A step-by-step guide to Primary School appeals
Primary School Offer Day falls on 16 April 2021, and well over 600,000 children in England will find out what primary school they have been allocated. Over 97% of those will receive a place at one of their top three choices. But what if your child isn’t one of them?
Don’t panic. In December, Ofsted reported that 88% of English primary schools were now rated Good or Outstanding. So, even if your child didn’t receive your first choice school, chances are they will still receive a great education. If your child’s allocated school isn’t within that 88%, or you still have concerns, you might want to weigh up whether it’s worth making an appeal.
What to do now:
Don’t share your disappointment with your child. Right now, the most important thing for them is to feel positive about starting their journey through school, whichever school that is.
Making the decision to appeal
Remember, you are not appealing against the Local Authority, but against the decisions of the schools that rejected your child, and you need to address each one separately. Making a successful appeal involves researching your chosen school’s admissions criteria, collecting supporting evidence and clearly presenting your case in writing and before an appeals board.
It’s your right to appeal a school’s decision, but it’s worth knowing that, of the 12,465 appeals heard in 2019, only 2,306 (18.5%) were successful . Appealing a school’s decision is not a quick process and can be stressful, so you need to consider carefully whether it’s the right thing for you and your child. But, if you think you’ve got a strong case, following these steps can help you create a successful school appeal.
What to do now:
1) Accept a place at one of the schools your child has been offered. This ensures they can start school in September, and it doesn’t affect the appeals process.
2) Ask your Local Authority to place your child on the waiting list for your chosen school. If a place becomes available, they’ll contact you with a formal offer, even if your child has already started somewhere else. Again, this doesn’t affect the appeals process.
Researching and writing your appeal
By law, Infant, or Reception and Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2), classes are limited to 30 pupils. However, looked-after children, twins and children of armed forces parents are some pupils whose circumstances might be exceptional enough to push this number higher, even in oversubscribed schools.
You can make a successful appeal against a ‘class size’ rejection if you can show evidence that:
- The school’s admission criteria didn’t meet the government’s Admissions Code and so weren’t legal. In practice this is very rare.
- The school made a mistake in applying its own admissions criteria, resulting in a child who should have had lower priority being admitted ahead of your child. For example: Could your chosen school have forgotten you have another child already at the school? Incorrectly measured your home-to-school distance? Not classed your child as ‘excepted’? Or wrongly allocating a place to someone outside the catchment area ahead of your child?
- The school made a ‘perverse’ decision not to admit your child. In law, ‘perverse’ refers to a decision that is utterly beyond reason, rather than impractical to achieve. Being expected to drop off children at two or more different schools simultaneously is a common example of what seems perverse to families, but which in law, is not. Convincing a panel of a perverse decision is a hard case to make, so proceed with caution.
Alternatively, you can make a ‘two-stage appeal’, in which you need to demonstrate that the negative impact on your child of the school not admitting them is greater than the impact admitting them would have on the education of the whole class or the school’s use of resources. In this case, you need to show that your child’s needs can only reasonably be met by the school in question.
For example, you may have a case if your child has an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) or you are moving to an area where there are no other schools within a reasonable distance. Providing documentation of your child’s medical or social needs can help you succeed in this kind of appeal, so be prepared to contact doctors, social workers, current teachers or others who can help.
What to do now:
1) Study your chosen school’s admissions criteria carefully to establish whether a mistake could have been made. Alternatively, gather documentation of your child’s unique circumstances and clearly state why only your chosen school can meet his or her needs.
2) State the reasons you feel you have a case to appeal your child’s rejection. Keep emotion out of it if you can. Be clear and concise.
3) Make your appeal by the stated deadline. This will be communicated in the letter from your Local Authority, but is usually between 20 and 30 days after you are notified of your child’s school place.
You can find further advice here:
• School admissions: Appealing a school's decision - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
• Infant class size appeals - Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
MyEd Search can help with your future school and nursery applications. Our comprehensive database combines Ofsted ratings, performance statistics and ‘on the ground’ reviews from parents/carers to give you the fullest possible picture, so that you can find the best possible match for your child. www.myed.com
Top Tips for Primary School Appeals
1) Before you start, think carefully about whether making an appeal is the right choice for you and your child and whether you are likely to succeed.
2) If you’re making a ‘class size appeal’, carefully compare your chosen school’s admissions criteria with your child’s situation and consider whether your child’s need to be admitted outweighs the need of the school to limit the class to 30 children.
3) If you’re making a ‘two-stage appeal’, be sure to make a positive case for why your chosen school is the only suitable option for your child, rather than highlighting concerns about the Ofsted rating or performance statistics of the school you’ve been offered.
4) Don’t assume your appeal can be based on ‘common sense’. All schools have stated admissions criteria which have been approved by the Local Authority as being compliant with the Department for Education’s Admissions Code. Schools must adhere to these and appeals panels are likely to uphold decisions that apply these criteria fairly, whether they make life easy for families or not.
5) Whatever happens, be sure to support your child in making a positive start to their school journey, wherever that is!