If your child starts primary school this September, you’ll find out on 16 April, 2019 whether they’ve been given a place at your preferred school. Hopefully it will be good news, but if you don’t get the school you wanted, what should you do next? And, can you appeal against the decision? Here’s what you need to know.
What happens on National Offer day?
On National Offer day (or allocation day), which is Tuesday 16 April, you’ll receive an email (most likely in the afternoon) stating which school your child got a place at.
You can also log on to the admissions website in the evening to find out, if you’ve not already heard. Make sure you have your parent ID, user name and password to hand!
Hopefully, it’ll be good news. If that’s the case, just remember to accept the place by the 30 April at the latest so you don’t lose out on a space.
However, if you’re reading this, you’re most likely wondering what happens if you don’t get your preferred school when places are allocated.
In this instance, there are two main options. You can either:
- accept the place but go on a ‘continuing interest’ list
- appeal against the decision
Find out more about what these entail, below …
My child didn’t get a place at our first choice school – what next?
When you receive your written notification of your child’s allocated school place, the email will give full details of how to start the appeal process and when this needs to be done by.
You have a legal right to appeal against a school place decision.
To do this, you must inform the local authority of your decision to appeal in writing. You’ll then be given a date for your appeal hearing at least 10 days in advance.
What do I do about the school place they did get offered?
As soon as you receive your letter allocating your child’s place, it’s a good idea to accept it while you decide what to do.
Accepting the place given to you won’t affect your chances of getting a school you prefer, either by waiting on the continuing interest list for a particular school, or through a school place appeal. (See more about how to do these below).
Once you’ve accepted the place, arrange to go and see it, especially if you haven’t already seen it. You never know, you might be fine with it.
If you turn down the place you might find that you have no school place for your child in September, or that you have another school allocated by the LEA.
Remember that it is a legal requirement for all children aged five and over to be in full-time education.
What’s a continuing interest list?
Also referred to as a continued interest list, these are the names for the official waiting list system that lets other schools know that you’d still be interested in accepting a place, if one becomes available.
Although there’s no guarantee that this will happen, there can be a lot of movement once places are allocated.
This can be due to people moving out of the area or choosing to go to a private school instead, which means places become free in time for the new term.
How do I get on a continuing interest list?
Your child’s name should automatically be placed on the waiting list for any school that was a higher preference on your application form than the school you’ve been offered.
You can always contact the local authority that the school is in to check your child is on the waiting list.
You can also contact the school itself to find out if you’re on the list as well as how high up you are.
There are usually two rounds of continuing interest lists; if you’re successful at the first continuing interest run you’ll find out between 13-17 May.
Continuing interest applications open again on 20 May.
You can add new school preferences for the second continuing interest run. If you’re successful at this second round, you’ll find out 17-23 June although if places become available later than this, you can find out at any point over the summer.
There are two things to bear in mind if you’re on a continuing interest list:
- You can move down a continued interest list as well as up.
- Accepting the place you’ve been offered does not affect your chances of a waiting list place in any other school.
You’ll automatically lose your existing place at a school if you get a space via a waiting list. If you do decide you’d rather stick with the original place you’ve accepted make sure you take yourself off any continuing interest lists.
How do I appeal against the decision?
When the LEA send you details of the school place offered, they will also send you details of how to make an appeal against this decision and the deadline by which you need to do this.
This year, the deadline is 18 May, 2019.
The appeal arrangements may differ depending on how the school is managed, for example if it’s a local authority school, or an academy or foundation voluntary aided school.
What are the grounds for appealing?
The appeal panel can only look at a certain number of issues:
- the lawfulness of the admission arrangements
- if a mistake was made in not offering your child a place
- and/or if it was unreasonable to refuse your application
For children in infant schools, the legal maximum size of the class is 30.
Legally there are only a few reasons why a child can be admitted over this size which means it’s very unlikely that your appeal will be successful if the classes already have 30 children in them.
Check the school’s admissions policy carefully. Also, take along any documents that support your argument why your child should get a place at their preferred school.
How does the appeal process work?
The ‘admission authority’ for the school (usually the school itself or the council) must give you at least 10 school days’ notice of the hearing.
Appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for making an appeal.
There’s an independent panel of three people at the appeal hearing. Here’s what to expect:
- The admission authority will explain why they turned down your application.
- You’ll be able to give your own reasons why your child should be admitted.
- The appeals panel must decide if the school’s admission criteria were properly followed and are legal according to the school admissions appeals code.
- If the criteria are legal and were properly followed, the panel must decide if they were followed fairly and thoroughly.
- If the criteria weren’t properly followed or are illegal, your appeal must be upheld.
- If your appeal has not already been upheld, the panel will decide if your reasons for your child to be admitted outweigh the school’s reasons for not admitting another child.
A panel’s decision can only be overturned by a court. If there’s a change in your circumstances which could affect the decision, you may be able to appeal again.
What do I need for the appeals hearing?
In the paperwork that you submit before the appeal you will need to show why your child needs to go to the school you are appealing for.
Remember, you need to build a case for why your child should get a place at their preferred school rather than why you don’t want them to go to the school they’ve been allocated.
What happens after the hearing?
The panel then has to decide whether you or the school has the strongest case. You’ll be told their decision within five working days.
If you are unsuccessful, you can’t appeal to the same school again but you can still put your child’s name on the school’s waiting list.
You can, however, appeal at other schools that you applied for. Find out more about how the appeals process works at the Gov.uk website.
What happens if my appeal is unsuccessful?
There are further legal routes you can consider pursuing.
You can complain to the Ombudsman but this is limited to complaints about procedural errors. Find out more at the Local Government Ombudsman website.
It may be that you will now be considering private education or home educating. If you are unsure which route to pursue, why not find out more about home educating.
The Independent Schools Council website is also useful – you can search for independent schools in your area and find out more about the admissions and selection process.
Finally, if your circumstances change (perhaps you’ve moved house and are closer to the school, or your child has had a special need diagnosed) you may be able to make a completely new application to the school of your choice.
- If you’re not sure which Local Education Authority (LEA) you fall under you can find a comprehensive listing on the Direct.gov website.
- Read our education section for comprehensive information about primary and secondary education, including local schools listings and details of local admissions offices.
- Visit the Gov.uk website for up-to-date, national information on choosing a school, the admissions process and how to appeal.
Contact your Local Education Authority with any specific questions you have, and to confirm important dates such as application deadlines and when you’ll find out which school your child has been offered a place at.
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