School Admission and the appeal process

Each Cabinet Member takes in it turns to write an article for the West Briton group of papers. This month it is my turn, and I decided to write about school admissions.

As a parent, I know how nerve-wracking the process of applying for a reception place for your child can be. However, it is the long wait from submitting the application to hearing the decision that really has you biting your nails. Luckily, in the vast majority of cases in Cornwall, the Council gives parents and children one of their preferred three choices.

This year we received 5,782 applications for new reception places for September.  Of these 5242 or 90.7 % have been offered a place at their first preference school, with 96.3% of children allocated am place at one of their three preferred schools.

Whilst it is obviously good news for the 5242 families which have been given their first choice, there are others that will be disappointed that they did not get their first, second or event third choice. I completely understand their feelings which is why I wanted to explain the appeals process as part of this article.

School Admission Appeals Panels are established to hear appeals from parents and guardians relating to a decision made by either Cornwall Council, or the Governing Body of academy or voluntary aided schools, to refuse a place for a child at a local authority maintained or academy primary and secondary schools in Cornwall.

These Panels operate completely independently of Cornwall Council and are an impartial and informal forum for parents and the admission authority/academy concerned to present their respective cases and be confident that they are given a fair hearing.

All Appeal Panels must consist of lay members and people who have experience in education.  Lay members are people without personal experience in the management of any school or the provision of education in any school (except as a school governor or in another voluntary capacity). Currently we have 15 members who are experienced in education and 16 lay members.

It is important to say Panel members must not have any connection with either the Council or the school/academy which is the subject of the appeal to avoid concerns being raised over an individual’s ability to act impartially.In some areas schools are full or near capacity which is why we cannot always ensure parents have their first choices.

As the Portfolio Holder I want to get to a position where 100% of parents in Cornwall receive one of their first three choices. To help achieve this we are looking at where we need to put extra places either by adding another classroom on to the school, or building a completely new school. We are able to do this because last year the Council was awarded £32m to help fund new places. This will not be enough, as we will have to use educational part of Section 106’s to make sure we have enough school places.

I do want to thank staff in the admissions team, Democratic Services and members of the appeals panel for all the work they do in trying to give parents their preferred choices. I have seen first-hand how hard they work to achieve this.

If a parent would like any advice on the appeal process they are encouraged to contact the Appeals Team within Democratic Services (01872) 322376.


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