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If you are not offered your first choice school, you can appeal for a place there. But the harsh reality is that you have very little chance of success at appeal for a reception place, especially if you live in a crowded city. Firstly, because local authorities have a duty only to provide a place at a school, not at a school of your choosing. And secondly, infant class size legislation restricts classes to 30 children in reception/KS1.
So the first rule of a primary school appeal is to avoid it all costs. That means being clued up about the schools in your area and applying the right tactics when you fill in the application form - click here to read our advice on applying to primary schools.
Grounds for a school appeal
In the normal admissions round, you can only win an infant class appeal on legal grounds. That means you must prove that the admissions criteria are in themselves illegal, because they contravene the School Admissions Code.
Or, you might be able to show that they have been applied incorrectly (eg the distance from your house has not been measured accurately – again you need to look carefully at their policy, as some will take an ‘as the crow flies’ measurement, and others will measure the shortest walking distance). The cut off distance will vary from year to year according to the number of applications, so even if your neighbour’s child got in last year, it doesn’t mean yours will be a shoe-in.
The only other grounds for appeal occur when the decision to refuse admission ‘was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made’. Again this confuses parents because the ‘not…reasonable’ here means in a legal sense, ie that their admissions decision was ‘perverse’, ‘outrageous’, or defies logic or accepted moral standards.
Every year we hear from families who feel they have a case because the decision seems unreasonable – such as one parent who had three children placed in three different schools. How could she be at three school gates at the same time? Even this did not allow her to win an appeal. Other common circumstances which cannot be seen as grounds for an infant school appeal are where the chosen school fits with the parent’s commuting journey; or where shared child care arrangements mean you really need your child to be at the same school as a friend’s; or where the catchment school has a terrible Ofsted, and parents want one with a better reputation.
Infant class size legislation
There are very few exceptions under which the top limit of 30 children per class in reception/KS1 can be broken. These include cases where a child is admitted outside the normal admissions round in the following circumstances: a child with an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan relating to special needs and disability); children moving into the area when there is no other available school within reasonable distance; and looked after children. It can also be breached when a mistake has been made and a child ought to have gained a place eg because they have a sibling already at the school; or when a child with special educational needs spends part of his or her time in a special school or specials needs unit.
You must accept the place at the school you have been offered, no matter how tempting it is to return the form with ‘Over my dead body’ scrawled on it, or to screw it up and throw it in the bin. If you reject it the local authority is not obliged to offer you another school and you would run the risk of having no place at all in September.
Get on the waiting list for any school you prefer (this can include ones you didn’t put on your preference form) and do not rule out the school you have been offered. A bad local reputation can linger after a school has improved under a new head. Go and visit and see for yourself, and you can even ask other parents at the school gate about their experience of the school
If you haven't been given the school you want, you will be sent details of how to appeal. You have every right to appeal to all of the schools which you named on your preference form, but you need to approach it in the knowledge that unless you have grounds as outlined above, it is unlikely to be successful.
If you are still unhappy with your allocated primary school, but you can’t appeal, get as involved with the school as you are able. If you have any time during the school day, volunteer to hear children read or help out with messy activities or on school trips. You will be benefitting your child and may be reassured by seeing a lot of good work going on.
And remember, the biggest contribution you can make to your child’s education is what you do with them yourself. Spending time reading with them, taking them out to interesting places, talking to them, keeping them stocked up with library books – all of this can go a long way to counteract a less than perfect school.
If you had thought that you might one day be willing to pay school fees, maybe now is a good time to look into it. It’s possible that The Good Schools Guide carries reviews of junior schools in your area so take a look at our school search. Also, if you would like the help and support of an experienced guiding hand, arrange a time to speak with one of our education consultants. Phone 020 3286 6824 or email [email protected] - for more information please visit: www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/consultants