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Wednesday, 31 March 2010 18:53

Infant Class Appeals: KOS March 2010

It’s that time of year again, when many parents call me or visit my website www.kentadvice.co.uk to ask me about supporting them in an infant class school appeal

Many enquirers are taken aback when I explain that in the vast majority of cases, although parents have a legal right to appeal and the Local Authority is obliged to tell them their rights, they have no chance of success.  For regulations, known as Infant Class Legislation, compel schools to keep infant class sizes restricted to 30 children or fewer with one class teacher, except for certain very specific and rare exceptions. The number of additional Teaching Assistants is irrelevant. Independent Appeal Panels are instructed not to uphold appeals that would take such class sizes over thirty children, again with rare exceptions. The main one is where the Admission Authority, usually the County Council but, in the case of  Foundation or Voluntary Aided schools the school Governing Body, has made a mistake in ranking the children so someone has been omitted by mistake. The regulations can be found at www.dcsf.gov.uk/sacode .

Occasionally an Appeal Panel will be swung by powerful mitigating circumstances to uphold a case against the rules (there has been a spate of twins sent to different schools recently), but continued pressure from above is likely to see even these decisions diminished.

The penalty for the school if the class size of 30 is breached can be severe. An Appeal Panel decision is binding so there is nothing the school can do immediately. However, if there are still over 30 children in the class the following September, the school must either employ another full time teacher to work with that class, or else divide it into two smaller groups each with their own teacher. The number of Teaching Assistants is irrelevant. As you can imagine, either option is a great expense and difficulty for a school, even if it has the room to put in another class.

Sometimes there are mixed age classes and you may see an intake of 20 children (with three year groups combining to form two classes) or 45 children (with two year groups combining to form three classes).  Otherwise, if the number is not an exact factor, as in some small rural schools, there may be chances of a successful appeal.

Also at this time of year we see problems caused by admissions to church primary schools. The 104 Voluntary Controlled Church of England and Methodist schools in Kent have a box to be ticked if parents “have chosen the school because it is a church school” irrespective of the parents’ religion or beliefs if any.  This is a bureaucratic nonsense, has nothing to do with religion and should be abolished, as every year it creates unnecessary grief from parents who didn’t tick the box, and find their child sent to a school miles away. Or even more poignantly, the church going family who  actually chose the school for other reasons, but then find themselves excluded from their own church school. This device does not give priority to a single Christian to attend the school (there is no bar on devil worshippers ticking the box) and it is time for the church authorities to take action.  My advice to every parent is tick the box. Even more bewildering to parents are the 68 CofE and Catholic Voluntary Aided Schools each allowed to draw up individual priority lists of applicants, generally featuring church membership in some way, occasionally bizarrely or ambiguously, although several also give a priority to members of other religions. Such schools are often in rural areas and have become Aided for some distant historical reason, depriving children of non religious families of places at their local schools.  Government plans to increase the number of faith schools, apparently on grounds they are likely to be better schools, although the evidence is that where they are popular and successful it is because aspiring middle classes have better access to them. This is because many such parents are either church goers or else are willing to undergo a temporary affiliation.  A Kent Aided School, recently out of Special Measures with an intake of just four children last year, is not unique and counters the argument.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 April 2012 16:24

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