third parties to obtain information. It is your responsibility to send evidence.

You must:

  • ensure the Pupil Admissions team receive the correct supporting evidence by the relevant deadline
  • send information by email where possible
  • use recorded delivery if you must post correspondence so that Royal Mail can confirm delivery for you
  • not send original documents as we cannot return them
  • ensure that you have received an acknowledgement of safe receipt of your correspondence from Pupil Admissions.

The admissions team will only consider applications and evidence received after the deadline in exceptional circumstances.

What happens next

Where WSCC are the admissions authority, a panel of Senior Officers consider the supporting evidence and make a decision.

Last updated:
24 October 2023
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