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Can a primary school place be withdrawn after nearly a month?

(48 Posts)
DrEeta Tue 10-May-16 22:25:28

I would be grateful for any advice. Sorry for the long description but bear with me.
I have lived in my current borough since 2002. We have been looking for a family home after our marriage and arrival of our son within the same area and made a purchase on a property a mile down the road from where we lived (still in the same borough). The purchase completed in Aug 2015. This house was in no habitable condition and we submitted planning application for renovation and extension to be built and it is currently a major building site. We have applied to a school for our son based on the new address but informed the council at the outset that we will move in once the building work has completed. We sent all the documents about our planning application approval letters etc. We were offered a place at a school for which we are in the catchment area for. However, our neighbour's child has missed out. They have made contact with various people (LA, school headmistress, local MP and solicitors) and have been offered a place at the same school as our son after the admissions office supposedly admitting that they had made an error. We have subsequently received communications from the admissions office asking us to clarify our situation with regards to our new house undergoing renovation and about our residency at the address. We are concerned that they might take away our son's school place nearly a month after it was offered/accepted as they have now offered a place to our neighbour's child on the basis that we have not physically lived at the new house, although they knew this from the outset and sent all correspondence to the address where we still reside whilst the building work continues. Can they withdraw this offer?

Dozer Tue 10-May-16 22:26:37

Yes, I believe so.

rollonthesummer Tue 10-May-16 22:28:08

So, are you not living in the house that you applied for the place from?

prh47bridge Tue 10-May-16 23:22:16

They can withdraw the offer if they believe your application was fraudulent or deliberately misleading. Given the amount of information you have given them I don't think they can realistically argue that withdrawal is justified on these grounds although it is possible they might try.

They could withdraw the offer on the basis that a mistake has been made. It used to be the case that admission authorities only had a few days after the offer was made to withdraw it if an error had been made. Most LAs seem to think that time limit no longer applies since the Admissions Code was overhauled a few years ago but there is no case law to establish what the limit is, if any. I think you would have a strong argument that this had taken too long.

If they do withdraw the offer you will be entitled to appeal. There are no guarantees but in the circumstances I think you would have a good chance of winning. I hope it doesn't come to that.

DrEeta Tue 10-May-16 23:35:18

Thank you prh47bridge. We were upfront about our situation from the outset. The house had unsafe electrics and asbestos concrete exposed. It was in no fit state to move in with a toddler and it was our intention to extend when we bought it. It comes with a big garden which was the main reason for the purchase. It currently has no roof or running water! I assume my neighbour will have mentioned that our son was offered a place when we physically didn't live at the address but we had declared this with the application. The admission office sending all written correspondence thereafter to the old flat where we live indicates that they acknowledged our situation. I guess now that they have offered my neighbou's child a place they are trying to bump us.

Arkwright Tue 10-May-16 23:43:15

What do the admissions criteria say? In my area it is the house you are living in on January 15th.

CommanderShepard Tue 10-May-16 23:49:21

Same here. How can the LA be sure that you will be in the house by the start of the school year?

prh47bridge Wed 11-May-16 06:15:39

What do the admissions criteria say

The admission criteria may show that the LA should have used the address where the OP currently lives so the LA could use that to argue that they have made a mistake. However, the only case law available suggests that an offer made in error must be withdrawn within 3 days. Whilst many LAs think that this case law no longer applies due to changes in the Admissions Code (general legal opinion is that LAs are wrong about this) withdrawing an offer after a month is unlikely to be acceptable. In addition the OP may be able to argue that she the LA's actions led her to believe that they would use the address of the house being renovated. If the LA leads parents to believe they will do something for their child that is different from the admission arrangements they are expected to stick to it.

How can the LA be sure that you will be in the house by the start of the school year

The LA cannot be sure that anyone will be living in the house used for admissions purposes by the start of the school year. Unless they can show that the parents were deliberately being misleading that is not relevant.

Eelus Wed 11-May-16 06:46:39

Will you be living in the house by the time your son starts school?
Did you state in the application when you planned to be living in the house?
Realistically when will you move into the house?
If the council feel you implied you would be living in the house before your son started school and you will not then they could withdraw the place on the basis you have misled them.

DrEeta Wed 11-May-16 07:04:07

The school admission criteria in our LA states that it should be the permanent address where the child will reside. It does not state where we are currently living. We are moving within the same LA and I have personally held an address in this locality for the last 15 years. The online application doesn't allow you to put very much information so we sent separate documents (mortgage agreement, council tax bill, planning application approval etc) with a cover letter stating that this new house would be our permanent address. We stated that we would be in by summer of 2016 before our son starts school and we will be. The build is on schedule although it's hard to believe that looking at all the scaffolding.

rollonthesummer Wed 11-May-16 07:10:03

Did the neighbour specifically tell the LEA that you shouldn't have got in?

It's pretty irrelevant that you keep saying you've lived there for 15 years, I think. Have you lived in that school's catchment for those 15 years?

Eelus Wed 11-May-16 07:35:46

You stated you would be in 'by the summer'. What date do you currently expect to move in?
'By the summer' could easily be interpreted as by June. It doesn't sound like you'll be in the next 3 weeks.

DrEeta Wed 11-May-16 07:41:55

I doubt that she would have said our son shouldn't have got in. We are planning on sharing childcare before and after school and our children are best of friends. I was gutted when I heard their child didn't get an offer initially.

We had put down another school on our choice of schools based on the address we live in case the LA didn't allow us to apply for the school based on our new address. We really did't mind if he had been offered that school although it wouldn't have been ideal for us when we moved.

Our issue is that we have already made childcare arrangement and arrangements with work since our son has been offered a place at this particular school. I'm sure people wouldn't be impressed if the LA turn around and offer us a place at a random school of poorer quality when we have been pretty transparent with our situation from the outset.

Arkwright Wed 11-May-16 07:49:11

Have you got anything in writing from the LA to say they accept your new address?

DrEeta Wed 11-May-16 08:21:59

The letter offering the place at the school has our new address on it but they have sent the letter to where we live whilst the house is being renovated. Surely this means that they acknowledge the new house.

Arkwright Wed 11-May-16 08:39:03

But do you actually have any letter or email from them saying that they accept your situation and will use your new address. If you have to appeal you will need written documentation not what was said during a telephone call.

UpsiLondoes Wed 11-May-16 08:48:08

When you got your offer, did it have anything about change of address? Our council requests proof with one of the docs being your child's name on the document. There is also this line "schools will investigate the circumstances of any residential move that takes place before the end of the first school term, to establish if a short term let has been taken for the purpose of securing a school place outside of a family's intended residential area. If the Governmenr Body consider this to be the case, it may deem the application to have been misleading and withdraw the school place, even after the child has started school."

Mind you, we live in grammar school area and there are family houses that get bought on our street in summer and sold again next year in spring.

DrEeta Wed 11-May-16 09:33:10

We have changed our address with our GP, bank etc and sumitted documents with our sons name at the new address when we applied. Clearly there are people that move about but we have spent our life savings on the new house so in our case it's going to be our home for life, hopefully.

Arkwright Wed 11-May-16 11:43:33

You do not currently live there though even though you own it. I would get in touch with them and see what they say. You don't want to be without any place come September if they believe rightly or wrongly that you have misled them.

prh47bridge Wed 11-May-16 12:53:20

There is no need for the OP to get in touch with the LA. If they are going to withdraw the offer they will inform her. In that situation they must also come up with a new offer. They cannot leave the OP's child without a place.

There are a lot of irrelevant questions on this thread. I'm not sure what people are trying to prove.

The Admissions Code is very clear about the limited grounds on which an offer can be withdrawn. Given the amount of information the OP has given the LA there is, in my view, no way they can argue that the application was fraudulent or misleading. If they withdraw the place on that basis I would expect the OP to win the subsequent appeal. They could argue that a mistake has been made but, given that it is over 3 weeks since offers went out, the relevant case law suggests that they are too late to do so. Given the time lapse and given the communications between the OP and the LA I would again expect the OP to win the subsequent appeal. There are no other grounds on which the offer can be withdrawn.

SuburbanRhonda Wed 11-May-16 15:33:26

I agree - I think if the OP outlined in the application exactly where she would be living and when, and the school place was offered on the basis of that information, I can't really see how the LA could justify withdrawing the place now.

DrEeta Wed 11-May-16 16:00:32

Thank you. I think they are trying the "misleading" application route. Just received an email from them saying that they were under the impression that we were resident at this address for couple of months before the building work had commenced. Our covering letter in January states that we would move in once the build was complete in summer of 2016 during which we would reside at our other address. We couldn't have been more explicit. fingers crossed.

Eelus Wed 11-May-16 16:30:58

You need to look closely at the wording in your correspondence with them.
You bought the house in Aug, but work started in Jan. Did you give the impression you were moving out during the work? It sounds like they have assumed this was your main residence.
When will you be moving in? Is there a chance you won't be in by the time your son starts school?

SuburbanRhonda Wed 11-May-16 17:12:49

Maybe, as pp have said, it's the interpretation of "in the summer of 2016".

In school, we are currently in the summer term, so maybe they thought you meant May or June but not August. Perhaps with hindsight it might have been better to have specified which month of summer, but having said that, if they're had been any ambiguity, you'd think they would have contacted you to clarify before offering you the place.

UpsiLondoes Wed 11-May-16 18:20:00

Well if you said A my permanent residence and we are moving out for 6 months to B residence during building works.... That is very different to... We purchased property A on X date but are renovating it for coming 6 months before we actually reside there and are at temporary residing at B.

How can it be your permanent residency if you never actually resided there?

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