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School Applications and Appeals

The processes for primary and secondary school application are largely the same. Parents can apply by noting a preference for the school they would like their children to attend. 

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However, whether they get the place will depend on the entrance criteria. 

Parents must apply for school spaces through the local authority and they will be asked to name which schools they would like their children to attend. This application process should be completed as soon as possible to increase the chances of getting into the preferred school.

Every child has the right to a place at a state school, but all schools have a limited number of places and often receive applications from more students than they can accommodate.

Oversubscribed schools

If the school of choice is oversubscribed then that school will invoke a set of guidelines, determined by that school's admission authority - 'admission criteria' or 'oversubscription criteria' - to establish who they will be able to accept; this usually includes whether the family lives within the schools catchment area. If a family is denied submission to their preferred school, they can appeal to the admission authority.

It is important to be aware of the admission criteria of every school that you apply to so that you can ascertain whether or not your child meets them - if not then you may struggle to find a place at popular schools.

School admissions & appeals advice

In recent times the issues surrounding children’s admissions to primary and secondary schools have tended to feature prominently in the media, and as such many parents have sought help with this difficult and emotive issue.  If parents do not obtain a place for their child in their preferred school then they may seek legal help in appealing the decision. This is primarily because the School Admissions Appeal Code and the related Schools Admission Code (both issued in February 2009) are considered to be large and particularly dense legal documents. It is rare that parents will be able to summon the emotional strength needed to raise a child and explore the information contained in these two documents.

Parents or governing bodies who are unsatisfied with the results of the admissions process can appeal to the Independent Admissions Appeal panel. This is usually the result of parents not being able to get the place they wanted for their child, although the School Admissions Appeal Code does also allow for governing bodies of voluntary or community schools to appeal a decision by a Local Authority to admit a child to their school because of past exclusions.

Infant appeals

These appeals occur mostly because a child has been refused admission to a school on the basis of class size, although there are a number of potential reasons. The Appeal Panel can overturn a decision and offer a child a place if it can be shown that:

  1. The decision not to admit the child can be proved to be one that would not be made in a normal case by a properly functioning admission authority.
  2. The child would have been admitted if the actions had not been contrary to the obligatory provisions in the School Admission Code as well as in the School Standards and Frameworks Act of 1998.
  3. The child would have been admitted if the Admission Arrangements had been properly adhered to.

Secondary school appeals

In processing an Appeal for a secondary school place the Appeal Panel must follow a two step process. The first step is the consideration of the facts of the case. Specifically the panel must decide whether the published admissions code of the school fulfil the obligatory requirements of the third part of the School Standards and Frameworks Act 1998 as well as the Schools Admission Code, and that these requirements were correctly applied to the individuals case.  If this is proved, or the suggestion that the child’s admittance would generate prejudice, then the Appeal Panel moves on to the second step. This next step is where the Panel arrives at a decision, based on the weighing up of both the school’s and the appellants case and using its discretion and judgement.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, the parent can either proceed on procedural grounds to the High Court (as long as it occurs within three months of the date of the decision letter) or to the Local Government Ombudsman on maladministration grounds (as long as it occurs within twelve months of the date of the decision letter).

Get legal help

Family law can be complex, and sometimes you will need further advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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