Has your child failed to get into the school of your choice and you're not sure what to do? Maybe you're thinking of making an appeal but aren't sure how. Let the experts from the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) help by answering some common queries on primary school applications ...
'What are my options?'
Our area only gives you one choice of school. I wasn't successful getting into that school so my child has been given a place at a school I don't want him to go to. If the waiting list route fails and the appeals fail, I still won't send him to his allocated school, so what then? What other options are there?
ACE: If your appeal is an infant class size appeal then the Law states that Key Stage 1 children must not be educated in classes of more than 30 pupils to 1 teacher, unless there are exceptional circumstances. These appeals are very difficult to win.
Although you are entitled to request a place at the school you would like, if the admissions authority cannot offer you a place there, they can offer you a school where there are available places. You will have to consider what you will do once your child reaches compulsory school age.
'Do we have to accept a place?'
My child did not get accepted for our preferred choice of school but has been given a place at a very 'unsuitable' school. My child's birthday is on 31st August and the school of our choice is the only that also offers a January intake.
I'm happy to defer for a year but should we not accept the offered school and go on the waiting list for our preferred school? Or accept the other although we would never send our child there? Or could we apply again next year? I'm completely confused about how waiting lists and deferrals works...
ACE: I take it that you have refused the place you were offered and are on the waiting list for your preferred schools now? You can defer once you have been offered a place but that must be within the same school year, or you will lose that place. You can also apply and go on the waiting list for any other schools in your area. Once your child is of compulsory school age (the term after his 5th birthday) he has to be in education, either at school or educated otherwise.
Waiting lists are independent of the Appeals process. The Appeal Panel can direct a school to admit a pupil over the published admissions number in exceptional circumstances. They cannot put them at the top of the waiting list. The waiting list should be operated in accordance with the published over subscription criteria for the school, you can therefore go up and down on the list.
'We have to reapply for junior school'
My son has spent the last three years at an infants school - we had no problems getting him in to ths school even though we lived quite far away. However, you have to reapply for the juniors, which we did but have since moved to a house slightly further away.
My son has been refused a place at the junior school but has been offered a school further away (I don't drive so wouldn't be able to get there). We appealed with the inclusion of a letter from our Health Visitor as my son suffers from different medical conditions, but if we don't win the appeal and the other local schools are full, could my son will be left without a school place at all?
ACE: A couple of things about your situation.
You can appeal for the school place that you want, you can also go on the waiting list - they do not impact on each other. You can appeal and go on the waiting list for any schools that you applied for. You can also accept the place that you have been offered - this does not impact on appealing or waiting list places.
I know that you do not want the school but you could accept it, as a back-up, and in the meantime check out the LA Transport Policy - if the offer school is over two miles you are entitled to free transport for him. This may also be worth investigating as evidence for the appeal.
The LA's obligation is to consider your preferences and if they cannot offer you one of them then to offer you a school. Your right is to have an appeal hearing and argue that your son will be disadvantaged by not attending that school.
If you do not win your appeal, and you do not accept the offer place, you will either have to accept any other offer school from the LA or decide to Home Educate him until a place becomes available through the waiting list.
'Our application was late'
I submitted an online application for my daughter within the time scale, but then we moved house and had to amend the form after the closing date. I was told our application will therefore be treated as a 'late application' but I wasn't told when we find out what school we've been given?
ACE: Your Local Authority (LA) should publish when they will inform parents. Have a look on your LA website. If you are not offered the school that you have put on your form, the LA can offer you a place at any school that has a place.
You will have the right to appeal if this is the case, but if you are up against infant class size (maximum 30 pupils to one teacher in the class) these are difficult to win.
'What are my chances of winning an appeal?'
My son who is five has been attending a special school but the local authority is placing him in mainstream education from September. I have requested three schools all of which I've been told are full.
My son also has a statement, is getting full time support and I can't see any reason why he cannot be accepted. I am going to appeal with the help of my solicitor. But what are my chances of winning an appeal?
ACE: As your son has a statement, you do not go through the 'normal' admissions/appeals route. The LA will name a school in part 4 of his statement and if you are not happy that the school named can meet his SEN then you are entitled to appeal to the Special Needs and Disability Tribunal (SEND). Your focus should be on demonstrating that the school you want is the right school to meet his SEN.
You are right - the LA does have the authority to name the school in Part 4 even if the school is full. I think you should contact our free advice line on 0300 0115 142, Monday to Wednesday from 10am to 1pm (term time only).
You can also seek local support from your parent partnership service - National Parent Partnership Network . Also IPSEA have a free Tribunal Support Service you can call on 0845 6029579 (open Mon,Weds and Thurs 10am-1pm.)
'How do waiting lists work?'
Is there a way to find out how far down the waiting list we are for our preferred school, and when we can find out from? Also at what number in the list would you consider it to be a lost cause?
ACE: Ask to add your child's name to the waiting list for any school that you applied for but did not get offered a place. This may happen automatically but it is always worth checking that it has been done.
You could also ask the Admissions Department if you could add your child's name to the waiting lists for schools that you did not apply to but would consider now. The more waiting lists you are on the more chance that you might get a place.
The Admission Authority for the school must keep a waiting list for at least one term. It may also be called a continued interest list. Ask how the waiting list is ordered. It will usually be ordered according to the school's oversubscription criteria.
Find out what your position is on the waiting list. You could also ask how many children were admitted from the waiting list last year. This may help to give you some idea of how likely you are to get a place this way. It may take a while for the waiting list to be compiled and you may have to wait a few weeks after offer day for this information.
However, be aware that your child can also move down a waiting list if other children join the list who have greater priority.
'Moving abroad before we apply to schools'
My son will not be starting nursery here as my husband has just been posted abroad for work and we will be away for at least two years. Will my son be able to get a school once we come back, if he has not been to the school's nursery?
ACE: You would need to check with your Local Authority under what circumstances they would consider a school application from abroad. If you are back in the country you will need to check their residency criteria. Please be aware that the Schools Admissions Codes may change in the next two years, so you will need to check nearer the time. As things stand, going to a school's nursery doesn't automatically get them a place at the school.
'How do you find out about catchment areas?'
I have been told I am out of the catchment area for the primary school of our choice, yet there are people who live behind me (as the crow flies) and their children go to the school. I'm confused.
ACE: The Admissions Authority has to publish the oversubscription criteria that they will use to allocate places if too many children apply. You should have had this information when you applied last year, in order for you to make the appropriate choices on your form. You are entitled to know exactly the reasons why you were refused a place. As you are entitled to appeal for a place, that information may help you decide.