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Withdrawal of school place 3 weeks before term start

(20 Posts)
Dadbot Wed 13-Sep-17 09:08:49

Hi all,

Myself and my partner are living a true nightmare.
My girlfriend applied and got a place at her local school for her eldest going into secondary school. In May I had to move accommodation and offered for her and her girls to move in with me. All seemed good until August 18th when she was contacted by the LA admissions team to say they had found out she had moved out of the catchment area for the school and as we hadn't contacted them they were withdrawing the offer. She was living there for 6 years so this isn't a case of someone trying to cheat the system but two single parents trying to do the best for our kids and starting a family together.
The thing is her daughter had already been to inductions, chosen her subjects, made friends, bought uniform etc. It was also a couple of days before the school summer camp where the new girls would get to know each other better. The Admissions didn't care about any of this. They said we can appeal which will take 6-8 weeks!
So I looked this up and the Government admissions code states they can only withdraw an offer under 3 clear reasons and none of them apply here however the LA have written in their policy that you must inform of change of address or they consider this misinformation and can withdraw the place.
We are appealing but this leaves her daughter with no school for most of the term.
Will we have any chance of winning the appeal?
Does the fact that the school is an academy mean they don't have to follow the Government admissions code?

Daisiesbox Wed 13-Sep-17 09:15:30

Mnetters Admissions or Prh will hopefully be along shortly and are brilliant at this stuff and will be able to advise.

In my area as long as you are in catchment on a certain date (think it was the application deadline) then it didn't matter if you moved as we were in a similar situation. I suspect the fact she didn't tell them has made them question whether she was submitting false information originally.

Bluntness100 Wed 13-Sep-17 09:16:19

Well I think they have followed policy I'm sorry, the la have said not informing can result in loss of place, which has sadly occurred.

Have you spoken to any schools in the catchment area for where you live to see if they have places? She has to be provided an education, it doesn't have to be in the school you wish though.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Wed 13-Sep-17 09:18:22

I'm really sorry this has happened, it must be very stressful - but it is standard practice I believe, your DP and her daughter shouldn't have moved until after she had started at her new school, not before. As you say, you can only appeal and hope for the best, but if there's a waiting list for your particular school and there are children waiting who are closer to the school/in catchment, I don't think there's much chance.

titchy Wed 13-Sep-17 09:19:53

The LA can put whatever it wants in its policies, but if those policies are against the admissions code - which this does sounds like - they cannot enforce them.

Why have you only just appealed? Did you write in May pointing out the illegality of the withdrawal and asking it to be reinstated?

titchy Wed 13-Sep-17 09:21:37

Of course they can move hmm As long as they applied for the school place based on the permanent address AT THE TIME OF APPLICATION, and to be on the safe side at the time of the offer, they can move before school starts.

thethoughtfox Wed 13-Sep-17 09:25:15

If you don't live in the catchment area before she starts school, I would expect the place to be withdrawn. That was a foolish move on your behalf. You should have checked with the school before you all moved.

tiggytape Wed 13-Sep-17 09:28:06

So your girlfriend applied for a school place in October 2016 whilst living at an address that she had been at for 6 years?
Her DD was then made a school offer in March 2017, still living at the same address?
And at no point in this process was your girlfriend or her DD living elsewhere even part of the time?
And at no point in the process did your gf have an additional home anywhere else?

If that is all correct then I believe you haven't done anything wrong.
Your gf did not move house for the purposes of gaining a school place.
She did not make an application from an invalid address.
She did not live elsewhere at the time of application of allocation.

So, whilst the council is correct to say you are obliged to notify them of all changes of address, the change of address in this case does not have any impact on her DD's eligibility for a school place. No cheating took place.

For appeal, I would draw out a very clear time line with lots of emphasis on there being no other additional address when applications and allocations were made. Bills going back years etc for the old house and proof that your house move didn't complete until May.

In the meantime, I would try also sending it all in writing (email is fine) to the council to show no admission fraud occurred and to ask them to reinstate the place before appeal.

Dadbot Wed 13-Sep-17 09:42:01

Yes tiggytape has it all correct.
She has been living there 6 years before the admissions date and was still there in March 2017 when we got the place.
She wasn't planning to move in with me until when I offered in May.
The journey to school is only 25 minutes from where we live now but we'll out of the small catchment area.
I'm surprised at the judging messages I have got so far from people who think it is unfair to move house! You can see it's actually quite the opposite of someone trying to cheat the system.
What I don't understand is why the LA don't follow the admissions code? And are forcing us to follow the appeal process.
I have written to them and they refuse to communicate just forcing us to appeal.
Note there has been no fraud on our side. We didn't realise the LA expect people to ask their permission to move home!

prh47bridge Wed 13-Sep-17 13:59:58

If you don't live in the catchment area before she starts school, I would expect the place to be withdrawn

You would expect wrongly. And no, it is not standard practice as another poster suggested. Once a place has been offered there are only very limited grounds under which it can be withdrawn. Moving out of the catchment area is not one of them.

Dadbot

I am disappointed but not surprised they are forcing you to appeal. Sadly many LAs will do so, even when they are clearly in the wrong. Your case for appeal is straightforward. The rules about fraudulent or misleading applications are there to prevent someone using a temporary address to get a place at their preferred school. That is not the case here. Your girlfriend lived at the relevant address at the time of application, had lived there for several years and was still there when the offer was made. The LA cannot remove the place on the basis that she has moved and saying that the application was misleading just because she has moved after offers were made without informing them is clearly unreasonable.

You have a very strong case for appeal.

Dadbot Wed 13-Sep-17 15:05:09

Thank you for the info. It's encouraging what you write it is just upsetting that her daughter has to go through this.
An ex local councillor who is also a governor at a different school told us that we will lose because academies don't have to follow the admission code except as a guideline. I assume from what you write that this is wrong.
Also the LA told us they have several cases each year where they withdraw places post acceptance due to families being evicted or relocating because of jobs, etc so they are either unaware of the legal position or are deliberately flouting the law to their own advantage and people don't know to appeal or question this behaviour.

valeinoyikbuno Wed 13-Sep-17 15:12:19

I don't think you have done anything wrong (though not an expert). However I do know that often Local Authorities will force a case to go to appeal even if they know they are in the wrong as they hope that the logistics and stress of going through with the appeal will be so offputting that you will shut up and go away. Have courage and fight your corner.

admission Wed 13-Sep-17 16:09:46

All schools, including Academies, have to give due regard to the admission code. The admission code is underpinned by various acts and has the force of law and the school has a statutory duty to act in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Code, they cannot just do what they want.
I suspect that in the small print in the LA admission document which explains how it all works that it says that all changes of address must be notified to the LA. However that is there because for the period of time between application by end of October and 1st March it can make a difference as to what address is used and the change in residency could result in a place being offered in error. If that occurred then the offer can be withdrawn.
However that does not apply in your case, providing that you can prove that child was in the same residency at both the cut off date for information to be received (usually December 2016) and the date of the place being allocated (1st March). You need to find proof of this, such as rental payments etc as this will strengthen your case. I agree with PRH you appear to have a strong case to go to appeal with.

prh47bridge Wed 13-Sep-17 17:55:53

Just to back up what Admission says, your local councillor is wrong. The academy's funding agreement requires it to follow the Admissions Code.

What you say about the LA withdrawing places because families have been evicted or relocating due to jobs is awful. It is a clear breach of the Admissions Code. Taking away someone's school place because they have been evicted from their home is adding insult to injury.

tiggytape Wed 13-Sep-17 18:02:14

academies don't have to follow the admission code except as a guideline.
The Admissions Code is law and academies are required to follow it.
It is true they get some flexibility on a few specific areas (eg if they choose to give siblings very low priority in their admissions criteria whereas other local schools give high sibling priority then that's fine).
But that flexibility doesn't extend to being able to breach the very strict rules on when a place can be withdrawn.

There may well be some families who have their places withdrawn correctly. Eg someone rents a flat nextdoor to the school for 6 months and then returns to their real home on June 1st. Obviously that is blatantly cheating the system and they will rightly lose their place. But the examples you give of eviction or relocation are also not grounds to lose a school place because (as in your case) they do not constitute admission fraud (cheating to get a good place).

Dadbot Thu 12-Oct-17 00:05:51

Hi folks,
We have had the appeal result and lost the appeal.
The decision comes down to a) there are now no places left at school and 1 extra child would be detrimental to the school, and b) the local authority policy states we cannot move address up to and including starting at school without notifying them so they consider this misleading then to have not informed them and so withdrawal of offer was correct.
To say I am astounded by this decision is stating it mildly as I felt we had all the arguments that the admissions code was not applied however the appeal panel have given more weight to the LA policy....

prh47bridge Thu 12-Oct-17 00:36:34

In my view the appeal panel has got this wrong. As this is an academy you could try referring the matter to the EFA. I would try arguing that the appeal panel was wrong to give weight to the LA's policy as the policy is in breach of the Admissions Code, that it is unreasonable to say that any parent who makes an unanticipated move before starting school has made a deliberately misleading application and in any case the school is an academy and therefore makes its own admission arrangements (although this last point won't fly if the academy's admission arrangements say they will follow the LA's policy on this point). I don't consider the EFA to be particularly parent-friendly. They don't like interfering in appeal panel decisions unless it can be shown that the panel has in some way broken the Appeals Code, but it is worth a try. The only other route would be to take this to judicial review where I would hope you would win, but that is expensive.

Dadbot Thu 12-Oct-17 00:42:49

The problem here is we lose on all accounts as our daughter needs to go to school so we will have to enroll her in the closest school that is available now. She was being home schooled during this appeal process but we cannot continue to do so indefinitely and with little chance to succeed.
We cannot afford a judicial review so have to accept that the law isn't going to be applied fairly and correctly to us...!

Astronotus Thu 12-Oct-17 08:35:57

Hi Dadbot,
Very sad to read your posts and that you were not successful but I found prh's comment on the EFA interesting. From personal experience I found that the EFA did respond to me (on a different issue with a school). They even went so far as to contact the school and get changes made where the school were not acting correctly within the rules (it is an academy). Ofsted also told me that they would be adding my issue to their questions on the next Ofsted visit. Enrolling your daughter at another school shouldn't stop you pursuing the first school if you feel so inclined. Also, as I found, sending persistent letters may help other parents in the future.

prh47bridge Thu 12-Oct-17 09:44:26

Whilst I consider it to be something of a long shot I still think the EFA may be worth a try.

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