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School admissions and appeals - some general advice and tips

(94 Posts)
Panelmember Tue 26-Apr-11 18:20:01

In case this helps anyone, here are some tips and suggestions for anyone not happy with their offer of a school place and/or contemplating an appeal. This isn?t an exhaustive list and I?m sure other posters will be along with other points:

1. Check why you were refused a place at your preferred school(s) ? the letter/email from the LEA should provide some explanation.

2. Check that there are no obvious mistakes in the decision: was your child placed in the right admissions category? was the distance between your home and the school(s) measured correctly and so on?

3. If you have been allocated a school that was not named on your application form or is outside your catchment area this is not in itself a mistake. Where a child does not get a place at any of the schools listed on their application form, they will be allocated a place at the nearest school with a vacancy.

4. You can join as many waiting lists as you like. Stories are rife on MN at the moment of LEAs restricting people to a certain number of waiting lists or to the waiting lists of the schools they originally applied for. If they do this, they are in the wrong and you must insist on your rights. If all else fails, refer the matter to the Schools Adjudicator and ask them to intervene quickly.

5. The LEA should be able to tell you (if not today then very soon) which local schools (if any) still have places.

6. If you decline the place you?ve been offered, any other school the LEA offers is likely to be further away (although most LEAs will not make any further offer unless you specifically ask for it). If you decline the place you?ve been offered, this will NOT, though, give you any higher priority for another school or increase your chances of winning any appeal.

7. You can appeal for any of the schools you applied for ? or any others ? but if this is an infant class size appeal (ie where the school admits in classes of 30) you will win only if you can show that there was an error which deprived your child of a place or the decision to refuse a place was so unreasonable that it should be overturned. Only a very small minority of infant class size appeals therefore succeed.

Useful sources of information and advice are the school admissions code and admissions appeal code (available on the Dept for Education website) and the Advisory Centre for Education. There are several people on MN with experience of admission appeals who will help as best they can with individual queries.

wanderingfree Wed 27-Apr-11 11:55:06

Hi Panelmember - your information has been very helpful to me and I'm sure others. Can I just ask you about your point 7?

I am about to go through an appeal as we are moving cities to the city where I am from and we are going to move to the catchment area for 1 of 2 secondary schools. I went to one of the schools and was very happy and the other school seems equally good. My parents still live in the area so it's a move for personal/family reasons. However we have 2DSs - 10 and 6yrs so in Yr 1 and Yr5 - the infant and juniors schools in the entire area are full for these years. So on the advice of the LEA, I am applying for our preferred 3 schools (despite them being full), the LEA will then write to me to tell me they're full and I then submit an appeal. Fine. Except the LEA person told me that during the appeal hearing I had to demonstrate that the disadvantage for my child of NOT getting into one of our preferred schools was greater than the disadvantage for the current children of having one extra in class. This is quite a different case to build from your outline in Point 7. I'm wondering if it's different because we are transferring at Yr1 and Yr 5 or whether I'm being given unsound advice?

easycomeeasygo Wed 27-Apr-11 11:59:47

4. You can join as many waiting lists as you like. Stories are rife on MN at the moment of LEAs restricting people to a certain number of waiting lists or to the waiting lists of the schools they originally applied for. If they do this, they are in the wrong and you must insist on your rights. If all else fails, refer the matter to the Schools Adjudicator and ask them to intervene quickly.

This is me!!! sad

Runoutofideas Wed 27-Apr-11 12:43:40

Panelmember, as I understand it, if you have been offered a place which you don't feel is suitable then the best bet is to accept the place and go on waiting lists for other schools?

I have just received by letter from Bristol City Council which allows you to sign A " I accept the place at x and will not be appealing/applying for an alternative school place" or B "I do not wish to accept the place at X I have made arrangements for my child to be admitted to ......." .

Surely this is telling parents they have to like it or lump it, which I am sure is not legally the case, or is it?

I will be accepting the place offered, but for many people I'm sure this will not be the case.

Runoutofideas Wed 27-Apr-11 12:45:37

Just thought - maybe I got this letter as they offered my first choice and people with other choices get a different letter....? Sorry for my waffling on if this is the case!

prh47bridge Wed 27-Apr-11 12:53:54

You can appeal for any school for which you have been refused a place. If you got your first choice it would be reasonable for the LA to assume you aren't going to appeal. If you have changed your mind about which school you want your child to attend your next step would be to apply for any schools you now prefer and then appeal when your application was rejected.

southofthethames Wed 27-Apr-11 12:57:40

Thank you for the post, Panelmember- very useful!

Panelmember Wed 27-Apr-11 13:29:45

Wanderingfree - The advice you have been given is sound as far as your older child is concerned, because for Y5 admission the infant class size regulations don't apply. You therefore need to argue on the balance of prejudice, ie that your child faces greater prejudice in not attending the school than the school faces in admitting an extra pupil. There are various arguments that might be relevant here - need to find a school to enable your children to settle in a new city, need to make local friends etc. However, for your younger child, unless the school does not run classes of 30 in the infants, it will still be an infant class size case. What may help is that if your older child gets a place, your younger child will (presumably) move to the head of the waiting list as a sibling.

Runoutofideas - Generally speaking, it is wise to find a school place for your child. If the offered school is unacceptable, it's a good idea to find another one, whether in the same LEA or another. People who refuse the offered place and bank on winning their appeal can come unstuck if their appeal fails (as most appeals do). Having no other school to go to does not increase your priority for the school you're appealing for and (besides) appeal panels will not succumb to anything that looks like blackmail of the 'you have to give me this school place or else I won't send my child to school' sort.

You are right, LEAs can't tell people to like it or lump it (although nor are they obliged to give you one of your preferred schools if they are oversubscribed) but I suspect you're also right that this letter is intended for people who have got their first choice school and so are (presumably) content.

Readyisknitting Wed 27-Apr-11 13:39:06

Was wondering, I am about to move in with my dp, who lives about 5 miles from my dc's school, his ds attends the primary round the corner. The primary replied today and said that their current reception and y2 calsses are full, what is the best direction for me to take to maximise their chances of admission. Otherwise I will have an unholy nightmare trying to get all 3 to sch! I also have a dd whos school application I have to do this autumn, so ideally I'd like to have the others settled before this.

TIA

wanderingfree Wed 27-Apr-11 13:48:54

Many thanks panelmember. So for DS1 in Yr 5 I could use as arguments the fact that we will be living in the local area, applying for local secondary in Nov2011 and my main concern is that he spends his last year of junior with children he will go to secondary with, so he does not have 2 years in a row of difficult transitions. I would like to walk/cycle to school and our preferred 2 schools have 'transport to school policy' emphasizing walking - infact there is a walking bus that I would happily use/volunteer for - is that sort of thing helpful?

Re: DS2 - all the local schools are Infant and Junior so I imagined we were having 2 distinct appeals and the waiting list issue wouldn't be relevant because of this. Am I wrong here?

Can I ask you something else please? We are not in the UK and where we are operates very different educational policies - it was suggested to us by DS1s teacher that as he was bright and not being stretched by the schoolwork (and she couldn't do anything about that), he might benefit from an assessment by an Ed Psych through what's called the Centre for Talented Youth - we did that and he was assessed as being in the top 5%ile for verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning - however in the country where we live any support/extra classes/follow up has to be accessed privately and we can't afford the cost as it is outrageously high. So he has languished a bit in what is quite a rigid, dull school system. This is part of our reason for returning to the UK. DS2 looks to have similar abilities and finds school exceedingly boring. His teacher has acknowledged he could work at a higher level but her hands are tied and she cannot give more challenging work due to the national curriculum being very rigid. Should I mention this whole aspect in my appeal? It is an important part of our reason for returning to the UK as having bright, bored children is upsetting.

Our preferred junior and infant schools look well able to meet DS's needs so should I make this a central part of my case?

Panelmember Wed 27-Apr-11 13:52:18

Ready - Does your dp's son live with him? If so, check how your LEA defines a sibling. Ours includes children living in the same household as part of a family unit. If yours does the same, that should at least get your children to the top of the waiting list as siblings.

It is always worth appealing - you may get a sympathetic panel - although (as per point 7 above) the odds are against you at the moment because these will both be infant class size appeals. Difficulty with the school run isn't usually the basis for a successful appeal, but you could (if you wanted) mention that all the children need to be at the same school in order to get the family to 'gel' (sorry, can't think of a better word but I hope you know what I mean) and to enable the children to settle in their new area and make new friends. This still probably isn't enough to enable you to win but appeal panels do sometimes allow appeals where, according to the letter of the law, they shouldn't.

If you appeal for your older child to be admitted to Y3 in September, your odds of success will increase because this will no longer be an infant class size case and you can argue on the balance of prejudice (see above). If your older child gets a place then, again, your younger one will get some additional priority as a sibling which means a higher place on the waiting list even if you don't get a place on appeal.

oneofthosedays Wed 27-Apr-11 13:53:43

Can I just say, and I've put this info on the recent thread I started, that the schools adjudicator advised me via email today that LEAs are permitted to limit the amount of waiting lists a child is added to as there is nothing in the admissions code which prevents them from doing so.

CHST Wed 27-Apr-11 14:03:50

I think what runoutofideas is saying (as I have the same letter) is that it is confusing and not clear on what happens if you accept the A part but want to go on a waiting list. Can you accept A but still put your name down on a waiting list?

Panelmember Wed 27-Apr-11 14:12:13

Wanderingfree - Very briefly, as I need to sign out for a while. Those arguments in your first paragraph are all things you could mention. The walking to school argument is probably not the strongest, simply because all LEAs are signed up to the notion of sustainable transport but geography (and the mismatch between where schools are and where pupils actually live) sometimes means that they can't give everyone a place in a school within walking distance. You may do better to present this in terms of a local school enabling your children to settle into the community etc.

Arguments about a child being bright can be problematic. The admissions code prohibits schools (broadly speaking) from selecting on ability, so the argument that 'my child needs this school because she is clever' (and I recognise that this is not what you are saying) doesn't usually carry any weight. Again, much depends on how you present this. A panel might be more open to the argument that your child needs to be at school because a delay in starting school in the UK will be disruptive to his education. You certainly could highlight features of the preferred school which would be particularly helpful for your child. What would help here is a letter from the Ed Psych indicating what your child's needs are and how the school could meet them (I appreciate this would be difficult as the Ed Psych won't be familiar with the school but it's important that the Ed Psych's letter gives their professional opinion and does not just repeat your views as a parent). As discussed before, all of these arguments are far more helpful and relevant for your older child's appeal than they would be for your younger child, simply because of the infant class size regs.

Sorry if I missed that we were talking about separate infants and junior schools - my advice tends to be coloured by the fact that all primary schools around me are just that and run from 4 to 11. You are right, each refusal of a school place attracts its own right of appeal.

Panelmember Wed 27-Apr-11 14:17:55

That's interesting, Oneofthosedays, as equally there is nothing to say they can do that!

CHST - There is no reason why you shouldn't join a waiting list, even if you've accepted a place at another school (your first choice or any other). Have you spoken to the LEA to establish whether this is just bad drafting in the letter or they really do intend to prevent people from joining waiting lists? Perhaps also seek advice from ACE (link above)?

CHST Wed 27-Apr-11 14:19:46

thank you. I will get in touch with them

Readyisknitting Wed 27-Apr-11 16:05:09

Thanks, really appreciate the info!

Runoutofideas Wed 27-Apr-11 17:13:28

CHST - I'm sure you weren't supposed to get the same letter. I think that is due to the cock up which initially told you your offer school was your first choice...unless this is a cynical ploy to make people think they have no option.... wouldn't put anything past Bristol City Council to be honest!

CHST Wed 27-Apr-11 19:27:04

I got this reply

If you formally accept the offer of a place at S B, you will be removed from the waiting list for E

If you wish to remain on the waiting list for E until September you simply need to return the form to us having ticked the box to remain on the waiting list for E The place offered at S B will be kept open for your child until September, unless a place comes available at E for your child before then.

School Admissions

What happens if nothing comes available at E, do I have to formally accept SB in September or how does that work?

Runoutofideas Wed 27-Apr-11 19:33:30

Ah - your letter was different from mine then. That looks ok to me though - you won't lose your place at SB and will start there in Sept unless a place comes up at E. It looks like they are assuming the SB place is acceptable to you in the mean time. I would call the LA to make sure though. I'm not sure how it works regarding settling in story time sessions etc at SB which will happen before Sept. You may be able to guage it better once you know what number you are on the waiting list for E.

After September I think control of the waiting lists reverts to the schools not the council which is maybe why they have worded it that way.

wanderingfree Wed 27-Apr-11 19:41:31

Thanks panelmember. I can see the argument in favour of basing our case on the settling child into new community/being able to develop relationships with peers for secondary transition etc. I can imagine being able to defend that position easily.

I am much less comfortable being able to defend the position that my child, because of being bright, needs a specific school - because I think most, if not all, good UK primaries DO meet the needs across the ability spectrum - which is one reason we're moving back to the UK.

Until your experience a school that openly refuses to give a child work that will challenge them because 'they must stick to the set work for the year group' - it is hard to imagine how discouraging this feels. Especially frustrating when it is acknowledged by the teachers and head that the set work IS easily understood by the most able children in the class, but everyone just says 'that's how the system is' and accepts it. Thankfully not many people in the UK go through this as the system encourages teachers to teach according to different abilities.

I appreciate your time panelmember. Do you know how closely panels address the appeals for different children in the same family? So, if you're appealing for places at 'linked' neighbouring juniors and infants, will they ensure they either agree to both places or neither? I have sole responsibility for school runs and can't imagine walking one child to school at one place nearby then getting in the car to take the other someplace else at 830?

Panelmember Wed 27-Apr-11 20:15:35

Wanderingfree - Your second paragraph encapsulates exactly what I was getting at. Unless a child is so far away from the average that this could be classed as a special need, there is not much to be gained from arguing that they 'need' a certain school because they are bright, gifted or talented. Otherwise, all schools are expected to cater for a range of needs.

Your second question is a little outside my experience because, as I said, all primary schools locally are for 4 to 11 so the issue of linked appeals for infants and juniors doesn't arise, although there are occassionally appeals for siblings at the same school. That said, the LEA do try their utmost to schedule all appeals for the same school with the same panel (usually on the same day) so there is consistency. That doesn't necessarily mean, though, that appeals for siblings will stand or fall together. I suspect most do, simply because very often the same arguments will apply to each sibling, but I suppose it remains possible that if the siblings' circumstances or needs are very different, it might be easier to demonstrate prejudice to one sibling than the other and so one appeal might succeed while the other fails. It certainly isn't the case that the panel for the second appeal is obliged to reach the same decision as the panel in the first appeal, as each must be decided on its own merits.

I understand your apprehension about the school run, but (as discussed above) logistical difficulties with the school run are never going to swing an appeal. Any panel would be sympathetic, but they lack the power to admit a child (especially in an infant class size case) on such grounds. It's conceivable that you could have two children at two schools for a while; our LEA's stock advice to parents in that situation is to share the school run with a neighbour or use a childminder or before and after-school club. Nobody suggests that this is ideal!

In all of this, I do need to emphasise that these are my views, drawn from my training and experience, but I don't want to deter you or anybody else from presenting the appeal in whatever way you choose. I'm also hoping that Admission and Prh47bridge may pitch in to this thread, because they sometimes have a slightly different take on things.

Finally, I'm nosey. Are you willing to PM me with where you live? I'm intrigued.

easycomeeasygo Wed 27-Apr-11 21:58:25

Can I just say, and I've put this info on the recent thread I started, that the schools adjudicator advised me via email today that LEAs are permitted to limit the amount of waiting lists a child is added to as there is nothing in the admissions code which prevents them from doing so.

Oh great! where does this leave me?? I've already sent my email insisting they put me on the waiting list for one of my schools, otherwise i'll be getting the schools adjudicator involved confused

Panelmember Wed 27-Apr-11 22:12:41

I've been puzzling over that advice from the schools adjudicator and assume that they're working on the principle that anything that isn't expressly forbidden is permitted under the Code. But, equally, it could also be argued that joining an infinite number of waiting lists isn't forbidden under the Code and so should be permitted. In your shoes, Easy, I think I'd argue that with the LEA for as long as I could.

Another option (and I have heard LEA officers suggest this to parents at appeal) is to formally make a late application to other schools, rather than just join the waiting list. The admissions code (available from link in first post) is clear that all such ad-hoc applications have to be considered -

3.23 Applications made outside the normal admissions round must be considered without delay, and a formal decision either to offer or to refuse a place must be made and notified to the applicant, advising them of their statutory right of appeal when a place cannot be offered. Applicants must not be refused the opportunity to make an application, or told that they can only be placed on a waiting list rather than make a formal application.

easycomeeasygo Wed 27-Apr-11 22:32:30

Hi Panelmember, not sure if your aware of my situation, i'll try and explain very briefly. DS2 didnt get my one and only preference (yep stupid thing to do...dont recommend it) but have been put on the waiting list for that school and I have appealed. Now this is where it gets complicated...I phoned the LEA enquiring about another school which my DS1 goes to (i really didnt want DS2 going there and didnt put it on my preference form originally) but a couple of days later the call I had a letter saying DS2 had been unsuccessful in getting a place and we can appeal BUT he wasn't eligible to go on the waiting list because there hadn't been a change in our circumstances. (I phoned again and they said they were treating this one as a late application) So I was advised on here to write back and insist he goes on the waiting list for the school his brother is in and be put at the correct position on that list. did you get that?

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