This week is a very tense time for many families across the country. In just a few days they’ll find out if their child has made it into their first choice school.
Councils will be confirming primary school offers this coming Friday, 16 April. Some parents will receive the news by email, and some will receive it by post, depending on how they applied.
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Unfortunately for some, their children won’t be offered their preferred school of choice. You may still be happy with the school place you receive which is great! However, if it’s not quite right the first thing to do is a bit more research.
Do some research
Try to seek out other parents from the school on your local Facebook page and ask them specific questions you’re worried about. If you’re still not happy, you have two options: try to get on the waiting list for your preferred school or appeal.
You can read the official government advice here and make sure to keep up to date with any changes to regulations here.
Don't reject the offer straight away
Don’t immediately reject the offer you have been given and keep an open mind. This is so that you have something to fall back on if you don’t make it to the top of the waiting list or an appeal doesn’t go your way. If you reject your original offer, your child may ultimately end up with a place at a less desirable school.
Check out waiting lists
Each school will have a waiting list. If another child drops out and a position becomes available, your child can take their place. You may automatically be put on your top choice school waiting list if you didn't get it, so check your local council. If not, some schools you can contact directly and ask to put your child on their waiting list. Double check what the case is with your first choice school. It’s best to do this as soon as possible, and stay patient as their lines can get busy, especially if it’s a popular school.
Don’t be disheartened if your child isn’t offered a place quickly – there’s lots of movement on waiting lists and this goes on until the very beginning of term. However, don’t rely heavily on this – it’s always good to keep the original offer you were given as a safety net.
There are also certain circumstances where you can appeal either to the local council or directly to the school – depending on the type of school the child has applied to. This will be made clear in the offer letter you receive. The deadline for applying for an appeal is 40 days, but make sure to confirm this with your local council as they're likely to be extended this year. If you appeal, you’ll be told why your child wasn’t offered a place, but you’ll also be able to put forward why your child should be offered one.
Make sure you have the grounds to appeal, to ensure the best chance of your child getting your desired place. Examples include a mistake in the admissions process, such as incorrectly measuring the distance between your home and the school – the School Admissions Code and relevant law must be complied with. If you do think a mistake has been made, you must contact the Admission Authority immediately. If they agree, then this could accelerate an offer for your child’s place in that school without the need for appeal.
Another example includes a social or medical need, such as your child needing a particular type of care that is better dealt with at your preferred school. Whatever reason for appeal, make sure to collect as much information and evidence as possible to support it. This can include documentation containing medical needs, transport costs, and so on, which you’ll be able to submit with the appeal to strengthen your case.
Appeals are usually held in person, which isn't totally possible this year given the current government restrictions on social gatherings. Due to COVID-19, appeals are likely to take longer and may happen via video conferencing, so don’t be alarmed if things aren’t progressing as quickly as expected. You can keep up to date with official government updates about appealing here. There are expected to be unavoidable delays to processing school appeals this year. Once you submit your appeal it will be acknowledged, but you may not immediately be offered an appeal hearing date. If that’s the case, just keep hanging in there. Once you’ve had a hearing, the decision is usually sent within 5 working days – but again, don’t be surprised if things take a little longer this year.
If you don’t get the result you’re hoping for, you can’t complain about the outcome itself. However, you have the right to make a complaint about the way it was carried out, and receive a decision on your complaint as well as a letter explaining the reason for the decision. If it’s decided that something went wrong with your appeal, the school may hold a new appeal hearing for you with a different hearing panel.
It’s completely natural to be anxious leading up to the 16th. The key thing to remember is that there are thousands of parents in the same boat at the moment, and there are lots of options available if you don’t get your first place.
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