Glasgow council spends £37,000 in court amid school placement appeals surge

Hyndland Secondary School in Glasgow has been among the most popular for parent appeals in recent years. Pic: Google Maps/ Shutterstock
Hyndland Secondary School in Glasgow has been among the most popular for parent appeals in recent years. Pic: Google Maps/ Shutterstock
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Glasgow City Council has this year spent over £37,000 in court battling parents who want their child to attend a better school.

It comes as new figures revealed a 651 per cent rise over the last seven years in the number of parents appealing city council decisions to refuse a school placement request - much more than in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Parents in Scotland can make requests for their child to be accepted at a school outwith their local catchment area, but this will only be granted after places have been given to all children in that catchment.

READ MORE: Council out to shut doors on school placement requests
In 2012, parents in Glasgow made just 78 appeals against local authority decisions to refuse placement requests compared to 586 in 2018. Appeals can then be heard by an education committee of volunteers, made up of people independent of the council who work in community education.

But Glasgow City Council spent £37,106 on legal fees this year contesting eight separate parent appeals which went as far as Proof hearings in the civil courts, after the education committee upheld the council's original decision to refuse. Two of these Sheriffs refused to confirm the local authority's decision.

The new figures, released under freedom of information laws, also showed that 14 appeals were lodged with the Sheriff Court in 2018 by parents in Scotland's biggest city - compared to a combined total of nine over the previous six years.

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “The positive reputation of Glasgow’s schools and education attainment is at an all-time high in the city with more parents and carers than ever before choosing to send their children to schools across the city.

"This has resulted in many more children needing places in our schools, which in turn increases the number of placing requests being refused in the last couple of years."

The spokesman said another factor influencing the number of refusals is their policy to safeguard the space in classrooms, adding: "Glasgow will continue to promote local schools for local children but will of course recognise parents’ rights to choice if there are spaces in our schools."

In Edinburgh, there was just a 7% increase - 319 to 342 - in the number of appeals made by parents since 2013, the furthest back available data in line with the council's retention policy.

Edinburgh City Council's information officer said they do not hold details on the number of families appealing as far as the Sheriff Court.

An Edinburgh City Council spokesman said: "Over the past few years we have carried out successful campaigns to encourage parents to send their children to their local school which has seen the number of out of catchment placing requests fall every year.

"The reality is that the population growth in Edinburgh is resulting in fewer spaces in our schools which limits the scope for parents to choose a school out of their catchment."

Aberdeen City Council's information officer said there have been no appeals heard by a Sheriff in the last nine years.

No clear pattern was identified in the number of appeals lodged by parents, with 123 the highest number recorded in 2014. This dropped to 91 in 2015, 92 the following year and 101 last year before falling again to 91 this year.