ADMISSIONS please! Admission via In Year Fair Access Protocol - is it dependent on meeting LA rep and school's Deputy?(36 Posts)
Would Admissions be there please? Or anyone else who is aquainted with the way admissions to schools works?
Since early September my daughter has been waiting for admission into a Voluntary Aided secondary school under the In Year Fair Access Protocol. The LA's Panel decided upon this school for DD way back in late September and a meeting between the Head of that school and the LA's inclusion manager to discuss it all took place way early October but from then on I heard nothing, despite trying several times to get answers.
As I read it the School Admissions Code states that schools "must respond quickly to requests for admission so that the admission of the pupil is not delayed " and that, "An agreed protocol must include timescales for considering and resolving individual cases that aim to best serve the interests of the parent and the child.". So, on Friday I emailed the C/E of the LA and cc'd the Director of Education. I said that I wanted to have a breakdown of the agreed timescale for admission into the new school, which I believe must be provided under the In Year Fair Access Protocol and that if the LA didn't respond with a date upon which my daughter was due to start at the school by this Monday pm I would be taking further action.
I got a reply the same afternoon, from the Inclusion Manager, who was the person who had twice in the space of a month vowed to contact me then just disappeared. (It transpired that she has just returned from compassionate leave - not her fault of course but a cods of communication and good practice if no-one is covering her basic duties/responding to emails with notice that she's unavailable!).
The Inclusion Manager has not provided me with the timescale for considering and resolving the case which I asked for but has asked my DD and I to meet the Deputy of the school concerned and herself in the week - and for DD and I to meet with her in advance of the meeting at the school.
I've no problem with this per se but am interested to know if it is common practice under the circumstances. (All this is happening, btw, because to my eternal shame DD was expelled from her former school). My concern is that STILL no offer of a school is being made to DD, STILL we are in limbo and STILL we aren't getting the information requested or a straight answer.
Is DDs admission going to be dependent upon her and/or I meeting the Deputy Head?
Is it dependent on her and/or I gaining the Deputy's approval?
Can he refuse having met us to accept DD into the school or is his school obligated to take her regardless unless they can prove that, for example, they already have too many difficult to manage children or another, similar legal argument?
Can they argue that in their opinion DD is not ready to be re-integrated into school (a Voluntary Aided secondary) as she has been out of the system completely since just before the start of the summer hols?
Can they refuse me a breakdown of the timescale under which DDs admission SHOULD be carried out?
This just looks like a stalling tactic very odd to me.
If readers are still awake, I'd be very, very grateful for some advice here. Thank you.
If your child has been excluded twice the school can appeal against the LA's decision to admit her. However, from what you say I think your daughter has only been excluded once.
The school can refuse to accept your daughter if they think it would prejudice the school but they are generally only allowed to do this if the school is underperforming (or an academy or Fresh Start school which has been open less than 2 years, but I presume that isn't the case here) and they already have a particularly high proportion of children with challenging behaviour or previously excluded children. They cannot refuse to accept your daughter based on her previous behaviour.
The school shouldn't be pressured into taking your daughter until her behavioural problems have been assessed and addressed, and she is ready to return to a mainstream school.
Regarding timescales, their Fair Access Protocol should include the timescales and should be on the council's website. If it isn't you could demand a copy under the Freedom of Information Act. The protocol should also say who will take part in the process.
I am struggling to see how this meeting with the school is appropriate if it is being treated as part of the decision process. Interviews with parents or children are specifically prohibited by law as a method for deciding whether or not to offer a place. If they refused to accept her after the meeting I would appeal. However, if the meeting is to discuss the best way to bring your daughter into the school it may be entirely appropriate.
Thank you prh47bridge. You're correct, this is a first expulsion (and god help DD, her last too!).
My LA's Fair Access Protocol is online. It only gives timescales for Managed Moves and doesn't give specifics for expulsions, which is peculiar. Unfortunately I know from experience that this LA can take literally months to respond to a FOI request. I know that they shouldn't by law, but they do.
Would you say that it would be reasonable for me to reply to the email requesting that we meet with the LA inclusion manager and then her and the Deputy of the school by saying the following:
1. Asking whether DD is being offered a place in the school or not.
2. Asking what is the purpose of the proposed meetings with the Inclusion Manager and the subsequent one with her and the Deputy,
3. Asking whether DDs admission into the school be dependant upon either/both of us attending either/both meetings or upon the outcome of either meeting.
4. Asking for the timescale for DDs admission into the school AGAIN, politely reminding her that I had asked for it to be sent to me by return it in Friday's email.
As it happens the LAs manager has suggested a time to meet with her and the Deputy (and her alone first of all) this week which DD and I can't make anyway, and tbh I'm not sure that I want to until they LA are open with me and give me the answers I need.
Again, thank you very much for your reply and valued advice.
**Apologies for the typos. Of course I meant "... is dependent... " and soforth, not "be dependant".
That sounds reasonable to me. If you want to keep it light, you could just ask the purpose of the meetings. That question on its own may give you the answers to all the others.
Mmmm... yes, you're right. I'm overly (but I'd argue understandably) suspicious of the beggars and fed up with them to boot, but I really should keep it light atm.
Though I think I will still ask for the timescale the LA should be working to as well!
Once more, thank you so very much.
Reading through your posts, I believe that you are taking the right approach to this. The LA has a legal responsibility to get your daughter back into full time education as soon as possible. That can obviously take a while if there is need for assessment of the needs of your daughter, but from your posts there does not seem to be any particular issue in that direction.
It is possible under the fair access protocol for the school to object to the admission of a pupil, if they have good reason. A good reason needs to be a very good and very specific reason and I have never known a school win such an appeal - they are also not the normal kind of appeal, they are usually done by email with a body of experts making the decision. From your post you are already past this point - the school has been told that they are taking your daughter.
It looks to me as though the LA and the school are just not doing this in the time scale that you and I would expect. The DH cannot alter the decision made and I would expect this meeting to be about how the school integrate your daughter into the school and no doubt laying down the law about what they will and will not be allowed to do. Hopefully by asking the question proposed that is what will be said, but there is no reason why there should not be a very swift conclusion of this and your daughter starting at the school.
Admission, thank you very much. Tbh I suspect that the LA are rather concerned about their own recent actions (and lack of them) and are now seeking to get information/say things off the record as some kind of damage limitation exercise.
For the first four days upon which the LA were responsible for it, DD was offered no education from the LA. When questioned they held their hands up to the error. Later, during the summer holidays, I was told that DD "would" be going to a PRU, which I declined for the sake of her emotional welfare and which she refused to attend anyway. The LA's inclusion manager told me that the PRU was the only possible provision until September's Governor's Committee meeting at which DD was officially excluded. I responded by saying that whilst it might be suitable in a general manner it wasn't suitable for DD on the grounds that she had been horrifically bullied in the past and her behaviour is in reaction to that. Mentally she couldn't cope in a PRU and would be at risk of emotional, and possibly physical, harm. I then heard nothing more from the LA, to my utter amazement.
That LA manager left the LA at the end of September and it was only when her successor was a couple of weeks into the post that she mailed me to ask "if [DD] has been offered any tuition since her exclusion". As yet I haven't responded to this - to be frank I'm pretty peed off that the LA can't answer my reasonable questions as to what progress is being made/when DD is going to be admitted into a school so don't feel inclined to discuss the HE which I have been forced to provide (knowing too that I don't have to inform the LA of any HE provision and seeing that they appear only to be interested in covering their asses!).
All this time I have requested that contact is by email. Of the last 2 written by the LA's inclusion manager, the first of these was to say that she will contact me and requested my phone number and the second was to ask me to contact her.
I replied to the first saying that I preferred to continue to communicate by email or letter. I didn't hear a word for another 2 weeks! Then I got the second email asking me to contact the manager (this is understandable, as my own email had an auto response on it warning that my replies might take time as my laptop was playing up). I responded to the LA manager, saying that I'd be delighted to hear from her by return with her proposals for DDs education. Again, I didn't hear a thing for 2 weeks and only then because I emailed the complaint to the LAs Directorate.
It is owing to that complaint that I got the response from the manager saying that she'd been on compassionate leave and asking me to meet her and the school's DH. I'm trying not to be cynical here but although I accept and sympathise with the compassionate leave, surely that only explains ONE of the 2-week gaps in responses, not both!
Sorry... I know I sound assy and childish and stroppy but I am so fed up with the LA, which is failing DD appallingly.
I'm inclined to repeat my request for the timescale by return of email and ask for the reason for both meetings whilst I explain that I (genuinely) cannot make the time and date suggested but not to agree to or suggest an alternative date until I know whether DD is being offered a place at the school, what the purpose of the meetings is and I'm in receipt of the timescale.
Argh! All I wanted was a simple "Yes, your child is offerd a place at X, this is how and when we plan to get her there".
Sorry for not updating but I wanted to be sure that the reply to my complaint, which I received from the Director of Learning on Monday, meant what it said . The reply contained a full apology and an acknowledgement that the timescales in the IYFAP hadn't been met, together with a resolution. Despite this, cynic that I am, I was waiting til the fat lady sang before opening the champagne and coming back on here to announce that my problems were at an end.
Which is just as well really... because they are far from over.
The Director's email said that the LA's inclusion manager "has secured a place for [DD] at [the agreed school]" and that we were "invited to visit the school this week" in order to meet the Deputy Head and "look around and discuss the plan for [DD's] integration".
It went on to say that "The proposed start date for [DD] will be agreed at the meeting..." and that the Director of Learning "would anticipate that this will be within a week.". The letter ended by saying that "transport will of course be arranged and confirmed in advance of this date.".
DD and I attended that meeting today, which was held in the company of the LA's Inclusion Manager. The DH mentioned was off sick and replaced at short notice by his fellow DH.
What a flaming farce!
We were INTERROGATED! There's no other term for it! DD was asked how she'd handle various situations and how she felt she'd learned from her mistakes. She was nervous and came across terribly badly under the unexpected pressure. Her reply was at one point twisted in a shocking manner by the DH, who literally re-phrased DD's comment, "I wouldn't do it again" to "I won't get caught" - I was fuming.
I was asked about past house moves and the reasons for them. Then the more obvious questions - would I support the school, what was my reaction to DD's expulsion, did I appeal against it, why didn't I do so, and why I wanted DD to attend their school. Then I was asked why I didn't consider EOTAS appropriate.
The DH then stated that the class was 1 over PAN and that there is a forthcoming appeal in DD's year group, indicating that this was a factor in the process (the cynic in me wondered whether that gem was for the benefit of the Inclusion Manager, in order to give the LA a further reason why DD should not go there). He then asked how she would get to the school "if" she was accepted. Only here did the LA inclusion manager pipe up and say that transport was the LA's responsibility and not for him or I to stress about. Throughout the "meeting" the emphasis was on whether the DH thought that DD had learned her lesson and therefore whether or not she was suited to attend their school.
At no point was it acknowledged that DD had already been secured a place at this school. Contrary to what was in the Director of Learning's letter to me, there was no mention of start dates or integration but instead we were told by the DH that he would discuss the matter with the Headmaster when he was available and that the school's decision would be communicated to me at a later date.
The LA inclusion manager seemed to think this reasonable and said she'll call me on Monday when she's spoken with the Head. It was very clear that the school doesn't want to take DD (fair enough, I understand that) and I can tell you for sure that it won't on the strength of today's meeting if it can get away with it.
Did I mention that I'm fuming?
I was so angry that I couldn't trust myself to say much at all. I certainly didn't want to say much without an independent witness present. (Incidentally, the "meeting" had minutes taken by one of the school's office staff... and I want a copy!!). I was unwilling to argue with the DH in an undignified manner and start telling him that DD was going to the school whether he liked it or not so I sat on my hands and bit my lip, knowing that I was unlikely to win him over by challenging him.
So, I have the paragraphs from the Admissions Code noted down already, where it is stated that it is not lawful to interview either a child or a parent in order to decide whether a child is to be offered a place at a school, and I shall be quoting it in large letters to the Director of Learning who so kindly told me that DD has a place secured at the school and that we were attending today's meeting in order to view the school and to obtain a start date and plans to integrate DD.
I'll be copying in my MP, who is already aware of events so far, and the Secretary of State for Education too!
I gave up smoking three months ago - by gosh, if anything is likely to make me start again, it's todays fiasco.
Oh... and did I tell you that I am fuming?!
I am not surprised you are fuming. This is appalling. The school's behaviour is way out of line. Good luck in getting this sorted.
Thank you prh, I'm glad that it's not just me reading to much into the letter saying that a place has been "secured" for DD and that I'm not imagining that we've been offered something when we haven't.
I am so tempted to email the Director of Learning to say that the DH of the school needs to return to the classroom or go to SpecSavers as he is confusing the word "integration" with the words "interregation" and "intimidation"!
I would try and get hold of a copy of the minutes that were taken - phone up being all nice and just ask if the school could email across the minutes so that you can remember everything that was said.
The reason I say this is that these minutes, assuming they back up what you have said in the post, prove the school does not know what it is doing, followed closely by the LA. Maybe I could be charitable and say the DH did not understand the admission regs and the in-year fair access regs but the LA Inclusion Managershould!
If you can get the minutes and they confirm the situation, then I would simply email them to the Director of Learning and say that they have 3 days to agree that your daughter starts at the school next Monday or you will report the whole sad situation to the schools ombudsman.
I've only just read your post, Admission, but have already emailed the Director of Learning and cc'd to my MP. I wasn't as generous as you have been and have given the LA until the end of office hours today (Monday) to respond with a date upon which DD is to start at the school.
I've warned the Director that failing this I shall take legal and other action. The way I feel at the moment that not only includes going to the Schools Ombudsman but the local press too. I ilistedn my email some of the more intrusive questions put to DD and I (not that any of them should have been posed), and expressed how utterly distressed and humiliated we both felt and am quite sure that I could make the LA feel equally uncomfortable. I'd rather not have to though.
Thank god I've so far insisted in all communication between the LA and I being in writing! An Inclusion Manager who was so desperate to talk rather than to commit to paper, who hasn't offered or provided DD a suitable education since she was excluded and who allowed Friday's debacle to take place is definitely not to be trusted!
Good point about the minutes, thank you. I'll try and call to ask for those first thing.
I hope the plumber I've got booked to arrive here early tomorrow will be late so I can call the school as soon as it opens... I'd imagine that the Director of Learning will also want a copy of the minutes as soon as she receives my email so I don't suppose that the school will be happy chappies by mid-morning! Best I ask for my copy first!
Oh FFS! It gets worse!
I've just received an answer from the Director of Learning. She uses the excuse that the DH was covering for an ill colleague so hadn't been involved in previous discussions re DD. So, that her Inclusion Manager should have known her job but clearly didn't is irrelevant, obviously.
She adds that "It is clear that the school appears to have concerns that they may not be the most appropriate placement" for DD. They will, she says, follow this up with the Head. When, I don't know.
She tells me that the school were told in September that the placement had been identified by the In Year Fair Access Protocol.
She acknowledges that the LA can direct the school to take DD and that the school would have 15 days to challenge that decision with the Office of the Schools Adjudicator. I then get the blurb about how in her experience DC have the best chance of success "in a new setting where the school enters willingly in a supportive partnership with the parents and the Authority to work together to maximise success".
In anotherwords, you do realise that if you push for this school Vallhala, and they lose their appeal against it, I think that they will treat you and DD like shit again.
I am more than fuming now. The school have had since SEPTEMBER to speak out, they have broken the law and interviewed us, we have had an offer of the school withdrawn from us and I can either let the LA decide upon another school, which may or may not say the same thing as this one, (feck knows which school, the nearest is the best in the county but oversubscribed of course, and some of the ones within a 10 mile radius are appalling), and wait another god knows how many more months or we can wait yet more weeks for the possibility of this reasonably good school and if they lose the appeal see how much they are going to take it out on us both.
I have emailed back and thanked her for her letter and left it at that as I feared that once I started I wouldn't stop! However, I will mail her again and ask her to confirm that the firm and clear offer of a place which she had put in her letter of the 8th, (using terms such as the Inclusion Manager "has secured a place for DD at school X" and telling me that a start date would be agreed when I went to the meeting) has now officially been withdrawn.
Am spitting feathers here.
Oh and beggar, what I meant to ask, in all that rant, is apart from the fact that the interview was illegal, is it unlawful for the offer of the place to have been withdrawn?
Or can this happen on the grounds that the LA Director wrote the letter in which it was made clear that DD was being offered a place but as the School is a Voluntary Aided one and thus it's own admissions authority it can argue that the offer was made in error by the LA and thus it is legal to withdraw it?
IS there an error? Or is the only "error" the fact that the school doesn't want DD?
For the record, the school is frequently oversubscribed and 1 over PAN in DDs year with an appeal forthcoming. It has no problems such as special measures, it doesn't have an excessive amount of SEN or challenging pupils, has a highly regarded pastoral support programme and hasn't more than it's fair share of formerly expelled pupils, nor has it taken any in recently AFAIK. On those grounds, I THINK that they would be unlikely to win an appeal to prevent DD from going there.
Section 88A of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 prohibits the interviewing of parents and/or children as a method for deciding whether or not a child is to be offered a place at a school.
Whilst a VA school is its own admission authority, that does not give it the right to reject children allocated to it under the fair access protocol. I don't think an argument that an error has been made would fly here. The interview that took place means that the school has sacrificed any right to object to your daughter's admission.
I think you need to be tough with them. I would email the Director of Learning pointing out that the school has clearly broken the law and that the authority is increasingly in breach of its statutory duty to provide an education for your daughter. Tell them that they have until close of play on Thursday to confirm that your daughter will start at the school on Monday and that if they fail confirm this you will refer the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman, citing breaches of the Admissions Code and the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. I would be tempted to state that you will be keeping all the paperwork for a possible future reference to the relevant authorities if your daughter experiences any discrimination from this school.
The LA are simply not taking the action they should be taking to make this school do what it has been told to do, that is admit your daughter.
The Director of Learning has a fair point when they say that your daughter would be better off in a school where the school actually wanted the pupil but that really just disguises the fact that the LA are not doing their job.
If you want your daughter to go to this school then it is time to start swinging the baseball bat around and would entirely agree with PRH about what to do. Do not be put off by the school being full in the year group, the fair access protocol sits outside of the admission arrangements to ensure that all schools take their fair share of excluded pupils.
Thank you both so very, very much. It's at times like this when you start doubting your own sanity and wonder if you're just imagining that an LA and/or a school could be so cavalier with a child's future and with the law. Your responses are very reassuring.
I emailed the LA Director last night asking her to confirm that the offer of a place at X school made in her letter of 8th NOvember has now been withdrawn. No reply yet, I'd imagine she's sitting on it waiting for my next move or asking lawyers how she should respond!
I'll give it until midday and then email again with the ultimatum which you suggested, prh47bridge.
I'm going to try to call my MP's office too.
It's all very well for the Director to admit that there is every chance that DD could be discriminated against if she does get a place at the school but the alternative is another wait whilst the LA panel identifies another school, makes an approach to it, they consider it, the LA visits them and so on.
Even then the alternative school might also refuse to take her and require a 15 day wait whilst they appeal, with neither a guarantee of success nor any guarantee that the next school the LA Panel identified would be even half decent. At least the one we were offeered on the 8th has a decent reputation for academic and pastoral care and is a small school, which is a major factor in how safe DD feels.
Nope... it isn't good enough is it? Time to get tough indeed.
The only thing I may do which deviates from your suggestion is to give a deadline of Thursday to start Monday week in order that they can arrange transport (which may be the next stumbling block anyway) and I can buy uniform, get DDs hair cut etc.
Again, thank you both.
Another thing - would it be fair to put in my letter to the Director that the school had plenty of opportunity to argue against taking DD since 21st September when they were informed of her placement there under the INFA Protocol, particularly as the Head met with the Inclusion Manager about DD on the 7th October?
They clearly did not contest the idea throughout that time as we were invited to the meeting to agree an start date and told a place was secured for DD in last week's letter from the LA Director. It was only after the school had illegally interviewed us at that meeting, nearly 2 months later, that they changed their tune.
Nah.... the school's admission authority really doesn't have a case for arguing that the LA awarded the place in error, does it?
To be honest if I was in your position I wouildn't be too worried about what was fair any more. But yes, any objections the school had should have been dealt with before you were told a place had been arranged. Changing their tune after an interview is way out of line. As I said earlier, having a meeting to discuss how best to integrate your daughter into the school would have been acceptable. The grilling you received with the school then appartently deciding it doesn't want your daughter is against the law.
Just to be clear, when I say "wouldn't be worried about what was fair" I mean I wouldn't be particularly concerned about being fair to the school and LA.
I've just spoken to a Solicitor who says as you do (but then that's because you're one too if I'm not mistaken?!) and suggests that she writes to the LA with a warning, followed by legal action if she is ignored/rebuffed. For me, tbh, that will just take even longer, and besides I have already warned the LA that I'll take action if they don't provide a start date for DD pronto.
The Solicitor is concerned that the suggestion that DD must go to a PRU made by the LA in late July might have a bearing on her placement now. All this is beyond me and why it might have a bearing on the mainstream place offered on the 8th November is a mystery.
FYI, the PRU idea was not followed up by the LA after I asked for some data on it and said it was unsuitable on the grounds of DDs emotional and mental health and safety and that DD was refusing to consider it anyway.
I never got the info I asked for (such as the number of DC there, the number there who'd been expelled for acts of violence/bullying etc). Nor did I get the contact from the PRU with invitation to meet/discuss and view which the LA said I'd have either. It just all went quiet after I said that it was unsiutable and asked for the data!
I can't say I feel like being fair to the LA or school now... thumping them, yes, but being fair, no!
NB, the suggestion of the PRU made in July was because at that time the Governor's Committee Meeting to formally decide that DD had been expelled had not at that time taken place and didn't occur until early September. At the time it was the ONLY available option according to the LA, as DD had by law to remain on the expelling school's roll until the Governor's meeting. Only then, on the 6th September, could the LA consider any other provision,
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