Maxwell Gillott

This week, the first wave of parents throughout the UK will be finding out if their child’s secondary school application has been successful. For those who fail to secure a place at their preferred choice, the decision may be met with dismay – evidenced by the number of parents that choose to appeal each year. The key to success is swift action and the ability to formulate a strong and sympathetic argument, says one leading lawyer.

According to national law firm Maxwell Gillott, it will be crucial for parents to act immediately and accumulate evidence to build a strong case for their Notice of Appeal form and the subsequent hearing.

“You can appeal to an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) against the decision to refuse your child a place – and this applies to all the schools you applied for,” says solicitor Imogen Jolley who specialises in educational matters and advises on admissions.

The Notice of Appeal form, or details as to how to get one, should be included in the local authority's admission letter. The letter will also specify a deadline that parents must meet; usually 20 days.

There are fairly standardised criteria to offering a place, such as siblings already attending the school, proximity to where you live and special education needs, but expert advice can be invaluable when admissions arrangements are more complex says Imogen.

“There are different categories of maintained schools which include academies and publicly funded independent free schools. The local authority decides on the admission arrangements for community or voluntary-controlled schools, but for foundation and voluntary-aided schools, academies and free schools, it is the school’s governing body or academy trust that decides the admission criteria and sets the agenda for oversubscription.

“There is no set number of appeals that will be upheld and each is considered on its own merits,” says Imogen. “If you are not satisfied with the decision, then do not leave form filling to the last minute as it could harm the strength of your case. It is essential to be fully prepared in advance of the IAP hearing so that your objections are based on solid foundations. The grounds for appeal will depend on the type of secondary education facility you applied to.

“If your first choice was refused because there have simply been more applicants than places, parents must show that their child best fulfils the criteria set out in order for an exception to be made.  For instance, if it is clear that their needs cannot be appropriately served elsewhere, this will override any considerations about an increased class size.”

Maxwell Gillott has prepared three information sheets providing guidance to parents intending to appeal. They explain what parent should do if their child has not obtained their preferred school, what to consider when lodging an appeal, and how to prepare for the hearing.

For many parents and guardians, overcoming legal and bureaucratic obstacles can be a minefield and the mechanism of the IAP differs depending on where you live.

“Understanding how the system works and being able to show that a particular child meets the criteria set out in the admissions process is absolutely crucial. Depending on the school in question, the argument for reversing a decision and offering a place will be slightly different in each case,” explains Imogen.

When the form filling seems overwhelming, and the reasons for the refusal of a placement are harder to identify, Maxwell Gillott has the expertise and experience to root out relevant information. 

“Any admission that moves away from standard criteria becomes more complicated. Certain admission arrangements like banding means there is more scope for things to go wrong at the appeal hearing. Our team are able to scrutinise the allocation of places in accordance with legislation and the school’s admission code. We can highlight flaws and prepare counter-arguments which underpin your case,” says Imogen.”

Recently, Maxwell Gillott successfully proved that a school placement was unsuitable because the child suffered from hay fever and the building was located next to a rape seed field. The appeal was successful and the child was given a place in the parents’ preferred institution.

Because school admission appeals are confidential, copies of previous appeals and the reasons why they were or weren’t successful are not available.

“With many hundreds of parents fighting for places at same school it’s essential to target your argument to what the appeal panel will be sympathetic to. We know how to do that, and have a track record of increasing parents’ chances of success – safeguarding their children’s future,” she says.   

To receive a free guide on appealing your school place visit our website.

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Imogen Jolley
Maxwell Gillott
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