What to do if your child didn’t get a place at the primary school you wanted

Parents across the country find out today whether their children have got into their school of choice.

For the vast majority, the news will be a happy moment.

But for a small number, today brings disappointment and despair.

Families in the South East, where the schools are most over-subscribed are most likely to be disappointed on offer day.

Here, we’ve put together a practical guide for how the allocation of school places works and what to do if you’ve been left disapppointed…

How many children are rejected from parents’ first-choice schools?

Last year, London and the South East were the only English regions where there was a below 90% average for applicants receiving a place at their first-choice school.

Parts of London worst off include Kensington and Chelsea, where nearly 10% of applicants didn’t get a place at any of their preferred schools.

In most places, however, the likelihood of getting in is between 90% and 100%.

What to do if I don’t get my child’s first-choice school

The most important thing is not to panic.

Elizabeth Coatman, a state education consultant with The Good Schools Guide, explains the following steps…

  • Top of your list should be to accept the place you’ve been offered. You may well be able to track down an alternative over the next month, but if the initial offer is not accepted, there’s a chance that your child won’t have any school to attend come September.
  • So you’ve accepted the place. Now write down the schools you would have preferred and attempt to get onto their waiting lists – this can even be schools to which you did not originally apply. There is a big shake up between now and the beginning of the new academic year and some places are bound to materialise.
  • Have a closer look at the school you’ve been allocated. There’s a chance that you have been making a judgement based on out-of-date information. When was the most recent Ofsted inspection and have things improved since? Perhaps the local reputation of the school is based on a previous headteacher or board of governors and is now unjustified. Go to the school gates at pick-up time and talk to parents with children already at the school.
  • Try not to let on to your child how much you hate the school at which they’ve been given a place. If you’re negative about the school but then fail to find another one, your child may start at the new school feeling they’re starting a five-year sentence.

Can I appeal against the decision?

Yes. If you feel you have no choice but to appeal, you must remember that you can only appeal to the schools to which you previously applied.

Each school will require a separate appeal.

The grounds for a legitimate appeal will be published on your local council’s website and the bar for success is very high.

You’ll need to prove a mistake was made when the admissions process was carried out, that the admissions policy is unlawful or that no reasonable person would come to that admissions decision – ‘reasonable’ being used in the legal sense.

This entails proving the negative impact on the school caused by going over numbers is out-weighed by the potential disadvantage to your child, and that only this particular school can meet their needs.

How likely is an appeal to succeed?

This really depends on where you live.

According to the most recent government data, the success rate of primary school appeals varies greatly throughout the country.

In the 2016/2017 academic year, 33% of appeals heard in the North East were decided in the child’s favour, while in London the success rate was only 7%, with some local authorities not registering a single successful appeal.

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