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According to Child Law advice (registered charity), if Local Authorities have an exceptional/compelling oversubscription category then they must "set out in their arrangements how they will define this need".
Can anybody confirm if this is the case and if so does anyone have any examples of what these arrangements may look like?
My local authority doesn't appear to publish any details and whilst trying to research I have found a failed appeal case that was taken to the ombudsman. One of the reasons the appeal was not upheld was because the medical need was for the parent rather than the child.
However, when I spoke with the head of admissions about my own circumstances, she told me that parental conditions can be taken into account which obviously contradicts the finding of the ombudsman in a 2016 case.
I'm just trying to find out if the information about what can be accepted in this category should be published.
It depends on your LA and possibly even school as to whether parent's medical situation can put the child into exceptional circumstances.
In ours it doesn't-I know because my friend who had been given less than a year to live asked about it.
But even if it does. it will depend on the case by case basis. I would expect that the bar for the parent medical need would be higher than for a child's medical need to be in that category.
Thanks, I really want to find out if they're expected to publish the criteria? In our case it's the lea not the school.
I realise it is an exceptionally difficult category to be accepted into.
Admissions criteria should be in the LEA’s school admissions booklet and/or on their website. As has been said, much depends on how they word any criterion relating to social and medical need and whether it is confined to the child’s needs or can include those of the parent.
It doesn't specify whether it includes parents or not, I was told that it did but there is nothing on their website to tell you what is and isn't accepted.
My original post quoted what I found online and I read that to mean that what is accepted into the category should be published.
Trying to get jnformatuon from admissions is very difficult, the lady I spoke with was incredibly rude and just kept telling me how difficult it was - which I accept. She reluctantly admitted that parental issues could be used, but I can find nothing to support this.
I would assume that if they do not define exceptional/compelling reasons further, then they cannot categorically exclude anything. So if they the wording indicates that the child's medical needs can (if adequately documented and supported by experts etc) lead to admission under that priority, then parents' medical needs are excluded. If they do not explicitly exclude parents' medical circumstances, then they have to at least consider them and cannot refuse to even consider them because they concern the parent rather than the child.
That would not stop them from, after consideration, deciding that the parents' medical needs in this instance do not qualify them for this admissions category.
I would assume that if the wording does not exclude parents' needs, they cannot then come back and say 'oh but according to our internal policies we do not consider parental needs'. I would assume that any such categorical thing would have to be published.
(Is this right? I think that is what OP is asking.)
But they can come back and say 'we have considered the parent's needs and have decided they are not sufficient for qualifying in this admissions category' - and I suppose there do not have to be published criteria for which parental needs do and don't qualify (apart from being documented and supported by evidence). Detail such as 'if parent has a terminal illness they are qualified if their life expectancy does not exceed 2 years', or 'if the parent can walk only 500m they qualify but if they can walk 501m they do not (except if they can, but it causes them pain)'... would not make sense and merely complicate things.
I suppose if your LA categorically does not consider parental needs, only the child's needs, but does not state this anywhere in its admissions policies, then you would have a good case for appeal. They have either mis-applied their policy by not considering parental needs, or they have mis-published their admissions criteria.
Meant to add
but I am not an expert. Hope some experts do come along and confirm if an exclusion of parental 'exceptional/compelling' reasons must be published in order to stand. That admissions authority must consider parent-based needs if they do not exclude them explicitly.
For example - this is the first paragraph of Surrey's explanation of their "medical/social need" criteria - as you can see it explicitly states they could relate to parent or child, and require supporting evidence that no other school could meet the needs. I would expect all admissions authorities to provide something similar (although I expect many don't but should!)
@Occasionally there will be a very small number of children for whom exceptional social or medical circumstances apply which will warrant a placement at a particular school. The exceptional social or medical circumstances might relate to either the child or the parent/carer. Supporting evidence from a professional is required such as a doctor and/or consultant for medical cases or a social worker, health visitor, housing officer, the police or probation officer for other social circumstances. This evidence must confirm the circumstances of the case and must set out why the child should attend a particular school and why no other school could meet the child’s needs"
The Admission Code states that admission authorities must explain how they define medical/social need, explain what evidence is required and make consistent decisions. However, it is not uncommon to find that the admission authority only says something like, "The medical, social and welfare criterion will consider issues relevant to the child and/or the family. This category may include children without a statement who have special needs." That falls woefully short of the requirements.
parental conditions can be taken into account which obviously contradicts the finding of the ombudsman in a 2016 case
Whether or not they can be taken into account depends on what the admission arrangements say. If you would like to PM me the name of the LA involved I will be happy to take a look and give an opinion.
Thank you all for your replies. The LA involved is West Sussex and I would be grateful for your opinion prh47bridge (and anyone else who offers one).
As I said, I can't find anything specific, but did find this ombudsman case whilst I was looking.
It's quite long but the following paragraph is taken from it.
15.The decision letter said the Panel had applied the infant class size prejudice rules. It found that the admission arrangements were lawful and had been applied properly in this case. It noted Mr X’s argument that the Council should have considered the application under the ‘exceptional and compelling’ category. But it did not agree, noting that he had not provided any independent evidence with his application. It accepted there appeared to be text missing from the ‘additional reasons’ box on the application form. But it noted that the reasons he gave related to the circumstances of the parents. The Panel said that for category 2 to apply, the circumstances had to relate to the child, not the parents.
Thanks again for taking the time to respond.
In the LGO case to which you link the appeal panel was correct. The information given by the LA was clear that it was about the child's needs. There was no indication at all that the parent's needs would be taken into account. That, along with the parent's failure to supply evidence, meant that the appeal was bound to fail and there was no way the LGO would intervene.
My view of the West Sussex admissions information is that it is one of the better ones I have seen. They take near enough a full page in their primary school admissions booklet to explain this category. The fact it talks specifically about the child's needs and doesn't mention parents means that they will not take parental conditions into account.
However, they have now told you that they would. I suggest you send them an email setting out your understanding of the conversation. Unless they respond correcting what was said, that gives you a paper trail. If they then fail to take your condition into account you can use that as evidence. It isn't guaranteed but it may be enough to sway an appeal panel.
So - the West Sussex criteria are -
"Many admission authorities have criteria where priority will be given to applicants if there is a strong medical case or exceptional need for the child to attend the school named first on their application. Parents wishing to apply under this category must state in the additional information box for their first preference what independent professional evidence they are submitting to support their application. If this information is not provided in the additional information box the application will not be considered under the exceptional and compelling category but will be considered against the remaining admission criteria. ... The supporting evidence from the qualified professional (i.e. medical consultant or a psychologist) must explain clearly why it is essential for the child to attend the school named as their first preference. It must detail fully the child’s needs and address the reason why these needs can only be met at the preferred school. "
This makes it clear it is about the child's needs, so I can see why the Panel in the case you refer to decide that the parent's needs were not relevant.
In the case you refer to, it seems to suggest that the parents didn't actually apply under this criteria anyway - they put some text in the additional reasons box, but don't seem to have ticked the "exceptional needs" criteria box and also supplied no external evidence of the need. So their application was not assessed under these criteria, which the Panel agreed with and the Ombudsman upheld.
Now, in reality, there could be circumstances in which the parent's needs impacted on the child sufficiently that they become a need for the child - if the child is a registered young carer, for example. But this wasn't the case here. I can see that there would be circumstances in which this argument could be made though.
Thank you both. I will email them and get some clarification.
If this is for a september 2018 application then it is far to late to be considered under this category. If you are talking about september 2019 entry into school, then you need to be asking in writing for them to confirm that they will accept parental exceptional reasons.
If it is for this September then you will have to go to appeal and explain the circumstances but in all situations where it is an infant class size case, then the opportunity to be successful will lie only with the LA having made a mistake.