‘School Admissions D-Day Approaches’ by Matt Richards, Senior Partner at School Appeals Services

Almost 100,000 parents across the country will find out either on 1st March or soon after whether they have secured a place for their child in the school of their choice. In the London region, there are likely to be more upset and unhappy parents than most areas of the country, given the shortage of places for infant class children i.e. those joining the school at reception stage.

Many London boroughs are facing cutbacks and, with a slightly rising population, the pressure on reception places this year will be extreme and in some areas, school capacity will simply not be able to cope. This will leave many parents not securing their first preference in terms of school allocation, but also having none of their preferences accepted.

There is a statutory appeal system that any parent can use to appeal the decision of an admission authority (either a school or a local education authority) to try and reverse the decision and secure a place for their child at the school of their preference.

Unfortunately, if you are appealing for a school place in a reception year group and that school organises its classes in groups of 30, then your chances of success at appeal will be slim.

Many schools and admission authorities will deliberately put off parents from appealing and while as stated above, chances of success are not high, there are some that do not appeal that could have a potential winnable case.

Matt Richards of School Appeals Services, the largest independent provider of legal advice in relation to school admission appeals has told us that “it is true that what is known as an infant class size prejudice appeal is very difficult to win. That said, I am surprised that so many parents are put off by people in councils or schools who tell them ‘don’t bother to appeal, you have no chance.’ Bear in mind that when given advice by the admission authorities that they are the opposition and parents need perhaps to look at some independent research or professional advice to potentially before making a decision about whether to appeal or not.

As a company, in 2010 we noticed an increase of around 50% in those appealing for reception places who won their appeal. The reason I believe is that some of the decisions that admission authorities were making were not deemed to be reasonable by independent appeal panels, so my advice would be not necessarily to spend a lot of money, but do check out whether you might have a possible winnable case.”.

Set out below are Matt’s top tips for dealing with an admission appeal.

1. PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE…

If you think you are going to knock together a couple of sides of A4 and send this in prior to the Appeal Hearing, turn up on the day and read it out, there will be only one outcome – you will lose your Appeal! You should be planning your appeal from the moment you choose to apply for the school. Start collecting relevant information from the school as early as possible and gathering everything you can in relation to the school and the Appeals process. The more time, effort and work you put into your Appeal Submission and preparation you undertake, the greater your chances of success.

2) KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

Schools and Admission Authorities usually ask for parents Appeal Submissions to be submitted by a given date well in advance of the Appeal Hearing. Why is this? Administratively it is easier for them if all parental submissions come in on one day. It is also advantageous to them if you are rushed in terms of your preparation! Here’s the crunch – the only statutory deadline placed upon you as a parent to submit your information is to have that information submitted 3 days before the appeal hearing. If you cannot meet the deadline supplied to you by the school or Admission Authority, you should tell them so and also tell them when they will have your Submission. I usually advise parents to submit at least 7 to 10 days prior to their Hearing to enable prior circulation to all parties as the 3 day deadline can mean that the first time the Panel see your material is the day of the hearing – not a great idea. (You must however, give notice of your intention to appeal in writing within the required timescales. This can however be a one liner that says you exercise your right of appeal and no more, or simply complete the Appeal Form provided to you but in relation to the section which asks for your reasons for appealing, mark this “To Follow”).

3) EVIDENCE

Every claim you make in your Appeal Submission is just that, a claim, without it being evidenced independently. Seek out documentation from appropriate professionals or associates to evidence the information you are providing. Remember, an Appeal Hearing is a legal process and you will be questioned about your case and have to defend it.

4) THE SCHOOL’S / LEA’S CASE FOR OVER CAPACITY

In the vast majority of Appeals, the school has to convince the Appeal Panel that it is at its capacity or admission limit and cannot take pupils over and above this figure. In my experience, nine out of ten parents do not question this, or make any attempt to negate this argument. This is a big mistake. The more you can weaken the school’s case, the more the Appeal Panel will think the school is not as overcrowded as it is stating, and they may therefore be more sympathetic to individual Appeals.

THE AUTHOR: Matt Richards of School Appeals Services can be contacted on 020 8523 0887 or by visiting the School Appeals Services website at www.schoolappeals.com. SPECIAL OFFER TO LONDON MUMS: Mention London Mums and you will be able to have a no obligation chat about your case. Matt and three other members of staff covered the London area in relation to assisting parents with their appeals. Both he and his colleagues are happy to have a no-obligation chat with any London Mums member should they wish to call School Appeals Services.

Facebook Comments