If you have found that your child has not got into your choice of secondary school, what are the options open to you?
If you find that you don't get your child into the school of your choice, the first advice is don't panic. But there are a number of issues that you need to be aware of of before you do anything. Here we outline what options are open to you.
It is important to understand that in England you do not have the right to choose a certain school for your child. What you do have the right to do is express where you would like your child to go. The local authority will then allocate places taking certain factors into account. You do have the right to appeal but many local authorities advise you to accept a place at the school you have been offered whilst you are going through the appeals process. This ensures that you do have a back up should the appeal not work out.
The first point to make is that appealing against a decision is not easy. Popular, well rated schools will always have more people wanting them than they have places, so do be realistic. You will have 20 days to appeal. You need to inform the local authority of your decision to appeal in writing. You are then given a date for the appeal hearing with at least 10 days notice.There are three grounds to appeal and it is important you understand what your grounds will be.
The first appeal can be based on the schools admission arrangements not following the law, which you believe in turn meant that your child did not get a place. The second right of appeal is that you believe the school has made a mistake. The third right of appeal is that the refusal of a school place is unreasonable.
Some parents do use legal representation as it is difficult to overturn decisions. For many however this is financially beyond their reach. If you do want advice for free then do consult The Advisory Centre for Education.
The advice is to not go into the appeal process criticising the school you have been offered. The best approach is to lay out the reasons why the school you wanted is the best one for your child. You may have medical or social reasons, you may want to refer to a bullying issue or maybe there are special educational needs. It is advisable not to focus on travelling issues or wanting a school close to where you work, these grounds don't tend to work.
Another focus that can work is to focus on your childs academic needs. So for example is your preferred school a centre of excellence in a subject area important to your child?You may want to refer to issues with the school you have been given but only in the context that it is not right for your child. Again, try to avoid criticising the offered school, this does not go down well with appeals panels.
A appeals panel is made up from between three to five people.They are members of the public who will look at why your application was turned down. You will then be asked to explain why you want this decision changed. The panel will then decide what they want to do and you will get all results within seven days.The decision from the panel is legally binding.
Finally it is common for schools to have a waiting list. if you are unsuccessful in the appeals process do ensure that your childs name is on the waiting list of your preferred school and don't give up. You may have to accept the school the local authority has given you but you can still talk to your chosen school and see if there is any movement the following year.