10 tips on how to make a school appeal

Thinking about making a school appeal, but don't know where to start? John Chard, author of "Your School Your Choice" and expert on school admissions and appeals, tells you what you need to think about before you make your school appeal.

1.  Get your school appeal form on time!

It's important that your school appeal form is returned to the admission authority by the deadline set out in the form. If you're short on time, don't panic! It's not necessary to submit your case or supporting documents with the form itself: they can always be sent in later. But if your school appeal form itself is delayed, it could result in your appeal being delayed as well.

2.  Carefully consider your grounds for appealing against the admission authority's decision

There are many grounds for a school appeal. These range from medical or social reasons (e.g. your child has a medical condition and needs to be near your home or work in case of an emergency) to educational and logistical reasons (e.g. you consider your child to have special needs). Remember to set out the grounds in order of importance to you, with the strongest ground first.

3.  Always provide supporting information in writing

Make sure that you provide any supporting information with your school appeal. For example, if you're claiming medical issues, submit a letter from your doctor or medical consultant. The letter will need to state that the school is the only one able to meet your child's needs and it must be based on a physical examination. A letter which starts by saying, 'I am informed that X is suffering from ...' wouldn't be sufficient and will carry little weight with the school appeal panel.

4.  Check that your application has been dealt with correctly

The best chance of a successful appeal is where you can highlight that the admission authority's decision does not follow the admission criteria on which it must be based. The School Admissions Code has introduced mandatory rules to ensure that admission criteria are clear, fair and objective. Carefully check to see if the criteria used by the admission authority are lawful. You can do this by checking paragraphs 1.46, 1.65, 1.71 and 2.13 of the Code.

5.  Don't be shy! Ask the admission authority for information

If you need any information to support your school appeal and this can only be obtained from the admission authority, write and request this information. For example, if you need to know the number of admissions to the school in the last five years or the number of successful appeals, ask the admission authority for this information.

6.  Verify your information thoroughly

Check to make sure that any points that you're making are correct. If you make a point which proves subsequently to be incorrect, this could undermine the rest of your case.

7.  Prepare a statement for the Independent Appeal Panel

Prepare a statement explaining why your child should be given a place at the school. Such reasons might include:

  • It's a local school.
  • It's within walking distance.
  • You follow the ethos of the school.
  • You have difficulty getting to and from the allocated school.
  • Your child's friends attend the school.
  • The school specialises in a subject in which your child has a particular ability.

Such statements should normally be between two and four sides of A4.

8.  Challenge the admission authority's case

When you're completing your appeal form, don't try and justify why the school can admit your child without the admittance causing any problems to the school. It's much easier to wait until you have received the statement from the admission authority, outlining why they have refused you a place, and then you can challenge in detail what they have said. On your appeal form simply put that your child's admission will not cause problems for the school and you will elaborate on this point after you have received the admission authority's statement.

9.  Don't be intimidated

You will attend a formal hearing which is structured. Be polite and respect the Independent Appeal Panel. Don't interrupt the panel members or the admission authority. Question the authority in a confident but respectful way. Do your research because knowledge breeds confidence and don't be afraid to ask for help - the Clerk present at the appeal can explain the appeal procedure to you and is there to answer any questions that you may have.

10. Do your homework and know your rights

All school appeals follow the principles of natural justice. The new Code on School Admission Appeals sets out your rights as a parent in the appeal process. Make sure that you are aware of them as you may be able to use them if you didn't receive a fair hearing and your appeal subsequently fails.

For more expert guidance on how to win a school appeal - with information on how to challenge the admission authority's statement, how to use Ofsted reports to your advantage and how to use the admission criteria to support your case - read John Chard's book, "Your School Your Choice".

Published on: May 28, 2008

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