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Appeal guidance

General school appeals information to guide you through making your decision whether you want to appeal a decision. You may appeal for each school at which a place has been refused and this must be in writing.

  • Academies and free schools: The Academy Trust is responsible for admissions not the Local Authority (LA)
  • ACE: Advisory Centre for Education
  • Aided school: Catholic or Church of England schools where the admissions authority is the governing body, not the LA
  • Block appeals: Groups of appeals for a particular school heard at the same time, between May and July - used for admissions into reception class and year seven of secondary schools for the following September
  • Casual appeal: Admissions to all classes throughout the year, except for into reception class, year three junior schools and year seven secondary schools for the following September
  • Clerk: Impartial Officer from Legal and Democratic Services
  • Foundation schools: Former grant maintained schools where the admissions authority is the governing body, not the LA
  • Infant class size rule: Legal requirement to keep class numbers at no more than 30
  • Presenting Officer: Senior Officer of the Council who presents the LA's case on behalf of the school

Hearings are informal and are held as local to you as possible. First, the representative from the Local Authority will explain why it was not possible to meet your request for a place at your preferred school. You can ask questions and the panel may also ask questions.

You will then have an opportunity to present your case and answer any questions about it from the panel and the Local Authority's representative. No other parents will be present when you present your own case.

You do not have to attend although many parents choose to do so. The panel will allow you to be accompanied by a friend or to be represented although government advice is that legal representation should not normally be necessary.

Whilst appeals can be considered on the basis of your written information alone, the presence of a parent or representative at a hearing will normally enable the panel to obtain more information about a child's circumstances than is contained in written information alone. This type of information, which a parent may not have considered to be relevant when he or she filled in the appeal application form or submitted documents in support of the appeal, could have a bearing on the outcome of the appeal.

If you are unable to attend the appeal it is important that you send in all information about your reasons for wanting a place at the school in question.

panels have either three or five members. There are strict rules on who may and may not be a member of a panel to make sure that it is independent and impartial.

A clerk to the panel also attends the hearing. The clerk is an officer of the Council who is there to see that the appeal is heard properly and to provide legal advice to the panel. An administrator also attends to take notes.

Where a child has been refused admission to a school on infant class size prejudice grounds, an appeal panel can only offer a place to a child where it is satisfied that either the:

  • admission of additional children would not breach the infant class size limit
  • admissions arrangements did not comply with admissions law or were not correctly and impartially applied and the child would have been offered a place if the arrangements had complied or had been correctly and impartially applied
  • decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case

In relation to point number two it is not enough to say that there has been a mistake in implementing the school's admission arrangements. The appeal panel can only uphold the appeal in cases where it is clear that the child would have been offered a place if the admission arrangements had been properly implemented or were not contrary to mandatory provisions in the School Admissions Code and the SSFA 1998.

In relation to point three the appeal panel must consider whether admission authority's decision was one which a reasonable authority would have made in the circumstances of the case. In order for an appeal panel to determine that the decision to refuse was unreasonable, it will need to be satisfied that the to refuse was unreasonable, it will need to be satisfied that the decision to refuse to admit the particular child was 'perverse in the light of the admission arrangements i.e. 'it was beyond the range of responses open to a reasonable decision maker' or 'decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question could have arrived at it'. In view of these limitations, you have a very limited chance of success in relation to infant class size appeals.

Panels can uphold all appeals and instruct the Local Authority to allocate a place for your child at your preferred school. They can uphold some of the appeals and reject others and they can also reject all the appeals.

Once all the appeals have been heard panels must first decide whether further admissions to the preferred school 'will prejudice efficient education or the efficient use of resources'. Prejudice cannot normally be proved until the year group your child would enter is full. This means that the year group has not only reached its admission limit but cannot accept any more pupils in that year group without prejudicing the provision of efficient education at the school or the efficient use of resources. The Local Authority will provide a statement giving their reasons why they consider that to accept further pupils would cause prejudice to the school.

If the panel believes that the school can admit all the pupils whose parents have appealed without causing prejudice your appeal will automatically be upheld. The panel may decide that places can be allocated to some of the appellants before the point is reached when further admissions will cause prejudice. The panel will decide how many more places can be offered. Any such places will be allocated by the panel according to the factors in the individual case.

If the Local Authority's case that further admissions will cause prejudice is accepted by the panel (either as presented or after some further places have been allocated) the panel will then proceed to the second stage.

This requires panel members to balance your own arguments in support of your child's admission against the extent of prejudice to efficient education and the efficient use of resources which would be caused by the admission of further pupils. If the panel believes that your child's circumstances outweigh the extent of the prejudice to the school your appeal will be upheld, otherwise your appeal will be rejected.

If you are not successful you may apply for reconsideration. If you apply for reconsideration your application will not be considered within the same school year unless your own or the school's circumstances have changed significantly and materially since your first appeal (for example change of address).

As The Local Authority (LA) is responsible for admissions to community schools, and Church of England voluntary controlled schools only. In aided, foundation schools and academies the governing body/trust are responsible for admissions and if you are refused a place then you will need to contact the school/academy for information on how to appeal.

Appeals for secondary transfer into year seven are held between May to July each year. Appeals for reception received by the closing date are heard within 40 school days.

Other appeals are normally heard within 30 school days (excluding school holidays) from the date the completed appeal form is received.

You will be given the date and time of the appeal hearing two weeks in advance of the hearing and the Local Authority's statement of its case will be sent to you one week in advance. You will normally be notified of the panel's decision in writing no later than five working days of the hearings being completed. Decisions of appeals panels are final and binding on both the Local Authority and the school.

Decisions of Appeals Panels are final and binding on both the Local Authority and the appellants. The only further rights open to you if your appeal is not upheld is to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman if you consider there has been 'maladministration' in the way your appeal was handled or to seek 'judicial review' of the decision through the Courts.

General information regarding appeals can be obtained from our School Admissions team, who will also assist you if your appeal is unsuccessful. Appeal hearings are arranged by our Democratic Services team based at HQ, Nicholas Street, Chester, CH1 2NP.

Further information

Parents can seek advice from the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) in London which is a voluntary body providing a helpline advice service to the parents on education matters.

The Department for Education also has a website that provides a range of information for parents.

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