How does the panel make its decision?
Apart from infant class appeals (reception and Year 1 and 2 classes – see below) the panel conduct a two-stage process:
Stage 1: The panel may find that the admission arrangements did not comply with admissions law or had not been correctly and impartially applied, and the child would have been offered a place if the arrangements had complied or had been correctly and impartially applied;
The panel may find that the admission of additional children would not prejudice the provision of efficient education or efficient use of resources.
If the appeal panel are satisfied with the admission authority’s case, it then moves onto Stage 2 to review at the case presented by the appellant.
The panel must balance the prejudice to the school against the appellant’s case for the child to be admitted to the school. It must take into account the appellant’s reasons for expressing a preference for the school, including what that school can offer the child that the allocated or other schools cannot. If the panel considers that the appellant’s case outweighs the prejudice to the school, it must uphold the appeal.
For all year groups from reception to year 6 in multiple ‘group’ appeals, the panel must not compare the individual cases when deciding whether an appellant’s case outweighs the prejudice to the school. However, where the panel finds there are more cases that outweigh prejudice than the school can admit, it must then compare the cases and uphold those with the strongest case for admission. Where a certain number of children could be admitted without causing prejudice, the panel must uphold the appeals of at least that number of children.
Infant Class appeals (reception, year groups 1 and 2)
The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA 1998) amended by The Education Act 2002, placed a duty on local authorities and the governing bodies of maintained schools to limit the size of infant classes to 30 pupils per qualified teacher.
Due to the Infant Class Size Legislation, independent appeals panels are limited in the way they can make decisions on the outcome of appeals and therefore significantly reduces the possibility of your appeal being successful.
Where a child has been refused admission to a school on infant class size prejudice grounds, an appeal panel can only offer a place to a child where it is satisfied that either:
FACT A whether the admission of an additional child additional children would breach the infant class size limit;
FACT B whether the admission arrangements (including the area’s co-ordinated admission arrangements) complied with the mandatory requirements of the School Admissions Code and Part 3 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998;
FACT C whether the admission arrangements were correctly and impartially applied in the case(s) in question;
Then the panel goes on to
FACT D Did the Authority act “unreasonably”.
The word “unreasonable” is a legal “test word”. The threshold for finding that an admission authority’s decision to refuse admissions was not one that a reasonable authority would have made is high. For this to apply the panel would need to be satisfied that the decision to refuse to admit the child was:
‘perverse in the light of the admission arrangements’ i.e. it was ‘beyond the range of responses open to a reasonable decision maker’
‘a decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question could have arrived at it'