Education law barrister Ian Jones answers some of your questions about school appeals
Q: Is there a deadline for appeals?
A: You should be notified of any deadline well in advance. This is an administrative
deadline—if you miss it, your appeal should still be heard but after other appeals
have been dealt with. Delay may harm your chances of success as the school may be
even more full after the first appeals. If you need help with your appeal, you may
struggle to find anyone available if you leave it until the last minute.
Q: What are my chances of success on an appeal?
A: Nationally, about one in three appeal hearings are decided in the parent’s favour.
However, this statistic masks a range of experience. Many appeals are resolved
without a hearing, either because a place becomes available at your chosen school
or at a suitable alternative. Appeals for secondary school places, grammar schools
and primary schools give different figures, and within primary appeals, infant class
size appeals have very strict rules and only about 1 in 6 succeeds. The strength
of your arguments and the way you put them forward will be very important, but so
will the strength of the school’s detailed reasons for refusal. No one can give
a clear idea of your prospects of success without knowing all relevant facts.
Q: Do I need a lawyer? What do you add to the process?
A: If you feel confident to handle the appeal yourself, you don’t need anyone to
help you. Most parents do not use outside help. You will need to be able to analyse
arguments, express yourself clearly and objectively in writing and in front of an
appeal panel and to challenge facts and arguments put forward on the day by the school.
You will also need to understand the sort of factors that are likely to “tick boxes”
for the appeal panel, and those that will not. A good representative will have these
skills, will know from experience the arguments that might be most persuasive, and
will understand that the hearing is not confrontational. Don’t be put off by the
school or LEA saying that you don’t need a lawyer. It is your appeal, and if you
feel that you need help, ask for it. Panels are not allowed to think any more or
less favourably of your case because just because it is presented by a lawyer.
Q: How does your service differ from that of other school appeal service providers?
A: When I provide school appeal advice, draft grounds of appeal and represent parents
at hearings, I draw on my training as a barrister and on years of experience of appeals.
My work is regulated by the Bar Standards Board, the professional body for barristers.
Others come from a range of backgrounds. Beware of lawyers with little or no education
appeal experience, or of those with an educational background claiming to provide
legal services. Check whether they are professionally regulated and have professional
indemnity insurance. Beware too of hidden costs: I charge a fixed and competitive
fee, clearly advertised on my website and agreed and payable in advance.
Advice can be provided urgently if required, but please note that Ian Jones does
not provide a free legal advice service and will require a signed contract and payment
before undertaking any work. Payment accepted by bank transfer, credit/debit card
via Paypal, or by cheque.
Top tips for school admission appeals:
- Read the admissions policy very carefully
- Frame your application in terms of the admissions criteria.
- State why your case is different, not how good the school is.
- Provide clear documentary evidence to back up any claim of strong social/medical
need to attend a particular school.
- A school’s specialist status is usually irrelevant to an appeal.
- Ensure all paperwork is sent in good time. Obtain a receipt.
- If you need help, from the school, LEA or an outside professional, don’t wait
until the last minute!