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The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 governs school admission appeals. Procedures vary according to different codes of practice in England and Wales, but generally the process is the same.
As a parent, you have an absolute right to choose where your child attends school, unless they have been excluded twice or are required to follow the special needs procedure.
In what circumstances can I appeal a school admission decision?
Your Local Authority is required to comply with your preference as a parent, unless doing so would prejudice the efficiency of the education of other children. It is down to the Local Authority to establish whether such prejudice exists, however in many cases they simply follow general procedure, without looking at individual cases. Instead they simply look at the allowed admission number for the class (the ‘Published Admissions Number’ or PAN), and if it exceeds the places available, they automatically apply oversubscription criteria, which dictates the order in which places are allocated.
If there are medical or social reasons for your child to attend a particular school, for example you need them close to home or work in case there is an emergency; or your child has special needs that can only be met by a particular school, then you will clearly want your application to be considered on individual merits and you may need to take advice on school admissions appeal procedures from specialist school admission appeals solicitors.
In Reception, Years 1 and 2, class sizes are limited to 30 and your application to a school can be declined if all the classes already have 30 children.
In any case, if you are not satisfied with the allocated school (which will be notified to you in a letter), then you can appeal against the decision, and the letter will advise you how to do this, and by what deadline. If you are applying for a place in Year 1 or Year 2 then you can appeal if your child would have been offered a place if the classes were not over-subscribed.
What is the process of making a school admission appeal?
If you are wondering how to appeal school admission decisions, it all starts with an appeal to the Independent Appeal Panel which will comprise three independent people.
The Admission Authority will set out why your application was declined and you will have the opportunity to present your own reasons as to why your child should be admitted.
The Appeals Panel has the task of deciding whether the school’s admission criteria were correctly followed and are legal in accordance with the School Admissions Appeals Code. If they were not, then your appeal must be upheld. If your appeal is not upheld, then the panel will need to ascertain whether the reasons for your child to be admitted outweigh the reasons the school has put forward for not admitting another child.
Your first argument in this case will be that the admission of an additional child will not prejudice the efficient education of other children. If the panel finds that it will, then your appeal will fail. However, if the Panel does not decide that the admission would be prejudicial to others, then you can rely on extenuating factors which would help advancing an argument that the child will be prejudiced ‘more than any prejudice caused to the other pupils’ if not admitted to the school. School admission appeals solicitors will tell you that at this point, everything becomes a balancing act.
Whilst parents will generally be capable of pursuing this second stage, it is important to know exactly what to write in a school admission appeal and to carefully look at whether prejudice really does exist. There may be a hearing, and expert representation will usually make all the difference.
It is vital to ensure any supporting information is included with a school admissions appeal, so for example if medical issues are being claimed then a doctor’s letter should be submitted expressly stating that the school you are aiming for is the only one that will serve your child’s individual needs.
The decision of the panel will be sent to you within five days and can only be overturned by a Court if there has been a breach of legal procedure. You can complain about the appeals process, but you are not permitted to complain about the actual decision. For Local Authority maintained schools, you should complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. For other schools, you should take your complaint to the Education Funding Agency.
How successful are school admission appeals?
If you can prove that the admission criteria were not followed according to the School Admissions Appeal Code, or that the decision to refuse your child a place was unreasonable then you will have a good chance of a successful appeal.
Infant class size appeals can be very difficult to win however, as unlike regular ‘prejudice’ appeals the criteria for success is substantially narrower.
Your chances of success in winning a school admission appeal will usually be enhanced if you engage the expert assistance of school admission appeals solicitors. They will check your application has been dealt with correctly and will do everything they can to prove where applicable that the Admission Authority’s decision did not follow the required admission criteria.
How long do school admission appeals take?
The Admission Authority (the school or your Local Authority) must provide you with you with a minimum of 10 school days' notice before the appeals hearing to confirm the date. Appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the appeal deadline.
After you have been before the Appeals Panel, they will send you a decision within 5 school days. If you think there has been a change in your circumstances that could affect the original decision then you may be able to put another appeal forward, which will obviously extend the time required.
You will find out which school your child has been allocated to on 16th April for primary schools, and 1st March for secondary schools. Obviously this will only give you four to five months to settle any appeal, so it is important to lodge it as soon as possible.
How can HCB provide help with school admissions appeal procedure?
In school admission appeals, success often rests with being able to prove whether admission criteria were not legally appropriate or followed or that the refusal was unreasonable. Even in infant class size appeals which can be notoriously difficult to win, HCB Solicitors have an exceptional track record of success, thanks to their extensive experience and ability to effectively demonstrate flaws in the system.
Our specialist school admission appeals solicitors will be able to represent you at any necessary hearings, and follow up any undesired outcomes with the correct complaints procedure.
For tailored, expert advice on school admissions appeal procedure, you are welcome to contact our dedicated specialists today.