Appeals on 'religious' grounds?

(14 Posts)
dolster Wed 16-Apr-14 16:12:13

I just found out that we got our third choice (we live outside London in a rural area), which is a CoE school, v. religious. As an atheist I'm really uncomfortable about it and I wonder if this could be grounds for an appeal? I know that technically all schools have a 'collective worship' element and none is completely 'secular' but I wonder whether I have a case for saying that the school I have been allocated is very forthright in its Christian ethos and that this is a real problem for us? Does anyone have any experience with this? I know the advice is to appeal to the school you want rather than against the school you have been allocated - but my argument is that I am much more comfortable with the way in which our first choice school teaches religious education.

Our first choice school has a stated maximum intake of 12 students per year but I can see from the council website that some years there are up to 16 students in each year so I don't imagine this would be an ICS appeal but maybe I'm wrong.

Any advice gratefully received!

bluewisteria Wed 16-Apr-14 16:26:53

I haven't done this, but a friend did and it was successful at a v popular central London primary. So good luck with it. The only thing is that you put down the CofE school... They may well argue 'why did you put it down if you don't want a place?'.
But it might help you on appeal to first choice school.

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 16:27:57

I am sorry you did not get the school you wanted but I am afraid this is not considered strong grounds to appeal.

As you know, for a YR appeal, you are sometimes limited by the class size regulations to only being able to win if you can show an error cost you a place, the admissions criteria were not followed or unlawful or an unreasonable decision was made (unreasonable in a legal sense meaning irrational). It seems this isn't the case here but if they mix the classes before Year 3, ICS could still apply.

Assuming class sizes below 30 and no future mixing to bring them up to 30, you can win on other grounds by explaining why your child needs or would benefit from a place at the school you want. However even in these "easier" types of appeal objecting to the religious nature of the allocated school is not given much weight. You would need to focus on other things that the school you want actively offers or ways in which the school you want best meets your child's needs.

dolster Wed 16-Apr-14 16:31:29

Thanks bluewisteria - very useful to hear that. You're right that we shouldn't have put the school down at all but I just so wasn't expecting that we'd be allocated it! Plus, we live a remote area and the nearest school, after that one, is over ten miles away. I did write on the application form that we were really uncomfortable about a CoE school but they clearly didn't take that into account (not that I'm surprised).

meditrina Wed 16-Apr-14 16:35:45

The key thing is that you don't appeal against the allocated school, you appeal for the one you want.

So the reasons you dislike school C will make no difference on whether you should have qualified for an offer at schools A and B or your chances of success at schoolsl D,E, F etc which you did not originally apply for but now like better than your original choice C.

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 16:38:45

I know bluewisteria only has it via a friend but past appeals do not set a precedence for future appeals and also, it may be other things won it for the people involved - things that they placed less emphasis on but the appeal panel focused on.
All sorts of things can come to light in an appeal including admission mistakes that can lead to a parent winning and believing the religious objection / other reasons had a bearing even if they didn't.

It would be advisable to accept the place, be added to the wait list and to appeal. If this is a non ICS appeal, you have a reasonable chance of success especially as they have proved they can cope with more than 12 per class before. You can mention your concerns about religion but mainly you will need to appeal for the school you want. Otherwise your message is that any school that isn't overtly religious would do whereas the panel need to hear is reasons to admit you to this school in particular if they are going to allow your appeal. Not liking what you've been offered is never a strong basis for appeal in its own right.

meditrina Wed 16-Apr-14 16:39:15

"I did write on the application form that we were really uncomfortable about a CoE school but they clearly didn't take that into account (not that I'm surprised)."

That's because they are not allowed to take into account anything other than the published entry criteria. The only things that you can say in the 'comments' section that carry any weight are explanations of how you fit a particular category that might otherwise be overlooked.

dolster Wed 16-Apr-14 16:40:03

Thanks very much tiggytape - there are lots of other reasons why we prefer our first choice, including social reasons and childcare reasons. I know the school well and I know that current ICS are below 30 ( it is a small school and R/Y1 are mixed; as are Y2+Y3). Do you think that it is better not to mention the religious grounds and instead to focus on social/childcare reasons? Also - I know this is not part of any official appeal criteria but our first choice school has a strange phenomenon going on at the moment where nearly all pupils are boys. It will be the same for this years intake. Can I point out that maybe having an extra girl around would be good for the school?! Or would that be rather frowned upon?

tiggytape Wed 16-Apr-14 16:50:18

Childcare and transport are other areas that do not carry much weight at appeal. So many parents have to juggle work, childcare, commuting, childminder availability etc that it would be impossible to factor this in for school places.

Social reasons can count if your child has a special reason for needing to stay with familiar people or friends eg “Daisy has a speech impediment that makes her hard to understand. As such she is very shy with new people and gets upset very easily. The school we are appealing form is one where 9 of her nursery friends will go. They are used to her speech and can understand her. This will benefit her in the transition to school and daily life at school. The allocated school is one where none of her friends have been offered places and she would have to start there knowing nobody”

Medical reasons too “The school we are appealing for has a dedicated TA attached to reception class to work with children with speech difficulties. Daisy’s SLT has written a letter to say that Daisy would very much benefit from such specialist intervention at school”

Curriculum and Education Reasons “Daisy is very musical and plays 2 instruments. The school we are appealing for has a band, orchestra and choir. The school we have been allocated does not have any extracurricular musical activities” (these sorts of arguments are often stronger for secondary appeals where talents are better known and parents appeal sometimes for specialist schools)

You have to think about what the school offers your child (so not ease of transport unless the child has a mobility problem perhaps) or ease of childcare (unless the child has emotional needs for continuity of care) but things about the school itself, daily life, meeting the child’s needs, things the school offers that others don’t and how these would help etc.

everysizecrocs Wed 16-Apr-14 16:54:51
dolster Wed 16-Apr-14 17:01:45

Thank-you tiggytape - that's such helpful advice. Thanks too everysizecrocs - v.useful!

htm123 Wed 16-Apr-14 20:34:10

Have friends who appealed unsuccessfully five years ago, however, at the beginning of every academic year, the school offers parents the chance of opting out from the religious curricular and non-curricular activities. The family is happy with the education received at the school by their DS, SAT's results great every year, so the two other siblings joined the school last year. All three children are doing really well, so I would say that best if you can check the school's policies and the curricular side of things too before panicking.

Mardvagen Wed 23-Apr-14 12:15:40

This happened to a friend of mine in London who has strong atheist views and they got backing from the British Humanist Society; the LEA eventually (! - they had to stand their ground) backed down and reallocated to a non-religious school. Though they hadn't chosen the religious school in the first place ( I think they got diverted there after missing out on their choices - is that the right phrase). Also, their main argument that they would accept other schools just not a religious one (i.e. they weren't trying to get their 1st, etc choices to be allocated to them)

MillyMollyMama Wed 23-Apr-14 13:29:24

I think it can be overwhelming to go to a religious school because the whole ethos is religious. There will be religious parents on the Governing Body and Representatives of the Church too. All religious festivals will be observed and it makes it quite hard to escape from it all. The Church Group (clique) of parents ran things for their own good at our school! It can, therefore, be quite a tribal experience! However, all that has been said about appealing for the school you do want is true. Concentrate very much on why the other school is best, educationally, for your child and do not mention convenience for you or your dislike of another school. I hope you succeed.

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