School admissions: How to appeal against a decision

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The Independent Online

If the estimates are correct, there will be more than 100,000 disappointed parents today who have not got their child into their first choice secondary school.

For some the bitter pill will be sweetened by at least getting their child into one of the schools they listed as a preference.

However, for an estimated seven per cent (or around 42,000 parents) they will not even have that crumb of comfort.

It is worth bearing in mind, therefore, you can appeal against the decision. Even the Schools Minister Jim Knight reckons you should do if you think you have a good case.

Of the 100,000 parents who lost out on a first preference last year, 19,156 appeals were heard. Of these 7,289 were successful.

The figures show that you have to mount a good case for an appeal to be successful - some are rejected at the first hurdle without getting to a hearing because no case has been presented other than that the parent did not like the original decision.

A rule of thumb for preparing your appeal is:

* Check with the school's admissions code and see if it has obeyed it to the letter.

* Provide any additional information to support your cause, i.e your child is dyslexic and the school is the only one in the area with a specialist facility to help dyslexic children, or the school has a specialism which your child has a special aptitude for.

* You can also challenge any claim from the school that to admit more pupils would cause overcrowding. If you get to the hearing, don't be intimidated by the legal nature of it - just be polite and firm in putting across your case.

In most cases, local authorities will organise appeals panels - which will be made up of three to five volunteers who have no connection with the school or the original decision.

A breakdown of the appeals statistics shows that parents in some parts of the country have a better chance of success than others. For instance, in Wiltshire, North Lincolnshire and Sunderland over 70 per cent of appeals were successful last year. In Solihull, Birmingham and some parts of London the figure is less than ten per cent.

Finally, if you still feel you need more help, it is at hand on the net through an internet site set up to help parents with appeals -