School Admissions in Leicester & Leicestershire

The questions and answers listed below are taken from a radio interview conducted between Education Law expert Ian Jones and BBC Radio Leicester in October 2017.

Do councils in Leicestershire have a legal obligation to ensure that each child attends a suitably local school?

The Leicester City and Leicestershire County Councils have a legal duty to ensure a sufficient supply of school places for children in their respective local areas within the county. For example, if there are 10,000 children in the area in a particular year group, the council needs to make sure there are 10,000 spaces available.

The councils have to factor in things like population growth, home schooling, private schooling and pupils travelling into or out of the council’s area to attend school. However, there is no requirement to make a place available to any particular child within any particular distance of their home address. In some rural areas, the nearest secondary school might be 15 miles away. If the nearest school with places available is too far away, the council must provide free transport.

These schools are deemed suitable by the councils, even if they have an unsatisfactory reputation or OFSTED rating that a parent finds unacceptable.

If a parent or parents refuses to send their child to a school that’s been allocated by the council, what powers do local authorities have in ensuring that he or she attends?

Parents have a legal duty to ensure that their child receives an age-appropriate education, either at school or via home schooling. The council can’t require the child to attend any particular school. But if the parent(s) refuses the school offered and cannot find another one which they are happier with and which has a place available, the legal duty is still on the parent(s) to ensure their child receives age-appropriate education. If they don’t, the council will take the parent(s) to court. The court can issue an Attendance Order and can fine the parent(s), often repeatedly, or even send the parent(s) to prison.

Is there an increase in these types of cases?

There has been significant pressure on school places locally. Leicester City Council, for example, has had to add new classes in many existing primary and secondary schools, and still needs to build further secondary provision in the next few years. The same is true in some other parts of the country too.

Nelsons specialist Education team regularly deal with appeals for parents who are struggling to get a school place which they feel is suitable or fits in with other family arrangements

Are schools oversubscribed?

Some Leicestershire schools are often oversubscribed, with many times more applications than places. Other schools may struggle to fill their spaces – this may even be because there is a surplus of places in that part of the city or county.

Applying for school places for next September

For secondary schools, applications will need to be submitted by the end of October. For primary schools, the deadline is mid-January. Late applications go to the back of the queue, so the most important thing is to make sure you apply on time.

It is essential that a parent researches the criteria that each school uses to allocate its places, and how far down the list of criteria the school normally gets when allocating places. If the school normally fills up with siblings who live in the catchment area and you don’t fit these criteria, your application is likely to fail. If the school requires proof, for example of church attendance, then make sure you submit that evidence as well. The school is not likely to request this from you, and you are not likely to get priority without it.

You can normally put down three school choices on the application form. These choices need to be put in order of preference – the school doesn’t know which order you chose, it just knows that you have applied to them. It is also advised that you don’t just put one choice on the form, thinking that this will make your case stronger for your preferred school. It won’t, and you will have wasted two options.

Finally, if you don’t get the school of your choice when the results are announced in the spring, you have a right of appeal.

For more information, please contact Nelsons’ Education Law team on 0800 024 1976.