Pupil admissions and appeal

Julkaisupäivä 16.5.2024 11.00 Blogit

The Regional State Administrative Agency acts as the authority processing claims for rectification in certain matters concerning the provision of education for pupils and students. The procedure of claiming for rectification is meant for investigating the legality of an administrative decision. In other words, it is a procedure of legal protection that ensures that decision-making related to the performance of public administrative tasks is carried out in accordance with the law. The provision of teaching is a public administrative task, which is mainly the responsibility of municipalities. The majority of the claims for rectification concern decisions made by the officials of municipalities or joint municipal authorities in matters concerning individual pupils and students. The Regional State Administrative Agency is as competent to investigate claims for rectification concerning decisions made by private schools and educational institutions as decisions made by state-owned schools.

The claims for rectification processed by the Regional State Administrative Agency concern various issues related to the provision of teaching for pupils and students. The legislation on education grants the Regional State Administrative Agency the power to investigate decisions concerning matters such as the provision of support for pupils and students and, in the case of general upper secondary and vocational education and training, decisions related to the duration of studies. However, most of the claims for rectification concern decisions made on pupil and student admissions, especially in pre-primary and basic education.

Determination of a child's school in pre-primary and basic education

Municipalities are responsible for providing pre-primary and basic education. To fulfil this obligation, each municipality must assign a school to children of pre-primary and basic education age who live in their respective areas by following the neighbourhood school principle. The assigned place for pre-primary education can be in early childhood education and care instead of a school; this meaning will be included when school is mentioned in further on.

Decision-making concerning the neighbourhood school must include an assessment of the safety and distance of the child’s school trip, taking into account the location of home and school and transport connections. The premise is that the municipality assigns a neighbourhood school that is as nearby as possible and can be reached as safely as possible. However, consideration in the decision-making must be given to the children's school trips as a whole, taking into account the limited number of places for pupils in schools. The municipality does not need to assign any individual child the neighbourhood school that is geographically closest and within the safest route. The municipality has the power to decide on the child's neighbourhood school, and there is no obligation to comply with a guardian's request for their child's school placement. The Basic Education Act also does not provide that, when assigning a neighbourhood school, the municipality should take into account the child's friendships or where their older siblings go to school, or other matters related to the child's life or the family's daily life.

When investigating the legality of a decision on a child's assigned neighbourhood school, the investigation is primarily focused on whether the municipality has complied with the neighbourhood school principle laid down in section 6 of the Basic Education Act. Municipalities may steer decision-making concerning neighbourhood schools by sectioning areas between schools and with other pupil admission criteria whose equal application is also assessed when the decision on a claim for rectification is made. In decision-making, the municipality must follow the principle of non-discrimination laid down in section 6 of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires equal treatment of children when assigning neighbourhood schools. The requirement of equal treatment does not mean that completely identical treatment should be guaranteed in decision-making. The location of children's homes alone and also the limited number places for pupils in schools are limiting factors. Municipalities are also obligated under section 30 of the Basic Education Act to ensure that teaching groups of a reasonable size can be formed in all schools, which helps to ensure that children have good prerequisites for learning and school attendance.

The above-mentioned provisions give municipalities a great amount of discretion when assigning a neighbourhood school. Especially in densely built areas with an equally dense network of schools, there may be many lawful solutions for a child's neighbourhood school. The number of children also varies annually in different areas, which may mean that not all children in a family are assigned the same neighbourhood school. Doing so is not contrary to equal treatment because equality is only assessed between the children who are being assigned a place in school at any given time.

Secondary pupil admission

In pre-primary and basic education, secondary pupil admission is also an option. Section 28(2) of the Basic Education Act gives children the option to apply for a place at any school other than the neighbourhood school assigned to them. A child is entitled to a secondary place of schooling if there is room in the school after the primary pupil admission (assignment of neighbourhood schools). To ensure equal treatment of applicants, the education provider (municipality, state or private) must decide before pupil admissions on the maximum number of pupils that can be admitted to each teaching group and on what grounds the applicants are prioritised if there are not enough places for all applicants. The municipality can give priority to applicants residing in the municipality.

The Basic Education Act and the related legislative drafting documents clearly state that the priority in pre-primary and basic education is that the principle of neighbourhood schools is ensured. Municipalities can thus only set the maximum number of pupils for secondary pupil admission to ensure that any children moving to a nearby area can be admitted to school during the school year. In other words, a municipality can exceed the maximum number of pupils in primary pupil admissions and, at its discretion, assign a school as a neighbourhood school to a child who moves nearby.

Another case of secondary pupil admission is when there is special emphasis on one or more subjects. Examples of this include the focus on sports or music, or when teaching is arranged in English. In such cases, pupil admission may be based on an aptitude test for the relevant education. Applicants must be treated equally in the aptitude tests and related scoring, and pupils must be admitted in the order of their score. The education provider may set a minimum number of points for admission.


Statistics show that most claims for rectification concerning decisions on pupil admission in pre-primary and basic education are rejected. The rejection of a request means that the decision is considered lawful, in which case there is no justification for revoking the decision and returning the matter to the education provider for re-examination. Especially decisions on neighbourhood schools are rarely found to be unlawful because municipalities have fairly large discretionary power within the limits of the neighbourhood school principle. In secondary pupil admission, a decision might be unlawful if a child has not been admitted to a school even though there is space or if admission criteria have not been applied to applicants equally. However, most decisions on secondary places of schooling are in accordance with the law.

Claims for rectification concerning education provided in Finnish are processed by Regional State Administrative Agencies according to their geographical scope. In other words, the competent Regional State Administrative Agency is determined based on where the school or educational institution that made the decision is located. All claims for rectification concerning education in Swedish are processed by the Swedish-speaking education and culture unit at the Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland, which has national competence in the matter (excluding the province of Åland).

Leading Legal Counsel Kreeta Pölönen, Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland, Division of Education and Culture

opetus suomi