Schools admissions appeal – all is not lost

Many parents across the West Midlands will be holding their heads in their hands this month as their hopes and dreams for their child’s education are crushed.

March is school admissions time, when local authorities write to parents to tell them that their child has, or has not, secured a place at their first choice of school.

If you are one of those parents whose application has been unsuccessful, don’t despair – all is not lost. Strict policies by all local education authorities guarantee that you will always have the right to appeal.

Carole Maddock, an associate in the dispute resolution team at West Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons, has some words of wisdom:

“Any parent can appeal decisions made by the local authority in respect of admissions to both primary and secondary schools,” said Carole

“Appeals are generally based on one of three criteria: that the reasons applied by the local authority for admission are not legal, that the admission policy was not properly followed or that the decision is on some other basis not reasonable.”

Carole points out that every local authority has its own individual admissions policy in place and
although they vary, they are fundamentally similar.

Preferences for entry tend to be ranked as follows:
• children in care (must always take priority),
• distance criteria,
• siblings within the school,
• faith criteria, and
• aptitude

“Parents sometimes believe that the distance criteria is an important factor,” added Carole, “but unfortunately this is unlikely to be a successful basis for appeal as depending on the number of applicants, the criteria can change from year to year.

“Appeals against the criteria are unlikely to succeed. The best grounds for appeal tend to relate to factors such as the health and welfare of the child. An example would be if there were any serious medical conditions or other factors which would lead the appeals panel to conclude that the needs of one particular child outweigh the needs of the school in admitting further children.

Carole’s key message in what she describes as a very rigid and complicated process, is to seek advice, and don’t give up.

Higgs & Sons works from headquarters in Brierley Hill. The dispute resolution team’s aim is to bring about the resolution of disputes using an array of methods including negotiation, mediation and expert determination.

For specialist advice on any issue relating to school admission appeals contact Carole on 01384 327155 or email