Fair access protocol

(39 Posts)
sighbynight Wed 18-May-16 17:41:35

I'm getting utterly baffled and I'm struggling for straight answers.

We removed (or were "invited to withdraw")our 14yo DS from a local fee paying school as he was getting into constant low level trouble which was creating a vicious circle with his anxiety and depression. I met with the local school, and was totally upfront about his CAMHS involvement (why wouldn't I be?). The SenCo assured me that these problems were pretty small beer and to get him enrolled ASAP as there was definitely spaces in that year.

Today, I got a call to say that because of the CAMHS involvement it was being referred to a Fair Access Panel next week. I've read the protocol for this and it curdled my stomach a bit. It said that children were referred where the school of choice didn't wish to take them on and that a school could be allocated within our region. This could be up to 45 minutes drive away.

I've not been asked for any background information about my son, his family or his condition. How can a panel make a decision about a child they don't know?

Does anyone have experience of these panels? Can anyone advise?

titchy Wed 18-May-16 18:13:03

I assume you've actually applied to the school and had a rejection as they're full? In which case getting FAP is the only way they could admit him without you going to appeal. So they're doing the right thing - lots of LEAs would simply refuse because they're full and force you to appeal.

sighbynight Wed 18-May-16 18:21:16

But I've been told - and the office manager checked - that this year group is not full. There are definitely spaces.

prh47bridge Wed 18-May-16 23:02:18

The school appears to be following the process for dealing with a child with challenging behaviour that they don't want to admit. If they have a lot of children with challenging behaviour or previously excluded children they are allowed to do this. However, they cannot refuse to admit your son on the basis that he first needs to be assessed for SEN. If he is assessed for SEN and you get an EHIC naming the school they must admit him. The problem I see here is that they are saying that they are referring it because of the CAMHS involvement. That suggests to me they are refusing admission illegally.

Assuming you have applied formally to the school I would suggest that your next step is to demand that the school formally reject your application setting out your right to appeal as required by the Admissions Code. This will allow you to appeal against their decision.

sighbynight Thu 19-May-16 09:29:01

The email I got from the panel chair said that the referral was because of the "outside agency involvement" and the fact that he's from a fee paying school. I thought the latter was highly spurious.

Ladymuck Thu 19-May-16 12:12:11

Were you applying to an academy? And is this for a y9 place?

prh47bridge Thu 19-May-16 12:54:10

They cannot refuse to admit your son just because CAMHS is involved and they certainly cannot refuse to admit him because he used to go to a fee paying school. It sounds like they are acting illegally.

The advice in the last paragraph of my previous post still stands. Make it clear to the school that you intend to appeal based on what appears to be a clear breach of the Admissions Code.

sighbynight Thu 19-May-16 13:01:37

Thank you prh47bridge. Your advice is brilliant. I have queried it with the school and the panel, and I've got a meeting with the deputy head tomorrow. So hopefully we can sort it out.

sighbynight Thu 19-May-16 13:02:33

It's not an academy, ladymuck. And it is for a y9 place.

Ladymuck Fri 20-May-16 13:19:22

How's your meeting gone?

sighbynight Fri 20-May-16 13:49:42

Terribly. The deputy head asked him what strategies he had to stop the same thing happening again. He said "I don't know really..." (He's 14 - not big on strategies). It was game over from there.

She said that her concern was that the pattern would repeat its self over again and he would end up in a PRU. The decision is going to FAP panel next week - an offer could come from any number of logistically infeasible schools. Or from them, although I think that is unlikely.

She also suggested a rural independent school - crazy expensive, twice our current fees - that we could consider. It could be done, but it would mean 12 hr days...

He is absolutely gutted. So am I.

lougle Fri 20-May-16 14:06:27

Have you formally applied for the place? As in filled in the form and submitted it? If so, ask them to formalise their rejection so you can appeal!

titchy Fri 20-May-16 14:07:23

It's still not clear - have you actually APPLIED, as in filled out an in-year form, posted it, and then had a letter from the LEA saying they cannot offer your child a place due to x, y and z?

You need to make sure you've done all that so you can appeal against what might well be an illegal refusal to offer a place.

sighbynight Fri 20-May-16 16:27:35

Yes, we have formally applied, but haven't had anything formal back. Just the notification that it is going to FAP.

prh47bridge Fri 20-May-16 17:11:51

It sounds like they are alleging challenging behaviour to justify their referral to FAP. Unless this is a faith school you need to contact the LA and insist that they send you a formal letter telling you that your son isn't getting a place at this school. That will set out your right to appeal.

In preparation for that make sure you get everything in writing. Follow up any meetings or phone calls with an email setting out your recollection of what happened. You can use those emails as evidence. Make sure you hang on to the email you got from them talking about outside agency involvement and the fact your son is from a fee paying school. That will help to undermine their position. An independent appeal panel will not be impressed by that email.

sighbynight Fri 20-May-16 17:26:12

Thank you. I will do. The school are still saying that they will act under advisement from the FAP panel, so I won't get a rejection in writing yet.

He is obviously far from angelic, to get to this stage. But he has never done anything criminal, anything malicious or even anything unkind. Suggesting he will end up in a PRU at this stage is horrifying.

admission Fri 20-May-16 20:30:06

Have to agree with PRH here, this sounds like a school that is desperately looking not to take a pupil, even though they are required to under the current admission arrangements, providing that your son has not been excluded. The fact that he has been involved at CAMHS is irrelevant to me as I would put a small bet that the school already has pupils that havebeen referred to CAMHS.
Push for a refusal letter and make sure that you ask in writing for it from the school, copied to the LA admission office as a matter of urgency. You need to do that before this goes to FAP panel, so that they do not slide out of their responsibilities behind a decision made by the FAP panel.

sighbynight Fri 20-May-16 22:12:29

Here's the thing though. He hasn't technically been excluded, but only because we withdrew him at the 11th hour. I will push for a refusal letter on Monday.

lougle Fri 20-May-16 22:19:15

"He is obviously far from angelic, to get to this stage. But he has never done anything criminal, anything malicious or even anything unkind. Suggesting he will end up in a PRU at this stage is horrifying"

With the kindest possible intention, I think you maybe have some naivety here. Whatever he has done has caused enough disruption for the school to ask him to leave. If that happened in a state school they may offer a managed move to a new school, but often the next step would be a PRU. So horrific or not, whether you see the behaviour as just a bit mischievous or cheeky, it does your DS no favours for you to describe it as simply 'being no angel'.

sighbynight Sat 21-May-16 07:35:57

Oh roger that, lougle. I'm under no illusions about my son.

lougle Sat 21-May-16 08:52:00

So what makes you think that he couldn't end up in a PRU?

sighbynight Sat 21-May-16 09:18:16

I think that that this business has shocked him to his core. He has never felt that consequences are real before, but now they are achingly real. He deserves a second chance. Sending him to a school miles from home where we don't know anyone is setting him up to fail as it will very likely trigger his anxiety. And then he WILL end up in a PRU. That is what I find horrific.

lougle Sat 21-May-16 09:28:50

Ok. So he's had a reality check. I do hope it all sorts out for him. I was just a bit worried that you hadn't grasped how serious this all could get, but it sounds like you have.

So first steps are definitely getting written refusal or otherwise of a place, so that you can appeal. If it's any consolation, I once sat on an appeal panel for just this sort of situation and we came to the conclusion that the school could absolutely cope with the child, but didn't want to, so we awarded the place.

sighbynight Sat 21-May-16 16:31:20

Thank you for that, lougle.

cinammontwist Sat 21-May-16 18:56:57

The school you're applying to will have spoken to his old school. The report which goes to FAP is written by the schools generally, possibly agencies too. They will be arguing that they will not be able to meet his needs and the panel will discuss what the most appropriate provision and support for him will be. FAP also sometimes pays for Ed Psych involvement or Early Intervention so it's not necessarily all bad. The borough has a responsibility to provide your son a place but not necessarily the school you would prefer.

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