What should you do if your child doesn’t get the school you want?

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  • Unfortunately, school appeals is the only process to go through if your child doesn’t get the school you want for them on National Offer Day, when primary school places are announced.

    After a year of disruption caused by numerous lockdowns, school closures and homeschooling, it’s important children can go to a school that they like and feel happy at for the year ahead.

    If your child isn’t offered a place at one of their chosen schools, the local council must offer them a place at an alternative school. If you or your child aren’t happy with the school you’ve been given, launching an appeals process is a way to try and change the decision.

    What to do if your child doesn’t get a place at your chosen Primary school

    As primary school classes are limited to a maximum number of 30 children, your child’s application may be turned down simply if the school is already full.

    However, if you think the decision wasn’t right then there are still a couple of things you can do. You are entitled to a school appeal if:

    • The admission arrangements have not been followed properly
    • The admission criteria applied by the school do not comply with the school admissions appeal code
    • The decision to refuse your child a place was ‘not reasonable’

    How to appeal a primary school place

    The admissions authority at the school has to allow you at least 20 school days from when they send the decision letter to appeal your child’s place.

    If you’re unhappy with the decision and feel you have evidence to support why your child should go to that particular school, you can write to your local authority.

    You have to do this for each school you wish to appeal to and once the council have received your letter, they have to respond with a hearing date with at least 10 days notice.

    If your appeal fails you can only have the decision reversed through the courts. You can however, request that your child be put on a waiting list for any future places.

    How do I make a school appeal?

    To appeal against the decision, you’ll need to write to your local authority. After they receive the appeal notice, you’ll be given a date for the hearing at least 10 days in advance.

    The admissions authority will also set a deadline for submitting any information and all the evidence that would support your appeal. If you miss the deadline, the evidence might not be considered and it may result in delays to the hearing.

    According to the government’s website, you have to appeal against each place rejection separately and can only appeal once against each rejection.

    What to say at your appeal…

    • Have what you want to say written down in clear points, don’t rely on your memory as it could fail you if you’re feeling nervous on the day.
    • Explain to them why this school in particular is right for your child. Focus on these reasons to back up your arguments, rather than why other schools would be bad.
    • Include any special circumstances as to why your child should attend the school, for example for logistical reasons or medical ones. Take any documents or evidence with you to prove this to the panel.

    What happens when you make a school appeal?

    Three to five members of the public will form the school appeals panel and they will make the decision as to whether it was fair or not. They will be told why the school turned down your application and check that the school’s admission arrangements comply with the Schools Admissions Code. Next, you have the chance to speak and tell the panel why you’re appealing and the reasons why you think your child should be accepted at the school.

    After the hearing, the panel have to decide who they think has the stronger case – you or the school. You should receive the decision in writing within seven days.

    The decision the panel comes to is legally binding. If you’re successful, your child will get a place at that school, however if you’re unsuccessful, you can still have your child’s name put on the school’s waiting list.

    Should you complain to the school Ombudsman?

    It shouldn’t be your first port of call, but should you appeal and you’re refused for a second time and are still unhappy, this is the time to complain to your local Ombudsman.

    Ultimately though, the decision of whether your child is accepted or not is at the discretion of the school. So while you can’t complain about the decision, you can complain about the appeals process if you think that it wasn’t handled well or that they didn’t follow the correct guidelines.