Late Grammar School offer: over the moon but stressed/flummoxed

(1000 Posts)
PermaShattered Mon 29-Apr-13 19:35:12

What a 3 days we've had - any insightful comments welcome. In short:

1. Our daughter was offered 3rd choice (her 11+ score was about 30 down on passmark);
2. 3rd school is outstanding but we appealed to 2nd choice school as was our preference;
3. Last Friday took calls from our local Ed admissions authority saying why appealed when have offer from grammar school?
4. Said we hadn't. She made further calls to other relevant admissions authority and came back and told us we definitely have an offer and it would be in post next day (Saturday just gone);
5. It duly arrived, and we posted our acceptance same day (they should have got it today) - verbal acceptance of place given by phone on Friday;
6. On Friday the Authority also withdrew both our place at 3rd choice school and our appeal to 2nd choice school;
7. Today i take a call from a friend whose daughter got substantially higher score than my DD - and she is 188 on waiting list;
8. I call our admissions auth to check they received our acceptance (they said still in posttray but will be dealt with this afternoon);
9. I query whether there could possibly an error and i'm told categorically 'no'. And if there was, we have a written offer, accepted it and they can't take it off our daughter;
10. Finally, my other DS is that grammar school.

I'm perplexed. What could be a possible explanation?

gazzalw Tue 30-Apr-13 10:01:45

Why don't you just ask the grammar school concerned? As it seems that even if the place has been offered in error they cannot take it away from your DD, there's no harm in asking, surely?

titchy Tue 30-Apr-13 10:09:27

Yeah missing by 25 is a LOT! That's why I asked if you were sure she would be able to cope at grammar level!

gazzalw Tue 30-Apr-13 10:12:12

To put it in perspective DS missed out on his preferred grammar school place, on Offers Day, by 0 marks - but by living further away than other boys with the same mark he didn't get a place until a month down the line!

PermaShattered Tue 30-Apr-13 10:25:42

I shall go backwards here! MTS - i don't think she will struggle. If she got say 30-40% yes she would struggle, she would obviously not me grammar school material. But her mark was at least 65% as i understand it.

More than 1200 took the test - far more than even 3-4 yrs ago. This means that say, for instance, the cut off point is 200 marks there might be 150 kids with 199 marks who have just missed out. 30 marks down is obviously substantially more than 199 per se. But that doesn't mean that someone with 30 marks down will necessarily struggle. And it's far more likely (as my eldest testifies) that someone who got in with way over the passmark because of heavy tutoring WILL struggle - because grammar school is not an easy option. BTW 'seriously tutor'?? I was very serious and so was my DD in her preparation as a matter of fact!

There are so many other factors coming into play: the numbers of applicants to the test, how they are on the day, nerves affect some more than others, etc etc. Focusing on the 30 mark issue isn't really relevant. And it's off piste as far as this thread is concerned.

Oh, MTS you're right in that it is unfair that some get in because they have been heavily tutored and this deprives children of a place who ought to get it. But life isn't fair is it? sad

So coming back to the other points: I wonder how moderation could have occurred if that's what happened? The appeal to our 2nd choice went to a separate admission authority than the one dealing with the grammar school admissions so that doesn't really make sense.

And we haven't requested moderation or anything.

Most definitely no sibing issue comes into play.

I've heard from a reliable source that if this school decides they want someone they will not give up. It's been suggested (Sanity I'm thinking of your thoughts here) that they've picked up that she was particularly good at somes areas (reading and writing are her forte), any weakness is in maths, so maybe that's been determined. Who knows?

The whole thing is surreal to be quiet honest.

gazzalw Tue 30-Apr-13 10:30:22

It makes a bit of a mockery of the whole 11+ system though if the schools can then start cherrypicking who they want to take. Is this allowed TiggyTape?

No disrespect intended to your DD, PermaShattered.

seeker Tue 30-Apr-13 10:32:50

Honestly, I think you need to dig deeper here. 25 marks is a lot to miss by, and unless you live in a system that is very different to ours, she wouldn't have even been on the waiting list for a grammar school. I'm not sure people are right when they say the place couldn't be withdrawn if it turns out to have been an administrative error-I presume they would have to take into consideration fairness towards people who passed and are on the waiting list. I think you need to know why the place was offered. It would be awful if it was a mistake, and the person at the top of the waiting list found out and appealed. I know that might not happen- but........

tiggytape Tue 30-Apr-13 10:48:01

Cherry picking will not explain this.
It will be a mistake that just so happens to go in OP's favour (if as OP says no remark of the papers has happened which is equally possible - her appeal could have set in motion a re-examination of her entire admissions treatment)

Equally mistakes go the other way sometimes - people get wrongly denied a place and this isn't because the school don't want them. It is a mistake by the authority that is rare but does happen every year to some people.

gazza is right quite right, cherry picking isn't allowed and it doesn't happen.
Years ago maybe yes - there was more 'flexibility' in the system then. Less people applied, less scrutiny existed and waiting lists could be 'rejigged' somewhat. Not anymore. It is done by computers that follow admissions laws to the letter with occassional human error matching the wrong offer to the wrong person on a list.

And with 1200 applying, they do not need to look at candidates who are weak in one area but brilliant in others to make up numbers. There will be hundreds of candidates who are brilliant in every area of the test - too many in fact to be offered places. Such competitve grammar schools don't face problems with filling places with children who do well in all areas.
The sibling link (or lack of) in such competitve grammars is a problem for parents with a child already in the school but is welcomed by those who don't have a sibling advantage. Pure score is seen as fairer by those parents. Schools often express regret that siblings are excluded but they would never flout admissions rules to admit lower scoring siblings - they'd be uproar if this was ever seen to be happening.
As such, they will probably be more worried than pleased if they've accidentally admitted a lower scoring child with a sibling and opened themselves up to accusations of side stepping the sibling thing not to mention potential successful appeals from the people on higher scores (especially the person at number 1 on the waiting list) who will feel they have been robbed of the place that should have gone to them.

None of this is OP's fault though and if an error works against you, you would appeal it (and hope to win) so if an error works for you, it isn't wrong to be pleased and accept it.

gazzalw Tue 30-Apr-13 10:48:46

I would be surprised if 30 points down on the passmark would be anywhere near 'good enough' to get a place unless there's mitigating circumstances. Or you live in an area with a very sparse population.

For the grammar school DS wished to get into (where he now is) he scored 9 points above the passmark. He had several classmates who scored two points less than the passmark. They were not considered to have passed the 11+ and would therefore not ever qualify for a place unless under the appeal process.

Sorry not meaning to be harsh. It's just that if you read the 11+ Forum you will find that even three or four marks can make all the difference twixt getting a place off the waiting list and not doing so.

Do think, as Seeker, suggests, that it might be wiser in the long-run to seek out the facts from the grammar school concerned and see how the land lies.

tiggytape Tue 30-Apr-13 10:50:22

seeker - they cannot take away the offer now
If the person at the top of the list appeals, they should win their appeal and be admitted to the school (taking the numbers over PAN). This does not mean OP loses her place. Those successful at appeal will just increase the Year 7 numbers.

Whatever happens OP's DD cannot lose her place.
However it does open the school up to potential successful appeals from others.

seeker Tue 30-Apr-13 10:52:38

Ah, OK, tiggytape- that's reassuring for the OP.

MTSgroupie Tue 30-Apr-13 10:53:44

I suspect that God is on the side of anti tutoring brigade.

No doubt there are kids out there who have been tutored for months/year, got a higher mark and got pipped because of an admin mistake.

AvonCallingBarksdale Tue 30-Apr-13 11:20:19

This is good news for your DD, OP, but I'm quite confused doesn't take much!
Round here - Bucks - the pass mark is 121, I think. To miss that by 30 marks is a huge amount and wouldn't warrant an appeal, it would just be a straightforward not-going-to-grammar-school-scenario.

AvonCallingBarksdale Tue 30-Apr-13 11:21:36

I suppose my point would be that I would want to find out exactly why DD had been offered a place, because if she'd missed the pass mark by that much, would she really struggle at grammar?

JeanPaget Tue 30-Apr-13 11:30:13

Is the pass mark you're talking about her having missed by 30 marks, definitely this years or is it what the passmark usually is? It may be that this year's paper was an unusually hard one and the passmark has been lowered accordingly.

If that's the case then it may be that your friend's DD not getting a place was the error, not your daughter getting one iyswim.

tiggytape Tue 30-Apr-13 11:31:42

Avon - it is possible to miss the passmark by a lot and still be grammar school material. The 11+ is a crude guide used when you have 1200 applicants and need to whittle it down to 200 offers. It isn't a full selection process - just a one-day snap shot.

A child on a multiple choice paper can lose track of the boxes in relation to the question numbers halfway through an exam so mark all of the correct answers but in the wrong boxes = clever child but terrible exam result.
A child can be overwhelmed with nerves or feel very ill or be distracted by the child next to them tapping (or crying) though the whole thing and miss crucial marks on questions that they are easily capable of answering.

Parents with one child who passes and one who doesn't will often say it is their 'cleverest' child who failed the test and be stunned that this is the case because they assume the 11+ is foolproof (afterall it spotted their clever older child so they cannot understand how it can miss a - in their eyes - a more able child).

I can understand the people at the top of the list being very unhappy and potentially appealing this. But, as for the OP, only she can decide if her child should take up the place offered or not and whether her child is of the right ability to do well and enjoy the school. The 11+ result is only part of this. Most parents don't get the chance to ignore the mark but OP has so she should do what she feels is the best thing for her daughter.

AvonCallingBarksdale Tue 30-Apr-13 11:37:21

Thanks for the explanation tiggytape. I have another 2 years to go before we embark on this not sure I can take the strain!

PermaShattered Tue 30-Apr-13 11:42:24

Thanks all. I'll tell you how i feel emotionally now. I just heard the post box go but nothing in the post yet from the school.

To be frank I'm completely shattered by it all. I've not slept properly since Friday. My friend is also completely perturbed and rightly so.

Worst case scenario is a mistake has been made and they try to take the place of my DD. For her sake, we will fight - we will go for a judicial review (I'm a lawyer BTW). She will be utterly devastated and the emotional and mental impact on her to be told she has a place, tell her friends and family etc the exicing news, talk to her big sister about the school, try on her sister's uniform, etc etc - then say: hang on darling, you're not going there after all - It's a horrendous prospect.

And this is why i'm hanging on before contacting school direct: the longer it's left before we're told there's an error (IF it is and i hope it isn't), the higher her chances of losing the place.

It's the effect on my DD that i'm mostly fearful of. Yup - great to have two children at grammar school, but i would do anything not see her go through the above.

IF it's an error - it's awful of course for those with higher scores. I guess errors work against people and also in favour of others. If it's an error i hope and pray they will not try withdraw it.

The only other feasible explanation is an error in marking has been discovered. I will most definitely ask - it's something we do need to know - but i need to summon the courage to call the school and ASK.

In the meantime, our letter from the LEA admissions said we would hear from the Head Teacher shortly. Induction evening is next Tuesday. So will see what happens.

Sorry for going on. Surreal is the only word to describe the whole scenario right now.

PermaShattered Tue 30-Apr-13 11:48:05

Tiggy - thanks for that: my DD is more anxious than her sister who is now in yr 8 at the school. She was nervous on the day of the test but her sister wasn't. My DD also said she missed a number of questions. I was suprised at the time as she didn't miss many when we did practice papers. THe day is indeed a snapshot and yes, a crude selection process but a necessary one really.

Jean, I don't think so: my DD's original (as we know it) was 27 below this year's pass mark which was 5 marks up from last year's (reflecting the bigger pool of applicants).

This the first year they've actually published the results and it's going to cause a looooooot of problems - as my situation partly shows.

Avon - don't worry about it: it's only since this started last Friday it's been a strain!

lougle Tue 30-Apr-13 12:01:29

They can't take the place away from your Daughter now, it's just too late.

The case law surrounding this issue has shown 3 days to be 'reasonable'.

The LA phoned you on Friday (5 days ago) to ask you why you were appealing when an offer has been made. This means that the offer was made before Friday.

You received the offer in writing on Saturday, which was 4 days ago. You have not had a withdrawl yet.

They've missed the boat.

That means that you can check why the place was given. Incidentally, I don't think it will affect your friend - she's 188 on the list. That means that 187 children would have to have been wrongly denied a place before it would affect her.

PermaShattered Tue 30-Apr-13 12:07:22

lougle, I read that 3 days was reasonable too (only found to cases on the topic).

Today is the 3rd day (not including the weekend). So i'm trying to decide when's 'safe' to actually inquire. Incidentally, yesterday I asked the admissions department that sent out the letter whether there was any chance an error had been made and she said 'definitely not'.

SanityClause Tue 30-Apr-13 12:17:02

Okay, when you say pass mark, you mean cut off.

Round here they are different. A child can "pass" the 11+, but not have a high enough score to get a place at a grammar school, because of other factors.

So, my friend's DD, just had to pass to get a place, because of the sibling criteria. If she had not had a sibling at the school, she may have had to get a higher score, because of distance from the school. (I'm not actually sure what her score was.)

But, for the school DD1 goes to, there is no pass mark, only a cut off. The top X-number of candidates are offered the places. If there is a draw, there is a tie breaking procedure, based on the test scores. Sibling places and distance from the school are never used as a tie break.

So, 30 marks down in a school like my friend's DD's school wouldn't mean much. But for a school like DD1's it could be a big problem.

MTSgroupie Tue 30-Apr-13 13:12:18

Perma - I agree with you - I don't think that your DC will struggle. I was merely responding to the point made both here and elsewhere that a heavily tutored kid would struggle if they pass.

If you feel that a kid that got in despite getting 30 marks below the cut off mark isn't going to struggle then I don't see why you think that a kid that was heavily tutored AND passed is going to struggle.

Anyway, I would just accept your good luck and leave sleeping dogs etc etc Even if the offer can't be withdrawn it will create ill feelings among friends who didnt get in, if this becomes public knowledge.

SoupDragon Tue 30-Apr-13 13:23:20

If you are sure your DD will do well at the school, I'd probably leave it and not enquire.

It does seem odd - at the local grammars here even a pass mark doesn't guarantee you a place.

wheresthebeach Tue 30-Apr-13 17:20:11

Celebrate and let sleeping dogs lie...

PermaShattered Wed 01-May-13 18:38:34

WELL! I promised you an update and now i know what it feels like to be a lioness with her cub.

I took a call from the Director of our local authority's admissions authority. The LA admissions at the other local authority (in which the school is) have made a massive error. He was rather lovely and he said that frankly, the other local authority should be making the call not him.

I made it v clear that as far we are concerned the place is guaranteed and they must honour it. He said he takes the same stance and he's going back to the other LA to tell them my response. I also asked him to make it crystal clear that we will fight tooth and nail to keep that place.

I get the impression some on this thread have some knowledge that I don't (eg, the 3 day reasonable period has passed.... so they can't take it off us) - so ANY advice welcome at this point.

Needless to say, I'm furious, and my DD is devastated. The mental and emotional impact will be tremendous.

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