Midhurst family’s school appeal day ‘made us feel like the enemy’

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A Midhurst family has told of their shock at the way appeals are carried out for parents fighting to send their children to schools of their choice.

Former chairman of Midhurst Town Council Colin Hughes attended a panel in Worthing with his daughter, Julia, who recently moved from Midhurst to Easebourne, to try and get his grandson into Midhurst Primary School, where his sister is a pupil.

“We were told the hearing would be as informal as possible,” he said, “but I found myself quite shocked at the way it was conducted and where it was held. It was very formal and in fact felt like going into a court.”

He added: “We were told any appeal was extremely unlikely to succeed unless there were some extreme reason to change their minds or the council itself was guilty of gross negligence.” 

There was no attempt to put worried parents at ease: “This was a foregone conclusion designed to place the county council above reproach.” He said: “People with real concerns about their children should not be subject to this crushing display of officialdom.”

He was astonished the appeals in Worthing were all Midhurst and Easebourne parents. “Many had real difficulties in getting there. There was no consideration for ordinary working people.”

The appeal illustrated, he believed, all that was wrong with how government, national and local, treated ordinary working people: “We are not the enemy but we were certainly made to feel like it at the tribunal we attended.”

A county council spokesman said: “Appeals are heard by independent panels, but we do try to assist parents and often receive compliments on the way the process is conducted. We also try to ensure appeal hearings are as informal as possible, but by their legal nature they do need to have an element of formality. The Local Government Ombudsman has advised it is important to make parents aware there are limited circumstances in which an appeal can succeed.

“We have to book the venues for appeals well in advance, but we will endeavour to use more local venues if possible.”

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