This Thursday, thousands of 10 and 11 year olds will find out which high school they have been allocated. For most, the decision will be no surprise. Many will get their first choice of school, many will have never even thought about attending a different one. For some families though, Thursday might come as a huge shock or disappointment. This time last year, we were going through our own story. We knew which school Violet would be offered due to location but had our own reasons why we thought it wouldn’t be the right school for her. As a result, we ended up going through 2 school appeals. Some families in similar positions to us might find it useful if we share, What to expect at a School Appeal?
Were you successful when you went to appeal?
Yes we were. We actually have no idea how we came to win our appeal but we weren’t about to argue.
Why 2 School Appeals?
We appealed against not being awarded Violet’s first choice of high school. We knew that we were very unlikely to be successful as this school is massively oversubscribed but we felt we had to fight her corner and state why we felt so strongly against the second choice.
Our second appeal was to a different school that we didn’t even know existed when we first applied for high schools.
Does it matter what schools you put in your original application?
Yes very much! You will be examined as to why you put which school and in which order. That we only put 2 schools (instead of the possible 3) seemed to go in our favour that we really did not want her to go to any other schools in the town.
Can you appeal to get in a school if you did not originally apply for that school?
Yes we did and were successful in getting Vi a place. We were honest and said that we really didn’t know we could apply for schools out of town .
Does your religion matter?
If you are appealing to get in a Catholic High School then yes. You need to demonstrate why it is so important to you and the child that they get that specific religion catered for in a school.
Do I need to dress smartly?
There’s no rules but I would.
Can you appeal to a school out of your area?
Yes – We didn’t know when we sent Vi’s application in that we could include school out of the area and in another local authority. Don’t always presume that they wouldn’t get in a school further away. We found out just before the appeal, that if we had applied originally Vi would have been offered a place due to it being a rural area and not oversubscribed before they hit our boundary. (The school Vi goes to now, is less than 10 miles away and takes shorter time to get to than some school in our town).
Who will be at the appeal?
There will be:
You (as parents or representative of your child)
3 members of a panel – These are more than likely 2 councillors from the local authority. It is their job to be independent and decide whether you have case for appeal and if that appeal is upheld.
The school will be represented – This can be a member of council staff or more than likely the Head Teacher/Deputy Head of the school. We had both experiences. It is their job to say why the school cannot accommodate your child – expect comments like teaching will suffer, health & safety in corridors and lunchtimes. We were really lucky that the Head from Vi’s school is a lovely man and really was quite gently with us. I will be honest, some appeals can be gruelling.
Admin – This should be a notetaker only with secretarial duties like keeping to time and ensuring all procedures have been followed eg Like asking if you have any questions, explaining the order of events
What will you be asked?
It will be really specific to your child and your circumstances so I can only go off what we experienced. Expect questions like:
- Why do you want your child to particularly attend that school?
- Why do you NOT want your child to attend the school that they have been offered? Things like family circumstances, travel, your previous children’s experiences all come in here. Friendship groups isn’t really a reason for wanting your child to attend a particular school but you have to throw everything at it.
- How would your child cope at either school?
- When did you first think about applying to the school? (If you did not originally apply)
- Mention things like being willing to take an active part in school life (only if your child will!)
When will it be?
Both of our appeals were held in the May following the allocation of High School places.
How long does it take?
The actual appeal interview takes between 30-60 minutes.
The first appeal we attended went through the rigmarole of deciding whether there is any case for appeal first. Everyone went into the Council Chamber to discuss the school point of view as to why only a certain amount of children could be given places. The parents then asked questions about the school. The panel then retired to consider whether there was a case for appeal. Once this happened, individual meetings were held later that day.
When do you find out if you have been successful or unsuccesful?
In writing, approximately 1 week later
What can you do if you are unsuccessful?
You have no further right to appeal against an unsuccessful appeal but you can request to go on a waiting list in case any places become available. You would do this through your council’s School Admissions Department.
In the first school that we appealed to get in, I know that at least 2 places became available within 4 months.
Would we do the same again?
Well, we would apply for the school that Vi is at in the first place but yes, it was most definitely worth taking it to appeal.
Good luck if you and your child find yourselves in the same situation. All is not lost – You may be one of the lucky ones, like us. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.