Top ten tips for a successful school appeal

Relocating families who have not been offered a place for their child at a preferred state school in their new location may need to challenge the decision. We provide some helpful advice.

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For relocating parents whose children are not offered a place at their top choice of state school, the prospect of appealing for a place can seem overwhelming. But, if parents do their homework and prepare for some hard work, it is possible to achieve a successful outcome. Here are our top ten tips for a successful school appeal:
  1. Prepare for a battle. Parents must recognise that an appeal is a serious business and should be advised to prepare every detail with military precision. Competition is fierce for good state schools, and, with a rising number of parents missing out on their first choice of primary and secondary school, an increasing number choose to take on the local authorities and appeal against the decision.
  2. Know your rights. If the preferred school does not offer a place, the parents must be offered the right of appeal. 
  3. Live as close to the school as possible. It is advisable that families live close to the school – this can strengthen arguments for maintaining friendship groups outside of school.
  4. Do the research. Parents need to roll up their sleeves and conduct some painstaking research on neighbouring state schools in their chosen location. Spaces in the same year groups of other local schools as the school to which the parents are appealing is likely to undermine chance of success.
  5. Know the system. Ensure that parents understand the system of admissions for their local authority and preferred school. A local authority is obliged to follow a strict admissions code when allocating school places and must make this available for parents. If the local authority has failed to follow these criteria parents have a strong case against the decision.
  6. Make friends with the local authority. The local authority can advise parents how, and when, to appeal. An appeal is usually heard by an independent panel of between three to five volunteer members of the public, and a decision is made in private by majority vote.
  7. Think about legal representation. Some parents opt to be represented legally, or by a professional consultant, at the hearing.
  8. Don’t forget the paperwork. Providing clear documentary evidence to back up any claim of strong social/medical need to attend a particular school is vital.
  9. Don’t overlook the details. Make sure that all paperwork required by the appeals process is sent in good time. It is strongly advisable to ask for a receipt or some form of acknowledgement that the documentary evidence has been received.
  10. Make the case for the child not the school. Above all remember that an appeal stands a better chance of success if the family has strong social or emotional reasons for attending a specific school – that the school is better academically is just not enough.
For more information see: To appeal or not to appeal?
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