The School Appeal Hearing

Posted on 21st November 2011 in children/ school appeal

Books and globeI can honestly say that the weeks leading up to the appeals were the most stressful of my life. You’d have to know me to be aware that I wouldn’t say that lightly. It was awful knowing that the fate of my children lay in the hands of strangers – what if they were having an ‘off’ day or what if they’d had a row with their partner that morning, or had a headache, or just didn’t like the look of me?!

I took lots of advice; from people on twitter, from friends, from teachers, from the admissions team etc. All the advice suggested that we didn’t have much of a chance. Several people said ‘be careful not to turn the panel against you’, I found that phrase practically haunted me – in the most emotive and important meeting of my life I wasn’t meant to be emotional, or angry or too questioning.

I think the worst thing of all was that we didn’t have a Plan B. The schools we wanted were right by the house – the other schools were miles and miles away and it wasn’t logistically possible to get both children to both schools at the same time when they were 15 miles apart! My previous post explains the problem more specifically. Frustratingly, as we had not exchanged contracts on our new house the appeal was classed as an ‘out of catchment’ appeal – with our address showing as over 60 miles away from the school!

We’d been told that we stood a reasonable chance on the year 6 place and that we had no chance on the year 7 case as the last few appellants had lost their appeals.

How A Hearing Works

There are two distinct parts to an appeal. First – the local authority representative speaks and explains why the school is full and why it would prejudice the school to have to admit another pupil.

This part is not about my child, it is about the school. Their job is to prove they are full.

There is then a recess during which the panel decide whether or not they find that the effective running of the school would be prejudiced by admitting another pupil.

If they do not find prejudice then the appeal is won. If they do find prejudice then it moves to the second stage of the appeal where the parent has to put their case and explain how it would prejudice the child if they were not able to attend that school.

The panel then decide who would be most prejudiced if the child went to the school and the outcome is issued by post within 5 days.

Our Appeals

1st appeal was for a year 6 junior school place – the LA put their case and explained that the school had smaller than average classrooms and an unusual architectural design which he felt adversely affected the running of the school. We then asked questions based upon what they’d said. My aim here was to ask questions which demonstrated it would be possible for another child to be in one of the classes without causing any problems for pupils or staff.

During the questions we found that in year 1 there were 3 classes each containing 22 children, but in year 2 there were only 2 classes each of which had 32 children in them, I suggested that as the school had chosen to do that in year 2 it must work and therefore there was no reason why they couldn’t have classes of 31 in year 6. We also found that there were 3 rooms in the school which were not currently being used as class rooms which again suggested that there was extra capacity.

We went out for the recess and when we returned the panel told us that they were not able to find that there would be any prejudice for the school to admit another child – appeal 1 was WON!

2nd appeal was for a year 7 senior school place – much trickier as there are 34 children on the waiting list! Again the LA put their case – the school had been built for a smaller population, they had been promised development monies that they would not now be getting, they had dismantled portable classrooms on the promise of a new building which never came, the school could not fit in the main hall at all the same time, they had insufficient designated science labs….

All quite doom and gloom. One thing they didn’t say (but that was in their written report which I had studied at length!) was that they were having to re-open some previously closed rooms because of growing pupil numbers. So I asked for clarification of this and asked how many rooms there were that could be re-opened. The LA did not have the information with them. I asked why they had dismantled the portable classes BEFORE the new building had been finished as surely if they didn’t have sufficient room in the school then they would have had to have waited until the new building was finished – the LA said we could guess at several answers, but he did not know the actual answer. I asked how many children were in each of the year 7 classes – the highest class number was 30 and the smallest was 27 – I said that would suggest that there was room in the class with 27 pupils. The chairman of the panel then pointed out that on his information there was a class in year 8 with 32 pupils.

We again went out for recess and when we returned we were told that the panel were not able to find that there would be any prejudice for the school to admit another child – appeal 2 was WON!

The chairman added at the end that ‘sometimes the system works‘.

So we won both appeals without actually having to say anything about the children and why they should go to those schools which I’m still trying to get my head around. We were expecting a long drawn out process with lots of difficult questions, having to reign in tempers and tears and then waiting 5 long days to hear.

To anyone considering a school appeal I would say make sure you read the LAs case thoroughly so that you are able to identify any weak points in may have. Proving the school isn’t full is by far the simplest way to win an appeal.

To say I was pleased by the outcome is a bit of an understatement. With tears in my eyes I told the chairman of the panel that I loved him, I then hugged him and enthusiastically thanked everyone in the room!

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  • Reply Him Up North 21st November 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Congratulations. Really chuffed for you. :)

    • Reply CoffeeCurls 22nd November 2011 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks HUN, I can’t tell you how stressed we’ve been and how relieved we are that it’s all over! :)

  • Reply Kate 21st November 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Oh well done! My friend won an infant class appeal when she didn’t get her eldest daughter into the primary school she wanted. She was gutted at the time (and it fell on the weekend of her daughter’s party – which she was sharing with my son and the party was full of parents who HAD got their chosen school, several of them to the school she’d chosen).

    After talking to the Admissions department, it transpired they’d measured the distance from her house to school using the roads instead of the stated measure of footpaths. They claim that it was because the footpath was not a suitable route for a primary school child but their home transport policy said this was irrelevant. I helped her appeal and she won. It was quite hard on her as in the meantime, she got a place at another school and her daughter started induction there and so they had to start all over again but in the long run, it was the right thing to do and her second is there now too.

    It just goes to prove that mistakes are made. And I agree, people should always read the case they get from the school and pick it apart. People get so emotional about it that they often forget this.

    Really pleased for you anyway. :-)

    • Reply CoffeeCurls 22nd November 2011 at 1:04 pm

      Incredible isn’t it that an administrative error can mean you win or lose!

      I would definitely urge people to appeal, as there were so many people on the waiting list for the space my son got I can only assume that none of those people had appealed.


  • Reply Sheila Wells 21st November 2011 at 11:47 pm

    I am delighted for you – well done. It must have been sich a stressful time for you on top of buying a new house.
    When will the boys start? And when do you hope to move – busy times ahead but good times

    • Reply CoffeeCurls 22nd November 2011 at 1:02 pm

      Thank you Sheila, boys start their new schools (yay!) on 5th of December so now just have the small matter of a house move to fit in between now and then! Am so relieved though that the move isn’t stressing me at all even though it looks as though our purchase may fall through! x

  • Reply Nicola Richardson (@nicolacupcake) 22nd November 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Well done I’m glad the appeal wasn’t as drawn out as you had thought it would be and it’s nice to see that the system works for those that do question it


  • Reply Nupur Nigam 10th January 2012 at 5:24 pm

    my appeal is coming up for hearing on 12th jan..just a day more to go..I am sooo give tips on how to crack it!

    • Reply CoffeeCurls 10th January 2012 at 9:53 pm

      You have my sympathy! You haven’t said the reason for your appeal so it’s hard to answer, but my best (general) advice would be to find out as much as you can about the school and find ways to show that admitting your child won’t have a negative affect on the school and it’s existing pupils. Get books relating to your specific situation and skim read them for key points. Write them down. Email the authority with any questions you have as they get included in the appeal – so make sure your emails are always polite but clear. Stay calm during the appeal, listen very carefully to what is said as you may find that you suddenly hear things that open the door for you to ask a pertinent question.

      Good luck!

  • Reply Nigel 24th April 2012 at 7:15 pm

    I pretty much had the same situation although my daughter was moving at Year 10. Same kind of halfhearted argument from the LA about the school being full. It was a simple matter of pointing out that as they had just had a new music block built the overall capacity of the school had increased by 8 students per year group but the school had opted to only start with the higher numbers from the new Y7. Not a legal requirement or anything to do with safety. Just a school decision. I won at the first hurdle just like you and told the woman waiting outside with her Y8 son for the same appeal to the same school exactly what I did.

    • Reply CoffeeCurls 24th April 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Brilliant! I bet the LA guy just sat with his head in his hands when the lady after you came in and said everything you’d just said! :)

  • Reply Korinne Meldrum 10th May 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Just seen your blog, so pleased you won the appeals.
    We are going to our appeal hearing for our daughter to join Y5 in the village school on Tuesday. My YR daughter already goes there and the LEA are suggesting a school 7.8 miles away. Hope we are as fortunate as you. Your blog has helped us formulate questions to ask

    • Reply CoffeeCurls 11th May 2012 at 3:15 pm

      Best of luck to you. Feel free to ask me any questions, can’t guarantee I’ll know the answers but happy to help if I can.

  • Reply Korinne Meldrum 24th May 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Our appeal went the same way as yours. The LA had no case due to extra unused rooms in the school. The panel took 5 minutes to find in our favour :)

    • Reply CoffeeCurls 25th May 2012 at 8:11 am

      Yay! Really pleased for you x

      • Reply S.begum 13th March 2013 at 10:10 am

        Hi just wondering where did you get the info on classes etc.who do i need to contact.Thanks as I am going to appeal for my sons yr 7 place.Thanks again

        • Reply CoffeeCurls 17th March 2013 at 5:36 pm

          Hi there, we did lots of research on useful questions from the books I mentioned within the blog post and then emailed the admissions people with as many questions as we could think of. Plus, on the day you get to ask the person representing the school questions too. In our appeals the person had a map of the schools and we asked him which rooms were currently not used for teaching – for whatever reason, ie some were used for storage, some for staff, some as a temporary music room… this enabled us to demonstrate that the school had allocated rooms to non-teaching purposes thus indicating that they weren’t actually full.

          Anytime the guy couldn’t answer one of our questions or tried to avoid answering, it seemed to go in our favour too.

          Research is key, as is staying calm! The books were a real help and I’ll be putting them on ebay this evening!

          Best of luck.

  • Reply kate 11th September 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Hi there

    Great to hear about your case… me some hope!!

    We’ve got our appeal on Friday for a Y3 place at our local school. My son is currently at a school 7.5 miles away. We have been waiting till he became a junior to appeal. The school is in the process of building 6 more class rooms as they became a double intake school last year but are filling it up from the bottom only. The building work will only be completed in Sept 2014.

    Our other reasons are that my husband is a Police Officer and he has found out that the boundaries he covers have been extended and he will now cover the area where my son goes to school, I am concerned that he may end up dealing with parents or pupils from the current school and am worried about the effect it may have on our son.

    Anyone got any opinions on if we have a case?????

    Many thanks


    • Reply CoffeeCurls 11th September 2013 at 10:04 pm

      Hi Kate, from my experience (although I expect all panels are different) the distance won’t count as a reason – however, I gound it visually helped to show a map of the vast distance.

      The part I would dwell on is that the school’s pupil allowance has increased. Find out the maximum number of pupils there has ever been in a year 3 class – if any of the year 3 classes have less than that amount then precedent has already been set and there is no reason your child cannot be added to a class.

      Find out if every class room is being used as a class room – if not then again you’ve demonstrated they’ve room for your child.

      I don’t know about the police thing, I expect thst much like distance although it is obviously a problem is may not be a reason to the panel.

      Focus your appeal on proving the school has room for your child.

      I prepared a massive appeal document but I didn’t need it as I won the first part of the appeal.

      Best of luck,


  • Reply Nadia 11th December 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Hi, I’ve got appeal coming up for Y6 next week, I’ve to withdrawn my daughter from the school as she was having panic attacks because of bullying. The new school I’ve applied had space for my son but my daughter’s year have not got space. So far I know the school I applied for have 2 Y6 classes, in one class they already have 31 children and the second class they got 30.

    What are my chances to win this appeal?


    • Reply CoffeeCurls 23rd December 2013 at 9:32 am

      Hi Nadia, I would have thought you had an excellent case – did you win?

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