National Offer Day: What to do if you fail to secure a place at secondary school
Ahead of National Offer Day, many parents will be asking the same question across the country: what can we do if our first choice application is rejected?
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. In order to successfully reverse the decision, the journey through the school admission appeal process is both complex and varying in degrees of success.
However, there is a lot that you can do that will significantly improve your chances of reversing the decision through the statutory appeal process.
The admission authority, which may be the school governors or the local authority depending on the type of school, will make arrangements for appeals to be heard as soon as possible, but in some cases, appeals may not take place until the summer, usually the latter part of June or even July.
Statistics show that only one in three appeals will be successful; this success rate will vary depending on the local authority where you live and also the school in question. So what can you do to improve your chances of a successful appeal?
1. Be prepared
It is important that you carry out research about your preferred school so that you can question the case at the appeal. You will need to ask a series of questions in advance to try and establish if the school has admitted pupils above their published admission number in the past and, if so, what have been the implications.
These questions will help to provide valuable information about the school to establish whether an additional pupil can be admitted without causing problems for the school.
2. Make a strong written personal case
Make sure that you submit a well written and researched case. Establish the reasons why you want your child to attend a particular school and back this up with written evidence.
For example, if there are strong medical or social reasons to attend a particular school, make sure that you obtain written support from a doctor, consultant or similar professional.
Such supporting letters will need to explain why your child needs to attend this particular school and the letter will need to say why the professional supports the appeal and the implications if your child attends a different school.
3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Knowledge breeds confidence and so do not be afraid to carry out thorough research about the school to prepare for the appeal.
Before the hearing, go through what you want to say and make notes so that you can refer to these to ensure you do not overlook something. If you think of something after the appeal it will be too late. Rehearse what you want to say and stay focused. Do not repeat the same point over and over again; the panel will get the point the first time.
4. Be polite
It might seem like an obvious point to make, but always treat the clerk, the panel members and the presenting officer with respect.
Treat them the way that you would expect to be treated. You do not want to lose the appeal before you have even started.
5. Stick to the facts
The appeal panel will reach a decision based on the facts of the case, so stick to them. It is understandable that you will become emotional but the outcome of the appeal will be based on the facts of each and every case.
In most situations, the appeal panel is unable to make comparisons between competing appeals because each appeal is determined on its own merits.
For you, the appeal will represent the last opportunity to secure a place at the school of your choice. Why risk the consequences of an unsuccessful appeal by not preparing thoroughly?
Attending appeals has been described as similar to taking a driving test or a public examination. It can be a very nervous experience. Your children deserve the best and so ensure that you give them every chance of success.
Things to remember:
If you accept an offer at one school you will still be able to appeal at another, so make sure you immediately get your name on the waiting list of your desired school.
The ‘Notice of Appeal’ form you need to use to appeal a decision should be included with your letter from the local authority – make sure you read the instructions thoroughly
There’s normally a deadline, so make sure you familiarise yourself with it, and then start proceedings as soon as possible.