You can find general information about Admission to Infant, Primary and Junior Schools, The Reception Year and Year 3 and Admission to Secondary Schools, Year 7 on the main West Berkshire Schools' Pages.
One of the questions we are frequently asked is "how do I know that I'm choosing the right school for my child?" The answer is that you probably won't know until you have tried it. This question is usually closely followed by " can you recommend a school?", and of course we are not in a position to do that because we don't know your child, or have intimate knowledge of the schools in your area, or know what you are looking for in a school..... However, we can suggest a number of things you might want to think about or ask about when you are looking at schools.
- Read the schools Ofsted Inspection Reports
- Ask to see the school's SEN policy - this will explain how the individual school manages the provision for pupils with SEN
- Ask to see the latest Governors' Annual Report to parents - this should give details of how the school has spent its SEN funding
- Ask to see the anti-bullying policy
- What is the structure and timetable for the school day?
- How many children would be in your child's class?
- Will the curriculum be fully accessible for your child?
- Has the school experience of children with the same/similar needs as your son's or daughter's and how did they work with them?
- How will your child be supported outside lesson time?
- How do the school manage challenging behaviour?
- How does the school help children mix and make friends?
- Are all areas of the school accessible to your child? (are adaptations required?)
- Is the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)1 part of the school's management team?
- What clubs or activities might the pupil get involved in (eg. Supported homework, after-school clubs, specific activity groups, etc.
- How does the SENCO communicate information about individual pupils to teachers? This is especially important at secondary school where a pupil might be taught by 13 - 14 different teachers in a week.
- How does the school communicate with you? How often?
- How regularly are Individual Education Plans (IEPs) reviewed
- What arrangements are there for parents to get involved with the school or meet with other parents? You could also ask for a separate meeting with the SENCO.
If your child has a Statement of SEN and you are considering secondary schools, you should be aware that you will be asked to express a preference for a school in the September of the year before they are due to move. You might therefore want to attend secondary open evenings in the autumn term of Year 5.
Applying for a Place
Once you have narrowed down your list of preferred schools, it's time to apply for a place. West Berkshire Local Authority provide a Parents guide to admissions to both Primary and Secondary school. The guide explains fully the process for making an application and the criteria for the allocation of places. You can download this booklet from the top right of this page.
If you are not offered a place at your preferred school, you have the right to appeal to an independent appeals panel. However this does not guarantee that you will get a school place.
It is very important that you look carefully at all other schools with empty places. Visit them with your child. If you feel that these schools are not right for your child you must add your reasons to your case, explaining the problems your child will face.
Making an Appeal
- Phone the admissions and appeals team to get an appeal form
- Prepare the form and any evidence you might have to back up your appeal. You should state all the reasons for your appeal, why this school would be good for your child. Reflect the views of your child in the appeal.
- You can use other supporting evidence such as any medical reasons.
- Good preparation will be vital to the appeals hearing. The more time, effort and work you put in the greater the chance of success.
- Any appeal forms should be returned within 14 days of receiving the letter to say that your child has not received the preferred school.
- You can send other evidence after this date if it is not ready.
- You will hear from the clerk to the appeals panel when your hearing will be.
- You should be prepared to go to the appeals hearing. You can take a friend.
There is normally three people on the panel including a clerk to take notes. They are independent of the school and admissions authority and are trained for this role. They must be fair to all parties at all times.
Clerk to the panel They will make sure that you understand the procedure and that the relevant facts are presented, and give independent advice on the law. They will make a written record of the appeal
Presenting Officer This person comes from the admissions authority and they present the decision not to admit the child as clearly as possible. They must be prepared to answer detailed questions.
As a Parent you can also attend the appeals hearing and take a 'friend' (this could be someone who will support you through the appeals process). Alternatively a representative could go on your behalf to the hearing. Your role will be to present your case to the panel and be prepared to answer any questions. You can also ask the presenting officer any questions you may have.
How the Panel reaches a decision
There are two stages;
Has the school reached its published admissions number?
Have the rules have been followed?
The panel will make a balanced judgement. They will consider whether the benefits for your child going to the school you are appealing for outweigh the negative effects on the school having one more pupil. They will need to decide which case is stronger. If they decide your case is stronger they will up hold your appeal.
- Further appeals can not be made once the panel has made a decision.
- You can only make one appeal every academic year unless there is a significant and material change in circumstances of family, child or school.
- If you are unhappy about the panel's decision because the correct procedures were not followed then you are able to appeal to the Ombudsman to investigate.
Community and Voluntary Controlled Schools
In these schools it is West Berkshire Council that decides the rules for school admissions. These are known as the Admissions criteria.
Voluntary Aided and Foundation Schools
Admissions for these schools are decided by the school governors.
Pupils who have a Statement of Special Educational Needs
Should your child have a statement of Special Educational Needs, your right of appeal for a place at your preferred school is through the SEN tribunal, details of which should have been supplied at the time of the statement being made, or at the annual review.