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Webchat about primary-school admission appeals with solicitor Anita Chopra, TODAY, Friday 19 April, 1pm

(89 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 16-Apr-13 13:25:08

We've invited Anita Chopra to join us this week for a webchat to answer questions on primary school admissions. Parents across the country will be receiving letters and emails this week with the all important news of whether or not their child has been allocated a place at their chosen primary school. If you haven't received the news you'd hoped for then Anita Chopra, a partner at Match Solicitors, a specialist education law practice, is happy to answer questions about the next steps and what can be done in these circumstances.

Anita is ranked as one of the top experts in the UK on primary school admission appeals, and is an expert in the areas of exclusions, admissions, and special educational needs and disability, acting on behalf of the parents and the children.

Anita regularly contributes to various publications including the Solicitors Journal and provides training on exclusions and admissions to Panel Members, Governing Bodies and Headteachers of Schools and Academies. In addition to this work, she is a member of the Advisory Panel for the Advocacy for Education Service as part of the National Autistic Society and ELAS (Education Law Association), and is highly involved in raising awareness of special educational needs in the UK. She was also shortlisted for Woman of the Year at the Asian Business Awards 2008.

Join Anita at 1pm on Friday 19 April or post a question in advance on this thread.

AnitaChopra Fri 19-Apr-13 14:08:45


Hi Anita,
On what grounds can we appeal if we have not been allocated a place at any school? Not detailed in the letter but presumably all distance related.

Hi Reea,

It is important that you obtain reasons for the refusal at the particular school(s) you wish to appeal for. It is incumbent upon local authorities and/or the school, depending on the type, to provide reasons so that you can prepare your grounds of appeal.

It is advisable to ask as many questions in advance so that you are fully prepared, these can range from asking about previous published admission numbers, how many appeals are being heard, and request clarity about the decision made.

AnitaChopra Fri 19-Apr-13 14:14:27

Thanks very much for all of your questions over the last week. I do hope you have found my advice helpful, and I wish all parents who are appealing the very best of luck.

For more information and top tips, we are always available to help on our website at or on the Facebook page at

Best wishes,


GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 19-Apr-13 14:15:14

And thanks to Anita for answering so many questions. smile

MNBlackpoolandFylde Fri 19-Apr-13 15:04:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Fri 19-Apr-13 15:19:16

I understand that the six month rule comes from Catholic canon law. Not all Catholic schools insist on it.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Fri 19-Apr-13 15:19:17

Thank you Anita. I have contacted your offices and received some very helpful information.

DocKitten Fri 19-Apr-13 20:20:59

Hi there, we have just got the acceptance letters for our DD primary school and didn't get any of the choices we wanted and are really not happy with the school that we have been given, it is across the other side of town and I wont be able to get her there then to work on time. My husband is in the Navy and away a lot of the time and most of her nursery friends are going to the Primary sch that we put as our first choice and we are in catchment for. What can we do as I am now thinking of possibly seeing if there is anyway we would be able to put her through private school as the one we have been given is so bad. I'm scared my DD will be bullied at the school as well

PanelChair Fri 19-Apr-13 23:39:06

DocKitten - You could begin by checking where you are on the waiting lists for the schools you applied for. You can also double-check that your application was dealt with properly - ask the LEA to confirm the distance between your home and each school and the distance at which the last place was offered. If there has been any mistake - for example you live nearer than other people who have been given places on the basis of distance, say - you ought to be given a place.

Usually, staying with friends from nursery or convenience of parents' journey to work don't play any part in school admissions and won't win you an appeal. So far, so discouraging. But there is one more thing here. You mention your husband is in the Navy. The School Admissions Code 2012 says

2.18 Children of UK service personnel (UK Armed Forces) - For families of service personnel with a confirmed posting to their area, or crown servants returning from overseas to live in that area, admission authorities must:

a) allocate a place in advance of the family arriving in the area provided the application is accompanied by an official letter that declares a relocation date and a Unit postal address or quartering area address when considering the application against their oversubscription criteria. This must include accepting a Unit postal address or quartering area address for a service child. Admission authorities must not refuse a service child a place because the family does not currently live in the area, or reserve blocks of places for these children;

b) ensure that arrangements in their area support the Government’s commitment to removing disadvantage for service children. Arrangements must be appropriate for the area and be described in the local authority’s composite prospectus.

Paragraph (a) seems to be about families being posted into the area and ensuring that if they haven't yet got a confirmed address in the area they don't end up with places in all the worst schools, but paragraph (b) seems to apply for all Service families. It's very vague about what the LEA actually has to do to "support ... Service children" but if you were to appeal for school places I think you could make an argument that, for your child, staying with her friends and having an easy journey to school (say) would be part of removing that disadvantage. I don't know what a panel would make of that - especially if it was an infant class size appeal - but it might be worth a shot.

Are you in a Naval town/area? What did the LEA's school prospectus say it would do for Service children?

kaem10 Sat 20-Apr-13 17:49:15

A friend asked me to write a letter to support her appeal as her child was refused their 1st school choice. My older daughter already attends this school and she is one of minority ethnic children in the school. She entered the school as an EAL child and she is doing tremendously well. Her child is also from a minority ethnic and he also has English as an additional language and she would like me write a letter on the ethnicity and EAL grounds. Is-it a realistic ground for an appeal knowing that the school is not in our catchment area?

tiggytape Sat 20-Apr-13 17:55:38

No kaem - especially not if the school have 30 children per class.
EAL is not classed as a SEN but even if it were, appeal panels must treat all schools as being equally capable of meeting the needs of all children.

The exception would be children with additional needs where the school has specialist provision eg a unit for hearing impaired children that a child with hearing problems would benefit from attending.

If she would appreciate a letter from you and you want to support her then that is fine but I don't think it would be allowed to carry much weight at appeal. If you do write it, do so from the point of view of language help not ethnicity. This has no place in school admissions at all.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Sat 20-Apr-13 17:59:44

Is it a primary school? Are there 30 children in each class? Ethnic background and having EAL are not likely to be the basis of winnable appeal in an infant class size appeal (and probably not in any other appeal) because the LEA will say - and, really, one would hope this was the case - that all schools should be able to meet the needs of a child with EAL and of children from whatever ethnic background.

andreasscalia Sat 20-Apr-13 19:39:56

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

busymummy79 Wed 05-Jun-13 21:57:33

Hi I just saw your comment re applying on medical grounds, and would very much appreciate if you could give me any advice? I applied on medical grounds for my daughter to go to a school, 1.5miles away, out of catchement, applied with letters from 4 health professionals, but rejected as they didn't make a clear enough case. We are now appealing and my hearing is next week.

I don't think their admissions criteria were clear enough, but not sure how to argue this well?

If you are able to help, I can email my hearing notes?

Many Thanks

asperanza Sun 15-Sep-13 10:23:57

Hi everyone.
You all seem to have a great experience and I'm a major school mess in Haringey London.

I movend in the country from Italy just over one and half month ago more or less. I have two children. One is supposed to start year 2 this year and the other one is due to start reception next year and was just offered a place in a local nursery school.

The council processed the application for in year admission of my older child with huge delay (I applied as soon as I had a signed lease in July, before the term ended) and in spite of several phone calls to the council and several emails to understand the situation, they just refused to give any advice. Moreover, they tried several times to hijack the application to another council, since the closest school is actually located in another Borough (Barnet). I have several schools within 0.5 miles in Haringey and three schools within 1 mile in barnet and applied to them all. The closest school in Haringey is 0.3 miles way and the closest in Barnet is 0.1 miles away. Ovrall, between Haringey and Barnet, there are 12 primary schools within 1 mile. I applied to 8 of them.

After major argument on Friday (two weeks after beginning of school) over the phone, at the end of which, council offer said we had to wait for two more weeks, since they didn't know whether there were any places at all, same day a letter was sent with an offer for a school which is 3.4 miles in straight line.

Now I am supposed to take my older child along 6 miles route and three buses, all the way down to the extreme south of the Borough (I live at the far north end) and get my younger one, who is just three years old and cannot possibly travel that long, in a local nursery to which she was accepted and where they have primary school as well (it's the closest school located at 0.1 mile in Barnet)

As far as I understand it, the fair access protocol binds the council to find quickly a solution for overseas students who just moved to the country and they didn't do that. This would allow to think that a sort non-codified priority has to be given to pupils who are not yet registered in any UK school against the pupils who would just like to change school within the Borough.

Furthermore, the school admissions code mentions the fact that if the council doesn't have a school place at a reasonable distance, in case of an overseas student who just moved in the country applying for it, schools are allowed to go over the maximum class size of 30 pupils.

However the Councils are refusing a place in all the schools I applied for, based on oversubscription. They mentioned my child was put in waiting list with all the others, and refused to give the position.

If that's not enough, as my child doesn't speak english, she will need special education and care, possibly after school and we cannot support that, if she's at a school so far from where we live and so far from where her sister goes. Morevoer, the two closest schools are well equipped for that as one is specialized in language problems, and the other one has an Italian speaking teacher on the role.

Just to point things up, I have to say that all our neighbours, with whom my children are getting along and are the only friends they have in the country, go to the local schools to which I applied for.

Please. Do you think I have a case for appeal?

I'm going to contact legal advisors on that, but I have the impression that
-negligence over application
-evident lying by council officers about process state, situation and incoherent information given in writing that were denied by the schools directly (last friday they even denied the email I received with non-sens information over waiting list was sent by a member of admission staff and it was signed!!!!)
-overlook of basic rules (distance, overseas, language problems etc.)
-huge delays in arranging school place
-inclusion of my child in standard round applications, as if she just wanted to transfer school because, for some reasons, we are not happy with the one we have
-lack of a reasonable distance criterion on the offer made

could make a case.
Any advice is very welcome, as I'm in major distress

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