Applying for a place at a secondary school can be a very stressful time for parents – particularly if they have a specific school in mind. Applications begin a year before children are set to start school, at the start of the autumn term, and the deadline – October 31st – is now upon us.
Places are allocated at the beginning of March on National Offer Day. However, what are your options if your child is not offered a place or you’re not happy with the offer?
Other options available
Applying outside of your catchment area is possible in certain circumstances, for example, if you are a member of a particular faith or sometimes if your child has a particular skill, but even then, you may run into the same problem.
There is also the option of sending your child to an independent school, but again, good places can be very difficult to find. They are generally very costly, although more and more independent schools are now offering bursaries and scholarship schemes to families who might otherwise struggle to pay school fees, so it may be worth asking the registrar at schools you like for further details.
When completing an application form, ensure that it is completed diligently and that all questions are answered carefully and with the correct information. If there is additional information that you feel is relevant to the application, put it down (i.e. medical/social issues).
How do I appeal?
If your child does not get the place you hoped for, you will receive a letter of notification that will also have details of how to appeal against the decision. The Admission Authority (either the Local Authority or the school itself) will allocate an appeal hearing.
The appeal panel is made up of a minimum of three individuals with no connection to the school in question, who will be informed why your child was refused a place and they will make sure the school complies with the Schools Admissions Code. It is important not to panic and to prepare yourself adequately as the decision of the panel is legally binding.
How do I prepare?
Make sure you have everything written down. Prepare clear reasons why the school of your choice is the right one for your child – rather than focusing on why another school would not be suitable. Be sure to include any specific circumstances, such as logistical or medical reasons, why your child should be given a place. Also, make sure that you take with you any documents or other evidence that would back up your case.
If you are having difficulties finding a place for your child and are unsure how to proceed, it is worth giving education law experts like Match Solicitors a call. Specialist lawyers have extensive experience in preparing for such appeal hearings, giving you the best fighting chance of securing the school place you want for your child.
Anita Chopra is a director at education law specialists Match Solicitors and is a regular media commentator on legal issues arising in education. She has a “huge breadth of experience across all kinds of education” and “has a great instinct for cases.”