Any tips for primary school appeals?

(946 Posts)

This is my first time doing this, and I want to do this right. My son didn't get into any of the preferred schools that we listed? Has anyone done an appeal before?

prh47bridge Tue 22-Jul-14 18:41:12

Most of the examples given by Rafa only apply when the child is admitted outside the normal admissions round. The only exceptions allowed in the normal admissions round are multiple births where one gets in under the 30 limit and children with SEN who will normally be taught in an SEN unit attached to the school. The school can also go over the limit to admit a child who should have been admitted in the normal admissions round but who got missed out by mistake and for children admitted as the result of an appeal. However, you can only win an appeal if there has been a mistake or if the decision to refuse to admit was irrational.

prh47bridge Tue 22-Jul-14 18:34:18

what is a good reason or good example of exceeding the 30 children in a class

There are only very specific circumstances in which a school can have more than 30 children in an infants class (Reception, Y1 or Y2). The limit and the exceptions to it are set by law. There are no arguments you can put forward that would persuade the school to breach that limit.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Tue 22-Jul-14 18:33:24

Firstly, you need to find out whether your local authority actually has catchment areas or whether they admit using distance from school. If it's the former, they should be able to provide you with a map, if it's the latter they should publish or give you the category and distance of the last child admitted.

If your authority does have catchment areas, there's no guarantee you will get a place just because you live in it. I would have no chance of getting a place at our catchment school despite living less than 0.2miles from it. You will still need to check the distance that they normally admit to.

There aren't many reasons a school will admit above 30 in Reception - a statement of SEN naming the school that is completed after the initial places have been allocated, twins on either side of the cut off, correcting a mistake made by the admissions authority and admitting a child where there is no other school place within a reasonable distance are probably about it.

HPparent Tue 22-Jul-14 15:17:17

In answer to your second question boysmummyjp2 I am aware of infant classes that have gone over 30 for twins and admitting statemented children. I don't know if this is the case everywhere,

If you are asking about appeals, they are virtually unwinnable unless the admissions authority have made a bad mistake and you can show they should have offered you a place. This is rare. Occasionally a child/family with some sort of special need wins an appeal but the case has to be absolutely overwhelming for that school.

titchy Tue 22-Jul-14 15:10:22

There is normally no such things as catchment which is why they can't tell you. Normally after looked-after and siblings places are all other kids, with however many places are left going to the nearest so that can obvious change from one year to the next.

The council website should tell you the furthest distance offered for each admission category for this years admissions though which will give you an idea. No guarantees though.

HPparent Tue 22-Jul-14 15:09:45

I would look at the schools admission criteria. Does it prioritise siblings? If so you could ask the distance of the last non sibling to be admitted in the last 3 years which might give you some idea. Beware though as they can change rapidly.

boysmummyjp2 Tue 22-Jul-14 14:16:33

Hello Everyone

My oldest is 3 and will be turning 4 this coming march and my little one is 18 months. in the fullness of time i want ,probably like most parents, to get them both in the same school.

We are considering moving to a " nicer" area. our local primary school is beyond rough and has failed its ofstead inspections several times.

i want my children to get into a lovely little school, i have asked that schools admissions officer what the catchment area is and she is refusing to advise me of what roads fall into the catchment area. i have also tried the local authority who have advised that they cant tell me this. My question is how do i find out which roads are in the area.. i really don't want to move and find out that we are too far out again..

my other question is what is a good reason or good example of exceeding the 30 children in a class...

many thanks x

JulesHey10 Mon 14-Jul-14 08:41:14

I have looked back over the appeal paperwork to double-check I didn't misunderstand, and there is no reference to ICS except in the main body of the LA's argument. I don't think it would help my case with the LGO though, to point out this issue!

prh47bridge Sun 13-Jul-14 23:51:55

That does not make sense at all. If they have a PAN of 45 and are running 3 classes of 30 in Y1 and Y2 any appeal should be heard under infant class size regulations. The fact that they have two small reception classes is irrelevant. As Admission says, this is a basic mistake. Whilst it hasn't affected the outcome of your appeal it clearly raises the question of how many other mistakes they have made.

If you want to PM me with details of your complaint to the LGO I would be happy to give an opinion. From what you have said so far a lot will depend on whether you can back up your thoughts that the panel considered you too middle class, etc. If that is just an impression it is unlikely to get you very far. However, if there is evidence to back it up that is another matter.

JulesHey10 Sun 13-Jul-14 22:09:50

My guess is that it was not in writing though.

Your guess is right. I doubt she would deny she said it if asked, but I don't see how that could happen. I have seen her more recently and she was sympathetic. I told her that I had included her statement in my written appeal (I don't think I mentioned it at the hearing - probably a mistake), and suggested that she think twice before saying something similar in future years - false expectations and all that.

JulesHey10 Sun 13-Jul-14 21:20:10

You say that any school appeal next year will be ICS because there will be three classes of 30 but actually the appeals this year should have been an ICS regs appeal on the basis of future prejudice in year 1/2.

My understanding has been that it was not an ICS appeal given the two small reception classes, but that the panel would consider future prejudice. Over the last five years, at least two appeals, and more often three, are upheld for this school each year. I made a point at the beginning of my individual hearing about how the school has managed well in the past, despite being over PAN, and I appeared to alienate the panel chair as a consequence... Maybe this makes sense to you?

I think that what makes this whole admission process so difficult (and this is reflected repeatedly in this thread) is the sense of powerlessness, of being at the complete mercy of luck and bureaucracy. And it is regarding something that is so fundamental to us for the next 14 years. I went into my appeal feeling well prepared; as it turned out, given the appellants this year and that particular panel, I feel very strongly that I was too well prepared, that they considered me too competent and middle class, with "options" (this last point being the basis of my LGO complaint). My psychological need to feel that I have some control over our future definitely worked against me on the day. Over the last few days I have had to seriously question myself over whether I have applied for another school merely to give myself a sense of control, rather than for the benefit of my son (benefit to my son won, but not by a huge margin).

I would certainly welcome some objective insight into my complaint to the LGO. I appreciate I am a little biased wink

admission Sun 13-Jul-14 18:01:12

There is something strange here. You say that the catchment school has two reception classes and then three yr1/2 classes in other words it has a PAN of 45. You say that any school appeal next year will be ICS because there will be three classes of 30 but actually the appeals this year should have been an ICS regs appeal on the basis of future prejudice in year 1/2. Whilst it would make no difference in terms of your appeal outcome it does make me start to worry when such a basic mistake appears to have been made by the admission authority.
When you say that you were assured by the head of the catchment school that you would get a place, was that in writing? If so that would constitute a reasonable expectation of a place being offered and would therefore potentially open up a second line of appeal. My guess is that it was not in writing though.
On the basis of where you appear to be on the waiting list I think I would agree with you that there is little chance of a place becoming available in the near future at the catchment school and you do need to look elsewhere for a school place.
If you want to talk privately about the appeal hearing please feel free to PM me. I may be able to give you an idea of where you stand in terms of what happened and whether the LGO will take any action.

JulesHey10 Sun 13-Jul-14 08:42:02

Appealing for my catchment school next year is unlikely to be a reasonable option as it then becomes an ICS issue (two reception classes that feed into three Yr 1 & 2 classes). My best hope is our second preference; while we are only 13th on the reserve list, the school has a PAN of 90 and is in the city centre, so lots of transient families and churn (tho I realise this can work against us as well). I will ask in Sept whether we can be added to a third list.

A frustration for me is that the reserve list (our LA does not call them waiting lists) is automatic - ie if you didn't get a place, you're on it - until the 31st December; beyond this, you have to actively elect to stay on the lists. This means I won't get a true picture of our situation and our odds until 2015. If the lists became elective in the autumn half term, I would consider keeping him at nursery for the half-term; anything longer than this does not feel right for him.

prh47bridge Sun 13-Jul-14 00:15:28

You are allowed one appeal each academic year for each school you want

The current appeals code has clarified this a little. You are entitled to one appeal for an academic year, not one per academic year. You have already appealed for Reception so, unless there is a significant and material change you cannot appeal for Reception again. You can only appeal for Y1, which means appealing at around the same time next year.

Yes, you have to apply to a school to go on the waiting list. Some LAs limit the number of waiting lists you can join. I think this is wrong but the Schools Adjudicator has ruled that LAs are allowed to do this.

JulesHey10 Sat 12-Jul-14 23:45:32

"Probably the best bet is to join more waiting lists and to maximise your chances of an offer that way."

My understanding from talking to an education officer this week is that I have to apply formally to be on the reserve list - is this correct? There are a number of schools I would love to be on the reserve list - there are five schools closer then our allocated one. This week I reapplied, replacing our third choice with a school that may have reception places (further away than our allocated school, but what's in the odd mile or two once you're in the traffic) and this means that we are not longer on the reserve list for our original third choice.

I have seriously considered keeping my son at nursery, but the manager is not keen, and actually, nor am I - all his friends will have transitioned. I am left having to view his reception year as another childcare, preschool year... If he doesn't end up being schooled locally, I see no future in our locality for us a family.

tiggytape Sat 12-Jul-14 23:11:35

Sorry X-post Jules - you can always appeal again in September. You are allowed one appeal each academic year for each school you want. Unfortunately, where the ICS rules apply (where a school has 30 per class) it is just so hard to win.

Probably the best bet is to join more waiting lists and to maximise your chances of an offer that way.
Some people decide to delay their child's start to school in the hope a better offer comes up (you accept the allocated school but tell them he's not starting just yet which you are allowed to do). That's risky though unless you are confident lists will move enough quite quickly. Some people start at the allocated school and move the second a better offer comes up which means some disruption but for some people the school they end up at is worth it.

I know it is hard to try to find ways to make the best of it and to have to wait not knowing how long it may take.

tiggytape Sat 12-Jul-14 23:07:36

I should have mentioned that the reason you won't get more than a general response to the waiting list movement admin is that it all involves personal data. They cannot say "a boy whose brother joined Year 5 in une has now been moved up the list due to his sibling link and twin girls have just moved to the house opposite the school so they're above you too" because of course anything detailed enough to reassure you that it was all 100% correct would also be so detailed as to be potentially identifying.

JulesHey10 Sat 12-Jul-14 23:05:44

Thanks tiggytape. As I expected, but it helps prevent it from going round and round in my head.

If, in the unlikely event that I get another appeal hearing, I'll be back for more...

tiggytape Sat 12-Jul-14 22:55:47

How can I check that the LA are observing the appropriate criteria with the list? I have questioned it in writing, and received a reasonable, generalised response, in terms of families moving in to the area and late applications who are nearer in distance to the school than us - do I just need to take their response as fact?

Pretty much, yes. The lists are updated all the time so you can go up and down almost daily if enough people are moving, declining offers etc. Between April and May a lot of activity is usual. If you had reason for concerns (eg suddenly dropping 30 places or finding out a person had been added above you who should have been below you on admissions criteria) you could then pursue that. However the councils have an obligation to keep lists in the correct order which is normally fairly straight forward and what you've said all sounds fairly usual.

the school has to accept the PAN +2… Yes?

No. An appeal does not increase the PAN of the school. It just makes it so that appeal winners don't count in the PAN.
The waiting list is effectively frozen though whilst the school remains above PAN. The list cannot move again until the school is PAN -1.
So instead of waiting for 1 person to decline a place, the people on the list must wait for 3 people to decline a place before the list starts moving again. If 5 people had won at appeal, the people on the list would need 6 people to decline places etc.

The appeal panel allows the school to go over PAN for those 2 children only having heard their cases and decided it was necessary. That doesn't mean they can go or stay above PAN for anyone else. It is about making an exception just for those 2 children and anyone else who wins an appeal.

JulesHey10 Sat 12-Jul-14 22:33:36

I first read this thread in April, when I received our school allocation; it was incredibly useful then. The last time I checked, there was no new activity, and I have been so caught up in appeal paperwork, phone calls etc. that I haven't looked for a couple of months - I wish I had, just to know there are others out there in the same boat. Thank you for all your expert advice, especially prh47bridge, who seems so endlessly tireless in his/her objective advice and help.

To reflect on my experience to date (before asking for concrete advice): wow, what a bruising experience this has been! I was assured by the head of my catchment school in Dec 13 that we would get a place, and thought nothing of it until the decision arrived and we were allocated a school some distance away. My second and third preferences were my second and third nearest schools, which are also over-subscribed. We are among the first two or three families to affected like this in this area (I haven’t met them) - there has been one former year that not all catchment children got places, but it seems that there was room in the surrounding schools to soak it up... not this year. It is so incredibly isolating. I am finding myself avoiding other parents at our local parks, for example, so as not to have to go through it yet again with other parents, dealing with their disbelief, then shock, then sympathy.

I have been to appeal, and it was not upheld. It was a brutal experience. It was not an ICS appeal, and in previous years two to three appeals have been upheld. Two were upheld this year, but not ours. I have complained to LGO about how the hearing conducted, and I think that I have a valid complaint - I'm not just moaning about how awful it was (I can give further details if anyone is interested, but I am SO aware of my capacity to go on, and on, and on… and on, about this subject at present - my poor friends - that I won't at this time).

The specific advice I am asking about relates to reserve lists. For my catchment school, we were third on the reserve list after the initial allocations in April (so I was hopeful). When I rang after the second date in May (19th I think), we were down to seventh (and I know that - at least - two places had been declined). We are now fifth. There are two questions I have relating to this:
1)How can I check that the LA are observing the appropriate criteria with the list? I have questioned it in writing, and received a reasonable, generalised response, in terms of families moving in to the area and late applications who are nearer in distance to the school than us - do I just need to take their response as fact?
2)Two appeals have been upheld; I have assumed that this effectively makes us seventh on the reserve list (fifth +2), and a recent conversation with a LA education officer suggested this was the case. Looking at a post a couple of pages ago, this should not be the case: the school has to accept the PAN +2… Yes?

Many thanks in advance.

admission Sat 12-Jul-14 20:50:48

The decisions on which school are based on the admission criteria for the school using the address at which child was living on the last date of on-time applications (Jan 16th 2014 probably). As such the LA have done what they should have done and there are no apparent mistakes. Under normal circumstances the appeal panel would not admit. However given the circumstances there is a slight question about whether the LA should have taken the new address into consideration. Did the LA ever accept in writing that the new house was going to be your house and you will have moved in by September or did they just keep saying it was based on the old address. If they did that might be a chink in their case to exploit by saying that they were unreasonable because they did know that you owned the property and were moving in.

You also say they want to send him to school more than 6 times away, is that 6 times the 3000 metres it is now or 6 times the 140 metres. If it is the former and you are talking about 18000 metres then I think you should also argue that the allocated school was completely unreasonable in terms of travelling distance. If however it is 840 metres then forget that idea.

I would go to the appeal and then see what happens. However one thing to consider is looking at the rules around when you can have another appeal. What they normally say is that it is one per academic year unless there has been a material change in your circumstances. You need to find out whether the LA consider a house move a material change. If they do then I would consider deferring entry to the allocated school depending on the age of your child and seeing whether a place becomes available in September. If it does not then there is a new (May 2014) ruling from the LGO around infant class size regs as they pertain to in-year applications and this may give you some extra leverage but it will depend on the exact situation. In principle the LA cannot just say that the school is full and the infant class size regs say you cannot be admitted, they have to consider whether you could have been admitted under the excepted pupils regs, the most obvious one of which is no other school within reasonable distance with a place.

tiggytape Sat 12-Jul-14 19:10:39

As prh says, the panel are likely to decide that as you weren't living at the address when you applied, even if you are now, the council was right to base your application on your home at that time.

Your only hope would be if the LA guidelines on this were really wooly and the panel could somehow see that maybe there is a case that the council could have used the new address at the time. In all honesty though, the policies aren't usually wooly - it is normally made very clear how they define the pupil's address and as long as they applied the policy to you correctly, this won't help at appeal.
The logistics themselves won't help win an appeal - it is an ICS appeal and therefore finding a mistake in the way your application was handled which directly deprived you of a place is the only real chance of succeeding. It is still worth trying and you have nothing to lose by appealing.

prh47bridge Sat 12-Jul-14 13:49:22

This is an infant class size appeal so your only chance is to show that a mistake has been made. If I were you I would argue that in your circumstances the LA was unreasonable to refuse to use your new address for admissions purposes. I think it is a long shot since you weren't actually living there but it is worth a try.

dave79 Sat 12-Jul-14 12:26:36


I guess i'm clutching at straws here, but before our appeal next week i just wondered if anyone could offer some advice.

We bought an house in Aug last year that required substantial renovation, the house is only 140 meters from the primary school we'd like our 4yr old to start at in Sept. However despite notifying and having several conversations with the admissions auth they refused to take into account our intention to move to the address asap and judged his application at our old address some 3000+ meters away.

He's now first on the waiting list and if he'd at the new address would have been 4th to get a place.

I know the appeal is more than likely to be a total waste of time but given they want to send him to a school 6 times the distance away, the family logistics, his cousins attending the school and the fact parents park outside my house to drop there kids off at the school. It seems bonkers i can't get him a place.

What i'd like to ask has anyone had a similar appeal and manage to win? if so on what grounds?

The school has it's 30 full allocation and the local authority did follow its procedures no matter how stupid i may feel they are. But i have to try.

Any helpfully suggestions would be very gratefully received, thanks in advance


tiggytape Tue 08-Jul-14 14:51:34

I think most parents do but at appeal you want to come over as presenting a fair and reasonable case.
You are not appealing against the allocated school, you are appealing for each of the schools you want with reasons given for each one (probably similar reasons but that's fine).
Therefore the school you have been allocated doesn't come into it a great deal except to possibly state some ways it is less able to meet your child's needs / less suitable than the one you are asking for. Having visited it helps show you are reasonable and gives you evidence to say you have explored what it offers but feel it is still less suitable than the appeal school because of X,Y and Z

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