Further information about appeals
What are my rights?
As a parent/guardian you have a right to say which school you would prefer your child to go to. This is not the same as having the right to choose which school your child goes to.
Infant classes are ones in which most of the children will become aged five, six or seven during the school year (i.e. Reception Year, Year 1 and Year 2). If your application for a place has been turned down you have the right to appeal against that decision to an independent appeal panel.
Your right to an appeal is set out in Section 86 of the SSFA and in the School Admissions and School Admissions Appeals Codes 2021.
How are independent appeal panels set up?
The panel is constituted under the terms of the SSFA and the School Admissions Appeals Code and must consist of either three or five members from the following categories:
- lay people, that is someone without personal experience in the management of any school or provision of education in any school (except as a school governor or in another voluntary capacity);
- people who have experience in education, who are acquainted with educational conditions in the local authority area, or who are parents of registered pupils at school.
In Southend appeals panels generally consist of 3 members.
How independent are appeal panels?
The law says that panels must be independent, and there are many ways that we can show this. For example:
- neither the School Admission team or the school sets up or controls their work and all of their legal advice is provided by the Department for Corporate Services
- appeal panel clerks are appointed by the Department for Corporate Services
- panel members have to be trained before they can sit on a panel and also receive regular training
- panel members are not paid
- panels do not report to, nor are they responsible to, the City Council or the school
- panels have to work within the national statutory guidance contained in the School Admissions Appeals Code
- panel members do not sit on panels where they may have a conflict of interest
- the work of panels is monitored by the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council
- parents / guardians and the School Admission's or school's representative are not present when the Panel makes its decision
- the panel's decision is binding on the parent / guardian the School Admission's and the school
What is the role of the appeal panel clerk?
The clerk is not a member of the panel but has an important role to play in making sure that the facts are established and that the appeal hearing is fair.
The clerk must have received training before undertaking any hearing and will continue to receive training on a regular basis.
The clerk's key tasks are to:
- explain the basic procedures to parents / guardians and deal with any questionsthey may have
- make sure that the facts are presented
- make sure that the appeal runs smoothly
- be independent source of advice on the way the appeal is run
- write notes of the meeting, decisions and reasons and
- write to all parties confirming the panel's decision
How do I prepare for the hearing?
Around seven days before the appeal hearing the appeal panel clerk will send you a full set of papers which will include:‑
- an agenda for the meeting which also confirms the date, time and where the appeal will be held
- the case for the Local Authority or the school, explaining why they cannot give your child a place at your preferred school; a copy of your appeal form and any documents you attached to the form; a copy of your original application form and of any other correspondence between yourself and the Local Authority or the school
You must provide all the evidence that you want the Panel to consider.
If some of your reasons involve for example, medical issues or a house purchase, you must provide written evidence to support your case.
If you are not able to send your additional evidence with your appeal form then the panel should be able to look at it if you bring it to the appeal meeting. If you can, please bring several copies. It is much better to get all the information in support of your appeal to the panel before the meeting because if your additional evidence is lengthy, the panel may have to adjourn the meeting to consider it.
What happens at the appeal meeting?
The panel chair will explain what is going to happen and members of the panel will be introduced to you.
Generally the meeting will run as follows:‑
- the presenting officer will explain the reasons why your child was not offered a place at your preferred school
- questions to the presenting officer by the panel
- your questions to the presenting officer
- your reasons for wanting your child to have a place at your preferred school
- the panel's questions to you
- the presenting officer's questions to you
- final summing up by the presenting officer
- your final summing up
Once this procedure has been completed you and / or your representative and the presenting officer will leave the room.
Grouped appeal hearings
Where there are a number of appeals for the same year group at the same school these will be heard as grouped multiple appeals. In this case all parents appealing are invited to a meeting where the presenting officer's case in respect of the school is presented once to all those present. The panel members, all of the appellants and any representatives who may be attending with them are then able to question the case presented by the admission authority.
Once this process has been completed parents will then be invited to a separate meeting of the appeal panel at which you will have the opportunity to present your individual reasons for wanting a place at the particular school concerned. At your individual hearing you will not be able to question the admission authority's case again.
What decisions can an appeal panel make?
The panel must either uphold or reject an appeal. It must not uphold an appeal subject to any specified conditions.
Can anyone else provide me with further independent advice about admission appeals?
ACE Education, Advice and Training, provides information to parents on a range of school based issues such as exclusion, admissions, special education needs, bullying and attendance.
Our experience with appeal panels is that they seek to hear the parent voice and the reasons that the parent puts forward. You are the best person to put your case forward to them and impress your personal reasons for your child being admitted above the schools limit. The process is highly confidential and anything shared in that process is not shared outside that hearing.
There are a couple of resources that you might find helpful in preparing for your appeal:
- Government advice on appealing a school decision
- Advisory Centre for Education, which offers advice on appeals
- Government publication on the school admissions appeals code
You can also view the documents available on the GOV.UK
These guides will help admission authorities advise those involved with school admission appeals to understand their roles and responsibilities.