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Jane Sutton Education Consultant

Jane Sutton
Education Consultant

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the Admissions Authority for the school and why does it matter?

Every school has an Admissions Authority that makes decisions on a school's admissions arrangements and admissions policy. The admission arrangements and policy must be applied fairly and consistently as they determine the rules for admitting or refusing a place for a child. All schools must have arrangements for independent admission appeals to be heard when a parent submits an appeal.

The Presenting Officer at an admission appeal will give reasons why your child has been refused a place at your preferred school. The presenting officer at your school appeal will depend upon who the Admissions Authority for the school is. See table below.

Type of school Admissions Authority Presenting Officer at Appeal
Community Local Authority (LA) LA Representative
Voluntary Controlled Local Authority LA Representative
Voluntary Aided Governing Body School Representative
Foundation Governing Body School Representative
Trust Schools Governing Body School Representative
City Technology Colleges Governing Body School Representative
Academies Governing Body School Representative
Free Schools Governing Body School Representative

The Presenting Officer for a school or academy where the governing body is the admissions authority may be the head teacher or other specified person who will present the case as to why they believe the school cannot take another child or children in the relevant year group. In this case the representative will usually have a great deal of knowledge about the particular school or academy, but may not be as experienced at presenting appeals as a Local Authority representative whose specialist role is to present at school appeals for many different schools in the local area.

The Local Authority representative will usually have more experience of presenting the case for non admittance to many different LA schools generally, but may not have as much in depth knowledge of the individual school.

What is meant by Infant Class Size Appeals?

There are two different types of school admission appeals:

  • Infant Class Size Appeals and
  • Two Stage Appeals (or Balancing of Prejudice).

Infant Class Size Appeals

Not all appeals for infant classes are governed by the 'Infant Class Size' law. It only applies where there are 30 children and one class teacher, where the majority of children will reach the age of 5, 6 or 7 during the school year. Infant class size appeals are when a school place has been refused on the grounds that the school cannot take more than the legal limit of 30 pupils in a class. In this type of appeal the panel can only admit if they consider that:

  • Your child would have been offered a place at the school if the admissions arrangements had been properly applied and/or;
  • The admissions arrangements had been unlawful and that your child would have been offered a place if they had been lawful.
  • The decision to refuse was not one that a reasonable admissions authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.

In law 'unreasonable' does not mean the same as our everyday definition of unreasonable. In legal terms it means that the decision to refuse your child would have to be 'perverse in the light of the admission arrangments' or 'beyond the range of responses open to a reasonable decision maker' or 'a decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question could have arrived at it'.

It is important that you know what type of appeal yours is. This information should be in the refusal letter as part of the reason for refusal.

Where Infant Class Size Regulations apply the independent appeal panel's duty's are much more restricted than in the other type of appeal. Infant Class Size appeals are generally much more difficult to win, but by no means impossible.

What is meant by a Two Stage Appeal (or Balancing of Prejudice)?

There are two different types of school admission appeals:

  • Two Stage Appeals (or Balancing of Prejudice).
  • Infant Class Size Appeals and

The Two Stage Appeal does as it suggests, and is split into two parts.

What to expect at Stage One

Firstly, the presenting officer from the Admission Authority (School or Local Authority) will give reasons why the refusal/s have been made and the reasons why the school can not take another child or children. The presenting officer will be aiming to prove that the admission arrangements are legal and/or;

  • The admissions arrangements have been correctly and impartially applied and/or;
  • If another child or children were to be admitted to the school it would cause 'prejudice to the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources'. Basically, this means it would cause difficulties for the school and that education would be compromised if another child or children were admitted.
  • After the presenting officer has given their case you will have an opportunity to ask questions to them. If you are part of a multiple appeal (where other parents are appealing for the same school) then all parents present will also have the opportunity to ask questions too.

The independent appeals panel can also ask questions to the Admissions Authority.

When the panel are satisfied that all questions have been asked, and answered, then everyone will be asked to leave whilst the panel makes its decisions. Only the Clerk will remain with the Panel to record the panel’s decision.

Stage one is not the time for you to give personal information on your individual case.

Decisions that can be made at the end of stage Stage One

Single appeals - If the panel decide the admissions arrangements were not correctly or lawfully applied and your child would have been offered a place if they had been, then you will automatically gain a place.

If the Admissions Authority has not proved that prejudice would occur if another child were to be admitted and then your child will automatically gain a place.

Multiple appeals - where more than one family are appealing for the same school, rather than automatically admitting all the children the panel must consider whether the school would suffer if that number of children were to be admitted. If the answer to that is ‘Yes’ then they must proceed to stage two to hear all the individual cases before making any decisions.

If a panel decide that the schools admission arrangements were not lawful they have a duty to report their findings to the Schools Adjudicator.

What to expect at Stage Two

Stage Two of the appeals process is private and confidential, where your case will be heard individually with no other parents present, although the schools presenting officer and the clerk will still be present.

This is your chance to give your case and state the reasons why you believe your child should be admitted to the school.

The Presenting Officer can ask any questions they want and may make comment on your case. The panel can also ask you questions.

Decision at the end of Stage Two

At the end of Stage Two, when the panel have heard all the evidence and have considered all the paperwork that was submitted prior to the hearing, they must then balance the arguments and use their discretion to decide who wins the appeal.

Basically they will weigh up the prejudice to the school in taking another child, against the prejudice to your family in not gaining a place at the school. Which ever case is the stronger will win the appeal.

Where there are multiple appeals the panel must hear all appeals before making any decisions on individual cases and deciding which, if any, families win their appeals.

That is why your case must stand out from the crowd.

What are the legal deadlines for School Admission Appeals?

According to the School Admission Appeals Code (2012) when a local authority or an admission authority informs a parent of a decision to refuse their child a place at a school for which they have applied, it must include:

  • the reason why admission was refused;
  • information about the right to appeal;
  • the deadline for lodging an appeal, and;
  • the contact details for making an appeal.

Parents must be informed that, if they wish to appeal, they have to set out their grounds for appeal in writing. Admission authorities must not limit the grounds on which an appeal can be made.

Timetable (legal deadlines)

Admission authorities are required to publish their appeals timetable on their website by 28 February each year. This timetable must include the following with regard to organising and hearing appeals:

  • a deadline for lodging an appeal which allows appellants at least 20 school days from the date of the letter refusing the place in order for them to prepare and lodge their written appeal;
  • allow appellants at least 10 school days’ notice of their appeal hearing i.e 10 school days from receiving the letter informing of the appeal hearing date to the actual appeal hearing;
  • include reasonable deadlines for appellants to submit additional evidence, for admission authorities to submit their evidence, and for the clerk to send appeal papers to all parties attending the hearing;
  • ensure that decision letters are sent within five school days of the hearing wherever possible.

Admission authorities must ensure that appeals lodged by the appropriate deadlines are heard within the following timescales:

  • for applications made in the normal admissions round (not a ‘late’ application or ‘in-year’ application) appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for lodging appeals;
  • for late applications, appeals should be heard within 40 school days from the deadline for lodging appeals (as above), or within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged (if the appeal is lodged too late to be held with the normal admissions round);
  • for applications for in-year admissions (outside the normal admissions round) appeals must be heard within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged.

For applications to sixth forms:

  • where the offer of a place would have been conditional upon exam results, appeals must be heard within 30 school days of confirmation of those results;
  • where the offer of a place would not have been conditional upon exam results, appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for lodging appeals.

If you have missed the deadline given in the refusal letter, don’t worry, you can still submit an appeal. Your appeal MUST be heard according to the legal deadlines and the admission authority’s published timetable.

Shall I go it alone, or get help and support with my appeal?

You may decide to go it alone, reading up about the law and all the information and advice that is out there about school admissions and admission appeals. You may decide to write your own submission for your appeal hearing and appear at the hearing armed with all that you have read and learned.

You may well be able to put a case together that you are happy with and you feel explains the reasons why you would like your child to be admitted to your preferred school. But will it be a strong enough case to convince the panel?

Do you have enough knowledge about the education system, the schools admissions arrangement, policy and criteria to be able to cross examine the admissions authority competently and weaken their case?

We would strongly recommend that you take advice from someone who has experience of school admission appeals, someone who has attended them and knows the pitfalls.

Parents often inadvertently include information that actually goes against their case. By appointing us to help and support you throughout your appeal we will be able to steer you through the pitfalls that prevent parents from winning their cases.

Free no obligation telephone call

Phone between 9:00am and 8:00pm on 07725 702770 for a free, no obligation chat about your case.

Once you have given the facts about the reasons for the refusal to admit an assessment will be made about the type of appeal you can expect and your chances of being successful at appeal and how best to proceed.

Before you pick up the phone for your free, no obligation assessment of your individual case, it would save time and be helpful to have background information ready, including for instance.

  • The name of the school your child has been refused
  • The name of the school your child is attending, or has been offered as an alternative
  • The Local Authority in which you live
  • The refusal letter (to determine what kind of appeal will be held)