Detailed guidance on school admission appeals

1. The complete guide

School Admission Appeals Guide

You can read excerpts from that complete guide in the following pages.

Already made an appeal?

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2. Submitting an appeal

We recommend you submit your appeal online:

Please note if you are appealing for a voluntary aided (faith school) you will need to submit your appeal directly to the relevant school.

This is your appeal and you can put forward whatever reasons you feel are relevant to your case. Having said this, it may help the Panel to understand your case if, wherever possible, you use headings or number the points you are making. Depending on the type of appeal you are making, please also remember to read the rules on infant class size law appeals, or secondary and primary appeals. Those links provide more detail about how Panels make decisions on appeals.

Completing an appeal by post

If you prefer to submit an appeal in a paper format, please write to us and request a form at:

East Sussex School Appeals Service
East Sussex County Council
West E, County Hall
St Anne’s Crescent
Lewes BN7 1UE

  • When submitting a paper form, please ensure you use separate forms for each school you want to appeal for. Please also use separate forms if you are submitting an appeal for more than one child.
  • If you need to continue on separate sheet(s) or wish to submit other additional papers, please make sure these are numbered. Please use A4 paper for additional sheets wherever possible as this makes photocopying easier. Please also complete the form using either black or blue ink.
  • If you are including colour items, like maps or photographs or papers with highlighted sections and you want the Panel to see them in this format, please provide us with 8 colour copies of these items as we can only provide black and white copies for the Panel.

3. Key dates for a school appeal hearing

Deadlines for submitting your appeal

These deadlines are particularly important for appeals relating to the September intake.

  Appeal deadline Applies to
Secondary appeals Monday 1 April 2019 Children starting secondary school in September 2019.
Primary appeals Wednesday 22 May 2019. Children starting Reception Year or Year 3 from September 2019 onwards.
In-Year appeals Within 25 school days of being told your application was unsuccessful. All applications that are not part of the main primary, junior or secondary intake in September. This could be for any year group at any time of year.

When will my appeal be heard?

We aim to have all appeals, which are received within the deadline, heard by the following dates.

  Final date appeals will be heard by
Secondary appeals Wednesday 19 June 2019
Primary appeals Tuesday 23 July 2019
In-Year appeals (appeals which do not relate to the September intake) Within 30 school days of receiving the appeal

When will I be given the details of my hearing?

We will give you at least 10 school days written notice of the details of your appeal hearing. We will also circulate your appeal submission and the admission authority’s written response (statement of case) 7 working days before the hearing (not including the day of despatch or the day of the hearing).

When will I know the outcome of my appeal?

We aim to send out written confirmation of the decision on an appeal within 5 working days of your hearing. At peak times it is not always possible to send decisions within this timescale. Please note that sometimes a Panel may need to hear a large number of appeals for one school across several days. In these cases the decisions cannot be released until after the last day of hearings for that school.

Please do not call the school appeals team for the outcome of your appeal. We cannot provide this information via telephone calls.

4. Who will be at the hearing?

The person appealing

You are entitled to appear in person and make oral representations. You may also be accompanied by a friend or adviser. You are also free to have legal representation at admission appeal hearings, but this ought not to be necessary.

You are entitled to call witnesses to speak at the hearing. Please inform the appeal clerk/administrator ahead of the hearing if you do wish to call a witness.

Where required an interpreter or signer who may speak on your behalf can also attend the hearing. Please inform the appeal clerk/administrator when you submit your appeal if you do require an interpreter or signer to assist you.

Independent Appeal Panel

Appeal Panels are independent of the Admission Authority and members volunteer their time to hear school appeals. They must not have any direct connections with the school that is the subject of the appeal. Decisions of Appeal Panels are binding on Admission Authorities. There are three members on a Panel, one of who will be 6 appointed to act as the Panel Chair. Members of Panels must be drawn from one of the following two categories:

  • lay people (someone without personal experience in the management of any school or provision of education in any school (except as a school governor or in another voluntary capacity)
  • people who have experience in education, who are acquainted with educational conditions in the local authority area, or who are parents of registered pupils at school.

Admission Authority representative

A presenting officer who is responsible for presenting on behalf of the Admission Authority the reasons why your application was refused. The presenting officer should give all relevant information as clearly as possible and without the use of jargon. The presenting officer will need to be prepared to answer detailed questions about the case being heard, the school (including its admission arrangements) and local coordinated admission arrangements, and will need to be present throughout the hearings to be able to do so.

Clerk to the Appeal Panel

The Clerk is not a member of the Panel but has an important part to play in ensuring that all relevant facts are established and that the appeal hearing is conducted in a fair way. The Clerk’s main role at the hearing is to:

  • explain the basic procedure to appellants and deal with any questions they may have before the hearing (the Chair or Clerk, as appropriate, may deal with questions raised during the hearing)
  • be an independent source of advice (or to seek appropriate advice) on procedure, on both the School Admissions and School Admission Appeals Codes, and on the law on admissions, giving any advice in the presence of all parties where practicable
  • ensure that both the appellants and the admission authority have the opportunity to present relevant facts at the hearing. The Clerk’s role is to assist the Panel, admission authority, or the appellants with procedure and obtaining advice where directed by the Chair to do so
  • record the proceedings, attendance, voting outcomes, Panel decisions and reasons in a form that the Panel and Clerk agree is appropriate. All notes and records of proceedings taken by the Clerk are the property of the Panel. Whilst these are not normally available to the parties following the hearing, the notes will be prepared and retained on the basis that they maybe required to be disclosed to the Local Government Ombudsman or are required as part of a court proceeding.


    Considering making an appeal?

5. Infant class size law appeals

This page will help you understand the law if you appealing for a school place in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2, and the rules limiting infant class sizes to 30 pupils with a single teacher apply. It will help you decide what points and information to include in your appeal.

What is the infant class size limit?

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA 1998) limits the size of an infant class to 30 pupils with a single school teacher. Where an application has been turned down on these grounds, parents still have a right of appeal, but the grounds upon which the appeal can be upheld by a Panel are very limited.

  • Because of these limitations all appeals where the infant class size restrictions applied were unsuccessful last year (for the September 2017 intake).

How does the infant class size limit affect how the Panel will consider my appeal?

Where an application has been turned down because of the infant class size limit, Appeal Panels may only uphold an appeal where:

  1. it finds that the admission of additional children would not breach the infant class size limit, or
  2. it finds that the admission arrangements did not comply with admissions law or were not correctly and impartially applied and the child would have been offered a place if the arrangements had complied or had been correctly and impartially applied, or
  3. it decides that the decision to refuse admission was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made in the circumstances of the case.

Further information about how decisions are made on infant class size law appeals

In multiple appeals (this is when there is more than one appeal for the same school and year group), where a number of children would have been offered a place under the paragraph above, and to admit that number would seriously prejudice the provision of efficient education or efficient use of resources, the panel must proceed to a second stage.

Second stage – comparing cases

The panel must compare each appellant’s case for their child to be admitted and decide which of them, if any, to uphold. Where the school could admit a certain number of children without breaching the infant class size limit (or without needing to take measures to avoid breaching it that would prejudice the provision of efficient education or efficient use of resources) the panel must uphold the appeals of at least that number of children.

Consideration of ‘reasonableness’

The threshold for finding that an admission authority’s decision to refuse admission was not one that a reasonable authority would have made is high. The panel will need to be satisfied that the decision to refuse to admit the child was ‘perverse in the light of the admission arrangements’ i.e. it was ‘beyond the range of responses open to a reasonable decision maker’ or ‘a decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question could have arrived at it’.


Considering making an appeal?

6. Secondary and primary appeals

This page will help you understand the law if you are appealing for a secondary or primary school (other than those primary/infant schools where the rules on infant class size apply). It will help you decide what points and information to include in your appeal.

How will the Panel consider my appeal?

The Panel must follow the two-stage process as set out below for all appeals (other than those against decisions made on the grounds of infant class size prejudice):

First stage – examining the decision to refuse admission

The panel must consider the following matters in relation to each child that is the subject of an appeal:

  • whether the admission arrangements (including the area’s co-ordinated admission arrangements) complied with the mandatory requirements of the School Admissions Code and Part 3 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, and
  • whether the admission arrangements were correctly and impartially applied in the case in question.

The panel must then decide whether the admission of additional children would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources.

Consideration of prejudice:

Whilst the panel must take into account the school’s published admission number, the admission authority must be able to demonstrate prejudice over and above the fact that the published admission number has already been reached. The panel must not reassess the capacity of the school, but must consider the impact on the school of admitting additional children. In reaching a decision as to whether or not there would be prejudice the panel may consider the following factors:

  • what effect an additional admission would have on the school in the current and following academic years as the year group moves through the school
  • whether any changes have been made to the school’s physical accommodation or organisation since an admission number was originally set for the relevant year group
  • the impact of the locally agreed Fair Access Protocol
  • the impact on the organisation and size of classes, the availability of teaching staff, and the effect on children already at the school.

Second stage balancing the arguments

At this stage the Panel exercises its discretion, balancing the degree of prejudice to the school against the parent’s case for the child being admitted to the preferred school, before arriving at a decision. In considering all the evidence before it, the Panel must take into account the appellant’s reasons for expressing a preference for the school, including what that school can offer the child that the allocated or other schools cannot. If the panel considers that the appellant’s case outweighs the prejudice to the school it must uphold the appeal.

In multiple appeals (where there is more than one appeal for the same school and year group), the panel must not compare the individual cases when deciding whether an appellant’s case outweighs the prejudice to the school. However, where the panel finds there are more cases which outweigh prejudice than the school can admit, it must then compare the cases and uphold those with the strongest case for admission. Where a certain number of children could be admitted without causing prejudice, the panel must uphold the appeals of at least that number of children.


Considering making an appeal?

7. Procedures for school admissions appeal hearings

Conduct of the hearing and the order of proceedings

Conduct of the hearing: the conduct of proceedings generally will be at the discretion of the Panel – and as informal as possible. The order of proceedings will normally be set out as in the section below entitled ‘order of proceedings’, provided that:

  • the Panel shall have the power to vary the order whenever they consider it expedient so to do
  • there may be instances where all the appeals to be dealt with in a session or part of a session relate to preferences for the same school. If this is so, the Panel may ask the Admission Authority’s representative to begin the session by presenting evidence on the Authority’s admissions policy in the presence of all the parents present. The evidence will include reference to the allocations made.
  • If it is a secondary or primary appeal (not relating to the infant class size limit), the Admission Authority’s representative will explain why: the allocation of pupils to the preferred school in excess of the number of places determined by the Admission Authority will be prejudicial to the provision of efficient education or to the efficient use of resources.
  • If it is an infant class size law case, the Admission Authority’s representative will explain why: the allocation of pupils to the preferred school in excess of the number of places determined by the Admission Authority will be prejudicial to the provision of efficient education or to the efficient use of resources by reason of the relevant measures which would need to be taken in order to comply with the duty to limit infant class sizes to 30 pupils.
  • Each parent present will be given an opportunity to question the Admission Authority’s representative’s evidence. If the above procedure is adopted, the order of proceedings set out below will apply only to the evidence relating to a particular case.

Order of proceedings

  • Admission Authority’s representative to put the case for allocation, calling any witnesses that the Panel may permit.
  • Questioning of Admission Authority’s representative, and any witnesses called, by parents (or representatives) and Panel*.
  • Parents (or representatives) to put case, calling any witnesses that the Panel may permit.
  • Questioning of parents, and any witnesses called, by the Admission Authority’s representative and Panel.
  • Summing up by Admission Authority’s representative.
  • Summing up by parents (or representative).

*If it is a secondary or primary appeal (not an appeal where the rules on infant class size law apply), the hearing can end after this stage if prejudice is not proven and the parents told that the appeal has been upheld.

Other matters relating to the conduct of the hearing

  • A Panel may at any time adjourn the hearing or hearings for any reason, including to enable a parent to attend, to receive significant evidence, or because of the illness or absence of a member of the Panel.
  • A Panel will defer any decision upon an appeal relating to a parent’s preference for a particular school until it has considered all the appeals that it intends to consider, or so many of them as are practical, relating to the expression of a preference for the same school.
  • In accordance with the School Admission Appeals Code, hearings shall be in private, provided that where a Panel requests the Admission Authority’s representative to present general evidence in accordance with section D1 above all the parents present will attend together for the presentation of the general case.

Decisions of the Panel

  • The Panel shall either uphold or reject the appeal and must not uphold an appeal subject to any specific conditions.
  • In the event of disagreement between the members of the Panel, the appeal under consideration will be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast, with, in the case of an equality of votes, the Panel Chair having a second or casting vote.
  • The decision of the Panel and the grounds on which it is made will be communicated by the Clerk to the Panel to the parents and to the Admission Authority.
  • The decision of the Panel on an appeal is binding on the Admission Authority and on the Governors of schools at which the Panel determines that a place should be offered to the child in question.

Clerk to the Panel

  • Each Panel will have the services of a Clerk. If the Panel withdraws or invites the parties to do so when it wishes to consider its decisions, the Clerk must remain with the Panel for the purposes of offering advice as to procedure and law or of refreshing the Panel’s memory as to any matter of evidence or other issue raised.
  • The Clerk shall keep notes of the proceedings and shall record the attendances, voting, and all decisions made, and the grounds on which they are made, in such form as the Panel and Clerk may agree.

Other matters

  • Documents to be served or sent out in connection with school admission procedures may be sent by post or delivered to a parent addressed to them at the address given by the parent to the Admission Authority in the course of the admissions procedures.
  • The procedures set out in this document may be changed at any time upon notice being given to that effect to all Clerks to Panels.


    Considering making an appeal?



8. Start an appeal

Start an appeal

The previous pages have provided an introduction to some of the key issues relating to school appeals. If you want more detailed advice, please read our School Admission Appeals Guide.

The best way to submit an appeal is online:

Please note if you are appealing for a voluntary aided (faith) school you will need to submit your appeal directly to the relevant school.

If you prefer to submit an appeal in a paper format, please see our guidance about completing an appeal by post.

Independent advice on making an appeal

Coram Children’s Legal Centre provides a Child Law Advice Service which can help you prepare your appeal.

Statutory guidance on school admissions and appeals

Queries

If you’ve read the guidance and still have queries, you can contact us using our enquiry form – but do not use this to submit an appeal. Please note, we cannot advise you on the content of your appeal.