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primary school appeal on basis of distance to school calculation

(15 Posts)
karen1archer Thu 19-May-16 10:03:39

I was wondering if anyone had some advice or experience that they could offer to me. We live in North London in a highly populated area with several great primary schools. We were devastated to not get our eldest daughter into any of our six chosen schools, and have been offered a place in what is effectively an 'overspill' school. We have submitted an appeal for the school that was our number one choice on the following grounds:
1) Council measures home to school distances on a straight line basis using post office points of address. Last admitted non-sibling child to our preferred school lives a mere 0.279 miles away, calculated on this method. According to google map pedometer we live 0.263 miles away (which is a mere 27 meters within the 0.279 mile limit). I have not been able to prove the exact measurement that the council have come up with - of 0.30 miles but have clearly evidenced that the position of our house on our street (using a 3d google map etc.) is closer, and that the royal mail address point puts us further away. It is pretty clear that the reason we have been discounted is that they have used the post office address point rather than the physical distance from our front door to the school, which some other boroughs use.
2. Our younger daughter has got a place (which we have accepted) at the pre-school attached to this, our preferred school, starting from this Sept and although siblings in the school have a priority, siblings in the pre-school do not. However this will result in undue hardship (two children with same drop off times in opposite directions) and also emotional distress for both my daughters (they are 14 months apart and has a relationship that many twins have ). The sibling rule exists to avoid these two scenarios so we argue it should be applied here to.

We are number 9 on the waiting list and although there may be a distant chance of a place become available I am very focused on the appeal. The school we have been offered is simply not a practical option and we cannot afford an independent school.

My question is - has anyone challenged the home to school calculation distance methodology and had success? Or the sibling in the pe-school argument?

We have lived in our house for over ten years and feel really hard-done by! We know of several families renting flats to get their children into our preferred school but now of knowing exactly what their circumstances are of course.

Any advice or sharing of experiences appreciated

DickCheese Thu 19-May-16 10:15:37

Hi, I successfully appealed for a place when we moved to a new area on the same street as a school that was already full (school had already started).

the distance quoted for the last non-sibling to get in will have been last year. This year there may be many more siblings and many more people living closer to the school. It varies from year to year, so doesn't necessarily mean you live close enough this year.

With regards to having your two children in a different school, I would say that's a personal choice and they are not going to take into account it being a faff for you or any 'emotional distress' as they wouldn't be in the same class anyway so it won't make a difference.

Of course you have a right to appeal but the only way you will be able to win an appeal is to show that either the council did something wrong (ie measured the distance wrong) and that mistake meant that you didn't get a place. They may have measured wrong but even with this new distance you wouldn't have got into the school, but then I guess you could argue that they're incompetent.
Otherwise you have to argue that the decision not to permit your child was 'perverse in light of the circumstances' and I'm assuming they didn't know your other daughter would be at the preschool so that can't be taken into account and also the threshold for 'perverse' is very high.

I just made a big fuss about my sons health difficulties saying he couldn't physically walk to a school further away and he got in on the reason that a 'reasonable authority' wouldn't have made the decision to deny his place.

Essentially, I don't think you'll win your appeal but when you go to the hearing you really need to read up on the ins and outs to Make your case properly because as it stands I don't think you have a chance.

lougle Thu 19-May-16 10:32:10

Taking your points in order:

1. Distance to school: As long as the council has used the measurement it said it would use (e.g. 'Straight line distance' or 'nearest walking route' or 'to the main entrance gate') and it has used it for all applicants consistently, then it doesn't matter how it has chosen to calculate it. The only way you could win is if you could prove that using the same method of measurement you are closer than the last place offered on the grounds of distance.

2.a. Sibling priority: Sadly, it's irrelevant that your younger DD has a preschool place. Many schools don't even have a sibling criteria. There's no right to have one, it's optional. It's not a grounds for appeal that you can win in an ICS appeal.

2.b. Travel hardship: unfortunately, travel arrangements don't win appeals. Thousands of parents have children who are at different school which start at the same time. There is no obligation for the LA to facilitate easy school runs. You'll have to drop one of your children early. The other option is to see if the offered school has a place for your older daughter.

2.c. Emotional distress. Give over! Ridiculous. No panel will swallow that. You'll just look silly.

prh47bridge Thu 19-May-16 12:47:27

I agree with the previous posters.

If the council had measured from the wrong address you would have a case. If they had said they would measure from your front door but then measured from some other place you would have a case. But they have done exactly what they said they would do. The fact that some other system would have been better for you is irrelevant. Their methodology is allowed by the Admissions Code (indeed, many councils use this methodology) so you will not be able to challenge it successfully at appeal.

Similarly with your other point. If their admission arrangements do not give sibling priority to those with a child at the pre-school you cannot win an appeal on the basis that you think they should have done so. They have done exactly what they said. The Admissions Code does not require schools to give sibling priority and certainly does not require it to be extended to pupils in pre-school. An appeal panel will not accept your argument that they should have changed the criteria.

I'm sorry but based on the information you have posted I would expect you to lose your appeal. It is possible something will come up in the hearing to show that a mistake has been made so it is always worth a try. But you need to be realistic about your chances of success.

karen1archer Thu 19-May-16 14:27:19

Thanks for your responses. I appreciate I am clutching at straws somewhat.

lougle Thu 19-May-16 15:34:13

That's not to say we don't sympathise. I do think you need to realise, though, that you're not just clutching at straws with those arguments, you're simply wasting your time. They have a 0% chance of success and they aren't in any way even novel arguments. Practically every parent who appeals says that their child will be traumatised by being separated from their sibling because they are 'particularly sensitive', caused hardship by having two drop offs, etc. It's standard.

If it's an ICS appeal, only a mistake will win you the appeal, so double check the last distance offered. Check the criteria you fit, etc.

RNBrie Thu 19-May-16 15:47:54

You won't get anywhere with the two children in different schools argument.

However my neighbour has just successfully argued with our local council about their measuring system. The way it works for us is that they have a "seed point" (much the same as the post office point I'd imagine) that cannot be changed and then it measures from the seed point to the nearest maintained footpath or road and then distance to the school along the footpath/road.

In my neighbour's case this appeared to be out of their back door, over their back wall and into the street behind ours (and further away from the school).

The council have stated that their system was "correct" as it found the closest footpath, however they accept that coming out of the front door was reasonable and not climbing over a back wall (no back entrance to the garden) so have instead used the measurement from the road outside their front door and not the inaccessible footpath to the back of their property and have granted them a place.

You need to find out where the post office point is for your house, it might be that that is not correct and is not actually within the boundary of your property. If that point is correct and they've measured correctly from that point then I can't see how you'd win an appeal.

kazzakon Thu 19-May-16 21:15:59

RbBrie and Lougle - Thank you for your posts. I am further exploring the distance point and agree it is the only chance we have on appeal. The local authority's published criteria is 'straight line using postal addresses'. The post office point for our house is not on the boundary of our property - it is a a good 30m away, and is resulting in us being outside of the distance of the last admitted child. I get that they have followed their admission criteria but their admission criteria does not appear to allow for differences between the post office point and the physical location of the house meaning it may be flawed. I guess their defence will be ' how else are they meant to measure the distance' but it would seem that the more common method is front door or centre point of each house to school gate/ centre of school..

lougle Thu 19-May-16 21:34:04

The problem is that as long as they have used the same criteria for every child, no one has been unfairly treated. No mistake has been made.

Naty1 Thu 19-May-16 21:40:56

If you are 9th on waiting list, does that mean there are 8 closer so the LA use of the postal points vs the house actual front door has made a substantial difference.
I assume you have confirmed the distance they have you at with the LA/school?
Bear in mind though even if they changed how they calculated it. Some others may also be closer using the front door rather than postal address.

lougle Thu 19-May-16 22:31:06

But they are allowed to use the postal point. The earlier poster won the appeal on the basis that the LA used 'nearest walking route' then traced a route through a wall, which is clearly not possible to use. That is very different from saying 'the point you've chosen doesn't give me a very good chance of a place'. For instance, sometimes people think aLA has it wrong when they don't get a place because they are quite close to the side school gate. But when they investigate they find that the measuring point is to the front school gate. Or that the measuring point is to the middle of the reception doors...or whatever. So a whole estate of children can find that they would have had places if the gate that opens into the school field is used, but don't get places because the datum point is the main entrance.

You can't expect the LA to change their datum point to suit. You can only challenge whether it's the correct datum point. And if it isn't, the LA would then need to check if that error affects any other applicants which may trigger a mass remeasure. In that situation, if there are other appeals, it isn't the person who found the error who gets the place, it's the people who should have got the places first.

prh47bridge Thu 19-May-16 23:25:21

The post office point for our house is not on the boundary of our property - it is a good 30m away

Where are you getting this from? If you are looking up your postcode on Google Maps or similar that is not the address point. The position shown by online maps is the centre of the postcode area. As you share your postcode with other properties that may be some distance from your property. Your address point, on the other hand, is located somewhere on your property.

smellyboot Fri 20-May-16 11:59:58

I agree that you need to check which point of the school and your property they measured. Our LA goes to 3 decimal points on a frighteningly accurate specific measuring tool between two defined points. Like above, our school grounds are an long oblong shape. They is a rear gate to the south that 1/2 the school use daily. However the measurement is from the north front entrance doors. If they apply the rule equally to all, then yes, arguably those at the south side and back of school are at a disadvantage - but that's the published policy.

t4gnut Fri 20-May-16 12:38:59

That's because admissions code says you have to define one set point from which to measure.

admission Fri 20-May-16 20:46:44

Can I suggest that you PM me with the school and LA and i will look at what exactly the admission criteria says and how this might relate to your situation. It is all about detail but I have to say that in the vast majority of cases the LA will have got the right answer. The fact that they are quoting to 3 decimal places for the last admitted pupil suggests that they are using the "seed point" on premises not post office points of address. But then your distance is quoted as 0.30 miles.
I should also say that if they has been an error made, it is quite likely that it may apply to more than just your application, which could mean many others have a similar claim to a place.

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