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School Admission Appeals Guide

This document gives you information on how your appeal will be dealt with. If you require any further assistance contact the Clerk:

The Clerk to the Independent School Appeal Panel
Democratic & Member Business Support
Council House
Armada Way

Call - 01752 398164

Email –

What is the Plymouth independent schools appeals panel?

When you are refused a place for your child at the school of your choice, the law allows you the opportunity to put your case to an Independent Appeal Panel. The Panel is made up of trained volunteers who are entirely independent of the admission authority. Each panel will comprise of three members -

  • One of whom must have experience in education; be familiar with educational conditions in the authority’s area; or be a parent of a registered pupil at a school
  • One of whom must be a lay person, that is someone who has no personal experience in the management or provision of education in any school (other than as a school governor or volunteer helper)
  • The third panel member will be from either of the above two categories

No member of the Appeal Panel should have any connection with either you, your preferred school or the school you have been allocated.

The Panel hears appeals against decisions relating to admissions to schools and exclusions from schools. In dealing with any type of appeal the Panel follows guidance contained in the School Admission Appeals Code of Practice issued by the Department for Education.

Before submitting an appeal, parents are urged to take up their case with the Local Authority’s School Admissions Officer, as many cases can often be resolved satisfactorily at this earlier stage.

This document explains how your appeal will be dealt with. If, after reading this, you have any further questions please contact the Clerk to the Schools Appeal Panel at the address given overleaf.

What are the circumstances in which I can appeal?

You have the right of appeal to an Independent Appeal Panel if you are dissatisfied with an admission decision. Normally this means that you have applied for a place at a school which is over-subscribed, and

  • either you have not been offered a place because the available places have been offered to children who, according to the admission authority’s published criteria, have a higher priority for a place at that school than your child,
  • or the class/teaching group at the school is full and there are no further spare places available for your child.

Do I need to attend the appeal hearing?

You are the best person to tell the Panel why you want your child to go to the school you are appealing for and help them make an informed decision. It is therefore in the best interests of all concerned for parents to attend hearings wherever possible. You can also bring along someone to help make your case, such as a friend, relative, locally elected politician, lawyer or an employee of the Local Authority. This could be an Educational Social Worker, SEN adviser or learning mentor, although these people will need to consider if they have a conflict of interest. Please let the Clerk to the Appeal Panel know in advance if you feel you need to bring more people with you. You may not bring anyone with you who is employed by the school for which you are appealing. If, due to exceptional circumstances, you (or your representative) are unable to attend the appeal, a request for an alternative date may be considered. However, any request will need to be balanced against the consequences that this delay may to other appeal hearings. If this is the case, an alternative date will not be considered and the appeal will be heard in your absence based on your written submission. If you do not want to attend the appeal hearing and you do not wish to be represented then you can ask us to arrange to have the appeal heard in your absence.

Please note that if you decide not to attend the hearing, the panel will consider and determine the appeal in your absence. In this situation the appeal will be dealt with by reference to the written information submitted by both the admission authority and yourself. It is therefore important that you tell the panel in writing everything you want them to take into account. This also applies if you do not arrive for your arranged hearing.

Who will be present at the appeal hearing?

In addition to the three members of the Independent Appeals Panel and yourself, the following people will also be present during your appeal:

  • a ‘presenting officer’ representing the relevant admission authority will attend to explain the school’s position. They may be accompanied by an administrative assistant who is not allowed to address the hearing directly;
  • the Headteacher/Principal (or their representative) of the preferred school might attend to clarify any factual matters relating to the circumstances of the school, but it is entirely for the relevant admission authority to decide whether he/she does so;
  • the Clerk to the School Appeals Panel is present at all times during the hearing. On no occasion will either you or the admission authority’s representative be left alone with the Panel;
  • sometimes there may be observers present, these can include new panel members or clerks (for training purposes).

We do not recommend that you bring your child/children though there is a secure waiting area available if you have any childcare concerns.

How will the appeal be conducted?

The appeals process operates within a formal legal framework and, as such, can appear daunting for some parents. Whilst we try to keep appeal hearings as informal as possible we do have a set procedure to follow in order to ensure that all appeals are heard in the same way. Panel members and officers all understand that it can be a stressful and emotional experience and so we try to ensure that you are always treated with patience, understanding and courtesy.

When you arrive for your hearing the Clerk will meet you, remind you of the process to be followed and answer any questions you may have. You will then meet the Panel and your appeal will take place.

Members of the Panel will have previously received and studied the information provided by the admission authority and the information which has been provided by you. They will have these documents with them to refer to as necessary.

There are different types of appeal:

  • Infant Class Size Appeals (RICS);
  • ‘Resources’ Appeals;
  • Selective Grammar School Appeals (see page 6 of this guidance note)

Irrespective of the type of appeal the Panel Chair will welcome all parties present, make the necessary introductions and explain the procedure to be followed.

Infant Class Size Appeals (RICS)

Since September 2001, under Government legislation, infant classes may not contain more than 30 children with a single teacher. The limit applies to Reception classes and Year groups 1 and 2.

Where the admission authority has refused a place to your child on class size prejudiced grounds an appeal panel can only allow an appeal based on the following facts -

  • the class has less than 30 children on roll (and the school would not be prejudiced) or;
  • your child would have been offered a place if the admission arrangements (including the area’s co-ordinated admissions arrangements) have not been contrary to mandatory provisions in the Schools Admissions Code and School Standards and Framework Act 1998 or;
  • your child would have been offered a place if the admission arrangements had been properly implemented or;
  • the decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority (LA or governing body) would have made in the circumstances of the case.

The admission authority’s representative will explain the case for the school to the Panel, you and any other parents appealing for the same school.

You (and any other parents appealing for the same school) may question the admission authority’s representative on what has been said and state a case for considering that the school is not full and that further admissions should be allowed. Please remember the RICS rules and keep discussion focused on the facts provided by the school and/or the admission authority.

The Appeal Panel will review the admission authority’s decision in light of the material available at the time the decision was made. You are free to talk about personal factors at the appeal hearing if you want to but, in this type of appeal hearing, the Panel cannot take them into account unless they are relevant to the exceptions outlined above.

‘Resources’ Appeals

When ‘resources’ appeals are being heard the Panel will follow a two-stage process.

Stage One

The admission authority’s representative will present the admission authority’s case explaining why it did not offer you a place at your preferred school. The Panel, you and any other parents appealing may question the admission authority’s representative on what has been said.

If you wish to do so, you and any other parents may state a case for considering that the school is not full and that further admissions should be allowed but not at this stage any reasons relating specifically to your child.

If the Panel decides that the school is not full and more children might be admitted then the hearing may cease at this stage. If yours is the only appeal, your child will be admitted. If a multiple appeal, it may continue for example if two could be admitted but there are more than two appeals.

If the Panel decides that there was good reason for turning down your application (‘i.e. that the admission would be prejudicial to efficient education or efficient use of resources’) it will begin the second stage of the appeal.

Stage Two

You and any other parents appealing for that school will be asked to come back individually to put your own case, because there may be personal circumstances relating to your child which override the fact that the school is full. It is at this point that the Panel hears your individual reasons for appealing against the decision. At this stage you can mention all the reasons why that school would be best for your child and what special factors justify your child getting a place in spite of the admission authority’s reason for turning you down.

The Panel and the admission authority’s representative may question you on what you have said.

The admission authority’s representative and finally you will be asked to sum up your cases and then asked to leave the room while the Panel makes a final decision.

Note: If there are any other parents appealing for the same school (‘multiple appeals’) ALL parents must have a chance to speak to the panel individually when the appeal goes to the second stage prior to any final decisions on admission being made.

The Panel then makes a ‘balancing judgement’ and decides whether the benefits to your child of going to the school you are appealing for instead of the school you have been offered outweigh the bad effect on the school and on the other children of having one more pupil in the class. If the Panel decides that your case is the stronger, it will uphold your appeal and the admission authority is then under a duty to admit your child to the school.

Note: In multiple appeals, where there are a number of appeals that merit admission but the Panel determines that the school could not cope with that number of successful appeals, they will then be ranked before any final decision is made.

Rules relating to grammar school appeals

Where admission to the preferred school is based on children being of a certain aptitude or ability the admission authority may decide not to allocate your child a place as if to do so is “incompatible with selection arrangements” (Section 86(3)(c) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998).

When Grammar School appeals are being heard –

  • These appeals will follow the same two stage process as described on page 5. However, in Stage two the Panel will have to consider the selection criteria.
  • Stage two will be considered in two parts - (a) eligibility with regard to selection criteria and (b) your grounds for appealing for the school.
  • You may wish to ask the Panel to consider why you believe that your child did not perform at his/her best on the day of the entrance test and, as a consequence, did not reach the required academic standard.
  • When making their decision, the Panel will firstly make a judgement about whether your child has met the selection criteria. If the Panel considers that the criteria has not been met by your child, your appeal will fail and your personal circumstances which may override the fact that the school is full will not be taken into account by the Panel.

What will you do with my appeal form once you receive it?

Your appeal will normally be acknowledged within two working days and a copy sent to the admission authority (the other party to the appeal). The admission authority then prepares a statement setting out the reason for not meeting your preference of school. You will be sent a copy of this prior to your appeal hearing, known as the Appeal Pack (five school days before the appeal).

What sort of information should I provide?

Whatever your reason for appealing, you should provide in advance as much information in support of your appeal as you can. You should include all the reasons why that school would be best for your child and what special factors, for example personal circumstances, medical advice, etc, justify your child being admitted in spite of the reason for turning you down.

Where it is relevant, it is helpful to provide supporting evidence such as copies of doctor’s notes. Any information not received within reasonable time (at least 6 school days before the appeal) may not be considered by the panel. Please note that the late introduction of such evidence outside of these timescales or on the date of the appeal is likely to result in your appeal being adjourned and accordingly delayed.

Appeal deadlines

We must hear appeals within the following deadlines:

Normal Round of Admissions (Also Known as Point of Entry - Yr 7 & Rec) Within 40 school days of the deadline to lodge appeals
Late Applications for Normal Round of Admissions Within 40 school days of the deadline to lodge appeals or within 30 days of the appeal being lodged (whichever is greater)*
In Year Admissions Within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged
Sixth Form Admissions Within 30 school days of the examination results being known, if this is a condition of offer   or   Within 40 school days of the appeal being lodged where a place is not subject to examination results

*please note that although every effort will be made to hear appeals for late applications alongside on-time applications and before the end of the Summer Term, this may not always be possible.

Where and when will my appeal be heard?

Hearings are currently being held in Council House, Armada Way, PL1 2AA.

You will be given at least 10 school days (about 2 weeks) notice of the date of your appeal and will be sent a copy of the admission authority’s written statement as part of the Appeal Pack five school days before your appeal is heard. Any information which you have provided in advance will similarly be sent to the admission authority and the Panel Members.

What is the role of the clerk to the appeal panel?

The Clerk is present to ensure the hearing is conducted fairly. The Clerk does not have any say at all in the Appeal Panel’s decision but is there to:

  • explain the basic procedure and deal with any questions you may have;
  • ensure the relevant facts are established;
  • make sure each party is heard in turn;
  • be an independent source of advice on the law and procedures;
  • record the proceedings, decisions and reasons;
  • after the appeal, notify all concerned of the Appeal Panel’s decision.

Can I withdraw my appeal?

Yes. You can withdraw your appeal at any time before (and during) the appeal hearing by telephoning and then confirming in writing to the Clerk to the Independent School Appeal Panel.

What powers do the appeal panel have?

The Appeal Panel can either refuse or allow your appeal. In some cases, they may decide to defer a decision if they need more information to make a decision. If your appeal succeeds, the admission authority must offer your child a place at the school. The Independent School Appeal Panel has no other power. It cannot:

  • attach any conditions if it allows your appeal;
  • hear complaints or objections on wider aspects of local admission policies and practice e.g. it cannot change the admission criteria of a school;
  • order the admission authority to change your position on the school’s waiting list.

Does this affect my child’s position on the waiting list?

No. The waiting list for any school applied for is unaffected by the Appeals Process. The Panel do not make any decision based on and are not informed of any child's place on the Waiting List. All children are thusly treated without prejudice.

When will I know the decision of the panel?

We aim to notify you by phone call once all appeals for that school have been heard, we will also inform you in writing as soon as possible after the hearing, usually within 5 school days. A copy of the decision letter will also be sent to the local authority and admission authority.

What can i do if my appeal fails?

If your appeal does not succeed, it is recognised that you may not be happy with the decision. You can ask the admission authority to put your child on the waiting list (if a waiting list is held), as places sometimes become free after the start of the school year.

If you are unhappy about the way the hearing was carried out, you can complain:

  • in the event of the school being an Academy or a Free School - the Secretary of State for Education, who cannot review or overturn decisions of individual appeal panels but can consider whether the admission authority acted reasonably, or;
  • in the event of the school being a maintained school - to the Local Government Ombudsman (tel. 0300 061 0614) who can consider complaints about maladministration relating to issues such as failure to follow the correct procedures but is not able to consider an appeal in respect of the decision.

If, after reading this, you have any further questions please contact the Clerk to the Schools Appeal Panel by email or by telephone 01752 398164.