Applications are falling but 60,000 pupils’ parents won’t get their first school choices, says The Good Schools Guide.
And on Monday, April 16 parents in England will find out whether their child has been given a place at one of their preferred choices of primary school. All children born between 1st September 2013 and 31st August 2014 are eligible for a September school place but, even though there is a drop in applicants, The Good Schools Guide predicts that many children will miss out on their preferred schools.
Families in the South East are most likely to be disappointed on offer day. Last year, London and the South East were the only English regions where there was a below 90% average for applicants receiving a place at their first choice school. Parts of London worst off include Kensington and Chelsea, where nearly 10% of applicants didn’t get a place at any of their preferred schools.
Many parents disappointed with their allocated school may consider the appeals process. However, according to the most recent government data, the success rate of primary school appeals varies greatly throughout the country. In the 2016/2017 academic year, 33% of appeals heard in the North East were decided in the child’s favour, while in London the success rate was only 7%, with some local authorities not registering a single successful appeal.
Elizabeth Coatman, a state education consultant at The Good Schools Guide, says that things might be beginning to look up for primary school places. “The population bulge is still working its way through primary and secondary schools, but the intake last year was down and we expect there to be a further reduction this year. Does this mean that everyone will get their first choice school? Of course not. London, in particular, will struggle again to place children in their first choice schools. Children are still being offered places which their parents consider to be inappropriate. Appealing is an option, but with huge regional disparities in the success rates, you shouldn’t count on it going your way. However unfair it may feel, the length of your school run, having siblings at other schools, super-sized classes and poor OFSTED reports are unlikely to be successful grounds for appeal.
Ms Coatman recommends the following to parents who don’t get their preferred choice of school:
· Top of your list should be to accept the place you’ve been offered. You may well be able to track down an alternative over the next month, but if the initial offer is not accepted, there’s a chance that your child won’t have any school to attend come September;
· So you’ve accepted the place. Now write down the schools you would have preferred and attempt to get onto their waiting lists – this can even be schools to which you did not originally apply. There is a big shake up between now and the beginning of the new academic year and some places are bound to materialise.
· Have a closer look at the school you’ve been allocated. There’s a chance that you have been making a judgement based on out of date information. When was the most recent OFSTED inspection and have things improved since? Perhaps the local reputation of the school is based on a previous headteacher or board of governors and is now unjustified. Go to the school gates at pick-up time and talk to parents with children already at the school.
· Try not to let on to your child how much you hate the school at which they’ve been given a place. If you’re negative about the school but then fail to find another one, your child may start at the new school feeling they’re starting a five year sentence.
· If you feel you have no choice but to appeal, you must remember that you can only appeal to the schools to which you previously applied. Each school will require a separate appeal. The grounds for a legitimate appeal will be published on your local authority website: the bar for success is very high. You’ll need to prove a mistake was made when the admissions process was carried out, that the admissions policy is unlawful or that no reasonable person would come to that admissions decision – ‘reasonable’ being used in the legal sense. This entails proving the negative impact on the school caused by going over numbers is out-weighed by the potential disadvantage to your child, and that only this particular school can meet their needs.
· If you still need guidance and advice, The Good Schools Guide offers a telephone consultation with a school appeals expert who will listen to your particular circumstances, suggest ways of approaching your appeal, give advice on dos and don’ts and tell you what your chances of success are.