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What If My Child Can't Get a Place at Any School in the Area?

By: Louise Tobias BA (hons) - Updated: 23 Feb 2021 | comments*Discuss
What If My Child Can't Get A Place At Any School In The Area?


We're moving from Staffordshire to Wilmslow very soon and our 12 year old daughter cannot get a place at ANY school in the area.

She has been refused due to lack of capacity and we are having to keep her at home whilst an appeal is made.

Surely the Education Authority should plan for the provision of sufficient school places relevant to the local population? How does the appeals process work? And how long might my daughter have to wait for a place? Is there anything else we can do?

(S C, 27 February 2009)


Thanks for your question - I’m going to try to address all the issues about the school appeals service. Firstly, you ask how does the appeals process work?

Making Your Appeal

You should make your appeal to the Independent Appeal Panel at your local education authority. They will normally ask you to fill in an appeal form - do so as soon as possible to speed up the process. You should receive this within two weeks of your initial request, often this will be sooner though.

Each LEA will have slightly different procedures in place, so it’s a good idea to make contact with the person or team who deals with appeals at your local council, and ask him or her to talk you through the process in your area. However, in general appeals panels will look at all the details on your daughter’s requirements, such as where you live (or will be living), any personal special needs and so on. It will then decide if an appeal can go ahead - since your daughter has not received any school place, I would imagine this would go ahead.

What the Law Says

By law, your local council has to find your child a school place. The law says that all children have the right to a school education while they are between the ages of 5 to 16 years old. Also in those rights is that parents are allowed to say which school they would prefer their child to attend. It is important to note however, that your right to state a preference for a school for your daughter is not the same as a guarantee of a place at that school - it might, for example, be oversubscribed - but as written above, if your child is not offered a place at your top choice school, then you do have the right to issue an appeal to an independent panel.

Is It Common to Fail to Gain a School Place?

There have been cases when a place has not been provided for a child - occasionally these stories do crop up in the news but they are very unusual. It is far more usual to see parents upset that their children have not been offered a place at their preferred school - but the relative rareness makes it more likely that your local authority will help you out sooner rather than later.

Once your daughter goes through the appeals process and the panel discover that you have not been offered a single school, this is likely to be rectified since the council has to supply a place by law.

Is a Child's Right to Education a Human Rights Issue?

So far the Human Rights Act has had only a limited impact on the field of education - one significant case was Ali-vs- Headteacher and Governors of Lord Grey School in 2006, when a child who had been excluded argued that he had a right to an education. But generally the issue of providing a state education is left to the state’s discretion - nonetheless it remains true that by law your daughter should have a school place, so this should be rectified in the appeals process.

More About the Appeals Process

The appeal process normally involves you making a formal appeal - normally a letter - then telling your evidence (e.g. the fact that your daughter has not been successful in any of her applications) before sometimes appearing before the independent panel in person, where someone representing the local education authority will also appear to discuss why your daughter’s application(s) were made. You are required to receive at least two weeks - or 10 working days - of notice before the date of your appeal, but as you are probably feeling anxious you can ask to have an earlier date if one is available, perhaps through cancellations.

What Else to Do

You might want to ask your child’s current school for a statement about your daughter’s education thus far. This statement can either be made by you or a representative at the appeal panel.

In the unlikely circumstance that your daughter still does not have a school allocated to her, you can go through the appeal process again. Normally this is for parents who are contesting their child’s allocation to a particular school, however, so your daughter is unlikely to be affected. If necessary, you may want to consult a solicitor for legal advice.

You’ll want to supply evidence as to why your daughter needs a school in the area, for example a letter from your employer stating why you have to move, or a letter from your child’s school about specific education provision requirements.

So, to conclude, I hope this has been a helpful outline. In the first instance, you should contact the LEA immediately to ask their advice on what to do about your daughter’s lack of school allocation and explain the consequences of their actions are already in place. Start to gather evidence for potential appeals too.

Finally - good luck.

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Love - 11-Oct-18 @ 7:33 PM
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Guru Murthy - 24-Jul-18 @ 6:24 AM
Sorry we have 4 high Schools in Atlantis
jules - 22-Jun-18 @ 3:01 PM
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