How best to follow a school appeals process if you don’t get the school place you wanted.
Managing School Appeals
1. Accept the place you have been given, and go on a waiting list
First of all, you should accept the place you’ve been given even if you’ve decided to appeal. Then make sure you’re on the waiting lists of all your preferred schools. Your child can be on waiting lists for more than one school – even schools you haven’t applied for.
You can also submit more than one appeal to different schools. However, you must appeal to each school separately. If your child has not been offered a school place at all, you can contact your local council to find places in your area.
2. Get an appeals form
The local authority will provide the appeals form. You submit this to the local authority for the schools they run. However, if the school is not run by the local authority (ie. trust schools, City Technology Colleges, academies or foundation schools) the appeal is usually made to the school’s governing body.
Specific details on how to appeal are usually stated in the letter you receive from the school. Once you have the form, you will then be able to put forward a case for your child. The admission authority for the school must allow you at least 20 school days to appeal from when they send the decision letter.
A panel hearing will be held within 30 days, and you will usually be expected to go in person to make your case.
3. How to write an appeal
Filling in the appeals form is your opportunity to make a strong case. You don’t need to give a great deal of detail at this stage, but you should outline the main grounds for the appeal. Unless you believe there is a legal problem with the admissions rules, it is best to appeal on the basis that there is an overwhelming reason why your child should attend this particular school.
According to the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE), it is best to structure your appeal in three sections. Firstly, include a description of your child and why should they be accepted into the school. This should take into account whether they have special educational needs (SEN) or whether were they bullied previously.
Secondly, state why this particular school would be a good fit for your child, considering points such as academic strengths or SEN facilities. Finally, state why the alternative choice school isn’t right for them.
If your child has applied for a grammar school and failed the 11 Plus then you will also need to include the following evidence of your child’s:
- academic ability to do well at grammar school – such a letter from your child’s headteacher showing he/she is top of their primary school year group.
- extenuating or mitigating circumstances which meant they weren’t able to perform well during the exam/exams
- If you are appealing to an individual grammar school include evidence why you think that particular school is the most suitable for your child.
Avoid sending in photographs of your child or letters from them as this will make panel members feel uncomfortable!
4. When will the hearing be?
You should get confirmation of the receipt of your form within a week after you’ve sent it in. You will then be notified when your appeals panel hearing is going to take place. The admission authority must give you at least 10 school days’ notice of the hearing.
5. Should I use professional help for the hearing?
It is up to you but some specialist legal firms claim to at least double your chances of success. Coram Children’s Legal Centre may be able to give you advice about appeals. Remember that you can also bring friends or professionals to the appeals panel hearing, such as a lawyer or child psychologist.
6. What happens at the appeal hearing
There’s usually a panel of 3 or more people at the appeal hearing. The panel must be independent and must follow the school admission appeals code. The admission authority will explain why they turned down your application.
In an 11 Plus appeal, the panel will simply be looking at two tests:
- Is the academic evidence compelling enough to indicate the child may have achieved the pass mark under normal circumstances
- Are there mitigating circumstances that explain why the pass mark was not reached.
You must give your own reasons why your child should be admitted. It is best to prepare a presentation based upon your grounds of appeal, lasting around 10-15 minutes.
It’s obviously important to remain as professional as possible but if you do break down emotionally then make sure someone else can take over. Also, try not to be defensive or get annoyed with panel members and treat them courteously!
You will usually be sent the decision letter within 5 school days although it can sometimes take longer for some grammar schools.
7. What happens if your appeal is unsuccessful?
If a parent or guardian’s appeal is unsuccessful, it is usually not possible to appeal to the same school within one academic year. However, a “material change” in their circumstances can make an appeal is possible.