So you didn’t get your first choice primary school?
3 years ago I was in the same position and here is how I made our appeal. We had requested our closest school and given the reason as my medical condition. I suffer from Crohn’s and have to have a lot of operations and hospital appointments. When we filled out the form I made it clear why we were applying for the place.
Prior to our application I spoke to the school in question to and was advised to get a letter from my surgeon confirming why I was requesting the place. Not only that but to ensure it WAS in fact the closest school. I sent it all in fairly confident that it was in the bag. It wasn’t…
Ironically I was in hospital when I received the email to say that we hadn’t been given ANY of our 3 choices.
We applied for the closest three schools on the advice that the Kent County Council would query why we were choosing a school further away. In fact, we were sent even further away. I was in total shock. The only way to get the 2 miles to the school we were allocated was either by car or to walk; there are no buses at the right time. Obviously both were out of the question if I had had surgery and rendered unable to drive for weeks or months.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I didn’t have a god-given right to the closest school. I know people that had to WALK PAST their closest school to get to the one they had been allocated. But, in order for my son to go to school we needed it to be easily accessible.
Most importantly you need to know how school places are allocated:
In Kent priority is given to children who:
- are, or have previously been, in care or looked after
- have a brother or sister at the school
- live close to the school
So, Someone who lives further away from the school than you but has an older sibling already at the school will get priority over you. This may seem unfair but to be honest I wouldn’t fancy doing two school runs so I’ll let them off!
In exceptional circumstances medical conditions are taken into account before the distance – this seemed not to go in our favour to begin with.
What did I do?
The first thing I did was to call the school in a blind panic! Of course there was nothing they could do, by all accounts they had done nothing wrong. I have to say by all means go through an appeal however, if the school / council have done nothing wrong with the allocation process then you will be very lucky to get anywhere.
I put my son’s name on the waiting list straight away.
There is a lot of movement between April and September. Putting your name on the waiting list is the least you can do. A lot of parents accept school places and then move, or wait for a place at another school and turn it down. The only thing is that they STILL go by distance so, even if you have put your child’s name on the waiting list, if another family move into the area closer to the school than you they will go above you on the waiting list.
I called Kent County Council
Mainly for advice. They were a bit hit and miss depending on who I got through to. They advised on how to process my appeal.
I accepted the place I was given
It is advised to accept the place you are given. The school does not know you are appealing to go elsewhere and it is better than nowhere – unless you are happy to home school. You can also accept and leave the school at any time.
I wrote to my local MP
Here I had to do some soul searching as I am not keen on my MP to say the least. I wrote detailing the circumstances and why I required a place at the particular school. He wrote to Kent County Council asking for them to consider my appeal. Which was nice.
I sent a formal appeal to the council online
I appealed to the council online. You don’t have long! Your appeal will need to be with the council by mid-may (the date changes each year) to guarantee being heard by mid July.
I attended an appeal
This was a nerve wracking time as I had to go to a meeting where I had to face someone representing the council. I had to give my reasons for appeal and she put forward the councils reasons for not allocating us a space at the closest school.
At the meeting I found out that the wording of my surgeon’s letter wasn’t clear enough. The letter said “closest school” and the council said it had to name the school in question, despite the fact that IT WAS the closest school. I could have cried. The school told me to get a letter to go with my application, which I had done. They didn’t say I had to specifically name the school. Had I done that we would have been given a place in the first round. Instead I had to go through the trauma of an appeal. Anyone that knows Crohn’s knows that stress is not good for it either.
Waiting for the panel’s decision
The appeal panel was very sympathetic and I was sure it had gone well. They questioned the representative at every turn. The representative from the council took me aside after the hearing and told me to get the letter amended and passed to the school as soon as possible in case our appeal wasn’t upheld. By doing this they should bump us up the waiting list. The wait for the result of the appeal was agonising. Eventually we received a letter. The panel found that the school had done nothing wrong in the admissions process – due to the wording in that damn letter! Also as every class was full there wasn’t much they could do.
What did I do next?
My fabulous surgeon amended the letter and I got it to the school. Miraculously this letter meant that we got put to the top of the waiting list. We were actually at a welcome day at the other school when I got a phone call from our first choice school. They hadn’t received the letter I had emailed and said they needed it urgently. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing due to email address mishaps I managed to get the letter over and received a call confirming we had secured a place.
We pretty much walked out of the school welcome day there and then. I had nothing against the school itself it was the proximity and lack of public transport options.
If you want to appeal you need to go through the proper channels. For Kent County Council I used their website here but I assume every council has something similar. All I can say is good luck! A friend of mine finally got a place at her first choice school at the end of year one so if you remain on the waiting list you might be lucky even if you don’t win an appeal.