What happens at the appeal hearing?
The hearing will be as informal as possible but will follow a set procedure as follows:
- The Chair of the Panel will introduce everyone and outline the procedure
- A representative from the Admission Authority will explain why your child was not offered a place at the school. Someone from the school might also be there to answer questions about the school as the Admission Authority is not always the school itself. You and the Panel will then be able to ask questions on what has been said.
- Then you will have the opportunity to say why you want your child to have a place at the school. You can also say, if you think that the admissions policy was not applied correctly in your child’s case, your reasons for thinking this. You can have someone to represent you if you prefer. The Panel and the representative from the Admission Authority can then ask you questions.
- Both you and the representative from the Admission Authority will then have the chance to sum up before leaving the room.
The Panel will then decide the outcome of the appeal and the clerk will write to you within 5 school days to let you know the decision.
An appeal hearing tends to last around 30 minutes, but there are no time limits at the Panel. You should take as much time as you would like to make your case.
If you fail to attend, the appeal can still go ahead and be decided by the Panel on the written information submitted. You can send someone to attend in your place if you are unable to attend.
Can I bring someone with me to the appeal hearing?
You can bring a friend or adviser with you to the hearing and they can speak on your behalf if you wish and you can also call witnesses. You can bring an education social worker, special educational needs adviser or learning mentor with you to the hearing. However, you will need to arrange this yourself. If you are going to bring someone with you to the hearing you should let the Clerk to the Panel know in advance.
You can also bring an interpreter or signer with you if you need one. You can ask for one to be provided for you as long as enough notice is given.
We recommend that you do not bring the child to the appeal hearing as it can be distressing for them.
How does the Panel reach its decision?
Infant class size appeals
For infant classes (that is Reception, Year 1 and Year 2) the government has set a limit of 30 children per class per schoolteacher. The Panel can only uphold the appeal if:
a) the admission of your child would not go above the infant class size limit, or
b) the admission arrangements broke admissions law or were not applied in a correct and impartial way. This would mean that your child would have been offered a place if the arrangements complied with the law, or had been correctly and impartially applied, or
c) the decision to refuse admission to your child was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of your case.
This means that, if you appeal for a place in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2 where the class already has 30 children, the Panel can uphold your appeal on limited grounds. You must state on your appeal form how either a), b) or c) above apply to your case or your appeal will have no chance of success.
As the grounds for upholding an infant class size appeal are very limited, the percentage success rate is very small with only a couple of every 100 appeals being successful. Your personal reasons for wanting a specific school or problems getting your child to and from school is unlikely to be a good reason why your appeal should be upheld. Parents are therefore advised to make an informed decision about whether to submit an appeal.
Please note having a place in the school’s nursery will not guarantee you a place in Reception. You will still have to apply for a place and will be subject to the school’s admission arrangements.
All other appeals
For all other appeals, the Panel goes through a two-stage process when making its decision. In the first stage, the Panel must decide whether the admission arrangements for the school were lawful and properly applied. If so, whether the school would experience difficulties if it were to admit your child. If the Panel finds that there would be no difficulty then it must uphold your appeal and your child will be admitted to the school.
If the Panel finds that there is difficulty then it must go on to the second stage. This is the balancing stage. The Panel weighs the difficulties the school would have if it took another child against the strength of your case. If the Panel decides that your case outweighs the difficulties of the school, your appeal will be upheld. Your child will be admitted to the school. Otherwise, your appeal will not be successful.
Is the Panel’s decision final?
The Panel’s decision is binding on the school and the Admission Authority. This means that if your appeal is successful, the school must admit your child. If your appeal is not successful your child’s name may remain on the waiting list at the school if you wish.
There is no further right of appeal. However, if you feel that the appeal panel has not been properly set up or has not followed procedures correctly you can complain. If the school is run by the local authority you must contact the Local Government Ombudsman. If it is an academy or free school you must contact the Education and Skills Funding Authority. You should note that the Local Government Ombudsman cannot overturn the Panel’s decision. This can only be done by the courts.