Lawyers expect flood of appeals over secondary school places


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The Independent Online

Thousands of parents will today begin the annual scramble for coveted secondary school places amid concerns that the appeals process could be thrown into chaos by the rapid rise in academies and new regulations.

Letters started arriving yesterday, on what is known as national "offer day", with every 11-year-old finding out whether they have got a place at their first-choice school by today.

Lawyers are expecting a boom year, despite a slimmed-down admissions code that should make legal appeals easier for parents to manage.

This year, one third of children in London did not get their first choice, though 88 per cent got a place at one of their top three schools. Nationally, one in six children, or 79,000 children, did not get their first choice secondary school in England in 2011, though 95.6 per cent were allocated a place at one of their three preferred schools.

The school landscape has changed radically under reforms led by Education Secretary Michael Gove. This has led to a four-fold increase in academies over the past 12 months – from 370 to 1,580 – in England, as well as an expansion in faith and free schools.

A new admissions and appeals code also came into force last month.

Parents who believe their appeal was incorrectly conducted can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman, but only if it is a local authority school. For academy-related complaints parents must turn to the Young People's Learning Agency.

John Walker, from, said: "The biggest concern people have is how academies will manage their appeals, because no one really knows, and there is also a new admissions code which makes massive changes to the actual tests."

A Department of Education spokesman said: "Compliance with the admissions code is mandatory for every state-funded school, this includes academies".

He added: "The old code was overly long, bureaucratic and complicated. The new code has been slimmed down and made clearer for parents."