Patricia is right. Local authorities are entitled to state a deadline for the receipt of appeals, so that the necessary arrangements can be planned, and in Bucks this is 14 days from the receipt of the allocation letter. Of course, if you miss the deadline, and have good reasons for being late, you could explain the special circumstances to the Appeals Team and ask them if they would exercise their discretion.
I’ve been meaning to update my December posting on transfer appeals, and perhaps this might be a good time to do so.
As I’ve written with regard to selection appeals, appellants shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the more they write, the more impressed the panel will be. A maximum of one side of A4 (plus any supporting evidence) should be more than enough for a panel to understand the key points without drowning in unnecessary detail. Similarly a brief presentation at the appeal (say, up to 5 minutes) will have more impact than a longwinded presentation. If the panel want more detail, they will ask (during Questions).
At what is known as “Stage One” the admission authority has to present its case in front of the panel and parents. The panel has to be satisfied that the authority has a case (i.e. the school is full, and the admission of an extra pupil will be prejudicial). From the parents’ perspective, of course, the difference between 30 pupils in a class and 31 may not seem particularly significant, but the line has to be drawn somewhere! I think panels are likely to look very closely at cases where the class size is below 30, although this might well be justified by the physical constraints of the accommodation. More often than not, the local authority is able to satisfy the panel that it has a case, and the appeal moves on to “Stage 2” where the outcome will usually depend on the strength of the parents’ case relative to the strength of the school’s case.
At Stage 2 the panel will want to hear your reasons for the school in question, and why no other school would really do. Reasons will probably include one or more of the following:
1 It’s the catchment school.
2 Although not in catchment you live very close to the school.
3 Getting to any suitable alternative school would be logistically difficult (you would have to prove this, and I think the degree of inconvenience would have to be very considerable indeed).
4 There is a sibling already there.
5 Other family members are attending or have attended the school (perhaps not a strong point but worth a mention).
6 There are strong educational reasons (I don’t mean a preference for a type of school such as a grammar school - I mean something specific on offer at this particular school which is not available at any suitable alternative. You would need to prove why this is so crucial).
7 There are strong medical or social reasons why your child needs to attend this particular school. These are often the most compelling reasons, but you will need proof, and you will need to demonstrate convincingly why only this school is the solution.
Stage 2 is sometimes called the “balancing stage”. The panel weighs up the problem that the admission of an extra child would cause the school, and compares that with the prejudice that would be caused to the child if not admitted. The side with the stronger case wins. You could have a strong case but lose the appeal because the panel decides the school case is even stronger! You could have a weak case but win your appeal because the school case is even weaker!
Another factor that might influence the result is the number of appeals being heard at the same time. If you are appealing for a very popular school immediately after the 1st March allocations, there could be 20, 30 or even 40+ cases to be heard. These are called "multiple appeals", and no decision is taken on any individual case until all the timely appeals have been heard. After hearing the timely appeals, the panel (and it has to be the same panel!) put all the cases in what they judge to be order of merit, and starting with the strongest they work their way down the list asking the question: where does the greater prejudice lie? If they think the prejudice to the child would be greater than the prejudice to the school, then a place is offered. (Each time they admit an extra pupil, of course, the prejudice to the school has probably become greater, and they will be conscious of this as they move on to take their decision on the next case.)
One further point: at every transfer appeal the panel has to consider whether or not the authority has correctly applied the admission arrangements. Sometimes parents point to a mistake made by the authority and claim “maladministration”. This carries no weight, however, unless it can be shown that the family was therefore denied the school place to which they would otherwise have been entitled. This does not often happen! But, if there really has been “maladministration” on the part of the admission authority, then the appeal is automatically upheld and there is no balancing stage.
I hope these observations will be of some help to those embarking on transfer appeals.