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Primary and secondary school admission offers: The appeal process and what you need to know should your child not be offered your school of preference

With offers for primary school admissions on 17 April, and with parents recently receiving secondary school offers, it's helpful to know the process should your child not be offered your school of preference. 

Appeal timelines should have been published for your choice of school and it may be helpful to consider these prior to your need for them. 

You must be allowed 20 school days from the decision to lodge your appeal and reasonable time to file any evidence you wish to rely upon.

In deciding the appeal, the panel will apply a two-stage process. The panel must consist of at least one lay person - someone without personal experience in the management of any school or provision of education in any school (except as a school governor or in another voluntary capacity) - and at least one person who has experience in education, who is acquainted with educational conditions in the local authority area, or who is a  parent of registered pupils at a school.

Stage one of the appeal

The panel must consider whether the admission arrangements complied with the law and whether they were correctly and impartially applied in the case in question.

The panel must then decide whether the admission of additional children would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources.

In the event that the answer to these questions are no the panel must admit the child. If the answer is yes they move to the second stage.

In multiple appeals where a number of children would have been offered a place if stage one had been applied correctly, and to admit that number would seriously prejudice the provision of efficient education or efficient use of resources, the panel must proceed to the second stage.

Stage two

The panel must balance the prejudice to the school against the benefit/reason for the child to be admitted to the school. It must take into account the reasons for the school preference, such as what that school can offer the child that the allocated or other schools cannot.

If the panel considers that the benefit to the child outweighs the prejudice to the school, it must agree the placement.

Whilst the panel must take into account the school’s published admission number, they must be able to demonstrate prejudice over and above the fact that the published admission number has already been reached.

Parents need to think carefully about reasons for an appeal

Parents should ensure that they have thought carefully about their reasons for appeal and gathered evidence to demonstrate why the appeal is being brought. Some factors to consider are as follows:

  • Religion or difficult family circumstances;
  • A special need or health issue;
  • A particular aptitude in the school’s specialism;
  • Transport issues; and
  • Emotional reasons such as historic bullying.

Key information relating to infant classes

Reception, year 1 and year 2 class size limits are limited to 30. Therefore, an appeal can only be successful if it doesn’t push the number of pupils in a class above 30.

Your appeal could, however, be successful if:

  • Giving your child a place would not increase the class size above the limit
  • The admission arrangements have not been properly followed
  • The admission criteria do not follow the school admissions code

Further advice is available

School admissions can be very competitive but parents have a right to tell their local authority which school they would prefer their child to go to.

 The local authority must consider parents' preferences and follow the School Admissions Code during the admissions process, but don't have to give any reason for their decision when they do reach a verdict. 

If you feel that your preferences have been unfairly dismissed, you can appeal the decision with the local authority, the Independent Admissions Appeal Panel or even judicial review.

In our experience, parents often have a clear preference for various reasons but it's important to focus on the thresholds above and what the panel are looking for in order to demonstrate your appeal. 

We're often contacted to assist in drafting submissions to the appeal panel in order that families have the best chance at articulating why the place is needed.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting families with concerns about decisions affecting their child's education at our dedicated education law section.