Expert Education Law advice courtesy of the dedicated team of nationally respected specialist lawyers at HCB.
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 a right to express a preference as to 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?
Every Local Authority is required to fulfil your school preference for your child, unless doing so would affect the education of the other children. The Local Authority should establish whether such a prejudice exists, but, in most cases, they simply follow the general procedure – without taking individual cases into consideration.
Instead, they will look at the allowed admission number for a school’s classes (PAN, or ‘Published Admissions Number’) and will have to implement an oversubscription criteria if it exceeds the amount of places available. This will dictate the order in which places are allocated. Class sizes are often restricted to 30 pupils in Reception, and years 1 and 2, so your application can be declined if all classes at a school already have 30 children.
If there are medical or social reasons your child needs to attend a particular school, for instance, if your child has special needs that can only be met by a certain school, you will need your application to be considered on an individual basis. If this is the case, you should take advice from specialist school admission appeal solicitors to determine the process.
You can decide to appeal if you are not satisfied with your child’s allocated school, though there will be a deadline. If you are applying for a place in years 1 or 2, you can also appeal if you believe your child would have gotten a place, were the classes not already over-subscribed.
How successful are school admission appeals?
If you can prove the decision to refuse your child a place at a particular school was unreasonable, or that the admissions criteria was not fully followed (according to the School Admissions Appeal Code), you have a good chance of a successful appeal. However, infant class size appeals can be a lot more difficult to win as the criteria for success is a lot narrower.
Your chances of winning an appeal will usually be improved if you appoint a specialised school admission appeals solicitor. They can check whether your application was dealt with correctly, and will do whatever they can to prove the Admission Authority’s decision didn’t follow the required criteria.
How long do school admission appeals take?
For primary schools, you will find out which school your child has been allocated on the 16th April, and 1st March for secondary schools. This only allows for 4 or 5 months to settle an appeal, so it is important to lodge it as soon as you can.
The Admission Authority, the school, or your Local Authority are required to provide you with a minimum of 10 working days’ notice to confirm an appeals hearing date. Following that, appeals must be heard within 40 days of the appeal deadline.
Once you have been before the Appeals Panel, they will send you a decision within 5 working days. If in this time you think there has been a change to your circumstances that may affect the original outcome, you may be eligible to put forward another appeal – but this will extend the time required.
What is the process of making a school admission appeal?
In order to make an appeal, you will need to start by appealing to the Independent Appeal Panel – comprising of 3 independent people.
The Admission Authority will set out why your application was declined, and then you will be able to present your reasoning in response. The Appeals Panel will then have the task of deciding whether the admission criteria was followed correctly, and was in accordance with the School Admissions Appeals Code. Your appeal must be upheld if they were not, and if it is not upheld the panel will then need to determine whether the reasons your child should be admitted outweigh the reasons they were declined.
Your appeal will most likely fail if the panel finds that the admission of another child will prejudice the efficiency of education for other children. However, if the Panel decides the admission would not be damaging to other pupils, you can rely on mitigating circumstances to help advance your argument.
It is essential to collate all supporting information for your appeal. For example if you are claiming medical reasons, a doctor’s note expressly stating that the school in question is the only one that will serve your child’s needs should be submitted.
The panel’s decision will be sent to you within 5 days of the appeal and can only be overturned by the Court if there has been a breach in the legal procedures. You can make a complaint about the appeals process, just not the final decision itself. For schools maintained by a Local Authority, you will need to make your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. For other schools, you should complain to the Education Funding Agency.
How can HCB provide help with school admissions appeal procedure?
When it comes to school admission appeals, success can often rely on whether or not you are able to prove the admission criteria was not followed, was not appropriate, or the refusal was unreasonable. Even in notoriously difficult infant class size appeals, HCB Solicitors have an exceptional track record for success, thanks to their extensive experience and ability to demonstrate flaws in the system.
Our specialist admission appeals solicitors are able to represent you at hearings, in addition to following up any undesired outcomes with the correct complaints procedures. If you require expert advice on the school admissions process, contact one of our dedicated team today.