How the school appeal process works

Has your child been refused a place at the school of your choice? Are you thinking about making a school appeal?

John Chard, an expert in school admissions and appeals, outlines how the school appeal process works.

Every parent (or guardian) is entitled to express a preference for any school where they would like their children to be educated. If you've been refused a place at the school of your choice, then you're entitled to a school appeal before an Independent Appeal Panel.

If your child is applying for Years 3 to 11 at school, then your school appeal will be classed as a 'normal prejudice appeal'. The vast majority of school appeals fall into this category. In these appeals the Independent Appeal Panel isn't bound by any legislation and it makes its decisions purely on the merits of each appeal. The panel has to consider three things:

  1. Have the admission arrangements been properly implemented?

    In other words, has the admission authority based the selection of its pupils on the time by which the applications were received and the admission criteria detailed in its admissions booklet? Has the admission authority's decision to refuse you a place been consistent with those arrangements? If the panel decides that the arrangements were not properly implemented and your child should have been offered a place, the appeal will be successful.

  2. Will the admission cause problems for the school?

    If the panel decides that the admission authority did apply the school admission arrangements properly, it will then go on to consider if admitting your child will, or will not, cause problems for the school. If the panel decides it won't, then the school appeal will be allowed.

  3. What are you child's needs versus the needs of the school?

    If the panel decides that the school cannot admit another pupil without causing problems, it will then balance the needs of your child against the needs of the school. If your child's needs outweigh the school's needs, then the appeal will be allowed. If not, it will fail.

If your child is applying for reception or Years 1 and 2, then your school appeal will be dealt with as a 'class size appeal'. The government has introduced recent legislation which prevents children from being taught in classes of more than 30, unless there is more than one school teacher present. As there is this restriction, in these appeals there are only two grounds on which school appeals can be successful:

  1. The admission authority made a mistake and this resulted in you being denied a place.

  2. The decision was unreasonable. This means that the decision made was totally irrational, based on the information available to the admission authority when it made its decision.

If it isn't demonstrated that it's a class size appeal, then the appeal will be dealt with as a normal prejudice appeal.

Grammar school appeals occur when a pupil hasn't achieved the required pass mark. If you're making a grammar school appeal, you can submit proof of mitigating circumstances which caused your child not to secure enough marks, or you can demonstrate that your child is suitable for a grammar school place. Examples of mitigating circumstances could be if your child didn't secure enough marks because he/she was ill on the day of the test, or there was a family bereavement which resulted in him/her performing poorly.

For all school appeals you need to prepare as much information as possible because the more compelling information and evidence that you supply, the more likely it is that your school appeal will be successful. Also, be prepared to challenge the admission authority's case.

If you want more information on challenging the school admissions policy, then John Chard's book,"Your School Your Choice", can help. It provides expert guidance on how to use the school admission arrangements to your advantage and how to make a winning school appeal.

Published on: May 28, 2008

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