Placing requests: how the Scottish school system works

You can’t choose their future career. But you have the right to choose their school.
Your rights to choosing a school in Scotland explained, and how you can appeal against a decision.Your rights to choosing a school in Scotland explained, and how you can appeal against a decision.
Your rights to choosing a school in Scotland explained, and how you can appeal against a decision.

Choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions that parents and carers have to make.

In Scotland, children are automatically offered a place at the school in their catchment area. However, as a parent, you may have reasons for wanting them to attend another school. And you have the right to ask for a place at a school of your choice.

For parents who wish their children to be educated at schools outwith their catchment, they need to make something known as a ‘placing request’ to the education authority in which their chosen school is located. The deadlines for placing requests will vary depending on the timescales set by the local authority concerned and this information will normally be available online.

Generally, a placing request is made shortly after a child is registered for their catchment school, sometime between December and February many months before the new school year starts. Where primary aged children are concerned, it is important that you register the child for their catchment school before making the placing request.

Parents have the right to ask for their child to be educated in a school other than their catchment school. However, the reality is that the pressure on education authority resources is only increasing. Practically speaking, space can’t be found at the most popular state schools for every child that might wish to be educated there. Therefore the education authority has certain exemptions which allow the refusal of the placing request in certain circumstances. These exemptions are known as statutory grounds of refusal. It is the responsibility of the education authority to prove that that particular exemption exists.

Stages in the appeal process

Once a placing request is made, the local authority will consider the request and then will issue their decision to the parents. If the placing request is refused, the letter should confirm why the placing request has been refused. It is at that stage, assuming the request has been refused, that an appeal can be made. You would normally have 28 days to appeal that decision to the education appeal committee of your education authority.

The letter of appeal is called the “reference” to the appeal committee. The appeal committee must grant you an appeal unless there is a ground for refusal and it is appropriate in all the circumstances to refuse your appeal. It is up to the council to provide enough evidence to prove these points. You have the right to appear or be represented at the appeal committee hearing. With the pandemic, these hearings tend to be online. The appeal can be decided on the paperwork alone, but we would recommend that you attend the hearing. Once the hearing is concluded, the decision may be given at the end of the hearing. Alternatively, the appeal committee hearing may require further time to consider matters and they will advise you of the outcome in writing afterwards.

A parent who has made an unsuccessful reference to the appeal committee may then appeal to the Sheriff Court. You must lodge an appeal within 28 days of the decision. At this stage, if not before, your case will benefit from clear, practical legal advice.

Gibson Kerr’s education law solicitors can help you understand the process and how best to present your case. We also have experience in advising on education law at a tertiary level and in successfully challenging disciplinary decisions made by Scottish universities regarding their students.

If you need advice, we will consider your situation and advise you about how best we can assist you in these matters. Contact [email protected] or call 0131 202 7516 for an initial chat.

Related topics: