school place:

Acasestudy Finding a

As parents of asix-year-old daughter about to start her third school we have seen, first-hand how the Covenant can help with school places and how it sometimes falls short of expectations. Her first school move was during reception year in spring 2016. We got our posting notice and duly applied for aplace at the closest of three local schools. In recognition of us as an Armed Forces family the local authority accepted and processed our application straight away,despite being three months in advance of our move. We were moving to an area with achoice of good and outstanding schools and we naively assumed that, as signatories to the Covenant and with a significant number of Service pupils, the local authority would automatically offer us aplace at our local school which had the majority of Service pupils in the local area. We were shocked and disappointed to open our offer letter and find that our daughter had been offered aplace at only our 7th closest school which, to make matters worse, had recently been given its second “requires improvement” grading from Ofsted.

With help from CEASweappealed against the decision on the grounds that we did not feel the offered school could meet our daughter’s needs as aService child as well as our chosen school. We asked for the local authority to exercise its discretionary power to admit our daughter as an “excepted pupil”. Unfortunately,despite expressing sympathy for our situation, the appeal panel were unable to uphold the appeal as they concluded they were bound by the constraints of infant class size legislation. The panel adjudicated that as the Schools Admission Code uses the words “may”and not “must” it was in the discretion of the local authority whether to exercise its power and the local authority had not acted unreasonably within the legislation.

In the meantime we put our daughter on the waiting list for several other schools and thankfully before me moved she was offered aplace at another school. This school had no other

26 Envoy Summer 2017

Service children, was still only our 5th closest school, and we had the daily inconvenience of having to drive to school each day as it was too far to walk. However, the school was very welcoming to us as anew family and provided excellent education and support to our daughter.

We are moving again soon due to promotion and, after our previous experience, we applied for school places in the new area with much greater trepidation. Again the local authority has recognised us as Service parents and accepted our application in advance of our move. This time we were fortunate that there was avacancy in year 1atour local school. However,the head teacher assured us that even if the place were allocated elsewhere she had previously accepted Service children as excepted pupils over the infant class limit supported by the local authority.Wehave duly been offered and accepted aplace at the school. By comparison it has been atotally contrasting, straightforward experience.

So did the Covenant help us? Yesand no. It certainly helped being able to apply for school places in advance. For our first move this gave us several weeks to appeal and wait for aplace to become available at another school before we moved. For our second move it meant we could apply straight away whilst aplace was available. What’s difficult to know for sure is how confident we can be that things will work out well the next time we move.

Need help? Contact the RAF Families Federation on 01780 781650 or email


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