As a parent, where your child attends school can be one of the most important considerations. Ensuring that your child receives the best education possible is an essential part of the role of a parent. At times, it may be that the school your child is expected to attend due to the ‘Catchment Area’ you reside in may not be the best fit for your child. In these circumstances, you may seek to have your child allowed to attend an alternative school that - for any number of reasons - you believe to be a better fit. This is achieved by making a Placing Request to the relevant local Council. But what happens if this request is refused?
In Scotland, local authorities are each divided into what are referred to as ‘Catchment Areas’. The school your child is therefore expected to attend based on your address alone is the school within your Catchment Area. This applies to both primary and secondary school.
Difficulties arise when the school within your area is not necessarily the school you wish your child to attend, for a variety of different reasons. If this applies to you and you want to take action, you will be required to submit a Placing Request. However, it is essential that you first enrol your child with your local catchment school, even if you ultimately do not want them to attend this school. By law, your child must be enrolled to receive an education.
When making a Placing Request, there are certain timescales and requirements that you must stick to. The first, and perhaps most important step, is determining the school you wish your child to attend. Once you have made this decision, you are required to submit a request for that school. This may vary depending on the Council area however in most cases, this can be achieved simply by going online and filling in a form via the relevant Council’s website.
It is important that you make this request at the right time. If you want your child to start the new school at the beginning of the next school year, you can make the request from November and must have done so by March at the latest. If you make the request within this time, you should receive a response by the end of April.
If you make the request after March, or you are looking for your child to change schools in the middle of the school year, then the Council cantake up to two months to decide your request. You may however receive a response earlier than this.
If your request is successful, the Council will notify you, usually in the form of a written letter. Your child will then be able to attend the chosen school. If your request is refused, the Council will write to you and explain the reasons why. It is then your choice whether you wish to appeal this decision or if you want to submit another request for a different school. It is important to note that if you do choose to appeal a decision, you cannot submit a request for another school whilst that appeal is ongoing.
If you choose to Appeal the decision to refuse your Placing Request, then your appeal must be submitted within 28 days of receiving the letter stating the decision. The appeal is submitted to the relevant Council relating to the request. Similarly to the original application, most Council websites will also provide an Appeal form for you to complete if you decide to challenge the original decision.
There is certain information which you will need to know and state in your appeal, specifically:
It is essential that your appeal is specific and relevant to your circumstances. It must be honest, highlight the key facts and demonstrate why attending the chosen school is in the best interests of your child and their individual needs. The Appeal Committee will want to know about these circumstances and why you are appealing.
The appeal committee will acknowledge your appeal request and may then seek to hold an appeal hearing. Such hearings may take place in person, or through video or teleconferencing. In some cases, the hearing may be entirely through written submissions if all parties agree to it. You must be given 14 days notice of any hearing date. If a hearing is assigned, this should generally take place within 28 days of the committee having received the appeal, however, it may be delayed due to external factors or if your appeal is combined with other appeals to the same school. In circumstances where the appeal is combined, the 28 days will start from the date of the last appeal being received.
If an appeal hearing is not heard within two months, you may be entitled to appeal to the local Sheriff Court. If a hearing takes place and your appeal is refused, you may appeal to the Sheriff Court. Alternatively, if a hearing does take place and you do not receive a decision by 14 days after its conclusion, you may also be entitled to appeal to the Sheriff Court. If you do choose to refer the matter to Court, you would again have 28 to submit this further appeal from the date of a decision being made.
The application to your local Sheriff Court is what is known as a summary application. This application requires to be made in a specific format and can often be a complicated process. If you have reached this stage and not yet sought legal advice, we would strongly recommend that you do so at this point.
Once a summary application has been submitted to the court, the Sheriff will first consider whether the reason the Council refused your original request is allowed by law. There are various different legal reasons your request may be refused which can be found below. If it is found that the given reason is not allowed by law, the Sheriff will overturn the original decision of the Council and your child will be permitted to attend the school you applied for.
If the reason for refusing the application is allowed by law, the Sheriff may still choose to overturn the Council’s decision if they believe in the circumstances, your request should be accepted. Should this occur, your child would again be permitted to attend the chosen school.
Reasons your Appeal may be refused: