School appeals: Everything you need to know if your child doesn't get the school you want

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School girl fed up in class
It's the deadline for school place offers and if you're one of the many who's been left at a loss as to what to do next, you're certainly not alone. Here's exactly what you can do if your child didn't get into the school you wanted this year.

Primary school

Because primary school classes are limited to a maximum number of 30 children for classes where children are between five and seven, your child's application may be turned down 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 an 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

    If you're unhappy with the decision you've been given you can write to your local authority to let them know you'd like to appeal. You'll have to do this for each school you wish to appeal to.

    Once the council have received your letter they must respond with a hearing date, giving you at least 10 days' notice.

    At the appeal you'll be able to give your reasoning for challenging the decision, while your local authority will be able to justify their reason for rejecting your child's place in the specific school.

    Both appeals will be heard by three volunteers who must be made up of at least one 'lay person' and one educational professional.

    You should have a decision within five days of your hearing.

    If your appeal fails

    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.

    Secondary school

    On school admissions day, you'll receive a letter from your local authority which will tell you whether your child has or hasn't got a place at your desired school. The letter will have details of how to make an appeal against the decision and the deadline for doing this.

    How do I make a school appeal?

    You'll need to write to your local authority to tell them you want to appeal the school's decision. You'll then be given a date for your appeal hearing which should be at least 10 days in advance of the hearing.

    What happens when you make a school appeal?

    Three to five members of the public will form the 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.

    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

    Continued below...

    Let us know your experience of National Offer Day. Did your child get in to your first choice or did they miss out? Let us know in a comment below.

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    Gemma Chandler

    Did your kids get into their first choice of school? Did you have a back-up? We'd love to hear from you on this!

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