If you are unhappy…
If you are unhappy with your experience of school admissions, you may want to complain or appeal. We explain where you go next.
Making a complaint
Joe had a lot of moves in his early life and developed behaviour difficulties when his grandmother, his main carer at the time, died suddenly. Shortly after her death, he started nursery where he soon began getting one to one support. This was the nursery’s top level of help called Early Years Action Plus. When Maya, Joe’s mother, approached her local primary school for a place and told them about Joe’s difficulties, the school secretary put her off making an application and suggested she try another school which had more experience of children with behaviour difficulties.
Maya found a more welcoming school after consulting her local Parent Partnership Officer (PPO) who told her that the first school had been wrong to refuse her application. She decided, with the PPO’s help, to make a complaint about the way she had been treated and asked the school for its complaints procedure. She sent a complaint to the headteacher but when there was no reply after three weeks, sent a similar letter to the school’s governing body. The governing body replied quickly, apologising for the way she had been treated and saying they were considering training for front line staff who dealt with inquiries from the public.
If you believe the admission system for your area is flawed, then you may have the right to complain to the Welsh Ministers at the National Assembly for Wales who have the power to direct changes. Parents do have rights to challenge some local admissions rules and policies but most parents will find the complexity of this daunting.
Get advice from the local MP. Joining with other parents who feel the same way may have more impact.
A complaint about the way a local authority – or someone acting on their behalf such as a community school – has dealt with an admission should first of all be sent to the local authority. For example, if you believe that the local authority has given you misleading information, lost your application, or treated you unfairly, you should ask for a copy of their complaints procedure. If you are unhappy with the outcome, you may complain to the local government ombudsman. Details in Where to get help and more information.
If you think your child has been treated unfairly because of their disability…
If your child is disabled, schools and local authorities are not allowed to discriminate against them when you apply for a place. This means they cannot set different rules or refuse or ignore your application because your child is disabled. (See What counts as special educational needs or a disability?).
If you think your child has been treated unfairly because of their disability, they may have been discriminated against which is unlawful. If your child is disabled but does not have a statement, you would put your case to the Independent Appeal Panel described in the Appeal section above. If your child has a statement, or if the alleged discrimination was by an independent school, you would go to the SEND Tribunal. It is best to get advice about this (see Where to get help and more information).
If you want to appeal and your child does not have a statement
If you are not happy with the school offered to your child you can appeal to an Independent Appeal Panel. This is a committee of three or five people who will decide whether your child should be given a place at that school after hearing your case and the school’s reasons for turning your child down. The School Admission Appeals Code advises appeal panels on how to run fair appeals.
If you are unhappy with the way they carry out their work, you can complain to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. The Ombudsman cannot overturn a decision just because you disagree, but can investigate whether the appeal panel has been unfair or has made a mistake, and can recommend new appeals or compensation. An example of unfairness is when a panel member has an interest in the school you are appealing for.
Find out about organisations which can provide advice on complaints and admission appeals in 'Where to get help and more information'.
If you want to appeal and your child has a statement …
If your child has a statement, you can appeal to the Tribunal about the school which the local authority names in Part 4 of the statement. This is a specialist tribunal for parents of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities who disagree with decisions made about their child’s schooling.
Many factors may be involved in the Tribunal’s decision because case law has made this an extremely complex area. It is best to get advice or legal representation if you plan to take a case to Tribunal (see Where to get help and more information).