National Offer Day is heading around again very soon (Equally well known as the day children find out what school they are going to) Thousands of 10 and 11 year olds from the Year 6 year group will find out which secondary school they have been allocated. For most, the decision will be no surprise. Many will get their first choice of school, many will have never even thought about attending a different one. For some families though, the decision might come as a huge shock or disappointment if they are not offered their first choice of preferred school. It only seems like 2 minutes since we were going through our own story. We knew which school Violet would be offered due to location but had our own reasons why we thought it wouldn’t be the right school for her. As a result, we ended up going through 2 school appeals. Some families in similar positions to us might find it useful if we share, What to expect at a School Appeal?
For those families who decide not to go through the appeals process, you may find my post on the Next steps to take if you do not get offered your preferred school useful.
Were you successful when you went to appeal?
Yes we were. We do have to admit, we were incredibly fortunate that we came to win our school appeal but we are super grateful and for Violet it has 100% been the right decision to go down the appeals process.
Why 2 School Appeals?
We appealed against not being awarded Violet’s first choice of high school. We knew that we were very unlikely to be successful as this school is massively oversubscribed but we felt we had to fight her corner and state why we felt so strongly against the second choice.
Our second appeal was to a different school that we didn’t even know existed when we first applied for high schools.
Does it matter what schools you put in your original application?
Yes very much! You will be examined as to why you put which school and in which order. That we only put 2 schools (instead of the possible 3) seemed to go in our favour that we really did not want her to go to any other alternative school in the town.
How to appeal?
When you originally get your offer letter, there will be information on how to start the school appeal process in it. Each Admission Authority or Academy Trust have slightly different ways of starting the education appeals process but it is likely to be via an online form.
Tips for completing are:
- Make sure all your contact details are correct – especially child’s name, email address.
- Mention any exceptional circumstances about your child, your situation, any new health issue that may be a factor in your child needing that particular school.
- Be on time – do not miss the closing date to be able to appeal.
On what grounds can an appeal process be successful?
There are very limited circumstances when the school’s decision can be overturned at appeal:
- If there has been an error in the way the school’s admission arrangements were conducted (such cases are VERY rare!)
- If you can prove that the damage to your child from not attending your chosen school would be greater than the impact on all the children at that school form from being over subscribed.
Can you appeal to get in a school if you did not originally apply for that school?
Yes we did and were successful in getting Vi a place. We were honest and said that we really didn’t know we could apply for schools out of town.
Does your religion matter?
If you are appealing to get in a Catholic High School, then yes. You need to demonstrate why it is so important to you and the child that they get that specific religion catered for in a school.
Can you appeal to a school out of your area?
Yes – We didn’t know when we sent Vi’s application in that we could include school out of the area and in another local admissions authority. Don’t always presume that they wouldn’t get in a school further away. We found out just before the appeal, that if we had applied originally Vi would have been offered a place due to it being a rural area and not oversubscribed before they hit our boundary. (The school Vi goes to now, is less than 10 miles away and takes shorter time to get to than some school in our town).
Who will be at the appeal?
On the day of the hearing there will be:
You (as parents or representative of your child)
3 panel members – These are more than likely 2 councillors from the local authority. It is their job to be an independent appeal panel and decide whether you have case for appeal and if that appeal is upheld.
The school will be represented – This can be a member of council staff or more than likely the Head Teacher/Deputy Head of the school. We had both experiences. It is their job to say why the school cannot accommodate your child – expect comments like teaching will suffer, health & safety in corridors and lunchtimes. We were really lucky that the Head from Vi’s school is a lovely man and really was quite gently with us. I will be honest, some appeals can be gruelling.
Admin – This should be a notetaker only from government services with secretarial duties like keeping to time and ensuring all procedures have been followed eg Like asking if you have any questions, explaining the order of events
Virtual appeal hearings
During the pandemic, most school admissions appeals have been conducted virtually. I suspect that even though, most restrictions are now lifted, depending on the admissions authority many appeals process hearings will remain online.
Do I need to dress smartly?
There’s no rules but I would.
What will you be asked?
It will be really specific to your child and your circumstances so I can only go off what we experienced. Expect questions like:
- Why do you want your child to particularly attend that school?
- Why do you NOT want your child to attend the school that they have been offered? Things like extenuating circumstances, any significant change to family circumstances, travel, your previous children’s experiences all come in here. Friendship groups isn’t really a reason for wanting your child to attend a particular school but you have to throw everything at it.
- How would your child cope at either school?
- When did you first think about applying to the school? (If you did not originally apply)
- Mention things like being willing to take an active part in school life (only if your child will!)
When will it be?
Both of our appeals were held in the May following the allocation of High School places. The appeal date for sixth form and primary school places will be around the same time of year. The
How long does it take?
The actual appeal interview takes between 30-60 minutes.
The first appeal we attended went through the rigmarole of deciding whether there is any case for appeal first. Everyone went into the Council Chamber to discuss the school point of view as to why only a certain amount of children could be given places. The parents then asked questions about the school. The panel then retired to consider whether there was a case for appeal. Once this happened, individual meetings were held later that day.
Is the appeal process for each different type of school?
The process is even tighter for infant class size appeals. There is an infant class size limit of 30 per class which is protected by infant class size legislation. Legally, if an infant class has more than 30, then they would have to employ another teacher, which most infant school may not be able to afford. Many small schools have limited budget and this would not be an efficient use of resources.
When do you find out the panel’s decision?
In writing, decision letters explaining the panel’s decision are sent out approximately 7 calendar days after the appeals panel.
What can you do if you are unsuccessful?
You have no further right of appeal against an unsuccessful final decision but you can request to go on a waiting list in case any places become available. This is a good alternative way of getting into the school as you would be surprised how often families change their mind about what school they will be sending their child to or they move areas. You would do this through your council’s School Admissions Department.
In the first school that we appealed to get in, I know that at least 2 places became available within 4 months.
I have also written a post with 10 tips for what to do after an unsuccessful school appeal
Would we do the same again?
Well, we would apply for the school that Vi is at in the first place but yes, it was most definitely worth taking it to appeal.
Good luck if you and your child find yourselves in the same situation. All is not lost – You may be one of the lucky ones, like us. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.