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A good reason for appeal?

(23 Posts)
NearlySpring Fri 22-Apr-11 01:32:46

I have read lots of threads about people appealing for school places and have often wondered what is a good enough reason to appeal. I'd love some comments and advice if anyone has any to offer...

My dd is in yr 2, starts yr 3 (Juniors) in September this year. Her current school is right next to our old house. It is an infants only school (reception, yr1 and yr2).

We moved Jan last year (had to move, whole other story, but wasn't by choice) and our new house is 3 doors down from a lovely primary school. We have had her name on the waiting list (and been told we were, and still are 1st on the list) since then - 15 mths so far. Each year has 3 classes so a total of 90 kids per year. I have been taking her to old school ever since. It's approx 35 mins walk with no direct bus. We often get a taxi as it's a lot for her to do first thing before school (me being a little pfb perhaps?)

We had to apply for yr3 places last month. She automatically gets a place at a local Juniors only school (remember her current one is infants only) it's not a great school but we put it on our application as were advised to definitely state it else the automatic allocated place would be retracted. We also put the school we now live next door to as 1st choice.

Letter came back yesterday, we have been declined a place at the school next door to us. Apparently the school can choose to take up to 2 extra children into each class (making it 32 per class) but have decided to take no children. We are still first on the list and no children from other schools have been offered a place there. So, we have to go to the other school she has an allocated place at. I just checked it on google maps and it's 3.3 miles, I reckon that's over an hours walk for a 5 yr old. I do not drive and it's not on any direct bus routes. I work full time and it's going to be an absolute pain in the butt for me to get her there and back. Expensive taxis will be the only way it's do-able.

Do I have cause for appeal? Surely new next door school can see a child living next to their school has been waiting well over a year and will be travelling miles to school each day if they do not offer me a place. They have 90 kids going into year 3 in September, surely 1 more isn't a massive problem? I have spoken to our schools admissions dept and they say it is entirely up to the individual school if they want to take the extra kids.

Does anyone have any experience of this? Should I call the school next door's head teacher and ask to make an appointment to see him? Is it the head teacher that makes these decisions?

Thanks for reading, a little confusing I know... just at a total loss of what to do..

speakercorner Fri 22-Apr-11 10:02:26

I think you do have a good reason for an appeal - because there are spaces that could be made available.

Put in your appeal. And definitely go to see the head - and be very nice (mention being very keen for dd to go to school in your new community and how much you want to make links with other parents, be on pta etc).

Good luck.

LIZS Fri 22-Apr-11 10:14:41

I guess it may depend on whether the school is at its overall capacity. ie it may have the option to take 32 per class but can only so in a specific number of classes at once. Can you find out whether any of the junior classes are already at 32 ? I don't think it is necessarily down to the head although you could certainly discuss it. Is the waiting list LA or school run ?

mrz Fri 22-Apr-11 10:16:09

There is no upper class size limit for junior classes (30 is the legal limit in KS1) so I'm not sure where the idea of choosing to take 2 extra comes from. The school will have a PAN (how many pupils they admit) but in theory they can have as many children per class as space allows.

GiddyPickle Fri 22-Apr-11 10:27:36

Yes - I think you have good reason to appeal.

It isn't an Infants Class Size appeal (where 30 per class is the legal maximum) so this improves the odds of winning massively. All you have to do is prove that the prejudice from them taking your DD is not as bad as the prejudice to your DD of not being accepted.
And if the school have previously taken 32 pupils in Year 3 (the LEA are obliged to tell you this information with numbers from previous years) then you should be able to argue that it will not prejudice the school to do this again whereas the prejudice to your DD from NOT getting a place is much higher.

Even if the school have never chosen to take 32 per class before, if they have the room and resources to do so (you'd need floor plans from LEA and help interpreting these) you can win an appeal by stating that the detriment to them of taking your DD is less than the detriment she will suffer with such a long journey, missed opportunities for local friends, missed opportunities for after school clubs, disruption to family life etc.

stealthcat Fri 22-Apr-11 10:33:37

Are you entitled to transport to the allocated school, as you are more than 2 miles from it?

mrz Fri 22-Apr-11 10:37:08

If it is a community or VA school the LEA not the school control admissions so it worth contacting them if you haven't done so already.

Panelmember Fri 22-Apr-11 11:27:37

Yes, you have reasonable grounds for appeal. As MRZ says, this won't be an infant class size case. You need to demonstrate that the prejudice (ie disadvantage) to your child in not going to the school will be greater than the prejudice to the school in taking another pupil. GiddyPickle has given some suggestions for the way you could argue the prejudice point. Stick to arguments that are about your child - arguments about your own needs/preferences (eg convenience of the school run) aren't relevant.

This mention of 32 as an unofficial upper limit is surprising, but it could work in your favour if you can show the panel that the school has had 32 in a class before.

Don't waste time sweet-talking the head - unless the school is its own admission authority, admissions and waiting lists are determined by the LEA. Head teachers are supposed to remain neutral in the appeals process.

NearlySpring Fri 22-Apr-11 14:03:49

Wow! Thanks so much everyone who has replied, you all seem to really know your stuff.

I'm not certain but I think the primary schools in our London borough are all LEA arranged. We send all our admissions correspondence to them at the local council hall and they are the ones who allocate the spaces and inform the parents. However, it was them that told me it is the schools decision as to whether they take their class sizes up to 32 from year 3 onwards.

So, I've made a list of what I need to do...

1. Book appointment to see the head. Be polite and positive, explain how much we love the school and what they can offer dd in terms of education and extra activities. State that I'm keen to join the PTA (this is true actually!).

2. Call the LEA helpline and find out if this school have "upped" their class sizes in previous years. (will have to wait til tuesday as they are shut now for Easter).

3. Write my appeal letter. Try and show evidence that dd not being accepted there has a detrimental effect on her and give reasons why she is better off at that school. I'm going to include: friends being local, being able to do after school clubs only if she is at local school, long tiring journey for her in the mornings if we walk, disruption to family life (it may mean I need to get a childminder to take her to school as it's in the opposite direction to where a work which isn't ideal).

I do have a couple of things I'd like to ask of you all though, if you wouldn't mind...

1.There IS a nearer school than the 3.3 miles one. It's nowhere as near the one we want to get her into (which is 3 doors down from us) I think it's about 2 miles ish. I know that they have spaces and no waiting list. It's a really awful school, the one that most parents are trying not to have to send their kids to. They offer no before or after school clubs, no PTA etc. Will the appeal still be considered even though there is a school nearish by that has spaces available? I do hope so!

2. The school next door has it's own swimming pool. The only one in the borough to have one in fact. Dd is a keen swimmer and is in a local club so it would be a great advantage to her to have a pool at school too. Should I put this in my appeal letter or is that being a bit too in depth?

3. Do I accept the offer of the school they have given us (3.3 miles one) for now, just so she has a confirmed place? Or will accepting that place have a negative affect on my appeal?

Thank you so much. I only have til Friday next week to get the appeal letter in (going to send recorded so I can prove they received it in time.)

GiddyPickle Fri 22-Apr-11 14:25:14

1. Yes the appeal is considered on it's merits not on theoretical school offers that you might have had if you'd applied to different schools. The situation or availability of other schools doesn't alter your case.

2. You can mention it but unless DD has a medical condition that makes swimming her only source of exercise or crucial for her health it might not carry a lot of weight. If she has swimming certificates and a great interest in swimming though it won't hurt to mention it and may help to prove your case that her out of school activities / quality of life will suffer at the other school and that this school better suits her interests.

3. Accepting the offer won't harm your appeal at all and it's good to have a plan B option.

speakercorner Fri 22-Apr-11 16:42:47

Do accept the place you have been offered OP. Then if your appeal fails, you won't have to send your DD to the bad school.

admission Fri 22-Apr-11 17:39:12

The appeal will stand or fail around this issue of what is the real admission number (presumably 90, but you need to check) and the unofficial idea that the school can take 2 more in each class if they want to. The reality is that they have no right to do this and the LA is remiss in allowing this to happen. The only people who can admit over the admission number are an appeal panel plus the LA under certain conditions. It is not upto the school it is up to the LA as the admission authority. So you need to giev the appeal panel the reason to allow them to admit

You need to find out what the numbers are in the school from yr3 to yr6 and hope that they have more than 90, that have been admitted by the school.
You also need to know that since last September the school has not been responsible for the admission of pupils mid-year it is the LA. So I would strongly suggest that you put in writing to the LA your wish to have a place at the school, knowing that they will say no it is full. They then have to offer you an appeal.

When it comes to the appeal the other bad school does not affect directly your case but it could influence the panel who will ask the LA where there are available places. I would hit this issue head on by saying that your preference is obviously to go to the school 3 doors down but that failing this you would not want to uproot your child from her peer group which is going to the junior school, even with all the issues that entails, the happiness of my child is paramount. You need to confirm why your child was going to the infant school - that is where you used to live. You then need to talk about all the good things at this school in comparison with the junior school. So we are talking about the issue of distance, also making the point that the bad school is a long distance away, the cost and time to get to the school. It is also worth checking local bus routes and times to show that you cannot get to the junior school easily and state the times and route you would have to take. This show that you have thought through what you are doing. That the distance hinders her staying for clubs, that the clubs at the new school are wonderful and she can do......... Also the swimming pool is a major advantage (but please do not put any swimming certificates or anything like that in the appeal documents, that really bugs panels as they are totally irrelevant).

That is quite a reasonable set of reasons for appeal but the reality is that the key is what the school has previously done about numbers. It could be that the reason they know that the school is capable of taking 6 more pupils is that the quoted net capacity is at the bottom of the allowable level and that the real measured net capacity is considerably more than 90 per year group. So ask them what the two figures are for the net capacity. It would be nice to be able to say to the panel, the reason why the school has previously taken more than 90 per year group is that the real net capacity is not 560 (90 x 7 year groups) but more and that is the reason to admit my child.

southofthethames Sat 23-Apr-11 14:00:01

Good luck OP! Hope you get it. FWIW, most ADULTS will say 3.3miles is too far for them to walk, let alone a child! Taxi for the current school is not PFB, millions of parents worldwide use car/taxi daily if it's a 35 minute walk ;-)

NearlySpring Sun 24-Apr-11 03:47:48

Thanks everyone. I'm calling the admissions dept on Tuesday to get the facts and numbers I need about previous year's admissions and will be putting in my appeal letter Wednesday.

I'll come back as let you all know how it goes x

clam Sun 24-Apr-11 20:53:59

Why are you going to make an appointment to see the Head? Head Teachers have absolutely nothing to do with admissions.

prh47bridge Mon 25-Apr-11 01:32:08

It won't do you any harm to see the head. A supportive head may give you information which will be useful for your appeal. However, unless the school is its own admission authority (a faith school, academy, foundation school or similar) the head is not involved in the admissions process and cannot influence it. Even if the school is its own admission authority the head cannot decide to admit your daughter at this stage. That is down to the appeal panel.

NearlySpring Thu 07-Jul-11 18:54:48

Hello, I'm back! Another question I'm afraid..

I have had a lteer today that our primary school (yr3) appeal date is 21st July. This is the last day of term (half day) for the school we are appealing for.

Hmm, my question is, if we do win the appeal (fingers crossed) how on Earth are we supposed to buy uniform (has to be purchased from school) logoed book bag / summer hat etc AND complete all the necessary paperwork?

It just seems so silly that they didnt hold the appeals before the school closes for the summer.

Do we just do it all on the 1st day of term in September?

Appreciate Im jumping the gun a little here - just trying to get all avenues covered.

Secondly- Ive been told each child's appeal has 20mins scheduled with the appeals panel. This is for parents to state their case, questions both ways - the whole thing. Is this normal? Doesn't seem long enough if you ask me..

Thanks, NS

admission Thu 07-Jul-11 19:34:08

I think that you have no alternative to wait till september for the school uniform. You could I suppose buy it and then bring your child with you to the appeal in the new school uniform but I suspect it will not go down to well with the panel!
Any time they are having appeals there will be a schedule but it is meant to be just a guide to what the timings are likely to be. Around me the normal timing is about 45 minutes for the schools case and then 20 -30 minutes for each parent's case.
There is no way that the panel should be limiting the process to 20 minutes. I can remember one very difficult case where the parent's case was nearly 2 hours with questioning.
If they try and push you then you should just keep asking appropriate sensible questions. If they do cut you off then at the end of the appeal the Chair should ask you whether you have had the opportunity to say everything that you want to say. The answer to that is a firm no. If they do not ask that question then you should ask the clerk to write down that you object to the fact that you have not been given a full opportunity to present your case and ask appropriate questions. Go home, calm down and then write a nice letter to the Local Government Ombudsman citing the situation and that despite objecting you were not allowed to complete your case.

NearlySpring Fri 08-Jul-11 13:03:14

Thanks admission!

I have a problem either way as both uniforms are totally different. Even if our appeal fails then the school we have accepted a place at is also shut so we can't get the uniform for that school either. Absolutely unbelieveable!

As for the actual meeting- do I just go through everything that was on the appeals letter that I wrote? All my reasons were stated on there- Im assuming the panel will have read this before the meeting?

clueless smile

prh47bridge Fri 08-Jul-11 14:50:40

I would run through the main points of your submission. You can add further detail and make sure you get the right emphasis. But I would avoid reading out your letter as the panel will already have read it.

NearlySpring Sun 17-Jul-11 08:32:11

WE GOT A PLACE!!!!

Just a little update, thanks for all your help! I spoke with our admissions team who confirmed out appe date as this Thursday coming. She told me the panel had received my letter and would listen to my case then present their case. I asked for their points in writing as they had mine and therefore could prepare their argument and I was told we weren't entitled to see their point!

Anyway- got a call Friday to say a place had actually become available and no appeal was necessary. I'm so happy, best school I. The whole borough and it's a 30 sec walk away! Whoop!

prh47bridge Sun 17-Jul-11 09:16:05

I'm really glad you got a place but appalled at the advice you were given by the admissions team. The clerk to the appeal is required to send you a copy of the LA's written case before the hearing. Indeed, for an appeal this Thursday you should already have received it. They cannot spring their case on you at the hearing. The statement that the panel would listen to your case and the LA would then present their case is also completely wrong. The LA present their case first.

admission Sun 17-Jul-11 15:12:13

nearlysprung,
well done, but as PRH says the information you were given is hopelessly wrong and very worrying. I just hope that this was down to a person in the admission office who was new or something, rather than the general behaviour on all admission appeals. Which particular borough of London are we talking here?

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