Rise in Cheshire East and West parents winning school admission appeals

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PARENTS in Cheshire West and Chester are much more likely to win an appeal over their child’s selected school than in those in other parts of the country, figures reveal.

And the proportion of parents in Cheshire East winning an appeal rose last year too.

With children about to start the new school year, Department for Education data for last year shows a wide variation in school admission appeal success rates between local authorities across England.

In Cheshire West and Chester, parents took 127 cases against their child’s school placement for the 2020-21 academic year to an appeal hearing, with 40 successful – a win rate of 32 per cent.

The success rate was up from the year before, when it was 28 per cent, and far higher than the national average of 19 per cent

In Cheshire East, parents took 120 cases to an appeal hearing, with 27 successful – a win rate of 23 per cent.

This is up from the year before, when it was 21 per cent, and still higher than the national average.

Matt Richards, founder of law firm schoolappeals.com, said the urban landscape of an area could be a factor in the variation in success rates.

He said cases in urbanised areas of London were more likely to feature parents simply wanting their child to be placed in a better school, but in rural areas with schools more than five miles apart, it could be down to logistical reasons.

But he added: “It can also be down to the training and advice given to independent panel members which they stick to for their decisions.”

Schools follow the Government’s admission code when deciding which pupils to allocate places to each year.

When a parent is unhappy about an allocation, such as not achieving their first-place preference, an appeal can be submitted to the school’s admissions authority.

That can go to an independent appeal panel which then assesses whether the school was right to turn down the application.

In Cheshire West and Chester, 93 per cent of pupil applicants were offered a first-choice school place last year, compared with 91 per cent in Cheshire East.

The number of appeals heard in Cheshire West equated to 1.5 per cent of all admissions, down from 2.3 per cent the previous year.

Of the outcomes, parents of secondary school-age pupils were more likely to win than those of primary school pupils, with a success rate of 42 per cent compared to 5 per cent.

In Cheshire East, the number of appeals heard equated to 1.3 per cent of all admissions, down from 1.5 per cent the previous year.

Again, parents of secondary school-age pupils were more likely to win than those of primary school pupils, with a success rate of 30 per cent compared to 16 per cent.

Across England, the number of appeals heard fell sharply last year, from 48,100 in 2019-20 to 41,100 in 2020-21.

The DfE said measures were put in place to let parents to appeal during the pandemic.

These included allowing appeals hearings to be held by telephone or video conference, or be decided on the basis of written submissions.

The Local Government Association said it could not comment on specific appeal hearings.

But a spokesperson said: “Every child should have a fair chance of getting into their parents’ preferred school and councils and schools work extremely hard to try and ensure that as many pupils as possible are allocated their first preference.”

A Department for Education said with an increase in schools found to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted inspectors since 2010, parents could be ‘confident their child will get the high-quality education they deserve’.

A spokesperson added: “School admissions appeal panels are independent bodies and make decisions on an individual basis, without admission authority involvement in the decision.

“The number of appeals heard in each area varies widely, so the number of successful appeals cannot be meaningfully compared as the volume can impact the success rate of appeals.”