Successful appeal for reception class place above 30

(35 Posts)
seahorse Fri 14-Feb-03 12:57:54

I've just heard that my appeal to allow ds a place in a reception class has been upheld. We had to argue on the very narrow grounds allowed when all 30 places have been allocated.
If anyone needs any advice, help or ideas as to how to go about this process please post them here.

Batters Fri 14-Feb-03 15:03:29

seahorse, I personally don't need help on this issue. But I think it would be really useful for you to take us through it here, if you have the time. I am sure this would come in useful for Mumsnetters in the future if not now.

BTW, congratulations !

Marina Fri 14-Feb-03 15:04:33

Hear hear Batters. And well done Seahorse, you succeeded where so many have failed!

seahorse Fri 14-Feb-03 16:12:15

Batters

hope this is of some help to anoyone appealing!

The grounds for getting a school place for an oversubscribed reception class (only 30 allowed) are very narrow. You have to prove unreasonabless ie that another 'reasonable' authority would have provided you child a place OR the grounds that the admission rules werne't applied properly.

We sent in our appeal typed and cross referenced to attachments (eg photocopies of the 1988 education act, The Wednesbury decision where Lord Diplock outlined the legal definition of unreasonabless (not moral, illogical etc).

By law a school must publish its admission criteria (our school didn't until after the deadline). The LEA must also provide you with a school place within reasonable walking disctance (IE well lit with footpaths and under 2 miles) or they have to pay you for your transport costs.

Find out whether the school is full overall. A school will have its allowed numbers eg 200 if they have only 196 you are in with a chance of increasing the reception class. Check whether any classroom can take more than 30 also check whether other classes in the school haev numbers over 30 - this would have set a precedent that then can physically fit numbers over 30 into the classroom. Also check how many SENs are in the class.

My advice would be to stucture you case as clearly as possible and don't be afraid of critising the admissions policy or the way the school handled the application. The panel seemed to love strong legally based arguments - look at the 1998 act which refers to school admissions and check that the school has followed the law. the website of ACE has some very good advice as does the DFEs - www.dfes.gov.uk.

It is the law to keep class sizes to 30 but it is also the law to provide fair parental choice so the admissions authority must have followed clearly set out rules and oversubscription criteria. If any of these are ambiguous then you are in with a chance.

I have to say that the whole process was unnerving, especially being cross examined by a fiesty chair of governors - who seemed to be under an illusion that the school is hers!But stick to your points, don't get agressive - you need the panel on your side emotionally if nothing else. For example I was told by one of the panel that it would be an option to hold my son back a year since he was born in early summer. Although this was not something I wanted I tried to remain calm and argue why that wouldn't be an option for us.

Don't be intimidated at the hearing and spend as much time as it takes to write the appeal beforehand - send it in beforehand also. - we were up until 2 in the morning doing ours.

I also found it helpful to persuade myself to be satisfied with the alternative school in case I lost - it takes the pressure off.

SueW Fri 14-Feb-03 20:12:10

Seahorse, why did you want to get your DS into this particular school? Is it closest? Or does it have the best reputation? Did it feel best to you? Are the other schools in the area also over-subscribed in their reception classes?

Just curious.

Lindy Sat 15-Feb-03 14:22:08

Also out of interest, if the class size then goes up to 31 does the school have to provide another teacher or teaching assistant? Would this come out of the school budget or LEA?

Batters Sat 15-Feb-03 18:22:47

seahorse, many thanks for that, and well done again

seahorse Sat 15-Feb-03 21:53:01

SueW

The school is very good - a beacon school with an excellent ofsted/sats etc but also the village is fairly remote and the whole community is centred around the school to a large extent. Our ds would have been almost the only child of his age in the village not attending the school. Also the house we have bought is across the road from the school, I wanted a school I could walk to. Of course schools can change quickly - it only takes the headmaster to leave etc.. However at this point in time it seemed the best choice for ds. After putting so much emotional effort into obtaining this place I hope it really is the right school for ds!!

LINDY
A reception class can be more than 30 if appeals are won so the school simply admits the child. Whetehr they can physically fit 31 in the classroom is another matter. The chair of gov argued her case on the basis that children would have to be shunted up a year if additional pupils were admitted. Felt very bad about this but also felt that we were so unfairly treated that we should not shoulder all the guilt for this - it really lies with the school admissions authority (it is not an LEA school - it is a church school responsible for there own admission arrangements).

SueW Sat 15-Feb-03 23:48:21

Blimey seahorse, I'm appalled you had to fight to get in when it's across the road, local school etc.

seahorse Sun 16-Feb-03 09:18:55

SueW

All a bit of a mess really - we bought our new house in June but were having building work done etc so decided to stay renting outside of cathment (20 miles away)- were very open with the school about this - applied for school in Septmeber before deadline of december. Then found out after it was too late that would have needed to be physically in house before close of applications date. Shcool sent us letter wishing us luck with the move etc and that Henry is on the list School didn't tell us until it was to late and nothing was published about this rule.

Ailsa Sun 16-Feb-03 12:39:46

There used to be a 'Standards Fund Grant' available so that schools can employ another teacher. In the case of my ds's school one reception class had 31 pupils, so they had 2 teachers instead of 1 teacher and 1 teaching assistant.

caroline55 Mon 17-Feb-03 14:14:55

Congratualtions Seahorse!
It is inspiring to hear of someone who has tried to appeal and won - and thanks for the practical tips. We are are the begining of a process of wondering whether to try and appeal and so far have been told by the LEA and a friendly lawyer who handles such work that it is as good as impossible.

Our case is obviously different from yours and sounds much less clear cut but I wondered if I posted it whether you (or anyone else with any experience) could see if they think we stand a chance.

In essence our local school is CofE - most children in our road of 80+ houses go there - we are CofE (but ds baptised outside the parish) - school has great reputation and results. Having viewed it and the main other local school (which no child in our road is ever judged to be close enough to)I picked the church school and applied to preschool (even though when I did this some 18 months ago it was not 'top' of the local league - but I liked it).

DS got a place at the preschool - and goes there and is very happy and expects to go there to 'big school'. The trouble is that one good set of results in 2002 have sent the school right to the top of the local league and now it is so oversubscribed that for the first time in my memory of living in our road (7 years)a child (ds) has been refused a place.

Not only am I gutted as I have a strong preference for this school (and for a church school) - and we are highly unlikely to get into the other main primary LEA school (we will probably be allocated a place outstide of our area)- but ds will know at least 30 of the 60 children starting in reception at the church school (preschool kids, several siblings who live in our road, friends from his playgroup and from his daycare nursery).

I don't believe that the school have broken their stated admissions procedure (the CofE quota one assumes must relate to those families the vicar knows best)and preschool is not a guarantee - but it feels so unjust that it is our local school, where our neighbours kids go and where ds is already a part of the school - and he is being denied this and the liklihood is that ds will be sent outside the area to a school where he knows no one.

Any ideas to ease the sleepless nights would be most welcome.

Marina Mon 17-Feb-03 14:59:16

Caroline55, if you are still attending the other local parish church, get your vicar to write to the vicar in question. Ours was glad to do this so that he could be considered for a CofE school near where we now live. We were married and ds baptised at our "old" church and we have many friends there. In my experience all these vicars know each other!

titchy Mon 17-Feb-03 16:21:08

No experience just sympathy. Are you on a waiting list - and how near the top are you? It may be that a child drops out anyway leaving a space for your ds.

Doesn't the LEA have to provide a school which is within walking distance, or else provide transport? Do you know why your ds didn't get in - are you just the furthest from the school or is it because you don't go to the right church?

Do you appeal to the LEA or the Governors?

Here's hoping!

Batters Tue 18-Feb-03 08:56:40

caroline55, how stressful for you.

I think Marina's idea of getting the vicar involved is a great one.

Also - there is always hope. I have bored people on Mumsnet ad infinitum with my experiences of dd getting into the school of our choice . But, basically, we were told not to even bother applying to the school we wanted dd to go to. Well we did, got rejected, and asked to stay on the waiting list. Within 5 days of dd starting another school (not a bad school, but just not our first choice) she was offered a place at the school of our choice and started the very next day. So always ask to stay on the waiting list if it does come to that, and be proactive in finding out on a regular basis where you are on that list.

Also, things change from intake to intake and even house to house. My friend's dd got into a certain school, whilst her next door but one's neighbour's ds didn't.

Good luck - I hope you find that you are offered the school of your choice.

caroline55 Tue 18-Feb-03 10:26:58

Thanks for the support and encouragement - it's much needed and really appreciated.

I have suggested that 'their' vicar contact our 'vicar' to verify what I have written - but I imagine a letter from him upfront would have been more immediate and powerful.

We don't know why we didn't get a place - although I assume it is proximity (never before an issue in our road) and the wrong church. It's been so frustrating as I haven't been able to speak to the Head (who is new this term incidentally) - despite endless promises that he might be available tomorrow/next week etc - and we had a deadline of last week for finding out our place on the list (I know there are over 35 people who have asked to be on the list!)but I was told that they are now going to write to everyone after half term. (I can't help feeling that this will be another fudge - the school has never been in this position before of being so over-subscribed and in our area of SW London there are a LOT of very articulate, angry parents - and my instinct is that we are being kept at arms length to make life easier for the school - which is understandable to an extent - but it doesn't seem outrageous to want to know where we are on the list.)

In our area there is an extreme postcode lottery - if you live in the middle of the 'village' you can easily qualify for all three of the very good primary schools, but move away from the centre to where we are (i.e half a mile from one, just over half a mile from the second and a mile from the third) - and you may not get in to any. (There is talk of a bulge class but as our CofE school had it last year it is highly unlikely that they would get it.)

Sorry to ramble on again - up until a few weeks ago I had no idea what a nightmare this could be and how it would feel to be so utterly powerless about something so important. (DS had a sister - so I feel I'm fighting for her schooling too.)

seahorse Tue 18-Feb-03 11:35:08

caroline55

Please email me directly and I will send you our appeal we filed and any other help I can give you. (not sure how to go about giving you my email address but let me know on this thread).

You have a right to knnow why your child was refused - badger the school to find out even if it means photocopying the relevant legal reference that shows you should have had a reason. The church issue came up at the appeals last week (there were a number of parents appealing, so the school presented their case to us all, before we individually presented ours (without other parents present). The panel inferred, through their questioning of the governor) that practising christians means only going to church at christmas/baptisms etc. You didn't have to go to church every week or even month to satisfy that criteria although a letter from another vicar would be very persuasive. If you have been refused on the basis of distance then thats a hard one to win. If simply more parents live closer then you, then you could only win in very exceptional circumstances (ie you are ill/have pnd/child is special needs etc.

If you have been refused on the grounds that they didn't think you or your child complied with the CofE requirement then you could clearly win on this point if you can prove that you are practising christians to at least some extent (depending on their admissions wording). I doubt that they could have an admissions criteria which favours children who go to one particular church. The criteria has to be fair and unambiguous.

seahorse Tue 18-Feb-03 11:39:01

caroline55

Meant to also say that I had lots of sleepless nights and anxiety - its hard to rationlise it when you really think you know ds would be better off at a particular school. I think I was upset since this was the first time I felt really helpless to do the best for my son etc etc. Its the old guilt trip again that if I sent my ds to the school which wasn't (maybe!!) as good then I had somehow failed him. Total rubbish of course. But know how you feel.

caroline55 Tue 18-Feb-03 11:48:41

seahorse
thanks for the offer of help and the supportive words. I too am unsure how to go about e-mailing you - perhaps I should therefore post my e-mail address (work as I don't have a connection at home) which is Caroline@bespokecommunications.com

Many thanks

willow2 Thu 24-Apr-03 22:46:30

seahorse - reviving old thread here, but will be applying for schools for ds this year and was interested to read your comments re special circumstances (eg: you are ill). The nearest two schools to us are heavily over subscribed - the others are an easy drive outside of rushhour - but potentially at least a half hour round trip in the morning, if not much longer. However, for medical reasons that I don't want to go in to, this would be very difficult for me. Do you think this will have any bearing on getting ds in to the nearest school? I have all the medical documentation to prove the point. Also, you said that a school has to give you a reason for not giving you a place - but round here it's the LEA that decides where anyone goes (church schools excepted). I need to make ds' application as powerful as possible as I know that, due to demand, we live too far away (ooh about ten minutes walk!) to get in to either of the two nearest schools - so only my circumstances will swing it. What should I do??? I'm really worried so any tips gratefully accepted.

seahorse Thu 24-Apr-03 23:20:10

willow2

Best of luck with all this - you might be lucky and get a place without needing to appeal - lets hope so! THe process of appeals is the same whether it's and LEA or the School itself who sets admission criteria. Have a look at the admission criteria set by the LEA (it should be in the admissions booklet) and see if it says anything about special circumstances. If not ring the LEA direct and see if you can atttach a letter/doctors cert etc to the admissions form. If a place is refused look at the aducation act 1998 and see if anything is mentioned relevant to your special situation. I'd mention this in your letter to the LEA also. Try everything to avoid having to appeal if you can - it's a bit of a nightmare! BEst of luck

Jimjams Fri 25-Apr-03 08:09:33

willow2- there is one criteria on which schools can refuse absolutely to have more than 30 in a class- and that is if they are physically too small. So if it is almost impossible to add an extra desk then you wouldn't have any chance of getting in. Might be worth checking out that situation first. I think the LEA decides whether the school is physically too small or not.

littlefishy1 Mon 26-Feb-07 14:03:31

congratulations on winning your appeal. i am about to go throught eh same process having just been advised that i have not been offered a place at my local catchment area school.

I have been offered an alternative that is further away. I am concerned that when it comes to applying for my DD in a few years time I will be unable to get them in the smae school (there is a large housing estate being constructed in teh vicinity which will pout pressure on my allocated school - I am out of catchment for this therefore will be low down thelist when I come to apply for my DD). Any advice from anyone about constructing my case?


many thanks

littlefishy1 Mon 26-Feb-07 14:07:03

re my previous message....this is my first time on mumsnet - have just realised how old this thread is .... any way if any one can help , would love some advice

Littlefish Mon 26-Feb-07 14:12:01

Hi Littlefishy1.

I will bump this for you to keep it going.

However, without wanting to seem rude, your name is very, very similar to mine. I have been posting on here for a couple of years and wonder if it would be possible for you to change your name in order to avoid people getting us mixed up.

Hope that's ok

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