Primary School Admissions Appeals Explained

Author:
Nick Moran
Trainee Solicitor, Education & Community Care
Date:
16/04/2019

2019 National Offer Day for Primary School Reception Classes

On 16th April 2019, all parents with children entering into primary school will be notified of the place they’ve been allocated, and whether it reflects their preferences.

To some parents, it can be an upsetting and emotional day if they discover that their child has been allocated a primary school place that they didn’t want, particularly if a placement wasn’t offered at any of their preferred schools.

Whilst all parents receive a right of appeal, there are many pitfalls which they could unknowingly fall into. The process of appealing for a primary school place is very similar to appealing for a secondary school place. However, there are some important differences which parents should be aware of when making such an appeal.

For legal advice get in touch with our Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

Appealing against a Primary School Admission

Our Education Lawyers have created a free school admissions pack outlining the basics of how to appeal and details of the two-stage appeal process.

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Parents making an appeal should also bear in mind the content of the School Admissions Appeals Code, as this is what the Independent Appeal Panel will be following in determining an admissions appeal case.

Primary school admission appeals are significantly more difficult to win than secondary school admission appeals. This is due to legislation which caps the ratio of children within a classroom to the number of teachers for Years R, One and Two. The law states that there cannot be more than 30 infants within a classroom per qualified teacher.

Consequently, many schools will have allocated 30 places within their reception classes on National Offer Day, leading many school admissions appeals to fall foul of this rule.

As a result, an Independent Appeal Panel may uphold an appeal where it finds that the admission of another child wouldn’t breach the infant class size limit or that the admissions arrangements didn’t comply with admissions law. An appeal may also be upheld if admissions arrangements weren’t correctly and impartially applied and if the child would have been offered a place had they been correctly applied, or where the decision to refuse admission wasn’t one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances.

Whilst many school admission decisions may appear to be unreasonable, it’s important to bear in mind that this has a very specific legal definition. Legally, a decision would be unreasonable if it was so outrageous in its defiance of logic or accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his or her mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at it. This places a very high standard on an argument claiming a decision is unreasonable, making these arguments very difficult to successfully bring to an appeal.

There are exceptions to the Infant Class Size rules, but these will only apply outside the normal admissions round, for twins or children of multiple births or for children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP). It would be inappropriate to go through the school admissions appeal process for a child with an EHCP as the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal would deal with any dispute relating to placement in such a case.

As a result, the usual school admissions appeals arguments stating that the prejudicial effect on the school of admitting another child is minimised or is less than that the child will experience are rarely relevant to an appeal.

This means that a procedural error must be identified and that the error resulted in the child missing out on a school place, or where the decision not to admit is unreasonable, if there are already 30 children in the class sought. Arguments which may be successful in the case of a secondary school admissions appeal may therefore not apply for seeking a primary school admissions appeal.

Primary school admissions appeals are very difficult to succeed in, even with legal representation. However, in the cases which are successful, identifying procedural errors can be a daunting task for parents and determining whether a case has reasonable prospects of succeeding can be very difficult without expert knowledge and experience.

The primary school admissions appeal process can also be very time-consuming, so many parents will choose to hire specialist Education Solicitors and SEN Lawyers to give their child the best chance of getting into their preferred school.

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