Applying under the exceptional medical or social needs admission rule

The exceptional medical or social needs admission rule is designed to give priority for a school place to children who may have exceptional reasons to attend a particular school.

Most, but not all, schools include this rule as part of their admissions criteria.

These are usually considered by the exceptional medical or social admission rule (EMSAR) panel.

The published exceptional medical or social needs rule for community schools in Buckinghamshire is as follows:

“Rule 2 - Children who have exceptional medical or social needs supported by written evidence from a doctor, social worker, educational welfare officer or other appropriate person.”

There is a further explanation of this rule in the determined admission arrangements:

A panel comprising of independent education professionals will consider the applications under this rule on receipt of information from the parent to indicate strong reasons for the child attending a particular school. When making an application parents should send evidence from an independent professional person. This might be a doctor, health visitor, or Education Welfare Officer, who knows about the child and supports the application to the school. It must clearly show why the school is the most suitable and any difficulties if alternate schools were offered. The panel will consider which children can be considered under this rule prior to each admission round.

Other schools that have this rule usually use wording similar to the above.

Process for making an application

Parents must let the admissions team know they want their child to be considered under this rule when they apply for a school place. In their application the parent should give details of why they are applying under this rule. The must also provide independent professional evidence for example, a doctor, psychologist, health visitor, education welfare officer or social work in support of those reasons. The evidence must detail why the school is the only school that can meet the child’s needs, and ideally should also set out the reasons why other schools would not be able to meet this need.

You can send your evidence using our contact us form.

Parents should not normally apply for more than one school under this rule. However, in the very small number of cases, the parent would need to make this clear on their application, and separate independent professional evidence relevant to the individual schools should be provided.

These will normally only be considered by the panel once during the process. It would only be appropriate to reconsider a case if there is significant new evidence. 

Parents whose cases are heard before the main allocation will be notified of the outcome in writing at the same time as they find out which school their child has been offered. Parents who apply under this rule after the main allocation round will be notified of the outcome in writing once the decision has been made. And/ if the case is agreed by the EMSAR panel - their child will be prioritised according to this rule from that point onwards.

Any submissions after the initial application must be supported by details of how the circumstances have significantly changed since the previous application and be supported by further independent professional evidence.

The EMSAR panel

Decisions about whether or not an application can be considered under the Exceptional Medical or Social Needs rule are usually made by the Exceptional Medical or Social Admission Rules (EMSAR) panel. This is a panel made up of education professionals with no personal knowledge of the cases, who are independent of the Admissions and Transport Team.

The EMSAR panel will usually be made up of three education professionals and can include, but is not limited to:

  • members such as an Educational Psychologist
  • member with experience of children with Special Educational Needs
  • or a member with experience of children with differing educational needs.

There will always be a clerk to record the decision of the panel.

The panel will decide, based on the evidence provided, whether or not a child’s application can be considered under this rule.

The EMSAR panel will consider applications on behalf of:

  • community schools (where we are the admission authority)
  • other schools (such as Academies, Free, Foundation and Voluntary-Aided schools who are their own admission authority) where the school has asked the EMSAR panel to make decisions on their behalf.

The EMSAR panel will not consider applications where:

  • independent professional evidence has not been provided
  • a school has not asked the panel to consider applications on their behalf. In these cases, the Admissions and Transport Team will send the application and evidence to the school 
  • applications are received for schools outside of Buckinghamshire. In these cases will be sent to the Local Authority in which the school is located.

Papers will be given to panel members in advance of a meeting. The panel may also ask the Admissions and Transport Team about any aspect of the application.

Meetings will be clerked by a member of the Admissions and Transport Team, and the Clerk will keep a record of the panel’s decision, not the decision making process. The Clerk will not have an input to the decision, but may provide relevant information to the Panel if asked to do so.

Panel members will need to declare an interest if they have knowledge of any of the cases that come before them. If this happens, the panel will either come to a decision on the basis of the remaining panel members or ask a further panel member to make the decision in that case.

The panel will meet before each of the main allocation rounds to consider:

  • secondary school applications (for Year 7) - the meeting is scheduled before 1 March (National Offer Day)
  • primary school applications (for Reception and Year 3) - the meeting is scheduled  before 16 April (National Offer Day)

Decision making

The EMSAR panel will consider the evidence given in the application and whether this is appropriate/relevant for the particular school (and not just why a child shouldn’t attend a different school). The panel does not have to accept any recommendations made in the evidence.

The panel will need to decide whether it shows that the needs of the child can only be met at the specific school. The panel expects the evidence to show why other schools would not be able to meet this need.

The panel will keep in mind that all Buckinghamshire schools are able to support children with special educational needs, and are expected to manage severe medical needs. This means it is unlikely that an application made only on these reasons would be successful.

An application with medical evidence may be agreed where a child has an exceptional illness or disability (for example, limited mobility) which means that, in the opinion of the panel, the child can only reasonably attend one school. If the panel feels that the child’s needs could be met by other schools, they'll not agree the application.

An application with social evidence may be agreed where a child’s education would, in the opinion of the panel, be seriously affected if they did not go to a particular school. This must be clearly shown in the supporting evidence.

A parent’s place of work, child care arrangements or a family connection with the school are not sufficient reason alone for agreeing an application. However, they may be taken into account if there are other reasons as well.

If the parent has applied for more than one school, the panel will look at each application separately and make a decision.

Where the panel agrees a child’s application, it will be considered under the exceptional needs rule during the allocation of school places. However, an agreed application does not guarantee a place at the school.

If, on national offer day, your child has not been offered a place at your preferred school you'll have the right of appeal to an independent appeal panel. During the appeal you'll be able to explain why you would like your child to go to the particular school and can include the evidence you gave to the EMSAR panel.