What should I do if I’m not happy with my allocated school?
In March and April each year, parents across the country find out which new school their child will attend. In most cases, this will be your first choice.
But if you don’t get your first choice, what should you do? What if you are not offered any of the schools you chose?
In many cases, being offered one of your other preferences won’t be a problem. Yes, the top school was a little closer or looked slightly better, but the school offered is fine. In this case, you can still appeal for your favoured school if you want to, but your case to the appeal panel may not be very strong.
But if you have good reasons why the school offered is not suitable and why your preferred school would be a much better – or the only workable – option, you will need to appeal.
How do I appeal and what is the deadline?
You will need to appeal in writing, stating your reason. Many schools use standard forms but sometimes these can be misleading. You can also appeal for more than one school.
The decision letter should make clear how you appeal. If not, check the school’s website or contact your local authority to find out who to contact.
The school/council website should also tell you the deadline for submitting an appeal, which must be at least 20 school days after the decision letter. School holidays and weekends don’t count, so if you are given a shorter deadline, you should challenge it.
What are my chances of winning the appeal?
Nationally, about one in three appeals are decided in the parent’s favour, but this statistic masks a range of experience, depending on the type of school and age range – infant class size appeals have very strict rules, and only about one in 10 succeeds.
The strength of your arguments and how you put them forward will be very important, but so will the school’s detailed reasons for refusal. No one can give you a clear idea of your prospects without knowing all the facts.
What should I include in the appeal?
- Read the admissions policy very carefully
- Frame your application in terms of the admissions criteria
- State why your case is different, not just how good the school is
- Provide clear documentary evidence to back up any claim of strong social/medical need to attend a particular school
- A school’s specialist status is usually irrelevant to any appeal
- Ensure all paperwork is sent in good time and obtain a receipt
If you need any help from the school, local authority or an outside professional, don’t wait until the last minute.
Can I appeal myself or do I need a lawyer?
You will need to be able to analyse arguments, express yourself clearly and objectively in writing and in front of an appeal panel and to challenge facts and arguments put forward on the day and by the school. You also need to understand the sort of factors that are likely to ‘tick the boxes’ for the appeal panel, and those that will not.
If you feel confident to handle the appeal yourself, you don’t need anyone to help you. However, a good representative will have these skills, will know from experience the arguments that might be most persuasive, and will understand that the hearing is not confrontational.
Don’t be put off by the school or local authority saying you don’t need a lawyer. It is your appeal and if you feel that you need help, ask for it. Panels are not allowed to think any more or less favourably of your case just because it is presented by a lawyer.
Contact a member of Nelsons’ specialist Education Team on 0800 024 1976 for a fixed fee conference or for support with an appeal.