I didn’t get my first choice of primary school, what should I do first?

Hearing whether your child has achieved a place at your first choice school can be one of the most stressful times for a parent. If your child has not got a place then your first port of call ought to be the Local Authority. Simply because you have not achieved placement at your first choice does not mean your child won’t be able to access a good school. Indeed, sometimes even outstanding schools are undersubscribed.

I have been rejected by all of my choice schools. Can I appeal all the decisions at once?

No, each rejection must be appealed separately.

Should I accept the place I have been offered?

This is ultimately your choice. However, remember, once your child reaches compulsory school age they are legally obliged to attend school. Simply accepting a school does not mean you’re locked in to your child attending.

On what grounds can I appeal a decision?

There are three grounds of potential appeal:

  • The lawfulness of the admission arrangements (if you are concerned that the admission arrangements are unlawful you are advised to take specialist advice.)
  • If a mistake was made in not offering the child a place.
  • It was unreasonable to refuse the application.

What is a statement of grounds of appeal?

The process is the same throughout England. However, you will need to produce a statement of grounds, this is a simple document which sets out the basis of your appeal. You may also wish to refer within that document to other supporting evidence. You can draft them yourself, ask a friend, or a lawyer to draft them.

Is the appeal panel like going to Court?

Not really, the panel is unlikely to convene in a Court building. More often than not it will be heard at the Local Authority building. The panel are independent, one panel member is a lay person another is someone someone, ‘experienced in education.’ Often the panel Chair is a lay person who is assisted by a legally qualified clerk, or legal advisor.

The proceedings are not in public and are not recorded. The ‘other side’ is represented by a presenting officer, who is often not a lawyer.

My local authority are trying to dissuade me bringing a lawyer?

Appeal panels are supposed to be informal and accessible. However, it’s your right to be represented in the hearing and you should not be penalised for instructing a lawyer to present your case, especially if you are concerned that admissions panels are unlawful.

We would like to instruct a barrister, do I need a solicitor too?

No, education law is an area where both schools, academies and parents often instruct barristers directly without solicitors. The barrister can offer a service providing as little or as much assistance you like. A complete service would include drafting grounds, organising and assisting in putting together evidence, a conference before the hearing and attending and advocating before the panel itself.

What is a consultant? How come they are cheaper than a lawyer?

A consultant is simply a person offering to you a service. They are not regulated with the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board or Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. They may say they are cheaper, but it is worth getting a quote from a barrister, solicitor or legal executive both deciding that’s so.

I don’t have thousands of pounds to instruct a barrister.

Just because you’re picking a specialist advocate doesn’t mean it has to cost thousands of pounds. Novate are able to offer you a selection of barristers with a range of experience, from QCs to newly qualified barristers. Ask to see a selection of CVs, a number of the barristers Novate recommend are School Governors or involved with Children’s charities. All the barristers Novate will introduce you to operate a transparent charging scheme, a complaints scheme and can accept payment by credit or debit card.

I did the panel hearing myself and it went horribly wrong, can you help after?

If something went wrong at the panel hearing, you may be able to challenge the decision by an application to Court. A number of Novate barristers provide a free initial view via the telephone as to whether this is something you can consider further.

There could also be the possibility of a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman or the Secretary of State for Education.

I have heard that a number of parents are having part of their hearing heard together, could we instruct a barrister together for the ‘group hearing’?

A group hearing is a rarity. Nothing personal to you or your child will be discussed at the hearing. But for example, the authority may explain how an admission policy has been applied in a number of cases. There is absolutely nothing to prevent the group (if you are organised beforehand) to instruct a barrister to conduct that part of the hearing. The barrister’s submissions will be considered on that particular point, which impacts the group. Individual parents, or all parents are entitled to instruct the barrister to the individual hearing which relates to their child. Depending on complexity, this can be a very cost effective way to deal with how a number of children have had the admissions policy applied in a certain way.

Surely the Human Rights Act guarantees my child can go to the school my taxes pay for?

Although the European Convention on Human Rights included, in the First Protocol, a right to education, it does not guarantee admission to a particular school. The ECHR and the Equality Act 2010 are important if you think your child or you have been the victim of disability, sexual or racist discrimination.

Who do I contact for help?

The author of this guide, barrister, Ian Brownhill is on standby to assist in the days after admission decisions in assisting parents wishing to appeal, for more Information about Ian Brownhill please click here. Novate Direct Legal Solutions can introduce you to a barrister or solicitor to take on your case, just call 0845 201 0160, or visit novatedls.com