What can you do if your child hasn’t got the school place you wanted? Here’s some expert advice

What can you do if you haven't got a place at the school of your choice?
What can you do if you haven't got a place at the school of your choice?

If you are the parent of a year 6 child, you will no doubt have more than just the snow on your mind this week!

Today is secondary school admissions results day, when families across the county will be finding out if their child has secured at place at their preferred secondary school. For most, it will be good news. Sadly, however, there will be those that do not get the good news they were hoping for.

This is especially the case where you live in an area where a school is very popular and therefore over subscribed.

So what should you do if your child does not get the school place you had hoped for?

Secondary School Waiting Lists

Firstly, you will be automatically put on the waiting list for your preferred school. This will be done for any school that was a higher preference than the one you were awarded.

If you contact the relevant secondary school admission authority then you will be told where your child is on that list.  The position on the list may well change prior to the start of the new school year as some parents decide not to take the place they were offered, or move out of area. It is possible, if you are at the top of the waiting list, to be offered a place before September 2018.

Consider the Secondary School Offered

Take the time to look at information about the school you have been offered.  Although it won’t have been your first choice, it might be able to still meet your child’s needs.

Read the Ofsted reports online.  Speak with any parents you know with children at the school to find out more.

The Local Authority will also be able to give you details of other schools nearby that still have spaces available.  It may be helpful to research those schools.  If they are not suitable you should make a note of why.

This will help you if you appeal at a later date because one of the questions you will be asked at the appeal hearing is whether you have considered the suitability of other schools.

Accept a Secondary School Place

You should accept a place at either the secondary school you have been offered or an alternate local school with space.  Doing so will not affect your right of appeal, nor your chances of success.

The consequences of not accepting a place may be that if you are unsuccessful at appeal then you will have no school place at all for your child and will have no alternative but to accept a school allocated at that time by your Local Authority.

Await the Confirmation Letter of your result

You should receive a letter confirming your school admission results a few days after the initial email notification.  This letter will provide you with the information you need if you wish to appeal the admission authority’s decision. It will provide you with a form to complete and a deadline by which to return it.  In most cases this will be at end of March or beginning of April. You have to be given at least 20 school days in which to lodge an appeal.

Appealing your secondary school place offer

The letter you receive through the post will enclose a form telling you how you can appeal and to whom.

You will be able to appeal online or by completing the form and posting it.  Any paper appeal should be sent recorded or special delivery to ensure that it has been delivered.

As part of the appeal you will not only have to complete you and your child’s details but also complete a statement setting out your reasons for wanting to appeal.

The members of the independent school appeal panel  who decide your appeal will have sight of the appeal statement that you submit. They will have read your representations and any supporting documentation prior to you having you arguing your appeal in front of them.

As a result it is very important that the arguments you choose to advance are structured, coherent, persuasive and relevant.

A school appeal hearing is in two parts; the first part is where the school itself argues to an appeal panel why it would cause the school prejudice to admit more pupils than its maximum pupil admission number. If the panel think at the end of this first hearing that actually, the school can admit ALL children appealing, without prejudice, then it will admit all children. If not, then it will go on to a second hearing where parents will individually, and in private, argue why their child will be caused greater prejudice if not admitted to the school. Here, it becomes a balancing exercise as to whose needs are greatest; theover stretched school or the child that wants a place. The panel will rank all child who are appealing , as to their need. This is why it is so important that your appeal statement sets out in detail, not only why your preferred school is the only school that can meet your child’s needs, but also why no other local school is suitable.

How can a solicitor help?

Some parents feel confident enough to draft a well argued appeal statement and present it in front of an appeal panel. For other parents however, the thought of writing such a detailed document or presenting their case, fills them with dread.

If you do not feel confident enough to prepare and present your case yourself, or maybe you simply do not have the time to do so, then it is worth getting legal help. We are frequently instructed to help parents draft their appeal statements to ensure that they are well structured and argument and as persuasive as possible. Likewise, we help many parents present their arguments at appeal hearings where they feel that they need the help to get across the arguments they wish to advance.

Clare Roberts is an experienced education law solicitor at Chesterfield’s VHS Fletchers Solicitors.

Clare is a familiar face at school admission appeal hearings and has won appeals for many parents at oversubscribed schools in the East Midlands. She has appeared on BBC East Midlands News and BBC Radio Nottingham, talking about the school admission appeals process.

If you would like a free chat with Clare about your school admission results, please do call her on 0115 9599550 or e mail clare.roberts@vhsfletchers.co.uk