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Reception class placements: How to appeal

The deadline of Monday 15 January 2024 to apply for reception places for children starting school has recently passed. Parents and carers were required to apply for a place for their child to commence reception class after their 4th birthday, with the option to name up to three schools.

Awaiting the outcome as to which placement your child has been allocated can be a source of anxiety for parents and carers. What actions can be taken in the event you are not allocated your first choice or indeed a choice you are happy with? 

Letters informing parents and carers which school their child has been allocated will be sent out on Tuesday 16 April 2024. If your child does not receive a place at one of your preferred schools, you may ask for them to be placed on a waiting list. You can add their name even if they have been offered a place at another school.

Special Considerations

At this juncture, it should be clarified that children with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) must be given a place in the setting named in section I of their plan if the named setting is a maintained school or academy. This is specified in section 43 of the Children and Families Act 2014. This duty does not apply to independent schools. Furthermore, all state schools must prioritise the placement of children in care, looked after children or children who have previously been in care or have been looked after children. 

Admissions Criteria

All schools must have admission criteria, and this can be found on a school’s website. A school’s admission criteria must be in accordance with the School’s Admissions Code 2021. The following factors may be considered:

  • Catchment area
  • Siblings already at the school
  • Faith orientation
  • A parent who has worked at that school for two years or more. 
  •  Children eligible for pupil premium or service pupil premium may also be prioritised.

If you believe a particular school’s admission criteria are unfair, the School's Adjudicator can be contacted. 

Infant Class Sizes

To be successful at appeal you must have compelling grounds with strong supporting evidence. It is important to bear in mind that infant class numbers (reception and KS1) are capped at 30 children per teacher. This is to provide a safe environment for young children to learn and develop. The early years are a critical stage in a child’s education and lower-class numbers enable children to flourish. Therefore, a school cannot automatically admit beyond its published number. 

The Appeals Process

The admissions authority will give you at least twenty days to appeal from the admissions authority sending the letter in April. The admissions authority will provide you with a deadline to submit information and evidence in support of your appeal. The grounds upon which an appeal can be made are relatively narrow.  If the school’s admissions code was not properly adhered to, then your appeal could be successful. However, this is very rare. Alternatively, your appeal may be successful if offering a place will not exceed the infant class size limit.

The hearing will be in front a panel of at least three people. The hearing must follow the Schools Admissions Appeals Code 2022. You will have the opportunity to present your case as to why your child should be admitted. 

You will be given 10 days' notice of the hearing. The hearing must be within 40 school days of the deadline for making an appeal.

How Irwin Mitchell can help

Our highly experienced education team can provide advice, support and representation in all aspects of education law, at any stage of a dispute. We can advise you on bringing a challenge where your child has been denied a place. Seeking legal advice and support will give you the best possible chance of success in your appeal. We can scrutinise admissions criteria, advise on the merits of bringing an appeal and therefore the likelihood of an appeal’s success. We can advise on evidence and information to provide in support of your appeal and meeting specified deadlines. Education Law Solicitors | Irwin Mitchell

We also have a family law team who deal with disputes between parents if they cannot agree on the school setting for their child. Our solicitor, Jennifer Pollock, wrote recently about what can be done if separated parents don't agree on a schools place.