Preparing for a Secondary School Admission Appeal Hearing

Posted on: 4 mins read
Lydia Neill


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The prospect of attending a hearing about where your child will attend secondary school is incredibly daunting. Our specialist Education Law Solicitors have helped many parents prepare for these hearings and we can help you too. We can provide legal advice so you know exactly what to expect and make sure you’re prepared so you can give the appeal hearing your best shot.

Get in touch with our specialist Education Law Solicitors for advice now.

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Making a Successful Appeal

School admission appeals are more successful when the parent goes to the admission appeal hearing in person rather than letting the panel decide on the paperwork alone, so it’s really important that you go to the hearing yourself.

You’ll need to provide your reasons for appeal, also known as “grounds for appeal”, in advance of your hearing to detail any arguments you wish to make. This is helpful for two reasons.

Firstly, it is good preparation for the hearing. You can get your thoughts in order and work out what you want to say. But secondly, it makes sure that your case is set out in writing so the panel can consider it before the hearing, ask you any questions they have and reflect on it to clarify any points before making their decision.

If you need help preparing your written appeal, we can help you with this.

The Hearing

When you get to the hearing, you should be met by the Clerk to the Independent Appeals Panel. It is very common for “Stage One” of the hearing to take place with all parents who are appealing for that particular school and year group to be present. Depending on the popularity of the school, this can be very busy.  

The “Stage Two” part of the process will then be scheduled for each individual parent to meet with the Panel separately. No other parents should be present whilst you are dealing with ‘Stage Two’ as this is personal to your child.

Stage One and Stage Two of the appeals process usually take place on the same day, but not always.

The legal test being considered at Stage One is whether the school’s admissions arrangements are both lawful and have been applied correctly.

Stage One questions relate to the Admission Authority case for the school and not to your personal circumstances, so there’s no reason why these can’t be discussed in front of the other parents.

At Stage One, the Panel are examining the decision to refuse admission for your child to the school. They’re checking that the school’s oversubscription arrangements are lawful and have been applied correctly. They’ll also expect the school to set out the reasons why they can’t take any more children and the impact if they had to take another child or children.

The Stage Two hearing is the balancing of the above arguments raised by the school with your own arguments.

The Panel must balance the “prejudice” to the school that was discussed at the first stage against your case for your child to be admitted to the school.

The Panel must take into account your reasons for expressing a preference for the school and the other arguments that you’ve set out in writing.

If the Panel decides that your case outweighs the prejudice to the school, then your appeal will be successful. 

Who is On the Admissions Appeal Panel?

The Panel will consist of a chair person and at least two other Panel members. Usually Panels sit either as a group of three or five.

If you’ve got concerns about any panel members (they may not be independent of the school, or you know them personally), you should raise these concerns with the Clerk at the beginning of the hearing.

The Clerk to the Independent Appeals Panel

The Clerk should be independent of the Admission Authority and the education functions of the Local Authority. They should have received training in respect of the law relating to admissions, the School Admissions Appeal Code and the School Admission Code.

The Clerk should make the necessary arrangements for the hearing and at the start of the hearing should explain how it will all work. They’ll also make a record of the appeal and provide you with the written notification of the Panel’s decision. The Clerk does not decide your case, their role is to advise the Panel on law and procedure.

The Decision

The Panel probably won’t give you a decision at the hearing, although the Admission Authority may make arrangements to contact you either by email or phone shortly after the appeal hearing.

You will need to wait for the written decision so you can read the Panel’s reasons for their decision in detail. You should get the written decision no later than five days after the hearing.

After the Decision

If your secondary school admission appeal is successful, then arrangements should be made for your child to attend your chosen school like everyone else in September, but if your appeal is not successful, there is no other right of appeal.

If the Panel made a mistake in law or procedure when making its decision, you could challenge the decision by making a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman for maintained schools, or the Education and Skills Funding Agency for Academies.

You could potentially challenge an unlawful decision using a Judicial Review. This is a complaint in the Courts. In this situation it would be against the Admissions Authority, alleging that they’ve failed in a legal duty.

You will need to take action very quickly and it can be extremely complicated so if you think this might apply to your case, get in touch with one of our specialist Education Solicitor’s immediately.   

See some of our School Admission Appeal Case Studies.

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