Primary School Admissions Appeals Explained

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National Offer Day for Primary School Reception Classes

On 17 April 2023, families throughout the country will find out if their child has been allocated their preferred primary school place.

If your child hasn’t been given your preferred primary school place, it’s important to accept the school place you’ve been offered so they’ll still have a place for September. We know this can be an upsetting and emotional day, particularly if they were not offered a placement at any of your other choices, so you may be considering making an appeal.

Whilst all parents have the right to appeal primary school places, appeals for Key Stage 1 (Reception, Year 1 and Year 2) can unfortunately be difficult to win. However, if something has gone wrong during the admissions process, you may be able to appeal – get in touch with our Education Law team who have years of experience. We can save you time and improve your chances of a successful appeal.

In this article we’ll explain why it can be harder to make a primary school place appeal, and how our Education Law team could help you appeal your child’s Primary School place if there’s been a ‘procedural error’ in your application.

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Appealing against a Primary School Admission Decision

Our expert Education Law team have created a helpful step-by-step Guide to School Appeals, explaining how you can appeal and the process to expect.

You can read more about the School Admissions Appeals Code, as this is what the Independent Appeal Panel will be following in determining your appeal.

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The Law on Infant Class Sizes

Making a Primary School Admission Appeal is difficult because of Infant Class Size legislation, which states that there cannot be more than 30 pupils per qualified teacher within a classroom for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

Many schools will have already allocated 30 places within their Reception classes on the National Offer Day for primary school places (16 April), so it can be very difficult to make a primary school admission appeal.

There are some exceptions to the Infant Class Size rules, but these will only apply in certain circumstances, for example if you have twins or a child with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). If your child has an ECHP, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal would deal with any admissions appeals, rather than the case going through the ‘standard’ school admissions appeal process.

You may be able to appeal your child’s primary school place if:

  • Your child wouldn’t breach the infant class size limit of 30 by being admitted to the school. You can ask the school for information on how it arranges its classes, or we could ask them for you.
  • The admissions arrangements do not comply with admissions law (this is quite rare – but if you think this may apply to your application, get in touch with us);
  • Admissions arrangements were incorrectly or impartially applied - and if they had been correctly applied, your child would’ve been offered a place. For example, the distance from your house has not been measured accurately.

The decision was “one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case”.

What Counts as an ‘Unreasonable’ Primary School Admission Decision?

You have the right to appeal a primary school place decision if it was unreasonable, however, before you appeal, it’s important to know what counts as an ‘unreasonable decision’ when it comes to primary school place appeals.

The decision on your child’s primary school place may appear to be ‘unreasonable’ or ‘irrational’ e.g. dropping off your child makes it impractical for you to commute to work, or you have three children in three separate schools. However, legally, a primary school admission decision would only be classified as ‘unreasonable’ if it ‘defies logic or moral standards’. ‘Unreasonableness’ can be difficult to prove in any legal case, so if you’re unsure, get in touch with our Education Law team.

By law, a primary school place decision cannot take into account your personal circumstances or your practical difficulties. This means that the bar on what is considered ‘unreasonable’ is very high for primary school place appeals.

What are the Grounds for Appealing a Primary School Admission Decision?

You can only appeal primary school decisions on these grounds of it being ‘unreasonable’ in very exceptional circumstances, e.g. if you have moved your child to a new area under witness protection.

With secondary school appeals, the Independent Appeal Panel must compare the reasons why a school does not want to accept additional children against the reasons why a child needs to attend. During secondary school place appeals, the school must prove that admitting your child would negatively affect the education or resources of the rest of the children in the class. However, a primary school does not have to prove this during a primary school place appeal if there are already 30 filled places in the class already, because of the law on Infant Class Sizes.

This means primary school admissions places very difficult to appeal unless something has ‘gone wrong’ with the process i.e a ‘procedural error’.

Appealing a Primary School Place because of a ‘Procedural Error’

An example of a ‘procedural error’ would be a human or computer error, for example the school did not calculate the distance of the school from your house appropriately. However, even this can be disputed: some schools have a policy where they calculate the distance ‘as the crow flies’, whereas others consider actual walking distance.

This error must also be found to have resulted in your child missing out on the place – so you cannot simply appeal because of the error itself.

This can be a daunting and time-consuming task for parents, and it can be very difficult to decide whether your child’s case has reasonable prospects of succeeding without expert knowledge and experience.

This is where our specialist Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers can come in, as we have years of expertise and experience in school place appeals. We will not take on your case if we don’t think there is a genuine chance of your appeal being successful.

It can be challenging to navigate the law on your own and keep yourself calm and collected in a situation that involves your child’s future, but our team can give you the best guidance and support you every step of the way.

If you think a procedural error led to your child not getting the primary school place they should have got, get in touch today to see how we could help.

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