The appeals panel must decide if the school’s admission criteria were properly followed and are legal according to the school admissions appeals code. Its clear that it hasn't. The school admission code 2012 does allow for sibling links from ex students (section 1.11) but it must set out a clear and simple definition of such former pupils and how their siblings will be treated in the oversubscription criteria – it has failed to do so. Students have been allowed to attend when no sibling link was available whatever the reason may have been.
The Code has been updated - it is now the 2014 version. Section 1.11 refers primarily to the issue of former pupils, where they are given priority in a school's Policy. That is not the case here because the school has not chosen to give priority in the Policy to siblings of former pupils.
The issue that they should be addressing, although the Code is very weak on the point, is the first line of Section 1.11:
Admission authorities must state clearly in their arrangements what they mean by ‘sibling’ ...
It is worth noting that the Code contains, as an Appendix, "Sample Admission Arrangements". It states clearly that they are "provided for illustrative purposes only – they are not “suggested” arrangements and should not be seen as such.
That rather begs the question as to why they are there at all, but it does show the weakness of the Code with this statement:
(2) Children with a sibling attending the school at the time of application. Sibling is defined in these arrangements as children who live as brother or sister in the same house, including natural brothers or sisters, adopted siblings, stepbrothers or sisters and foster brothers and sisters.
The Code makes no mention of the need to define the point in time at which a sibling is considered to be on the roll of the school for the purpose of a proposed admission, and yet the "Sample Admission Arrangements" include a reference to it.
Very poor, I'm afraid, and the 2009 Code, which preceded the "slimmed-down" versions of 2012 and 2014 was far more robust on the topic.
To my knowledge, appeals sometimes are successful if the parent can demonstrate the flaw in their policy. Totally agree that withdrawing a place for a younger sibling because the elder has failed his grades or went to college would cause huge problems for that family and that is not what I am advocating.
Just wondered what the appeals panel view would be if this was part but not all or our appeal?
Of course appeals do succeed where there has been a flaw in the Admissions process, but it is rarely the only reason they succeed. Serious flaws are almost always sorted out long before an appeal.
Another issue is that it could also come across as sounding like sour grapes towards the children who have been admitted!
In any event, even if the panel accepts the technical error/omission in the Policy, their next question will be: "So what are your reasons for wanting a place at the school?" That is where your case should start, and the technicality is simply an additional point that could provoke the panel's feelings of "natural justice": "We would also just like to mention ...
Also, if you mention the technical point towards the end of your case and the hearing does get derailed by it, you have at least got across the positive points first. By "derailed" I mean that some quite fierce arguments have been known to break out at appeals over technical matters, and that can leave the opposing factions in a bad mood for the rest of the hearing.