Appeals advice thread

(65 Posts)

TiggyTape suggested a thread for those of us needing advice on the appeals system.

Sorry to those of you disappointed like we are. None of our first 3 choices ...

First challenge is to get DH to remember the password he set on our account.

DH is all for getting a solicitor - is that worth it?

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 08:52:46

No - you really don't need a solicitor.
An appeal is a hearing and will be based on facts (eg where you live and how many siblings applied) and on your reasons for needing or wanting a place which you are better placed to explain than anyone else.

First things first:
Ask why didn't you get offered the schools you listed. The reason should be that you didn't qualify for them as much as other applicants did. You can ask for the details on why that is i.e. ask for the "last distance offered" in the category you come under for admissions eg in the "no siblings" category.
This may bring up an error which, if it cost you a place, means that place should be yours.
If no error comes up you need to look at ICS

Infant Class Size is the law restricting classed from YR to Y"2 to 30 children per teacher. If this applies, the only way to win at appeal is to prove an error cost you your place or to prove the admission arranagements did not comply with the law (unlikely in most cases)

If there are less than 30 children per class in YR-Y2 then you can win at appeal by explaining to a panel why your child needs to go to that school or would benefit from a place. Medical, social, emotional and learning needs and issues are all good points to raise. Childcare and transport, Ofsted ratings and staying with friends (without a special reason) tend not to be things that influence an appeal panel.

PanelChair Wed 16-Apr-14 08:58:18

Hi.

This is just to second everything that Tiggytape has said.

It is rarely worth spending the money on a solicitor. What are your reasons (beyond a general preference) for wanting a place at one of those three schools? Will they be infant class size appeals?

In previous years, these threads have tended to become rather chaotic as we try to hold several conversations at once with different people about their potential appeals. It might work better if everyone seeking advice started their own thread.

meditrina Wed 16-Apr-14 09:04:14

Could I add that you might see that a grounds for appeal is 'unreasonable descision'. This is a valid grounds even for ICS appeals, but the definition of unreasonable is legalistic here and means really perverse; things like child or witness protection issues.

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 09:09:28

Yes you are quite right meditrina
It is a grounds for winning an ICS appeal but the bar is set very high indeed.

Each year people decide to appeal on the basis of an "unreasonable decision" because they cannot do 2 drop-offs at the same time or will lose their childcare and working hours if they cannot have the school they want. In their eyes that is unfair and unreasonable.
However these things are not considered since they apply to so many people that they cannot be factored in and they do not fall under the definition of unreasonable in appeal terms.

In appeal terms unreasnable has to mean so irrational that no person presented with the same facts could agree that the decision should stand and examples would be witness and child protection issues where real danger exists to a family and it would be impossible to justify denying a child at the only school where they might be safe.

Sparkle9 Wed 16-Apr-14 09:17:47

Also consider looking at the numbers in other classes in the school. My school has previously been made to accept children on appeal over the ICS because other classes in the school had space. It just meant some mixed age classes.

I write the school's responses to appeals. So many parents get distracted by explaining their childcare arrangements. These aren't generally acceptable reasons for appeal. Focus on the admission criteria and any possible errors then look at medical and social reasons (focussing on the child). And also take a look at class sizes throughout the school.

Thanks - we have no sibling at the school but we live 632 metres from the school.

We don't know why we haven't been given a place yet as this is in the letter they send out today (2nd class post).

I've told DH to stop googling solicitors!

We have the appeals form and thinking about what to put.

I was going for the we want our child to go to local school for social and practical reasons. The school we've been offered is a CofE school in a nearby village. We live in a city but close to the outskirts. It is only a ten minute drive (fast road out) but walking is impossible as seriously busy roads and about an hour walk. 30 minute bike ride but too busy road.

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 09:25:28

Where mixed classes exist, sparkle is quite right in saying numbers of the other class can be looked at but you couldn't apply to a school with no mixed classes and tell them to mix them to solve the problem of no more places in reception.

For example if a school planned 30 in each reception class and already had 27 in each year 1 class, an appeal panel cannot direct that school to mix then year groups when normally they wouldn't just to fit in extra reception children.

prh47bridge Wed 16-Apr-14 09:29:47

Also consider looking at the numbers in other classes in the school. My school has previously been made to accept children on appeal over the ICS because other classes in the school had space. It just meant some mixed age classes.

I'm afraid that doesn't help an appeal. The children admitted on appeal are "excepted" which means they don't count towards the infant class size limit. So, although the school may appear to be over the limit, it isn't and you can't use the fact that children have already been admitted on appeal to help your case. You still have to show that a mistake has been made or the admission authority has acted unreasonably.

I agree with Tiggytape and PanelChair re solicitors. I have come across far too many cases where solicitors (who are not generally experts on school admissions) have given appallingly bad advice and/or have managed to thoroughly antagonise the appeal panel.

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 09:32:42

Sauce - reasons for appeal should be all about the school you want not the one you don't want. You are appealing for one school not against the other one.

As a general rule, unless mobility or medical considerations apply, a difficult journey to school will not be given much weight at appeal. It is impossible for all children to be allocated a local school or one they can walk to so this in itself isn't grounds for appeal.

I do think it is important that you find out if it is an ICS appeal first because, if it is, discovering an error is really going to help at appeal. You also therefore need to find out from the council why someone living 632m away didn't get in. Were all the places taken by siblings and children with statements / adopted from care? Or was there a mistake and someone living 900m away with no sibling has got in?
If it is a mistake then this is the main reason for your appeal (if they force it through to appeal)
If it is an ICS appeal, a mistake is really the only way to win unless you have special circumstances that place you in the unreasonable decision category

Finding out the last distance offered will also help you determine waiting list hopes. It is too early for the lists to move yet but if the last place offered was 628m you can be hopeful of being top of the list for example.

It seems we're screwed. They have a sibling policy so within catchment is number 3.

The furthest away a child without sibling in the catchment was 606 and we live 632.

Gutted.

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 10:20:10

Depending on the layout of your area (flats, population density etc) and on the admission number (intake of 90 or intake of 30) you could end up high on the waiting list with an eventual offer.

I know it is really worrying and having to wait is very stressful but people can and do get waiting list offers every year.
Some people in your area will be moving over the summer, some will get job offers before September that they don't even know about yet, some will go private and some may get waiting list offers from other schools and create vacancies that way.

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 10:21:29

(and of course if it isn't an ICS appeal i.e. 30 per class or mixed later for 30 per class) then an appeal is a very viable route too).

Tiggy thank you. We're appealing.

That is exactly what happens here. Parents are very open a out it - reception year at state primary and then private schools from year one as saves them £15k.

Also loads of turnover as its a transient population in this city.

admission Wed 16-Apr-14 17:56:50

606 to 632 is not very much in real distance but in school admission terms could be quite a few people on the waiting list. You need to establish where you stand on the waiting list because you could number 1, in which case you have a reasonable chance of success from the waiting list or you could be 35th!
I would recheck exactly what the measuring mechanism is used by the LA. The measurement is always accurate to much less than a metre but it does assume that you are measuring from and to the right place. So is it to the datum point on your house to the datum point on the school or is to the nearest gate or what? I am also assuming here that the distance is straight line distance rather than measured distance by paths - if that is the case then definitely worth checking carefully what has been measured.

I got the distance via the LEA website.

Do we ask out place prior to appeal ?

carrieindex Wed 16-Apr-14 19:53:07

Probably a daft question but can you appeal for one of your choices if it was a lower original choice than the school you were offered? I have heard you can appeal for a place at any school and don't really understand that.

admission Wed 16-Apr-14 21:24:23

You can ask the admission office for where you are on the waiting list but it will probably be a couple of weeks before that is drawn up as they will be establishing who is accepting places and who is rejecting places at this moment in time.
You can appeal for any school you want, even ones that were not your original preferences.

wendycj Wed 16-Apr-14 21:45:47

We only got into our fourth choice school (Haringey). Our first choice school (just under 0.3 miles away) has a published admissions number of 56 (28 per class). Am wondering why, in an over-subscribed area they don't have to have a mandatory 30-pupil class limit. Would this give us any better grounds for appeal, as the school hasn't reached the 30 maximum? Also, can you appeal on the way they measure the distance, as the back of the school which is often used as an entrance/exit and backs on to a playground/recreation ground is nearer to us, whereas if you have to walk around this via roads, it's a fair amount longer. Also who administers the waiting lists. Is it the schools themselves or the local authority? Any help and advice gratefully received. I just don't really understand what constitutes grounds for an appeal.

PenguinsLoveFishFingers Wed 16-Apr-14 21:52:18

We were in a similar position last year. We were 20 metres outside the furthest admitted distance. We were 8th on the waiting list after the dust had settled and all the initial people to decline (e.g. because they had moved or were going private or whatever) had done so. I'm guessing we were another few places down the list before that but the LEA didn't release list places for the first few weeks as we had an opt in system for waiting lists and they couldn't release a list until they knew who would opt in.

Assuming you are an ICS appeal and will be looking at a very high bar for appeal, I just want to warn you. Of course, in other areas you might be first on the list. But I've just an average urban area, not even London and 20m was masses of places on the list.

The good news is that we love the school we did get now!

PenguinsLoveFishFingers Wed 16-Apr-14 21:54:29

Wendy - AFAIK they can measure the distance how they like. What matters is that it is clear and correctly applied. Not liking the way they chose isn't a ground for appeal on its own. Also, bear in mind that changes to measurement method (e.g. where it is found to be unclear) can affect lots of people, so don't necessarily change whether you would get a place or not.

camtt Wed 16-Apr-14 21:56:45

Hi, I am wondering how to get the relevant information to work out whether a mistake may have been made - we are out of catchment but with a sibling at the school. Up to this year, since the school expanded, there have been spaces for out of catchment people. I won't have a very good case (based on my convenience and the fact I would have 3 DCs at 3 different schools and only one driver) on a class size appeal but I would just like to be sure they haven't made a mistake like overlooking the sibling.

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 22:12:27

Am wondering why, in an over-subscribed area they don't have to have a mandatory 30-pupil class limit. Would this give us any better grounds for appeal

30 is the maximum not to minimum or mandatory number. They may be more restricted on space and judged unable to take 30 but it does make an apepal easier because you are only battling against a school limit on numbers not a legal one.

Also, can you appeal on the way they measure the distance, as the back of the school which is often used as an entrance/exit and backs on to a playground/recreation ground is nearer to us, whereas if you have to walk around this via roads, it's a fair amount longer

no. That isn't what appeals are for. The LA can choose to measure distances however it wants (most commonly as the crow flies or shortest walking route along defined roads to a sepcified school gate or office). What matters is they publish how they will measure it and they apply this method to everyone. It isn't possible to say another method gives you a closer distance because half the local population could probably say the same.

Also who administers the waiting lists. Is it the schools themselves or the local authority?
If it is an academy or a VA school, they run their own lists. If it is a community school, the council manages the list. All lists are managed the same way though. The people who meet the higher admission criteria are placed above those who match it less well.

I just don't really understand what constitutes grounds for an appeal.
A mistake eg they overlooked the fact you have sibling priority or got your address wrong. Unlawful admissions criteria (unlikely as they are all pretty standard). And (in the cases like yours with a school with less than 30 per class) anything about the school you can describe that meets your child's needs or interests. This might relate to medical, social, emotional, educational or other needs. It might be about what they are good at and how the school can meet this or special considerations they need that the school can meet. It can be about the layout of the school, facilities, expertise.. anything that shows your child needs a place or would benefot from one more than the school would be disadvantaged by having to take another pupil. It is a balance of prejudice between the child and the school's needs in appeals where ICS does not apply.

PanelChair Wed 16-Apr-14 22:12:37

Wendy - If the PAN is 56 that is potentially very good news, as it looks as if this appeal would not be held under infant class size criteria. As had been said, though, you can query whether the distance between home and school has been measured correctly according to whatever method the LEA has adopted, but you can't base your appeal around arguing for a different method which you think would give the outcome you want. Anyway, most LEAs measure in a straight line from a fixed point at the school to a fixed point on your home, so arguments about walking around the streets between the school's front and back gates would, in that situation, be a red herring.

Camtt - Some basic information about why you didn't get a place should be in the allocation letter, but you should ask the school or the LEA (depending on which is the admissions authority) for more detail, ie which admissions category you were placed in, your home/school distance, the distance at which the last place was awarded in your category etc. You are right that the ease of your school run is not normally the basis of a winnable appeal, especially not if it is an infant class size appeal.

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 22:14:44

camtt ask the council for the "last distance offered" to a child in the same category as your own (i.e. out of catchment sibling). Also ask them to confirm their measurements from your house to the school.

If they say all out of catchment siblings were offered a place you'll know there's an error.
If they say only those living within 800m with a sibling got in, you will know if you live closer or further away than that.

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