Primary school admissions - opinions please...

(45 Posts)
MaisyMoo123 Sun 28-Apr-13 18:45:13

Hi. My son didn't get a place to start in reception at our preferred school. I'm devastated. Not just because it's a wonderful school (and who doesn't want their child to go to one of those!) but because I am so heavily involved at the school and have a huge emotional attachment to the place. It's an infant school and my dd is currently in yr2 there, so moving up to junior school in september, which means the sibling admission rule didn't apply. We live out of catchment but not by much at all. I have been a governor at the school for nearly 2 years and am vice-chair. I know the school really well, have spent hours there working with the Head and other staff members on various things and I know everyone so well. My son has also spent loads of time there and is really familiar with the school and all the staff. He thinks he's going to start there in Sept hmm. I am so sad and all over the place as to what to do now. The school are being really supportive but there is very little they can do. We have placed him on the waiting list and judging by where some people live who have got a place, I'm hopeful we might be fairly high up on it but we can't find out until 13th May and even then it probably won't get us a anywhere. I've spoken to lots of people, some of whom know about the appeals procedure and the advice I'm getting from them is that I don't have a case - basically it would be based on emotion which doesn't come into it. Everyone I speak to who doesn't know the system instantly says I should appeal though, which just makes me wonder if I might be able to win a panel round. I'm pretty sure it's a vain hope I'm clinging to but I'd be grateful for any thoughts people might have on our case. To add to the equation dd is transferring to a linked but completely separate Jnr school and although the sibling rule doesn't apply at present it is due to start being applied from next sept which would probably mean he'd get in. Rubbish.

clam Sun 28-Apr-13 18:53:39

Well, I think the clue is in the words, "everyone I speak to who doesn't know the system. "
They don't know what they're talking about. You can only win an Infant Class Size appeal if you can prove that Admissions have made a mistake, basically, or that their decision defies rational thought, which presumably doesn't apply here. sad
Waiting list is your best bet.

tiggytape Sun 28-Apr-13 19:21:46

clam is right unfortunately if there are 30 children per class, unless you suspect a mistake (eg distance measured incorrectly), you would not win an appeal on the basis that you really like the school and have strong links to it.

If there are less than 30 per class, you can appeal citing all the reasons the school would suit your DS and if you have a strong case you could win an appeal on that basis.

Despite long odds, you do have the right to appeal and could perhaps bring up the sibling link problem and other reasons. It is worth doing as long as you go into it knowing your chances (assuming 30 per class) are low

The waiting list sounds more hopeful and with any luck you will get a place that way. Also, once your DS starts Juniors in September, the new sibling link should work in your favour and boost your younger child to the top (or near top) of the list if he's still waiting at that point.
Another option for some parents is to keep your DS in Nursery or at home while you wait if he is born later in the year. You still accept the place at the allocated school but defer starting in the hope that a place at the preferred school comes up before he has to start at the other one (to save moving schools after just a few months).

I hope it works out for you.

mamajessicaangel09 Sun 28-Apr-13 19:24:41

My daughter was offered a place in a school was is very close to my house and a week later, the offer was withdrawn by the LA by a phone stating that they had made a mistake in calculating the distance from my house to the school.

Can someone please tell me if they have the right to do that and if there is anything I can do.

I call the Lewisham education but the said that there is nothing they can do.

Someone please help me

narmada Sun 28-Apr-13 19:27:07

I dont think they can withdraw a place like that but might be worth starting another separate thread.

tiggytape Sun 28-Apr-13 19:30:54

The short answer a place can't be withdrawn unless it was a fraudulent application or within a couple or days after the place was offered in error.

The LA have about 3 days (based on the outcome of court cases which have ruled on this issue) to withdraw a place given in error. If more than 3 days have elapsed, the council cannot take it away unless the parents lied on the forms or made a fraudulent application in which case there is no time limit to taking away the place.

hev2010 Sun 28-Apr-13 19:35:31

Put in an appeal. You will always have a 'what if' if you don't try.

prh47bridge Sun 28-Apr-13 19:53:41

mamajessicaangel09 - Lewisham Education are in the wrong. There is something they can do. They can give you back your place. Whilst the Admissions Code does allow them to withdraw a place that has been offered in error, Tiggytape is right that they have limited time in which to do this. One week is too long. If they continue to refuse you should appeal.

admission Sun 28-Apr-13 20:51:34

mamajessicaangel09 You should go back to Lewisham in writing and say that whilst you accept that in the 2012 code it now does allow a place offered in error to be withdrawn, the legal precedents for doing so are that this has to be within a short period of time (3 days) and therefore you expect the LA to reinstate the place within the next 7 days. You need to give them a deadline so that you know what to do and what to say on your appeal form.
I am shocked that they have done this by telephone and I hope that they are following this up by letter and confirming that you can appeal the decision.
MaisyMoo123 there is nothing you can do in the short term but hope that some people decide not to take up their places.
It is sensible to accept the place offered as a back stop but you may wish to consider, depending on son's birthday of not starting at the allocated school but deferring entry. That gives you more time for hopefully for somebody to drop out and you be top of the waiting list.
Can you confirm as an infant school, how many pupil are admitted each year, as this is crucial for what chance you have at appeal, and what class structure the school runs. Whilst you may not feel you have a chance at appeal, you never know what might happen in terms of errors being found and if you do not appeal you will never know.

MaisyMoo123 Sun 28-Apr-13 21:44:51

Thanks for your thoughts. I fully appreciate that appealing would be a long-shot and I know my case is very weak. The problem is I feel so strongly about it and it's hard to reconcile the so called "logic" of the system with this feeling and my sense of justice. The school are 100% on our side but they are advising against appealing because they say that an unsuccessful appeal means that the LA would limit them to their PAN whereas if they have no appeals (or no unsuccessful ones?) then they can agree to take more later - probably after start of term. Does anyone know if this is right.

I'm not sure that infant class size rules would apply as the intake is 40, taught in 2 smaller reception classes. I know that numbers later on in school are taken into account but they are taught in 3 mixed year 1/2 classes and they tend not to go over 28.

We do at least have a place in an ok 2nd choice school, which happens to be on same site as the junior school my dd is moving on to BUT, it's very different. Obviously we don't have the emotional ties with the place but even putting that aside (and I'm more than willing to throw myself into another school if needs be) I just don't feel ds would be as happy there. He knows our preferred choice so well - all the staff know him and he's spent hours playing with duplo in the Head's office while I've been in meetings. He thinks he's going there and why wouldn't he. I can learn to live with the disappointment in relation to my own emotional attachment to the place (eventually) but I feel like my involvement, and by association ds's familiarity with the school is going to end up causing him a huge amount of anxiety when he realises he can't go to the school he's been imagining and getting excited about for the past 3 years. I know they have to have an admissions criteria and I don't count that it's been applied fairly but it's really sad that such strong emotional cases as this have no forum at all. I feel like there's nowhere to go but a waiting list that might not even move and it's so hard.

tiggytape Sun 28-Apr-13 22:50:22

they are taught in 3 mixed year 1/2 classes and they tend not to go over 28.

If this is the case for all classes between YR and Y2 (i.e. that they do not exceed 28) then it is worth appealing.
ICS appeals (infant class size appeals where the the legal limit of 30 per class has been reached) are so hard to win but, for class sizes of 28, you aren't having to fight that point which makes a huge difference.

If you show the harm (prejudice) to your DS outweights the harm (prejudice) to the school of taking one more child, you can win a 'non ICS appeal' in that way. You'd need to show how the school meets his needs and abilities and interests and why it would be of benefit to him if he could attend.
You also need to chip away if you can at the school's case to refuse a place so you would need to show, if you can, that they aren't as crowded or limited in resources as they will claim (most schools at appeal say there aren't enough desks / computers / seats in the lunch hall to accept more children). You need to show they won't be badly affected by accepting more children.

In your position I would say go for it.
Other parents will probably do so and may even win since it isn't an ICS case.
The main thing to be careful of is that you must avoid emotional issues and focus on what the panel will want to hear.
So many people are desperately disappointed by their school allocation especially this year - it is a high birth rate year so siblings have been split up, people have missed out on the only school they ever imagined their child attending, children have been separated from all their nursery friends and a lot of people feel as you do.
The appeal panel will be very sympathetic to your strong attachment to the school but this will not win an appeal. The appeal has to be about your son and showing what is in his interests.

narmada Sun 28-Apr-13 23:37:34

OP I would appeal if it's not going to be an ICS appeal... but
I think possibly you are overstating the importance to your son of going to this school. Really, kids are (for the most part) very adaptable and will do well in most settings (provided they are not really crap). I know you have put your heart and soul into this school, but honestly, your DS is only 4 and he won't have the same level of attachment to the place that you do.

So many of the kids in DD's preschool class didn't get a place in the attached reception. They went to a variety of other schools and as far as I know all of them are very happy where they ended up. There is something to be said also for having both of your children on one site. Otherwise, how are you/ is your childminder/nanny going to manage drop-off/ pick up?

MaisyMoo123 Mon 29-Apr-13 07:29:00

Thanks Tiggy and Narmada - god advice. It's mildly encouraging that a non ICS appeal is more likely to succeed but I'm still doubtful I have a strong enough case. I am sure this school is best for my ds - because he knows it so well and is looking forward to going there BUT, as Narmada said, he's only 4 and would probably adapt to any school. How could I ever convince a panel enough that it would prejudice my son not to go there - i could come up with a number of relatively sound reasons but if they are all going to be thinking this at the end of the day what chance do we stand?

One other issue is that our preferred school is CofE controlled. We are church-goers and attend the church attached to the school. Our 2nd choice school isn't CofE. As it's only controlled I know this will hold little weight in an appeals process but would they take it into account at all?

As far as numbers go, I know they can take more than their PAN - they've told me so! What kind of evidence would a panel need on this? At the same time though, this is their argument for me not appealing as they say that they could up numbers later, providing their are no appeals. This could obviously work in our favour if we were high enough up on the waiting list but would of course rely on nobody else appealing.

Narmada you do have a point about it being logistically much easier to send ds to the other school. It would make life a whole lot easier and DH has come round to that way of thinking. We could manage if ds did end up getting into our top choice though and we'd obviously thought about it before we put it top of our list - I'd end up running across town and back but I'm willing to do that.

To appeal or not? I just don't know!!!!

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 10:14:01

You can certainly raise your desire for a faith school and the benefits this brings for your son at an appeal. Other things to consider might be the way the curriculum or classes are managed that would suit him, clubs and activities that interest him and anything the school does or can offer that would be beneficial to your son.

Schools can increase PAN but I dont' know as appeals can hinder this process. I suppose the school is saying that it looks a bit odd to fight appeals in May with arguments about the school being full only to increase PAN in September afterall.

I am not sure how much you should let that influence you though - you won't know yet (and wouldn't be able to prevent) other people appealing. And even if PAN is increased later on, this doesn't help you unless you are top of the waiting list.
Anyone who moves into the area between now and then who gets a sibling into an older year group and anyone who lives or moves closer will go above you or be above you on the list. You place on the list is not static.
By law waiting lists are held until Christmas at least so any increase in PAN will have to be done using the current waiting list so a lot of your calculations will depend upon how popular the school is. Is it so popular people would accept a place in September despite having started at another school or is it so popular that people will Home School for a few months in the hope of getting a late offer? Is it so popular lots will appeal and possibly win to raise class sizes to 30 long before any change of PAN is implemented?

Mutley77 Mon 29-Apr-13 10:27:05

It sounds to me like, supportive as they are being to your face, the school do not want to take your child as they will have to increase their class sizes above what they want them to be.

You may well win an appeal but you need to think about the implications of this in terms of your relationships with people in the school if you have forced their hand to take another child (and possibly another four children - as if your DS can get in, others who appeal may also be successful).

I do think you are really overstating the needs of your child. Unless he has special needs or something he will be absolutely fine in any school. I know how you feel as these things used to make me feel very anxious, but having re-located to another country with an 8 and 4 year old I can tell you that my 4 year old could not give a monkeys what school he is at as long as the teachers and other children are nice to him! My 8 year old is having slightly more trouble but even still she has settled extremely well, despite having previously lived in the same community since birth and having had most of her friends since birth too. Familiarity certainly helps but not having it does not seem to hinder at all - it is far more important to focus on your inidividual child and their resilience.

Also FWIW - I am having to take my kids to 2 different school sites (5 mins drive apart) until December as we couldn't get them in together initially where we have moved to. I wouldn't choose it for anything as the stress of worrying about being late (for pick up rather than drop off) is a real issue. There is no reason why the drive should take too long other than a major car accident or something but you just never know. Therefore if I were you I certainly wouldn't be actively choosing to do this for 3 years when you have the choice of another school on the same site.

clam Mon 29-Apr-13 10:35:33

Have you considered how vice-chair of the governing body winning an appeal (and pushing up class sizes) might be viewed by other parents? Obviously, due process would be followed, but often people don't consider those things. And you'd be having to mix with those people on a daily basis.

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 10:44:21

Actually, the fact that the Vice-Chair didn't get an offer in the first place just demonstrates how fairly applied admission criteria are and how rigidly the rules are stuck to.

The appeals panel are independent from the school and will judge cases on merit just as the admissions authority judged original allocations on meeting the criteria. Being a parent involved with the school does not come into it.

As to how the school will cope with taking extra pupils: if it is a popular school which already plans to increase PAN and will only have non ICS appeals, the case to refuse admission to any parent who appeals is weaker than in many other appeals.
As such any parents who decide to appeal have a better chance of winning. So if OP doesn't appeal but many others do, the chances are that some of them could win. Her not appealing does not protect the small class sizes.
Appeals are part of the process - it isn't like suing somebody! Nobody is going to be outraged if you win and you wouldn't be able to win if the evidence was that the school just couldn't cope with extra numbers.

MaisyMoo123 Mon 29-Apr-13 11:45:17

Thanks for all your replies - all interesting points. My head feels ready to explode now though!

I completely disagree that the school don't want to take my ds. They were genuinely upset when we found out and there were even tears from one staff member. My ds has built up a very strong relationship with the Head and other members of staff and I believe that they would welcome him with open arms even if it did mean a larger class size. I really don't think that's an issue I need to worry about. They are suggesting that I don't appeal because of the PAN issue but that's only really going to factor if we are very high up the waiting list and relies on nobody else moving into area or appealing - all way out of my control. It feels like everything is hinging on factors I can't influence or control. At least going to appeal would be something I could have some impact on.

The school is popular but not crazily so. They have out of catchment children on their list for starting in Sept (just a bit closer to school than us but not much). Others may appeal - they have had 2 successful appeals in past 5 years so it's not a regular thing. People don't regularly defer entry or home ed in order to get chidlren in later either, but that's nothing to say they won't this year.

As for me being vice-chair - everyone I've spoken to, many of them parents/friends from school have been shocked and sad that we didn't get in and have almost all suggested appealing as soon as they heard. I agree with Tiggy that the fact that we didn't get in under the admissions process shows that it holds no weight and the appeals panel is completely independent from the school so there is no room at all for any strings to be pulled. Fundamentally I don't think it should be taken into account - there has to be a fair, transparent process and I never went into being a governor for any preferential treatment. Ultimately it's about what's right for my son now - if we do go to appeal and win then I don't really care if someone takes issue with it because of my V-C role. I know who my friends are.

I agree that 4 year olds are adaptable and I'm sure he would do ok wherever. He doesn't have special needs (other than a slight stammer which he is currently having speech therapy for). I can totally see why people might think I am overstating his needs - and that is a fundamental problem in terms of an appeal (!?!!?) but I know my son, and I know the school and I know where he would thrive and be happiest. That's the bottom line. I'm starting to veer towards appealing but is it really a strong enough case. The opinions are so emotive and extreme on this!?!

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 12:58:36

Maisy - only you can decide whether to appeal or not but in your shoes, I probably would. In fact any YR appeal that isn't an ICS appeal is worth serious consideration just because it is possible to win and, if you don't try, you won't know. If anything being Vice Chair and wanting to do the right thing is possibly holding you back more than if you were just a regular potential parent who, upon hearing class sizes are small, probably wouldn't hesitate to try for a place at appeal.

If your DS has dysfluency then anything that makes him less anxious is a good thing. Anxiety and stuttering have a direct link and cause/effect relationship. If the SLT would be happy to write a note to say something along these lines or to even state that a familiar school is best for him, then that would help at appeal.

You can also raise your preference for a faith school and any other points that the school offers that would help or benefit your son. You seem very certain that it is the right one for him but you need to explain why this is for the panel to be able to make a decision if you decide to go for an appeal.

clam Mon 29-Apr-13 13:01:02

My point about what some parents might say if you got in at appeal was not to suggest for one minute that there would be anything untoward about the process. But some people are determined to look for the unpleasant connotation in anything and, above board or not, might start a whispering campaign. One would hope not, and if anyone came out and said anything to your face, you could counter it with the facts, fair and square. But often, these things can go on behind your back.

Anyway, if that's not a concern then scrap the thought. If I were you I would go ahead with the appeal. What have you got to lose? You don't even have to tell the school actually; it's all done through the LEA.

Mutley77 Mon 29-Apr-13 13:36:32

I am not saying the school didn't want to take your son per se - and I am sure that they did want him to get in through the normal admissions procedure but if by taking him through appeal it forces them to have bigger class sizes and opens them up to other appeals etc they may not want to do so that way. They have already indicated that they do not recommend you appeal.

I do think your appeal is unlikely to progress unless you can get more on your DC's special need. It would only really count if he has a SEN statement but that is the only avenue I think that would give you any chance of success.

I am sure you think you know where he would be happiest but what I was trying to say is don't focus on this as if he doesn't get the place you will feel like he is going somewhere that is second best for him and this is likely to impact on his feelings about it (much as you try to hide how you feel). If he goes to the other school chances are he will be just as happy and it is unhealthy for you and him to dwell on where "he would thrive and be happiest" - you don't have a crystal ball so you can't know that for sure and it certainly won't give you any points at appeal.

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 13:50:02

It would only really count if he has a SEN statement but that is the only avenue I think that would give you any chance of success.

Mutley - that is not at all correct.
Children with statements are not part of the normal admissions or appeal process at all. They get automatic entry into the school names on their statement.

Children without statements (with and without additional needs) can win appeals as long as they can show their need for the school outweighs the disadvantage to the school of taking more pupils and assuming their are less than 30 per class.

MaisyMoo123 Mon 29-Apr-13 14:01:25

Don't all parents choose their preferences for a school based on where they feel their child would thrive and be happiest? That's not to say he won't be just as happy somewhere else but if everyone went by that mantra then people wouldn't be worried about which school their child ended up at and there would be no preferences, waiting lists or appeals. That's not the world we live in. We are offering a level of choice and finding a place where you believe your child will thrive and be happy is surely fundamental to making that "choice". I'm not saying I can't see him happy anywhere else and I would get over it and make the very best of it for him - but I don't think I'm wrong to want this in the first instance!?

I don't think my son's stammer is significant enough to hold much weight in an appeal. It's certainly nowhere near statement level. The unfamiliarity and stress of going somewhere rise could well exacerbate it though.

My concern is that I don't have enough for an appeal - I can't see how I could constructively argue the benefits of this school over another for ds other than his familiarity with the place. The other infant school is very similar in size and class structure so I can't argue that he'd benefit from the way one is organised if the other is the same. There are no special clubs or ways of working there that mark it out either. They are very different schools but the differences are not tangible - one is more ordered and the other a bit less so etc but that's not an argument is it and I know that comparing one with another isn't helpful anyway. It's just his familiarity with the place and the fact he has been imagining himself there that is the real issue - but not strong enough to stand up in an appeal on its own. I could bring in the church link and potentially the stammer but really, that's not enough is it?

I know only I can decide but it's really helping me to thrash my thinking out on here. Thanks for helping!

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 14:19:20

terrible spelling sorry!

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 14:26:39

MaisyMoo - the concept of 'good enough' is a grey one for appeals

An appeal is a balancing act. The disadvantage to the child of not being admitted is weighed against the disadvantage to the school of taking the child. The outcome therefore depends on the strength of the cases relative to each other.

If the school was packed to the rafters with children, horribly overcrowded and struggled with existing numbers, their case would be so strong that even the strongest case from a parent would be unlikely to overcome that.

However if the school said they weren't that full at all and in fact were happily considering increasing PAN, this would make their case very weak and a parent's case would only have to be marginally stronger to win overall.

So sometimes people with hugely important reasons lose appeals and people with more 'minor' reasons win an appeal. There is no universal standard of what is 'good enough' to win at appeal.

In extreme cases people have won appeals by just turning up to the appeal hearing! They appeal, the school offer no evidence against them and in fact say they're more than happy to take 10 extra pupils and everyone who botehredt to appeal wins (this is rare of course but just shows that it isn't how strong your case it necessarily only how relatively strong it is).

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now