Parents get ready for school-place appeals

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Parents are preparing appeals against secondary school allocations before they have learned which place their child has been offered, an admissions lawyer claims.

As competition to win a coveted place increases each year, parents are researching their odds of gaining a spot at a desired school, and contacting lawyers up to six months before places are allocated if they believe they are likely to miss out, according to Matt Richards, a senior partner at schoolappeals.com.

Under the current admissions code, introduced by the last Labour government in a bid to make school admissions fairer, admissions authorities are governed by strict rules on how they can allocate places.

Some use lotteries to award places, or fair banding (which creates a “balanced” intake of pupils with mixed abilities), while other admissions authorities use measures such as the distance from a school to a child’s home.

Tomorrow, known as National Offer Day, children across England will learn which secondary school they have been allocated.

But Mr Richards warned that some parents are not waiting to learn of their child’s place before deciding whether to appeal.

“There’s the people that absolutely know they’re not going to get it because they’ve researched it,” he said.

Giving an example, he said: “You could be a Catholic but don’t meet the practising Catholic criteria – you haven’t been every Sunday or you’ve been just once a month – so you’re not going to meet that. You know absolutely that, over the last three years, places have gone to people who meet that criteria, so you know you’re going to have to appeal.”

Parents have no real extra advantage in preparing appeals early, Mr Richards said, other than it means they are prepared, when they are told their child has not got the place they wanted, to lodge an appeal.

“We’ve had people contacting us from November, even October,” he said.

Mr Richards said he believes parents are still more likely to appeal over secondary places than primary, because they feel they matter more.