Notts parents more likely to win school place appeals

Parents in Nottinghamshire are much more likely to win an appeal over their child's selected school than in those in other parts of the country, figures reveal.

By Alex Ross
Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 2:49 pm

With children about to start the new school year, Department for Education data for last year shows a wide variation in school admission appeal success rates between local authorities across England.

In Nottinghamshire, parents took 714 cases against their child’s school placement for the 2020-21 academic year to an appeal hearing, with 246 successful – a win rate of 35 per cent.

The success rate was up from the year before, when it was 27 per cent, and far higher than the national average of 19 per cent.

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Parents in Nottinghamshire are much more likely to win an appeal over their child's selected school than in those in other parts of the country, figures reveal.

In contrast, the appeal success rate was just 3 per cent in Kensington and Chelsea, in London, and 5 per cent in Solihull in the West Midlands.

Karen Hughman, Nottinghamshire Council group manager for school improvement, strategic planning and admissions, said: “The council continues to review school projections to ensure a sufficiency of places in planning areas and over the last three years, Nottinghamshire residents offered their first preference averaged 93 per cent for first admission and 91 per cent for primary to secondary transfer.

“Some schools are popular and will attract a high number of applications leading to oversubscription.

“In cases where applications are unsuccessful, parents have the right of appeal. A successful appeal is dependent on a number of factors including the situation with the school and the circumstances of the individual child.

“There are different types of appeal for primary age pupils including infant class size appeals, of which less than 5 per cent are successful in a typical year.

“The number of successful appeals overall can vary each year depending on local circumstances and the popularity of a school.

“Appeals have continued throughout the lockdown period and the council is more appreciative than ever of the efforts of the panel members who voluntarily undertake this role in a professional, informed and inclusive manner.”

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Training and advice

Matt Richards, founder of law firm, said the urban landscape of an area could be a factor in the variation in success rates.

He said cases in urbanised areas of London were more likely to feature parents simply wanting their child to be placed in a better school, but in rural areas with schools more than five miles apart, it could be down to logistical reasons.

But he said: “It can also be down to the training and advice given to independent panel members which they stick to for their decisions.”

Schools follow the Government's admission code when deciding which pupils to allocate places to each year.

When a parent is unhappy about an allocation, such as not achieving their first-place preference, an appeal can be submitted to the school's admissions authority.

That can go to an independent appeal panel which then assesses whether the school was right to turn down the application.

In Nottinghamshire, 92 per cent of pupil applicants were offered a first-choice school place last year.

The number of appeals heard equated to 3.2 per cent of all admissions, up from 2.8 per cent the previous year.

Of the outcomes, parents of secondary school-age pupils were more likely to win than those of primary school pupils, with a success rate of 40 per cent compared with 26 per cent.

Across England, the number of appeals heard fell last year, from 48,100 in 2019-20 to 41,100 in 2020-21.

Special measures

The DfE said measures were put in place to let parents to appeal during the pandemic.

These included allowing appeals hearings to be held by telephone or video conference, or be decided on the basis of written submissions.

The Local Government Association said it could not comment on specific appeal hearings.

But a spokesperson said: "Every child should have a fair chance of getting into their parents’ preferred school and councils and schools work extremely hard to try and ensure that as many pupils as possible are allocated their first preference.”

A Department for Education said with an increase in schools found to be "good" or "outstanding" by Ofsted inspectors since 2010, parents could be "confident their child will get the high-quality education they deserve".

A spokesperson added: "School admissions appeal panels are independent bodies and make decisions on an individual basis, without admission authority involvement in the decision.

“The number of appeals heard in each area varies widely, so the number of successful appeals cannot be meaningfully compared as the volume can impact the success rate of appeals.”

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