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Webchat about primary-school admission appeals with solicitor Anita Chopra, TODAY, Friday 19 April, 1pm

(89 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 16-Apr-13 13:25:08

We've invited Anita Chopra to join us this week for a webchat to answer questions on primary school admissions. Parents across the country will be receiving letters and emails this week with the all important news of whether or not their child has been allocated a place at their chosen primary school. If you haven't received the news you'd hoped for then Anita Chopra, a partner at Match Solicitors, a specialist education law practice, is happy to answer questions about the next steps and what can be done in these circumstances.

Anita is ranked as one of the top experts in the UK on primary school admission appeals, and is an expert in the areas of exclusions, admissions, and special educational needs and disability, acting on behalf of the parents and the children.

Anita regularly contributes to various publications including the Solicitors Journal and provides training on exclusions and admissions to Panel Members, Governing Bodies and Headteachers of Schools and Academies. In addition to this work, she is a member of the Advisory Panel for the Advocacy for Education Service as part of the National Autistic Society and ELAS (Education Law Association), and is highly involved in raising awareness of special educational needs in the UK. She was also shortlisted for Woman of the Year at the Asian Business Awards 2008.

Join Anita at 1pm on Friday 19 April or post a question in advance on this thread.

bellamysbride Thu 18-Apr-13 03:01:23

I have nearly exactly the same question as greeneggs. We applied to a C of E school as first choice. First on list of criteria is church attendance. We have attended this church for longer and more regularly than other families who have got a place. Are then any grounds for appeal or is this purely the vicar's decision? All relevant supplementary information was given.

nessp30 Thu 18-Apr-13 10:05:43

Hi Anita,

Please can you help. My youngest daughter got her school place through yesterday and she did not get the same school as her older sister/sibling.

My eldest daughter goes to a Catholic voluntary aided school. I should point out that we are not Catholic, and the school place that my youngest daughter got is not a Catholic school.
I have the following issues that; A)My eldest daughter has an immune system problem, and any stress or trauma can trigger attacks, they have an extremely close bond and sending them to separate schools will upset both of them greatly, and could potentially make my eldest ill. B) Having two young children at different primary schools is going to be a logistical nightmare, how on earth can I be in two places at once for pick-up/drop-off? Not to mention the cost of uniforms/petrol C)All parents want to give their children the same opportunites, how can I justify one child having a Catholic education and the other not?

The whole appeal process looks like an absolute minefield and as it is a voluntary aided school that I am appealing to I believe that the proceedure is very different?

Your advice would be very greatly appreciated.

afussyphase Thu 18-Apr-13 10:08:26

I'd like to know what is done about people who cheat the system. We would have gotten in to our first choice primary in any of the previous 3 years, but we were 29th on the waiting list, and exceeded the distance by only about 80m. We bought this particular house partly for this reason. We worked out that the number of applicants living within 400m of the school must have doubled in a year. While it's possible, surely this is very unlikely. If councils cared enough, and they should, they could even build statistical models to find areas of likely cheaters!

Through gossip, we know of people who got in to our first choice school by effectively cheating - either through connections (ie relation of staff member, not sure how this worked) or by pretending to live somewhere they didn't. It would be easy to get child benefit changed to a friend's or relative's address, and this seems to be the only real address check they do (Islington, where it's very tight for school spots). After all, it's not like we need to make regular use of the CB address (now, the online supermarket deliveries, credit cards: that's another matter!). So what do councils do about this kind of thing, and what should parents do? We feel hard done by -- we played by the rules and got shortchanged by those who didn't, as far as we can tell.

Runoutofideas Thu 18-Apr-13 10:24:39

Why do councils in heavily populated areas not add some sort of distance criteria to sibling spaces? In our area there is a huge problem with people renting in an expensive area to get their first child into a good school, then moving to the other side of the city, where housing is cheaper, but schools are less well regarded, and subsequent children still get places at the good school under the sibling rule, denying those who live closer a space.

I would suggest that the sibling rule should only apply if the family haven't moved further away from the school than when they were initially offered a place for their first child. This would solve a lot of problems and allow more families to use their nearest school.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Thu 18-Apr-13 11:45:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tiggytape Thu 18-Apr-13 11:59:14

GreenEggs (without wantig to get into the whole morally cheating versus legally cheating debate) it is totally acceptable to buy a house near a good school and hope to get a place. It is not acceptable to lie and say you live with Grandma just to get a good school.
The two are very different things and neither of them is playing the system. One is legitimate and one is fraud.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Thu 18-Apr-13 12:20:22

You are of course correct tiggytape. I am so sorry, that was bitchy. No excuse.,I will ask for that post to be deleted.

knitcorner Thu 18-Apr-13 14:45:17

Totally agree with ideas. Is there a case for challenging the sibling rule when priority is currently given to siblings who live several miles away from the school? (after parents have chosen to move away).

Our local school prioritises siblings. First borns have to live within 400m to stand a chance of getting in, yet over 50% of children at the school live more than 1km away.

Primary school children should not be commuting to school. Where I live the roads are gridlocked and buses full of small children just getting to school.

This system is choking our towns and cities.

afussyphase Thu 18-Apr-13 16:13:58

No worries, GreenEggs - it is a fraught issue. We luckily did get a place, at a school that is not even oversubscribed, oddly for London. This was last year, and we had chosen our location with great thought and care, since we bought just a few months before admissions applications.

I don't know what it will be like after early years, but the school has worked out so far. It is not on the middle-class highly-sought-after list, which is no doubt part of why it's not oversubscribed. I'd have been much more upset about all this if we hadn't ended up with a place, had a place in a school that didn't work out, or one very far away.

I agree with the others about siblings who moved away. One acquaintance lives very very far now (think end of a tube line, and we're in Islington), and all the siblings are in our first-choice school, which is highly oversubscribed. This shouldn't happen as it creates "black holes" and other problems. The system is not right. But tinkering with admissions won't do nearly the good that expanding oversubscribed schools and creating more placed would do!

FrameyMcFrame Thu 18-Apr-13 16:28:40

Dear Anita...we missed out on first second and third choice schools by 0.2, 0.1 and 0.3 of a mile sad

Now left with school where one of the teachers harassed me through my job (nothing to do with the school)... I only discovered she worked at the school AFTER we applied. No doubt my reasons for not wanting this school will not be accepted.
The LEA won't even give us info on where we stand on waiting list places.

Please help!!!!

Reea Thu 18-Apr-13 16:54:17

Hi Anita,
We live in central Richmond. The nearest primary school is 1km away. We applied (on the advice of the council admissions dept) to the 6 nearest primaries (1.7km furthest). We have not been offered a place at any of these schools or any other school for that matter. When you phone the admissions dept, it is impossible to actually talk to anyone. The choice is to leave a message or send an email. What should we do? Appeal for each school? On what grounds? Please advise!

K8Middleton Thu 18-Apr-13 17:25:26

Hey Reea you must be v near me. We got a place but not in the 6 nearest. We think there may have been a mistake with the distance in our case so we're currently checking that out.

But, I wanted to post because we were expecting not to have any place so we had investigated what would happen. In Richmond they will automatically put you on the waiting list for any school you have applied for. You can also request to go on the waiting lists for other schools. Then you wait, while people with a place (including us - sorry) play musical places to get a "better" school, people decline places because they're moving/got a private place and then you should get offered something.

However, every year in Richmond some children get no place. I understand you have to be offered something but evidently in some cases the council don't.

It's really, really shit and I'm so sorry but in a little while you are extremely likely to get something. You could try contacting Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign? I don't have details to hand but I can get them later?

K8Middleton Thu 18-Apr-13 17:28:18

I should also mention mistakes in Richmond are very rare. Or at least successful appeals are but we have slightly unusual circumstances and we're talking about a matter of cms with the distance cut off for our closest and first choice school.

Phineyj Thu 18-Apr-13 17:30:32

We are in south London and our local school (which would be first choice for our DD when she is school age) is heavily oversubscribed. Unless things change in the next few years I can see if we miss that school, we are unlikely to get into other local ones as most are religious (we're not) or else we'd be too far away.

My question is would the school being the only one in the area with a before and after school club give us grounds for appeal, as my DH and I are both full time workers and commute a long distance? I'm guessing not but wanted to check as I was surprised to find this appears to be the only local state option with wrap around provision.

tenacityflux Thu 18-Apr-13 18:41:02

Hello, we've been offered our fourth choice place which is 7 miles away. The school we wanted is a church school but 1/4 of a mile away, and we were unwilling to lie about not being church members for a place as we felt this would be dishonest. We now discover that although the county uses the 'nearest school' rule to decide most cases when siblings are not involved, they don't apply that to church schools. There are two other schools within walking distance we'd be happy with so are waiting to hear if a place becomes available in all three schools, but is there any merit in appeal on the grounds that we are being discriminated because we an not religious, or that we can't travel to the school we've been given as I don't drive, my husband works long hours and can't drive our daughter and as I'm due to have our second baby in the autumn, we have so little income we can't afford public transport or manage it with a new born in tow. We've also found out that at least four parents were given places at the school we want when they had put it last or lower down their lists and all live further away from it than we do - should we ask for a written statement as to why their lower choices were given preference over our first choice and geographical proximity?

Lucycarter3 Thu 18-Apr-13 18:48:35

Our child did not get into any of his 3 choices of school in n16. Admittedly it has a v high birth rate in n16. We are at a loss for how to proceed. I had been told to check if any mistakes have been made in allocating places but how do you go about this.?
On what grounds can we appeal?the learning trust say we are too far away from each school.(by about 40 mtrs)
We have been told our boy is 2nd or 3rd on waiting list for 2 schools.
The other local schools are shockingly poor (ofsted4) or way out of our way to work.
we feel we have some good reason to appeal but cannot elaborate on this forum (professional issues)

frognalmum Thu 18-Apr-13 22:08:09

Dear Anita,
i want to appeal as i feel there is a mistake....we have been offered a place at Hampstead parochial, this was our bottom choice.

this school is not suitable for us:
too far
no social support/ community i.e. friends, neighbourg etc..( i am on my own)
this will stop me to get a full time job
the walk is really too long for a 4 years old
i can't afford child care to get him picked up at 3.30pm
my son is french and they don't encourage languages
it is not multi racial in term of the pupills and the teachers

the school we wanted holly trinity:
we do attend the local church
we do live close by
we are part of the community
we do go to their after school club
my sons is socially very well integrated their
quite families on my estte goes to holy

QUESTIONS
1/ON WHAT GROUND SHOULD I APPEAL

2/SHALL I GET THE PEOPLE FROM MY COMMUNITY TO SUPPORT ME:
AFTER SCHOOL CLUB LEADER
PARENTS
FAMILY SUPPORT WORKER
MY SON NURSERY TEACHER

3/CAN I PLACE ACCEPT THE SCHOOL PROPOSED AND APPEAL FOR MY TOP CHOICE?

4/ CAN I AND HOW DO I RE-APPLY FOR A TRANSFER FOR THE FOLLOWING YEAR IN CASE MY APPEAL IS NOT SUCCESFULL this time around

tiggytape Thu 18-Apr-13 22:10:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tiggytape Thu 18-Apr-13 22:19:52

Sorry - I have asked for that to be deleted (forgot it was on the webchat thread)

Letsgetreal Fri 19-Apr-13 07:44:50

My question is this:

We got our 6th choice and the letter basically said "sorry you didnt get into your top 5 choices but we've given you a place at your 6th" with no mention of why we didnt get into any of the top 5, details of what catagory we were in, distance from the school measurement, details of what catagory and distance the last accepted child was or anything.

How do we insist on the data we need so that we can make an informed decision whether to appeal? What rights/regulations/statutes do we invoke against the council to get this information?

Any help appreciated.

bobalicious Fri 19-Apr-13 08:50:25

Similar to Letsgetreal - we have submitted an FOI request but been warned that the council may not provide the information (they are considering) and what they do provide is likely to be after the deadline for appeal submissions - how can we reasonably be expected to decide what to do?

Letsgetreal Fri 19-Apr-13 09:54:00

Bobalicious - its a silly situation to be in isnt. We may have been turned down for some schools for a perfectly good reason and so wouldnt appeal that particular school.

But with no information we would have to appeal EVERY school we were turned down for - which is surely a waste of everyones time if the reasons for not getting a place at some of the schools are genuine!

AgaBe Fri 19-Apr-13 10:00:03

Hi Anita,
We missed our first preference school by 0.0058 mile and are 4th and 5th on the waiting list at the moment. Is there any way we could try to appeal and challenge the distance (the route used or the distance being incorrect) as we checked it with few route planners and each time it comes up less than the council's distance.
And also is there any way to check what route the council software applied in our case and the exact measurement?
Many thanks,
Aga

lucylou2311 Fri 19-Apr-13 10:50:01

Would love your advice. Applied for eldest, for 5 of the nearest schools and was offered one that is 1 mile away, not on our list, that is 13th closest primary school. It is practically failing school, in an estate, is not somewhere we could walk to. Do we have grounds to appeal? I will get on as many waiting lists as poss but they are oversubscribed. I can't bear the thought of him going there and also his little brother. I wouldn't mind supporting a local school that needed to improve but this is no where near my community. Thanks.

Jaraysmum Fri 19-Apr-13 11:16:24

Hello
First time on mums net so here goes.
My son has not been given a reception place at the same school his sister attends but at a different school 20mins bus drive away. This is a catholic school his sister has gone there since nursery and is now in year 2 he is currently in the nursery at this school and settled. Problem is I work full time and my husband looks after kids there is no way he can be in two places at one time this is impossible. We have no family here in London to help it is only us.
We went to school to find out what went wrong and told that we have the right to appeal. I asked about our chances of the appeal and the head teacher told us that no one has ever won a appeal!!! as there governors who deal with applications are so good at keeping within the criteria. We meet this criteria last year and also 4 years ago when we applied for our daughter there is no change on our part.
Please advice as we are so worried.

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