If you do not receive the school admission of your choice on 1 March do not panic. There is plenty that you can do to reverse the decision.

You will be given details of how you can appeal against the decision. The School Admission Appeals Code provides that you must be given at least 20 school days within which to lodge your appeal. This is at least 4 weeks. This is generally plenty of time submit your appeal but if not you will need to return the appeal form with basic grounds for your appeal and you will also be advised of a later date when additional information can be provided.

Your first instinct may be to submit your appeal as soon as possible but this could be your first mistake! You need to consider very carefully the information that you are going to submit and also what supporting documents that you are going to provide. You do not want to fall at the first hurdle.

Make sure that the statement that you submit is well argued and that it is supported by evidence from a third party. The appeal is a judicial function and is subject to the principles of natural justice.

Find out as much as you can about your preferred school as this will help you to understand the issues raised by the Admission Authority when they submit their statement trying to justify why they are unable to admit any more pupils. The presenting officer for the Admission Authority is likely to be well used to explaining the school’s case but this does not mean that they may be unable to answer probing questions about their case. It is important therefore that you know what you are talking about. Do not be intimidated by the process. The appeal panel will try and hear the appeal in as an informal setting as they are able to only subject to the restrictions placed on them by the principles of natural justice.

When arriving at a decision the appeal panel will not be bound by the published admission number or the admission arrangements in general. They are obliged to consider whether the admission arrangements are lawful and if they were correctly and impartially applied in your case.  In addition, they will consider if the school can accommodate any more pupils in the year group in question without causing what is referred to as prejudice. In layman’s terms this means whether additional admissions will cause problems for the school and whether it would be detrimental to the pupils already at the school. Finally, the panel will balance your individual case against the school’s case; this is often referred to as the balancing stage. Each case is looked at on its own merits and if the appeal panel believe that your case is stronger than the school’s case they have power to allow your appeal even if they have already decided that any additional admissions will cause prejudice.

Good preparation is the key and will improve the chances of a successful appeal.