If you have been a subscriber for a while, you are likely to have read one of our earlier blogs on how to find a good school however even with the best laid out plans, things sometimes do not turn out as expected. It can be quite disappointing to learn that your child has not been allocated a place at the school of your choice. However all hope is not lost if that happens and there are a number of options you can still consider. One of these options is to challenge the decision via a formal appeal to the relevant admissions authority.
It is important to note that the Schools Appeal Process requires considerable effort and it can be emotionally draining. Having said that, it is worth pursuing if you have a strong case. To stand a chance of success you will need to be thorough and mentally prepared, otherwise you will be wasting both the opportunity and your time.
Although you need to confirm your intention to appeal the decision within the set deadline, you do not have to provide all of your supporting evidence at the same time.
It is better to put together a robust case than to rush through and provide a weak case that does not stand a chance. Therefore it is advisable to register your intention and provide a high level summary of the grounds of your appeal before the deadline then follow-up with the details before the actual hearing.
One of the benefits of this approach is that you get more time to respond effectively to each of the points that the admissions authority states is a reason for refusing your child a place – you definitely need time to do this meticulously. Amongst other things, the admissions authority is likely to state that your child’s admission will cause issues for the school. You may simply want to refute this in your initial submission and state that you will provide further details following receipt of their detailed reasons for refusal.
Do’s and Don’ts of This Approach
- Do not miss the initial deadline, typically 14 days, for registering your intention
- Do state that you will be submitting additional evidence before the hearing
- Do not enter anything into the initial high level submission that may conflict with what you will be submitting later
- Do check what the final deadline is for submitting additional information
- Do not miss the final deadline for submitting the additional information
What Should You Submit
It should spell out why you believe your child should be given a place at the school. There are a variety of reasons for appealing, this includes but is not limited to: being aligned to the ethos of the school; your child having a particular ability in a subject which is a specialism of the school; your child not being able to get to the allocated school without difficulty etc.
It is advisable to put your best foot forward, start the statement with your strongest reasons.
Supporting evidence should be compelling, specific and in writing, typically from an expert such as a doctor and not a general statement but one that proves why admission at the particular school is required to meet the needs of the child.
Only provide true statements and factual evidence as any erroneous statements subsequently found out will damage your case.
Do Your Research and Be Assertive
According to the School Admissions Code, the admissions criteria for every school must be unprejudiced, fair and clear. If you can prove otherwise, you are more likely to be able to overturn the decision not to admit your child.
Sometimes, the evidence you need for your case is with the admissions authority, for example, number of intakes in previous years. You have every right to ask for this information without feeling intimidated.
- Have a well-prepared presentation – cover all your points in a structured and logical manner.
- Consider the questions you are likely to be asked and be prepared to answer them
- It would make sense for a trusted person such as your spouse or a close friend to work with you on what you will be saying at the hearing.
- Take this person along with you for moral support; moreover they can continue to speak on your behalf if you happen to break down emotionally during the hearing.
Communicate in a convincing and engaging manner – by all means have some notes to refer to but it is best not to read out a long script, speak for too short / too long a time or in a drab monotone. Research shows that most communication is non-verbal so your body language and eye contact with the panel members as well as tone of voice are important if they are to really hear what you have to say.
As much as possible, stay calm and courteous during the process, be assertive but don’t come across as an angry aggressive parent, as you will effectively be alienating the decision makers!
What About Grammar Schools?
You may also be able to appeal if your child did not score the required marks in the eleven plus exams due to extenuating circumstances.
Make this appeal in line with the specified deadlines as soon as you are informed that your child did not achieve the required score. The same considerations in respect of deadlines and how to prepare, outlined in the previous sections apply. Note however that the grounds for appeal are much more specific when it is a grammar school.
For a strong case you will need to provide:
- Evidence of your child’s academic ability; and
- An account of the circumstances that impacted your child’s scores
Some Examples of Evidence You Can Submit
- A statement in writing from the head teacher of your child’s school that confirms his/her ability and track record.
- A medical report from a doctor confirming the ill-health of your child during the period of the exam.
The appeals process is certainly one to pursue if you have good grounds for doing so. However as with everything, that is not enough in itself; to be successful you will need to research and prepare adequately for the process.
Watch out for future blogs where we will be covering other options to consider if your child does not get the school of your choice.