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Elm C of E Primary School

Admissions Appeals

How to appeal a school place decision

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update – January 2021

Following the postponement of admission appeal hearings due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, the government have extended the temporary guidance for managing appeals Changes to the admission appeals regulations during the coronavirus outbreak - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). The temporary regulations will remain in place until 30 September 2021 and allow us to continue with admission appeal hearings whilst maintaining social distancing rules.

Year 7 transition appeals and Reception transition appeals

It is expected that all admission appeals coordinated by the Local Authority will be virtual appeal hearings only, using Microsoft Teams. This process will allow representation from both School and Appellant, to attend the hearing and present their arguments. We will continue to update this message and our process, as per government guidelines.

In-Year Appeals

In-Year Appeals will continue to be heard on a virtual basis, using 'Microsoft Teams'.

Appealing a school place decision in Cambridgeshire

In Cambridgeshire, we administer admissions appeals on behalf of all maintained schools, including academies. All appeals are held in accordance with the Department for Education's School Admissions Code and the School Admissions Appeal Code. The purpose of these codes is to ensure that the admission appeal panel is independent and that appeals are conducted in a fair, transparent and lawful way.

Accepting a place at an alternative school does not affect your child’s place on the reserve list for your preferred school(s), or your right of appeal. 

Your right to appeal

You are legally entitled to appeal against the Admission Authority’s decision to refuse to comply with your preference. Your letter from the Admission Authority refusing you a place at your preferred school will advise you of this right. There is no charge to parents for appeals.

  • You can appeal for places at all schools for which you have applied and been refused a place
  • You are entitled to submit one appeal per school, per academic year.
  • This appeal can be lodged at any time during the year, however appeals lodged by the appropriate deadline are heard within set timescales (see below):

Your appeal will be heard by an independent school admission appeals panel. The panel's decision is binding on all parties: the school, the admission authority and you.

This section applies to applications made before the national closing date, and who received an offer dated:

  • 1 March 2021 (Year 7 and Year 9 applications)
  • 16 April 2021 (Reception, Infant, First, Junior and Middle school)

Primary appeals

  • Appeals deadline - 17 May 2021
  • Appeals will be heard - 14 June to 16th July (40 school days from deadline)

Secondary appeals

  • Appeals deadline - 26 March 2021
  • Appeals will be heard - 26 April to 14th June (40 school days from deadline)

You are still able to submit an appeal, after the deadline has past. Your appeal will then be heard within 30 school days of receipt of the form requesting the appeal.

Upon the receipt of a completed appeal form, the appellant will be sent a letter of acknowledgement (see section - 'what happens after I submit an appeal')

Appeal timeline for late applications

This section applies to applications made after the national closing date, and who received an offer dated:

  • 27 April 2021 (Year 7 and Year 9 applications)
  • 18 May 2021 (Reception, Infant, First, Junior and Middle school)
  • or anytime after these dates.

Appeals should be heard within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged.

Upon the receipt of a completed appeal form, the appellant will be sent a letter of acknowledgement (see section - 'what happens after I submit an appeal')

Following the receipt of an in-year offer of a school place, parents have the right to appeal for a place at a school where they have been refused a place. Your appeal will then be heard within 30 school days from receipt of the form requesting the appeal.

Upon the receipt of a completed appeal form, the appellant will be sent a letter of acknowledgement (see section - 'what happens after I submit an appeal')

A “school day” is defined as any day in which a school is in session. This means that all weekends, bank holidays and school holidays are not counted when determining the timetables for the appeals process (40 school days) when applying by the deadline.

Please note – these tips are only guidance and should in no way be viewed as a failsafe route to success in an appeal.

  • It will help if you are able to provide any documents to support your case and you are greatly encouraged to do so. For example, if you wish to appeal on medical grounds, a letter from your doctor would be helpful.
  • Include reasons why the school which has been offered, is unsuitable or less suitable.
  • Keep the case relevant to the child’s welfare you should be to the point, and speak from the heart.
  • Try to paint a picture of the child – their personality, traits, strengths, health issues, family issues. This will enable the Panel to make an informed and balanced judgement around the child’s school placement.
  • Be assured that Panel Members read everything which has been submitted. The information provided by you is important and is treated as such.

Admission Authorities set their Published Admission Numbers (PANs) for a reason. They are the optimum number of children which a school is able to manage, to provide the best possible education for its pupils within the accommodation available. Schools may have admitted additional pupils, over their PAN in the past. This is not a reason for them to do so in the future.

If there are more applications received than places available at a school each Admission Authority must:

  • rank all applications according to the school’s published over-subscription criteria
  • allocate places until the published admission number (PAN) has been reached (which is not normally exceeded) and place all unsuccessful applicants on to a reserve list in accordance with the published over-subscription criteria

In nearly every case the addition of extra pupils will have a detrimental effect on the provision of education. The parent’s job is to prove to the Panel that their child’s need outweighs that effect.

For Infant Class Size appeals, the Panel have very little leeway. They can only allow an appeal if they agree that the decision made by the School/Admissions Authority was not reasonable or if they determine that the School/Admission Authority had made a mistake with their admission arrangements or allocation process.

 

The appeals process

The information from the Admission Authority (following receipt of a request from you for an appeal) will clearly indicate whether you are entitled to either:

  • an appeal
  • an infant class size appeal - This applies only in circumstances where the Key Stage 1 class in question is already at the legal maximum of 30 pupils to one teacher.

Parents cannot choose which appeal they are entitled to; it is dictated by the circumstances of the year group being appealed for.

You will also be given the opportunity to submit further details and evidence.

Hearing date and information about the hearing

You will receive a letter confirming the appeal hearing date. You will receive this letter with at least 10 school days notice of the hearing date.

  • If you are unable to attend on the date offered, the appeal can be heard in your absence.
  • If you request an appeal and do not tell us you are unable to attend in advance of the day your appeal will be considered by the independent appeal panel in your absence.

You will also receive the following information at least five working days prior to the hearing:

  • a copy of the Admission Authority’s statement to the appeal panel and any supporting documentation;
  • the reasons for not allocating your child a place at your preferred school;
  • copies of all the documents you sent in support of your case; and
  • copies of all letters sent between you and the authority regarding the application.

When you receive the above pack you can forward any queries or questions and these will be answered and shared with you in advance of the appeal hearing.

You can bring a friend or representative to help you present your case or simply sit with you to provide support. Arrangements can be made for an interpreter to be present if this would be helpful to you.

Withdrawing an appeal

An appeal request can be withdrawn at any time before the appeal hearing. Contact details can be found on the letter sent to acknowledge receipt of your appeal.

Appeal

The law requires an independent appeal panel to consider whether your child would have been offered a place if:

  • the admission arrangements had been properly applied or;
  • the arrangements do not comply with the mandatory requirements of the School Admissions Code or the SSFA 1998.

If they decide that your child was correctly not offered a place they must go on to consider if the admission of one more child to your preferred school would cause ‘prejudice to the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources’. This means that they must decide whether admitting one more child to the school would have a negative effect on the school’s ability to provide efficient education or to use its resources efficiently.

Infant class size appeal

Infant class size legislation does not allow a place to be offered where there would be more than 30 children in an infant class. The law requires an independent appeal panel to review the Admission Authority’s decision that admission would cause ‘class size prejudice’ i.e. would put the school in the position of having to take steps to comply with the duty to limit the size of infant classes to 30 pupils to one teacher. These steps could be to provide additional accommodation and/or teachers.

In an infant class size appeal, a panel may only uphold the appeal where:

  • it finds that the admission of additional children would not breach the infant class size limit;
  • it finds that the admission arrangements did not comply with admissions law or were not correctly and impartially applied and the child would have been offered a place if the arrangements had complied or had been correctly and impartially applied
  • it decides that the decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.

Every effort is made to keep the appeal informal. At the start of the hearing the Chair of the independent appeal panel will introduce the panel members and explain the panel’s role and how the appeal will be conducted.

Clerk to the Panel

A legal officer who is experienced in education law will be present to act as clerk and to advise the panel and ensure the correct legal procedures are followed and the hearing is conducted fairly. The Clerk records full written notes of the appeal hearing, to evidence fair process. The notes relevant to the Appellant can be provided to you on request.

The independent appeal panel

There are three people on the panel who are either:

  • lay persons not connected to the Admission Authority who have no personal experience in the management of a school
  • persons who are ‘experienced in education’ (e.g. retired head teachers) who are not connected to the admissions authority or elected members of the County Council

The panel has the task of reviewing the decision made by the Admission Authority in the light of the material available at the time when it made its decision. However, the panel should also consider new evidence submitted by appellants to establish either:

  • the factual basis for their claim that the admission arrangements had not been properly implemented; or,
  • to show what their circumstances were at the time of the decision in order to support their claim that no reasonable Admission Authority would have made that decision.

In reaching a decision the panel will consider the following evidence:

  • the published admission arrangements
  • parental preference
  • the circumstances of the particular child and family
  • the practical consequences for the school and the children in the relevant infant classes if any or all of the appeals being heard were successful.

What does ‘unreasonable’ mean?

The panel is bound by a strict legal definition of this word. In order for a panel to determine that an Admission Authority’s decision to refuse admission was unreasonable it will need to be satisfied that the decision to refuse a particular child was:

  • perverse in the light of the admission arrangements
  • beyond the range of responses open to a reasonable decision maker
  • a decision so outrageous in its defiance of logic or accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question could have arrived at it.

The Appeal Panel can either refuse or allow an appeal. It has no other power. The Appeal Panel cannot:

  • Attach any conditions if it allows the appeal.
  • Hear complaints or objections on wider aspects of local admission policies and practice e.g. it cannot change the designated area of a school, or reassess the net capacity and admission number of the school.
  • Order the Admission Authority to change a child’s position on the waiting list for the school.

You will be told whether your appeal will be an individual or block appeal when you are invited to attend the appeal. If more than one appeal request is received for the same year group at the same school these will be heard together, by the same panel where possible.

Both appeals are heard by way of the same two stage process.

  • Stage 1 - If you are attending a block appeal, you, and all other parents will be asked to attend at the same time to hear the Admission Authority case.
  • Stage 2 - if attending a block appeal, you will present your case to the panel separately from the other cases, but the panel will hear all cases, before coming to a decision.
  • In coming to their decisions the Panel should first assess whether admitting all the pupils would cause prejudice to the school and whether the children would have been offered a place if the admission arrangements had been properly implemented. If the Panel decides that the admission of all the pupils whose parents are appealing would not cause prejudice to the school then all appeals will be allowed.
  • If the Panel decides that to admit further children would cause prejudice to the school they have to decide for each individual case whether the grounds for appeal outweigh that prejudice.

Stage 1

The Admission Authority’s representative presents its case. They will explain why the children were not offered places at the school and how further admission would result in prejudice to the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources. The appeal panel and parents will then be able to ask the Admission Authority’s representative questions.

Parents and the Admission Authority's representative will be asked to leave the room while the panel determines whether or not the Admission Authority has proved that it would be prejudicial to admit more children to that year group. All parties will be invited back into the room to hear the decision of the panel at this stage. If the authority has not proved prejudice your appeal will be automatically successful and the appeal hearing will end at this point.

Stage 2

If the panel finds that there would be ‘prejudice’ you will be invited to present your individual case, to the panel at an allotted time. The Authority’s representative and the members of the appeal panel may then ask you some questions about your case. The appeal panel will, having heard all the parents’ cases individually, decide in private if your case outweighs the Authority’s case against further admission.

If you are unable to attend for whatever reason and your appeal is heard in your absence the panel will come to a decision using only your written statement and the documents you and the authority have supplied. Therefore you will need to consider very carefully if it would be in your interest to attend or not.

There is no appeal against the decision of the Appeal Panel. The decision of the panel is legally binding on both the parent and the Admission Authority.

  • If you do not wish your child to take up the school place that has been offered, you can make enquiries to see if there are any other schools that have places.
    Parents/carers have a legal duty to ensure that their child receives their entitlement to education.
  • If a place becomes available at your preferred school and your child is top of the waiting list they will be offered a place at the school. However, please do remember that waiting lists are constantly changing, and that a child may move up or down the list.
  • A parent may only have one appeal per school, per academic year.

However, if you feel that since your appeal your circumstances have changed significantly then please contact the admissions team to discuss your case. We will advise you what documentation is required and decide whether the changes are significant enough to justify another appeal. The Admission Authority’s decision on this is final.

Complaints about the appeals panel

If you feel that the appeal or admission procedures have not been correctly followed you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. If the school you have appealed for is an Academy then your complaint would be directed to the Education Skills & Funding Agency. Details of how to do this will be provided in the appeal decision letter that you will receive. This is not a right of appeal as they can only investigate written complaints about maladministration on the part of the Appeal Panel.

Maladministration means that there has been a fault in the way something has been done or not done which may have altered/disadvantaged your case. It has to relate to issues, such as, you believing that the Panel has not been properly set up or has not followed procedures correctly.

If, following investigations, they find there has been maladministration that might have caused an injustice, they may suggest that there should be a fresh appeal hearing, with different Appeal Panel members.

Further help and advice

If you have any queries relating to the appeals process, please contact:

Email: admissionappeals@cambridgeshire.gov.uk
Telephone: 0345 045 1370
Fax: 01223 727 941

If you require support, advice or guidance about and with the appeals process, please contact:

WebpageParents’ School Preference Adviser
Email: choosingaschool@cambridgeshire.gov.uk 
Telephone: 01223 699 194

Independent advice

The Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) provides further information, and some resources to purchase for preparing for appeals.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre offer free independent Family, Child and Education legal advice on 08088 020 088.

Child law advice They have information on their webpage and a downloadable How to guide available to purchase.