Infant Class Sizes
National Offer Day (16 April 2015) for primary school places is fast approaching - you need to be aware of your options including 'Infant Class Size' appeals.
Is your child due to start reception class in September 2015? Are you anxious about what to do if you do not get your preferred school?
With National Offer Day for primary school places now less than a month away, many parents are already asking us what they should do if their child does not get the place they want.
If your child was born between 1 September 2010 and 31 August 2011, they should be starting reception class in September 2015. In order to secure a school place you should have submitted a formal application by 15th January 2015 (either online or on paper). In exceptional cases, e.g if you have recently moved to a new area, applications may be considered for a limited time after that date.16 April 2015 is National Offer Day, you should be told (via letter or online if you applied online) the outcome of your application.
It can be extremely upsetting if you are told that your child has not got a place at your preferred school and it is good to be aware of your options so you can make informed choices. There are a number of options that will be open to you:Waiting lists
- Your child's name can be added to the waiting list for any schools that you have applied for but haven't been offered a place. The relevant Admission Authority (see below) must keep a waiting list for at least one term. You can ask the Admission Authority how places on the list will be prioritised, a copy of their criteria should be available online and in hard copy upon request. Your child's place on a waiting lists will change as other children leave, or if children join, who have greater priority.Apply to other schools
- If there are other schools that you did not previously apply for, but would prefer to the school you have been offered, you can ask your Local Authority Admissions Department if there are places available. If not, you can still apply and ask to join their waiting list and/or appeal for a place at that school.Appealing
- You have the right to make an appeal to an appeal panel. School admission appeals must be carried out in accordance with the School Admission Appeals Code 2012. You will need to explain why your child should attend your chosen school even though it is at capacity. Primary school admission appeals can be very difficult, particularly if you are applying for a place in an infant class - this includes Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.
Have a look at our interactive map to see how many primary school appeals were lodged, won and lost in your Region in 2014. You can also look at the specific statistics for Infant Class Size appeals in your local authority.
Infant Class Size Appeals
By law there is an upper limit of 30 pupils per class in infant classes (Reception, Year 1 and 2). This is to ensure that the right pupil to teacher ratio. If you are appealing for a place in Reception, Year 1 or 2, and the successful admission of your child would bring the class size above 30 the appeal will be considered an 'Infant Class Size'
appeal. This limits your grounds for appeal and chances of success.
Only in exceptional circumstances can a school exceed the infant class size limit of 30 pupils in one class. For example:
- Where a child has a Statement of Special Educational Needs or Education, Health and Care Plan which states they are to attend a particular school
- Where a child whose twin or sibling from a multiple birth is admitted and is not an excepted pupil
- Where a child is admitted due to a successful independent panel appeal
- Where a child moves into the area outside the normal admissions round and no other school is within a reasonable distance
When an appeal is considered an 'Infant Class Size'
Appeal the panel making the decision on the matter can only consider the following:
- Whether the admission of an additional child/children would in fact exceed the infant class size limit (i.e take the class over 30 pupils).
- Whether the admission arrangements are lawful (do they comply with the mandatory requirements of the Schools Admissions Code and the School Standards and Frameworks Act 1998).
- Whether mistake was made in not offering the child a place (i.e. have the admission arrangements been correctly and impartially applied in the case); and/or
- Whether the decision to refuse admission was 'unreasonable'. Whilst an admissions decision not allowing a child to attend a specific school may not seem reasonable, 'unreasonable' is tightly defined in legal terms and is a difficult threshold to satisfy. The panel will consider whether the decision was one that no reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.
If a number of parents are arguing that the admission arrangements are unlawful or have been incorrectly applied their cases may initially be heard together. In a situation where there is a multiple appeal and the panel finds that several children would have been offered a place had the initial process operated properly but admitting all of those children would interfere with the efficient education of the pupils in the class, a second stage of the appeal is held where each child is considered on a case by case basis and the panel will decide which pupils should receive an offer of place at the school.
Appeals for primary school places which are not 'Infant Class Size' appeals
Not all applications for infant class places will be refused on infant class size grounds. Infant class size appeals are only used when the reason for the application being refused is due to a breach of the class size rule, for all other reasons parents should follow the normal appeals procedure. The Infant class size rules do not apply to any appeals for places in Junior classes (years 3-6 in Primary school).
Who is the 'relevant Admission Authority'?
The relevant Admission Authority is responsible for overseeing the admission arrangements and process, and for arranging appeals. The responsible body differs depending on the type of school.
For Community Schools (maintained schools) and Voluntary Controlled Schools it is the Local Authority. For Foundation Schools and Voluntary Aided Schools it is the Governing body. And for Academies it is the Academy Trust that is responsible.
Time frame for Appeals
Admissions authorities must publish an appeals timetable on their website by no later than the 28th of February each year. Admissions authorities can set their own dates within the constraints of the Admissions Appeals Code. Any appeal deadline must be at least 20 school days from being informed that an application was unsuccessful and for applications to primary school within the normal admissions round parents should have 40 school days for lodging appeals. Parents can expect to receive notification of their appeal and information related to the hearing 10 school days before hearing.
If you would like more information you can request a copy of our free guide to school admissions.
If you would like legal advice and help with an admissions appeal please get in contact and one of our specialist lawyers will assist you. Getting a solicitor to help you draft your appeal ensures that the evidence is strong and the right arguments are made clearly and concisely for the appeal panel to read. It is sensible to ensure that the focus is on the School Admission Appeal Code and its requirements, otherwise appeals can 'lose their way' and rely on emotion and on issues that the panel are unable to take into account.