School Appeals are no doubt a major issue in the UK today, with many of our children not able to attend the school they should be entitled to go to.
For parents, if their child has not been offered a school of their choice or their first preference school; can go through a School Appeal. A School Appeal is always worth a try, even if the school states they are ‘full to capacity’. You will need to write to the Head Teacher of the school concerned, who will start the ball rolling.
Most of the time, a school will argue that they are completely full, and to allow entry to an additional pupil, will breach the education and resources of other children within the school. Onus is on the parents to disprove the ‘school’s argument.’
On initiation of a School Appeal, the school will send to you information regarding:
The Appeal will consist of a 3 Member Panel – 1 member in the education system, and 2 voluntary members. There will also be a Clerk to the Appeal who is present, only to take notes and to offer advice to the parents of any legal terminology presented in the documentation, which they may not understand.
The School Appeal should take place at a meeting room or hall which is ‘not’ connected with the school concerned, and the Clerk will write to you to notify you of the date, which should be no more than 40 days from your Appeal request. The Clerk will outline the Panel Members’ names and the 2 representatives of the school who are also to be present (normally this will be the Chair of Governors and the Head Teacher, or a member of the Admissions Team in the Local Authority and the Head Teacher).
The Appeal normally goes through a two stage process. The first stage is when the school presents ‘its case’ as to why they have not allowed the child entry. The Panel will then ask the school’s representatives questions, and the parents will then be asked whether they have any questions for the school.
Questions which the parents should ask will differ in each School Appeal however; a vast majority of cases regard the net capacity assessment or a breach of the School’s Admission Policy, ie. placing a child into the ‘wrong category, when they should have been placed in a higher category with reference to the Admission’s Criteria.
It has even been known for schools to ‘only’ allow entry to children of a particular faith, and the Admissions Policy has made no acceptance for children who are not part of that faith – this practice is illegal.
The Panel then go for a recess (without the parents and school representatives present), to determine if the school had carried out its Admissions Policy correctly.
If the Panel find that the Admissions Policy for the school was ‘not’ carried out correctly, the school will be found in breach, and the child will automatically be offered a place.
What will the Panel consider after Stage 1?
After stage 1 in which the school has presented it’s case; during recess the Panel consider:
Did the admission arrangements meet the requirements of the School Admissions Code?
If the school did not adhere to the Schools Admissions Code, they will be found in breach. The School’s Admissions Code is a Regulation which all schools acknowledge and should carry out within their Admissions Policy.
If for example, a School’s Admission Criteria only allowed for children of a particular faith to attend, this is against the law. Not only will the child be admitted into the school, the Admissions Policy will need to be changed in order to reflect the Schools Admissions Code.
Was the Admission Criteria correctly applied?
Was there a mistake with how the school utilised its Admissions Criteria – was the child placed into the wrong category? For example, the parent had supplied an address on the Application Form for where their child lives, however; the school in question had used an address further away to calculate catchment.
To win an Appeal on these grounds, it should be ‘evident’ to the Panel that the child would have been admitted, if the Admission’s Criteria was applied correctly. For example, if the address provided on the Application Form is not the same as that which the school had used to calculate catchment, then an Appeal on these grounds will only succeed if the address the school used was a further distance to that which the parent had stated in the Application Form. (If both addresses are the same distance, the Appeal will not be up-held at stage 1).
Was the decision not to offer a place ‘unreasonable’ in light of the admission arrangements?
An Appeal on these grounds will only succeed if it can be shown that a person of reasonable mind, given the facts of the Application and Admissions Criteria; would never have arrived at such as decision ‘not’ to admit the child (the decision not to admit is therefore extreme and outrageous).
For example, there are only 20 pupils in an infant class, with the room to admit a further 10 pupils, however; the child was not admitted.
What about Infant Class Size Appeals?
From 1998, Legislation limits infant class sizes (5, 6 and 7 year olds), to 30 pupils maximum per class. This is because in infant classes there needs to be 1 teacher and 1 teaching assistant to support no more than 30 children. Over this amount, and a further teacher or teaching assistant would need to be employed.
Although infant class size appeals are harder to win (on net capacity grounds) than secondary school appeals, if the school is found in breach of any of the grounds above at stage 1; the child will normally be admitted into the school.
If however, the school’s Admissions Policy was carried out correctly, then the Appeal will proceed to stage 2 of the hearing. The second stage is where the parents present their arguments.
“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”
Arguments you could use, yet not limited to the following, and MUST be backed up by evidence:
(You will usually need to find this information on the internet, or ask the school directly to supply you with this documentation, before appeal).
(eg. this is the closet school that the child is able to get to due to their disability, or this is the only school which accommodates SEN pupils well within the area).
As with any statement you make in your argument, you will be required to produce evidence to back this up. For example, if the child needs to be placed into the school because they are able to accommodate a child with a disability, then the GP’s evidence would be required to back this up.
If however; you are not able to back-up your statements, it is still worth referring your argument to the Panel.
After you present your case
The Panel will ask you if you have said all you wish to say for the School Appeal. They will then enter a recess by themselves to discuss in detail the arguments ‘for’ and ‘against’ the child’s entry into the school. They will weigh up your case against the school’s case, and whoever presents the stronger argument, they will fall in favour with.
During the recess stage you will not be present, and all parties (the school and the parents), will be requested to leave.
The Clerk will then notify you in writing of their decision within a course of 3 days.
How should the Panel conduct the hearing?
The Panel should remain independent from the school, and from the Local Authority concerned. However; if you are applying to a faith school, the panel can be part of the same Diocese, as long as they are based in a different location; eg. the Panel are from Portsmouth and the school is in Bournemouth, both within the Diocese of Portsmouth.
In order for a Panel to conduct an unbiased hearing they should:
What if the Panel breaches Its duties?
It has been known for Panels to breach their duties, (although very rare), and if the Panel have contravened any of the rules above, you are able to take the case to the Local Government Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman may in certain circumstances, order another School Appeal with a different Panel, but only if they find maladministration or misconduct however; they are not able to over-turn the original Panel’s decision – only the High Court is able to do this. Please be aware that although the Court route is possible, it usually requires in excess of £6,000 in costs to initiate such a claim.
If the Education Ombudsman offers a parent a fresh Appeal and the school concerned does not comply, the Ombudsman has the power to pursue the matter through the High Court, at extra no cost to you.