As a family and friends carer, you might have to find a school place for the child who has come to live with you - they might be due to start school, or move up to secondary, or you might think they need to move to a new school. We can advise you on how to pick a school for the child and make the application, how the schools go about offering places for children, and how to appeal if the child are turned down for the preferred school.
What are the different types of school that exist?
There are two main categories of school:
1. State schools: these are free to attend and they are:
- generally required to follow the national curriculum
- regularly inspected by Ofsted; and
- legally required to follow the Department for Education’s School Admissions Code (http://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/st ... -code-2012). Although it applies to all state schools, this code does make some important distinctions between different types of school, the most significant being the permission given to grammar schools to select all of their intake according to academic ability.
2. Independent schools (also known as ‘private schools’, and some are termed ‘public schools’) which charge fees for a child to attend, although some offer subsidised places through scholarships or bursaries for a limited number of children. These schools:
- are not required to follow the National Curriculum
- are inspected either by Ofsted or by a variety of different inspectorates; and
- do not have to follow the Department for Education’s School Admissions Code.
They have their own admissions procedures, sometimes based on academic ability or particular aptitude. You can find out about this by asking the particular school for their prospectus or their admissions procedures.
The School Admissions Code states that if a child is in the care system or has been looked after and is now under a residence order, special guardianship order or adoption order, for example in favour of a relative or friend caring for them, they should be given priority on school admissions if the school is oversubscribed unless the application is for a grammar school place. So, if you are raising a child who is looked after by Children’s Services, or was before you got a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order, you need to mention this to the school when you are applying for a school place for him/her.
How do I find out about the schools in my area?
Information about all state schools in your area will be available on your local council’s website. You can also use the government’s ‘schools finder’ website to find information about any school in the country, or the schools in any particular local authority.
Once you have indentified which schools are in your area, it is a good idea to look at their individual websites for information about their facilities and admissions procedures. You can make enquiries about which school would best meet the child’s needs by browsing the websites, attending school open days, asking to visit the school, making enquiries of the local education authority, reading Ofsted reports, and speaking to parents or carers whose children have attended these schools.
You can ask each school for its prospectus, which has to include information about the admission of children with special educational needs and disabilities. You may also want to read the school’s policies on matters like behaviour, discipline, bullying, home-school agreements, inclusion and diversity.
How do I actually apply for a school place for the child I am raising?
Local councils manage all school admissions to state schools, so to apply for a school place you need to contact your local council, normally their Children’s Services Department.
To apply for a place, you will be asked to fill in a form, which may be on-line, listing the schools you would like the child you are raising to attend, and stating your order of preference. You should check the deadline date for applying, and make sure you do not apply after this date.
It may not be easy to change schools quickly if the child has just moved in with you. If you do feel that it would be best for the child to change schools sooner rather than later, you should check the local policy for in-year admissions and transfers. You might need to discuss the circumstances directly with the local education authority, and if there is a social worker involved you should ask for their assistance in supporting the child’s need for a change of schools. Popular schools are likely to already be fully subscribed, so you should make sure that the local authority is aware of any ways in which the child meets the criteria for being a high priority, such as having Special Educational Needs or Disability, or if they are looked after now or were looked after before a RO, CAO or SGO was made.
Before you fill in the forms, it is important to familiarise yourself with the selection criteria of the school you would like the child to attend, as you will need to say in your application how the child meets the selection criteria, e.g.:
- they have a Statement of Special Educational Needs (in this case the child is given priority over other applicants)
- they have siblings at the school, or you have children at the school and they are now living together in your household like siblings
- you live close to the school
- they are being brought up in the religion of a faith school
- some schools prioritise children with a recognised social or medical need which must be supported by professional evidence.
What can I do if the child I am raising is not offered a place in the school of my choice?
If the child you are raising is not offered a place at the school you have chosen, the school must explain the reasons in writing, and give you information on how to appeal against the decision. You can respond in any (or all) of the following ways:
1. If you believe the school has made a mistake in applying the criteria in your case e.g. catchment area, religion, or siblings not being considered properly, you should contact the Admissions Authority for the school immediately. If the Admissions Authority agrees that a mistake has been made, the child may be offered a place in the school without going through the appeal process.
2. You can ask for their name to be added to the school’s waiting list. If the child is looked after, or was previously looked after before you got a residence order or special guardianship order, they ought to be top of the waiting list, along with any other children in the same legal circumstances who were not offered a place.
3. You can apply to other schools, although you would be advised to check with the local authority first whether they have any places available.
4. You can make an appeal to an appeal panel, stating why the child should be offered a place at the school, even though the school is full to capacity.
How and when do I appeal against refusal of a place?
If you choose to appeal, your appeal would be made to the relevant Admissions Authority, who would arrange for an Appeal Panel to hear the appeal. Your appeal must be in writing, and your letter of appeal will trigger the appeals process.
What is the Admissions Authority?
For community schools and voluntary controlled schools, the admissions authority is the local authority; for foundation schools and voluntary aided schools, this is the governing body; and for academies it is the academy trust.
If you have any queries about this, please post them below.
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FRG Policy Adviser
FRG Policy Adviser