Succesfully appealing for a primary school place

I recently wrote about the great news that I won the appeal for Harrison’s school place. Ridiculously, we moved in 500m away from the school and we didn’t get in. The headteacher at the school we appealed for said that he’s never seen anybody win an infant class size appeal in the 14 years he’s been at the school so he was impressed!

I obviously thought we had a strong case, and so did the independent appeals panel so we got the place that we should have got in the first place!

This post is to help you out if you are thinking of appealing, now I’ve been through the experience I think I have a little bit of insight to offer.

*Please note, this is friendly advice from a fellow parent. It should not be regarded as legal advice*

What is an infant class size appeal? 

Basically, the law says that school classes in reception, year 1 or year 2 can’t have more than 30 children per teacher, so once the school is full, it’s full.

Before I start, I should say that  I think the average person during the normal admissions round probably doesn’t have grounds for appeal. But appeals exist for a reason so there’s no reason why you can’t give it a go.

You can appeal if you think that:

a) the council made a mistake or error when processing your application and if they hadn’t made this mistake then your child would have been given a place

or

b) it was ‘unreasonable’ – which is pretty hard to define and definitely is a lot more extreme than most parents would think is unreasonable.

Where do I start? 

The first thing you need to do is get on http://www.gov.uk and find the School Admissions Code and get to know it back to front. The council, or admissions authority, need to follow this code to the letter – if you can prove that they didn’t then you would have strong grounds for appeal.

‘Excepted pupil’ 

This is an important term to remember. I believe this was how we managed to win our appeal. Obviously, there has to be a way around the infant class size legislation, otherwise there would be no point in appealing. The class CAN have more than 30 children in if your child fits in a certain category.

  • A ‘looked after’ child – a child who is in care, fostered or has been adopted.
  • A child with a Health and Education plan (like a statement of special needs)
  • A child whose twin or other sibling from a multiple birth is admitted in the same age group otherwise than as an excepted pupil.
  • A child who moves into the area after the normal admissions round and for whom there is no school within a reasonable distance.

We got a letter from a doctor, saying that because of Harrison’s heart problems he finds it hard to walk to the school that the council gave us. So, since we moved into the area in September after all places were allocated, I argued that we fit the criteria to be classed as an excepted pupil.

Fair Access Protocol

Another ‘buzzword’ that you should remember. I think this mostly relates to children who get kicked out of numerous schools and there are provisions to make sure that schools can’t just turn them away. But if your child fits into one of the categories then you can use this to your advantage. If you fit into one of the categories, the school should act ‘with a sense of urgency’ to get them into a suitable school.

Some of the categories are:

  • Children who have been out of education for longer than one school term
  • Children whose parents have been unable to find them a place after moving to the area, because of a shortage of places
  • Children with special educational needs (but without a statement)
  • Children of UK service personnel and other Crown Servants

I argued that the council didn’t act quickly to offer Harrison a place since he has additional needs (his heart condition) but no statement. I have no idea if this held any sway but I just put loads of stuff into my letter!

Try to keep note of correspondence and dates

It might seem a bit harsh, but my appeal mainly focused on how useless the council was and that they didn’t do their job properly. For example, my local council has something called an ‘In year coordinated admissions code’. Because we were applying later than usual, they said that they wouldn’t process the application for a school that was in a nearby council (strange borders!) or for a nearby school that was its own admissions authority because it was an academy. The code says that they would coordinate it but they didn’t – so this helped strengthen our case. If you can keep track of dates, to prove that they didn’t act ‘quickly’ then it could go in your favour.

In conclusion…

You could try to prove that the decision was ‘unreasonable’ but, in the legal sense, the threshold is pretty high, so if we’re being realistic you probably won’t be able to prove it. Apparently, even having to quit your job so that you can get your child to school on time doesn’t count as unreasonable. Your best bet is to try to prove that the council didn’t do its job properly.

To be honest – based on my experience it shouldn’t be too hard.  2 of the people on the panel were actually giggling to themselves as they wrote notes because the representative from the council was a blundering idiot who couldn’t answer simple questions with a simple answer – so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to believe that they didn’t do their job properly. (Nothing personal, honest!)

I hope this helps someone wanting some help with an appeal. I’m very pleased that I got him in and proud of myself for going through with the appeal and winning!

 

Good luck to everyone applying for schools!

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