Infant Class Size Appeals


National Offer Day for Reception places, 18th April 2016, can cause parents strife as they try to get their child into the reception class that they feel appropriate. Therefore it is essential that parents are aware of their rights when it comes to appealing against decisions made by the Admissions Authority of their preferred school.

Primary School Classroom

If your four year old is not allocated your preferred choice of school in September 2016, you will be given the option to appeal for a different placement. Many of these appeals will be ‘Infant Class Size’ appeals, whereby the parent wishes to appeal for a place in a class that has reached its legal limit of 30 children to 1 teacher.

In certain circumstances, it may be that your child can be considered an ‘excepted pupil’, for example, if your children are twins, and one has been allocated a place at your preferred school, and the other hasn’t. If your child is considered an ‘excepted pupil’, then a place can be allocated to them that exceeds the ‘infant class size’ limit. However, these circumstances are rare, and in most cases your only option will be to appeal for a place.

Because there is legislation in place to protect a Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 class from containing more than 30 children, infant class size appeals can be difficult to win. An admissions panel can only uphold an appeal if:

  1. It finds that the admission of additional children would not breach the infant class size limit; or
  2. It finds that the admission arrangements did not comply with admissions law or they had not been correctly and impartially applied and the child would have been offered a place if the arrangements had complied or had been correctly and impartially applied, or
  3. It decides that the decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.
If a parent requests support from Simpson Millar LLP (formerly Maxwell Gillott) in an Infant Class Size appeal, we investigate several aspects of the case before preparing detailed Grounds of Appeal. It is crucial that the admissions procedure and over-subscription criteria are closely examined, and we would advise any parent preparing to lodge their own appeal to do the same.

Parents will need to consider whether any errors may have been made when allocating Reception places. A ‘Freedom of Information’ request can help to determine how the last pupil was allocated a place at a parent’s preferred school, and whether there is any reason this place may have been allocated incorrectly. Whilst maintained schools usually use their local authority as an admissions authority, and often have relatively straight-forward oversubscription criteria, the same cannot be said for Academies. Academies occasionally use complex over-subscription criteria, and it may be possible that errors can be made in allocating places, therefore, if a parent is appealing for a place at an Academy, it is crucial that these criteria are carefully scrutinised.

It is also important to look at how a school actually provides education for the Early Years and Key Stage 1. A Reception class with a Published Admissions Number of 10 may not seem to be considered beholden to Infant Class Size legislation, but if the classes are vertically streamed, Years 1 and 2 both hold 10 pupils, and all three year groups are taught together, the Infant Class Size limit will still apply.

If parents decide to lodge an appeal, they are advised to submit detailed ‘Grounds of Appeal’, which should state why they believe their child should be allocated a place that would potentially breach the Infant Class Size Rule. An appeal will only succeed if the parents can prove that an error has been made in allocating places, and their child would have been given a place if the error hadn’t been made; or that the decision that was made in not allocating their child a place was unreasonable.

An Admission Appeal Panel will consider:

  1. Whether the admission of an additional child/children would breach the infant class size limit;
  2. Whether the admission arrangements (including the area’s coordinated admission arrangements) complied with the mandatory requirements of the school’s Admission Code and part 3 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and;
  3. Whether the admission arrangements were correctly and impartially applied in the case in question, or;
  4. Whether the decision to refuse admission was one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.
Whilst a decision not to admit a child often seems unreasonable to parents, the threshold is, in fact, high. The panel will need to be satisfied that the decision to refuse to admit the child was ‘perverse in the light of the admissions arrangements’.

Mr and Mrs Knowles asked for our support in 2015, when their son was allocated a place at a school they had not requested in their application. This is fairly common, as demand for Reception places, particularly in highly populated areas, can be extremely high. However, Mr Knowles is registered blind, and walks with a guide dog. The three schools that they had requested were chosen specifically due to their proximity to Mr and Mrs Knowles’ home address. All three schools were within a safe distance from the home address, along routes that Mr Knowles and his dog were familiar with. Unfortunately the allocated school was not only 1.5 miles away, but would also require Mr Knowles to cross busy arterial roads, undoubtedly putting both himself and his son in danger on a daily basis.

The crucial aspect of this case was that the Admissions Authority had been made aware of Mr Knowles’ health needs at the time of the application submission. It had also been made clear that their son’s education was reliant upon Mr Knowles being able to take him safely to and from school. We were therefore able to show that the decision made by the Admissions Authority was unreasonable. If Mr and Mrs Knowles had not made the Admissions Authority aware of the special circumstances of their application they may not have been successful, as the Authority would not have made an unreasonable decision based on the facts they had been given.

It is clear from this case study that it is not enough for a parent to say that a decision was ‘unreasonable’. There must be evidence that the Admissions Authority were both aware of specific circumstances, and if they had considered them, a place would have been allocated.

I hope this has been useful in explaining the process of an ‘Infant Class Size’ appeal. If you feel that you would benefit from legal advice on whether to lodge an appeal, or full support with the appeal process, we have a team of trained education law specialists available to guide you both on the merits of your case, and on how to prepare an appeal to maximise your chance of success.

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