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Secondary school appeal advice - time spent out of the country has lost us a place

(72 Posts)
MrsZuko Sun 10-Mar-19 23:34:40

I'm hoping to get some advice on a secondary school appeal. There's a longer backstory as to the reasons why, but my husband and I took our kids out of school last year and homeschooled them whilst we travelled abroad. We told the council and the school of our intentions and we didn't leave the country until after we had made the school application.

We provided all the correct information, my son sat the banding exam and we only applied for the one school because it's the school we want my son to go to and it's literally across the street. It's a 180 pupil intake and because we are so close we knew we would get in on distance (and I checked with the school before the application went in).

We had a call from the council in December when they were processing the application and wanted our address overseas which we were unable to give. We don't have an overseas address - our home is still our home. We still live in it, we're on the electoral roll there etc - we're travelling, we haven't moved abroad.

Initially the council threatened to pull the application altogether. They then said they they would use our home address for the application because he doesn't have a fixed one, but that they would not allow it to be used in the distance criteria. So because of this period of time spent out of the country, the council are saying my son is not resident there and so we have lost our place. We've been offered a school that my son would have to get a bus to, in an area of London which is constantly in the news at the moment for knife crime (I know we can't use that in the appeal).

We are appealing, on the basis that the council have not fairly applied their criteria but I haven't written the appeal yet and wondered if anyone could offer me any advice? I'm finding this really confusing and I don't know how we can define our "residency" other than the usual bills/Drs letter/council tax etc, all of which I submitted with the original application. There's nothing in the application that says we must physically have been in the country for a certain amount of days prior to the 2019 start of term. We told the council 6 months before we left and had no idea this would be an issue. The school we applied to has no problem with it but has no jurisdiction.

I know there are a lot of people on Mumsnet who have lots of experience with the appeals process - I'm really anxious about what to say and would really appreciate any advice. We are still abroad, due to come back at the beginning of July but I plan to fly back for the appeal.

OP’s posts: |
HennyPennyHorror Mon 11-Mar-19 00:39:38

How long were you out of the country for?

PettsWoodParadise Mon 11-Mar-19 03:20:50

Have you rented out your home at all OP? I ask as if someone else is temporarily in your home they can also apply for a place from that address. In our borough change of address cut off is the first week of December. My LA also classify the address as the one you are paying Council tax at so if you are still paying that it may be a bit of helpful ammunition to your appeal.

You’ll have not been in that home for nine months if you left in early Nov (guess by what you say about leaving after application) and plan to return in July which is a long time to be away. I am sure some admissions experts will be along to say whether this is a problem. It may differ by authority. I know our and our neighbouring LAs all require the same address that you applied from in October to either be the same in December or you have to notify of change of address by that early December date to be classed as on time.

MrsZuko Mon 11-Mar-19 07:18:47

We are still out of the country - we left in September (after we sent in the application) and are returning at the beginning of July. We are still paying council tax, bills, etc, all in our name. We have a friend house sitting occasionally but it's an informal arrangement.

OP’s posts: |
titchy Mon 11-Mar-19 08:09:57

When you told the council of your intentions did you do that in writing and if so do you have their response? I'm not an expert (one will be along soon I'm sure!), but if you can demonstrate that you were led to believe you could use your permanent address I'd have thought that would be good grounds for appeal.

LIZS Mon 11-Mar-19 08:10:45

Even though you have an address and are paying ct etc you are not physically resident for the purposes of application. Some LA allow use of UK address if you have definite plans to return (and can evidence this) but others do not. Sorry, but you took a gamble which has not paid off and even more so by opting to list only one school. The LA obligation to you is limited until you return.

ChicCroissant Mon 11-Mar-19 08:15:41

Is it because you had left on application day (October) because that seems likely tbh. The Council had already told you that they were not using the address for distance purposes which is the main criteria!

It is a very tricky situation but from what you've said, I don't think the Council agreed to use your address really. Only the forces can apply from abroad, I think. I hope you can sort it out ASAP.

LIZS Mon 11-Mar-19 08:21:56

Telling the LA your plans is not the same as having their agreement to use the UK address regardless of your residence. Do you have anything from them in writing about your specific circumstances? Check the admissions criteria for the point at which the address was taken, it is likely to have been October deadline although there is often a window to update it before final allocations are made. However by the sounds if it you would have been abroad either way, therefore that would be what was used.

TapasForTwo Mon 11-Mar-19 08:38:25

I have had to fill in a lot of forms recently, some of being application for student finance. On every form the question about being out of the country over a certain length of time crops up. I suspect that your travelling has been used to disqualify your son from being able to apply to the school you want.

MrsZuko Mon 11-Mar-19 08:42:49

I understand that the rules are in place to stop people cheating the system. But we're not trying to do that. We're long term residents - DS has lived opposite the school we are applying for his whole life. We weren't told until December (so long after the applications deadline) that this could be an issue, by which time it was too late to do anything. My understanding is that proof of address is required to show residency at the time of application and for when school would start. There is nothing in the admissions that states the child must physically be at the address for a certain amount of time between those dates. What happens if people go on holiday?

OP’s posts: |
Twerking9til5 Mon 11-Mar-19 08:50:37

I wonder if ‘time of application’ means the closing date in October, because that is the last day you can still edit your choices etc, so it isn’t really submitted as a final application until the deadline.

A horrible situation to be in, OP, but in your shoes I would come back in time for the waiting list offers to start.

Living so close you will zoom to the top of the waiting list. The waiting lists often move fast in London. Then, once you have accepted your place, take off again.

Or one parent come back with child.

LIZS Mon 11-Mar-19 09:04:01

A short holiday is rather different to travelling for months.

ChicCroissant Mon 11-Mar-19 09:09:59

But the date is in October and you were not resident then. You're not resident now at a crucial time in the process and you are planning to appeal when you also are not resident? Can't you come back to live sooner?

BubblesBuddy Mon 11-Mar-19 09:29:12

Our LA expects home address to be where the child lives for most of the week. They expect the child to be resident. Only boarding children are exempt. Your child isn’t living at this address for most of the week. Or indeed the year. Clearly. You really shouldn’t have gone away in y6. Its very self indulgent and now you are blaming the LA. It is your decision that has put his place in jeopardy.

babysharkah Mon 11-Mar-19 09:33:01

You are not 'ordinarily resident' at the time of the application or throughout Y6. People don't tend to go on holiday for most of a school year...

MrsZuko Mon 11-Mar-19 09:41:25

So this is the crux of the matter because our argument is that legally, we are resident. Whether we are out of the country on the day the admissions closed shouldn't make a difference - we applied in time and from the UK. Our home is our only residence, we have no other. There is nothing in the school admissions that states that a certain time spent out of the country between Date X and Date Y will invalidate our address. We followed all the procedures and the admission criteria to the letter. We informed the council, we've not tried to hide or cheat the system. Ironically, if we HAD lied, we'd be in a far better position. I'm genuinely not sure what good coming back would do at this point? The appeals process isn't for another 2 months. If the Appeals Board tell us that that is the only way to take our address into consideration then that's what we'll do, but surely this would have an effect on anyone that homeschools in yr 6?

OP’s posts: |
Underoverunder Mon 11-Mar-19 09:49:53

You'd likely go to the top of the waiting list if you came back now, since you live so close to the school. If you wait, other children will fill the waiting list places that become available between now and the start of school. It's highly likely places will become available for some people on the waiting list.

Twerking9til5 Mon 11-Mar-19 09:55:01

Coming back would make you eligible for waiting list places, which will be starting to be allocated as they become available very soon. Before appeals places start being allocated, or not.

I think you need the specialist legal view of @prh47bridge who is always incredibly helpful.

Bubbles: very unfair to call the decision ‘self indulgent’.

ChicCroissant Mon 11-Mar-19 09:57:09

You are not resident though - if you make that the grounds of your appeal it is doomed! As has already been said, if you come back then if you live as close to the school as you say you will be high up on the waiting list.

I don't see the point in going over the same argument time and again. Best of luck, OP.

NiceNewShiny Mon 11-Mar-19 10:02:55


LIVIA999 Mon 11-Mar-19 10:02:55

I am pretty sure you need to be living in the property.
I own a property that I don't live in that is in catchment for a certain school. I didn't put it down as I don't live there ( I could have as a family member lives in it so I could have lied) so therefor my child didn't get into the school that I am still in catchment for but not as near.
You own a house in catchment but you aren't living in it. Isn't it the same? Your child is further away therefore less entitled than another child.
I don't think there is any harm in appealing but it doesn't seem like they've made a mistake. I'm sure if you stay on waiting lists he will get a place eventually.
I know when friends who have come to school in England have applied they haven't been able to until they are actually living here.

OVienna Mon 11-Mar-19 10:06:01

I see where you're coming from and it sounds like a situation the LA just can't wrap its head around. It's unusual to take an extended holiday like this but I think it's something you'll be able to sort out eventually. Putting down just the one school was a risk though.

titchy Mon 11-Mar-19 10:12:26

What does your council admissions document say? Camden's says this:

*Any offer of a place on the grounds of
proximity is conditional on the child being
resident at the address provided at the
closing date for application.*

I'd imagine all the other London boroughs say the same - your child was NOT resident at the closing date. I'd also guess the council could say they gave your fair warning when they contacted you in December. You also need to remember you haven't had a place removed - you were never allocated a place.

BrieAndChilli Mon 11-Mar-19 10:15:17

the problem is by your reasoning anyone could rent/buy a house in the catchment they want, pay all bills there but then go off 'travelling' somewhere else. The rules are (espeically in london) that the child has to actually be physically living at the address. unfortunately that means that some people who are innocently living elsewhere will fall foul of the rules.

BubblesBuddy Mon 11-Mar-19 10:23:03

It is self indulgent to travel for this amount of time during the secondary school application process. Sorry if that’s harsh but most people would never risk it. The child is off roll anyway. It’s having your cake and eating it. My LA says your address is where the child lives for most of the week. They are not there at all! I cannot see how this can be challenged if the rules at this LA are similar. You effectively want to parachute back in. Effectively you withdrew from the process and that’s not the same as laying council tax.

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