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More infant class size appeals advice please (sorry!)

(9 Posts)
Shortgal Sat 11-Jun-11 09:58:17

ok so our situation is this, my son didn't get our first choice school, we knew he'd be in the category of out of catchment, no siblings and measured by who is nearest to school by safe walked route. After being told no, I contacted admissions and asked for the furthest distance someone actually got in and our measured distance, they replied saying someone got in 0.6 miles away and we were 0.73 miles. I immediately queried this (and submitted appeals docs because I knew we were less than 0.6 miles away!) pointing out a footpath directly by our house, they replied quickly with oops, yes, we've recalculated you as 0.63 miles and moved you up the waiting list. I then decided to wait for the appeal.

But two weeks ago a number of people contacted me to tell me that the person first on the waiting list has got in, I know their address as they are a friend of a friend. I re-contacted admissions and asked for the new furthest away distance and also questioned if they had used another well used (clearly marked on os maps!) footpath in our route. They have now replied with oops, yes we've now recalculated and your new distance is 0.6162 miles. The distance of the last child given a place has been measured as 0.6132! A difference of 4.5 metres!

So my quesion is, given the very small difference and admissions messing up twice how am I supposed to trust that everyone else has been measured accurately? Also their system measures from the centre of the dwelling, the child given a place lives in a house that opens directly onto the footpath so I feel that my son is actually being penalised for having a driveway (about five metres from the path!) and larger house and finally most route maps measure down the middle of the road and our route is quite unique in that the majority of the route runs down a footpath behind a wall (extremely safe route) that is actually a good ten metres away from the centre of the road and therefore cutting the distance down by more than 5 metres. This will now be the basis of our appeal.

Sorry this has been so long winded but I've noticed some excellent appeals experts on here and would love to know if I have a hope? I am still waiting for the route map, and desperately hoping that they've measured us from further up the street!

Katie

prh47bridge Sat 11-Jun-11 10:41:05

I'm afraid your argument that they should have measured from somewhere else on your property won't fly. They have to measure from somewhere. As long as they have been consistent the fact that it would have been better for you if they had measured from somewhere else is irrelevant.

They don't use maps to calculate the distance. They use very accurate computer systems. If the route uses a footpath they will have calculated using the centre of the path. If they have measured along the road that could be a mistake which would help you. It depends on exactly what their admission criteria say and the status of this path. Is it regarded as a separate path or as part of this road.

Whilst the fact they have come up with three different distances so far does not inspire confidence but will not of itself win your appeal. The best you are likely to get from that is the panel asking the LA to remeasure everyone.

Your best chance will be if you can show that they still haven't got the shortest route.

PanelMember Sat 11-Jun-11 12:10:36

prh47bridge is right. You will get nowhere if you try to substitute your own map or own system of measurement. You need to check - and encourage the panel to check - that the LEA has used its own system correctly.

If they eventually produce a measurement for you which is less than the distance for the child who just got in via the waiting list, then you can argue that the place should have been yours and the LEA's error has cost your child the place. The panel might then be willing to admit on that basis.

admission Sat 11-Jun-11 18:39:25

There are actually two separate issues here for the panel to address.

The first is quite simple in theory, what actually is the distance from your house to the school by the shortest walking distance. You cannot as PRH and panelmember say, quibble over how it is measured, as long as they are consistant then no panel will accept your views on how it should be changed. I say in theory because what they need to do to satisfy you is detail exactly what route they have used and that it accords with your view on the route. That will then give you a distance and I confirm that the computer systems used are quite capable of differentiating to literally cms if necessary. So I am afraid that your distance of 4.5 metres to far away is quite valid and well within the accuracy of the system if it is correct.

You seem to believe that the LA are using the centre of the road for measurements but if the LA accept that a footpath can be used then that is what must be measured, not the road. However if that is the case then what should happen is that all pupils, where appropriate, who were allocated a place will be re-measured to take into account this new path. That may or may not be of benefit to you.

I have to say that the idea that they can go oops yes we did not use that one twice makes me think that they have not got a well organised system and that this really should not be happening. Usually the LA has a long list of paths that they consider appropriate and they will not deviate from that list for the admission timetable, just saying nothing else meets their criteria. So I am rather surprised at the way they keep accepting your suggestions.

Having got an exact distance there are a number of questions that then need to be asked. Would that distance have got you a place at the first round of places being allocated? On the current distances being quoted I think the answer is probably not but it needs checking, especially as you think the distance is below 0.6 miles. If it would have got you a place then the panel should find in your favour as the LA made a mistake.

You are aware of one person getting a place subsequent to the initial allocation but you need to ask exactly how many new allocations to the school there have been and for each one what criteria were they admitted under and if it was distance, what the distance was. Again if your agreed distance is less than the person who was given the place you have been disadvantaged and should be given a place.

You are in "can of worms" territory here, so do not be surprised if the panel decide that the only way to resolve this is to adjourn and get the LA to do a whole lot more measuring of everybody involved with a getting a place at the school.

GiddyPickle Sun 12-Jun-11 09:56:53

I agree - you won't get anywhere at all by objecting to them using the centre of your property as their starting point. The LEA must pick a criteria and apply it fairly to everyone. The family you know who have no front garden benefit marginally from this ruling. There are probably families with 20foot driveways who think it is a terrible ruling and it would be best to measure from the pavement. As long as the LEA measure in the same way for everybody, it is fair.

The issue of defining the shortest safe walking route however is more likely to get an appeal panel to sit up and take notice but as admission says, this may or may not help you get a place. Assuming the footpath you've alerted them to complies with the definition of "safe" - which usually means it has to be a public one and lit with streetlamps in the winter - then it's fair to summise that you might have bben disadvantaged BUT if they've missed your footpath - how many others have they missed and how many other families could use that same path and shorten their own distances?
If it turns out that the whole measuring thing has been a complete shambles it could open a whole can of worms with other parents also feeling that they've missed out too.

If you can prove that a mistake had the direct effect of depriving you of a definite place then you have a good chance at appeal BUT it doesn't help to prove a mistake was made if that mistake doesn't make any bearing on you not getting a place at the school.

Shortgal Sun 12-Jun-11 14:15:20

Thank you everyone for your advice. I think that my chances of winning the appeal are slim as I have pointed out their mistakes twice but they say that this still wouldn't have got my son a place. It is unbelievable that he's missed out on a place by 4.5 metres but I appreciate the line has to be drawn somewhere. I should hopefully get a map of the route they used soon and will see if it is finally correct! It is interesting that an admissions consultation document for my LA published on the internet shows that they intend to add small print as of next year stating 'nearest distance as determined by our mapping system.' I guess I'm not the only one questioning their routes!

Thank you for your help.

GiddyPickle Sun 12-Jun-11 15:51:32

Shortgal - it is a shame to miss out by only a few metres but, as you say, every year at oversubscribed schools, somebody misses out by probably just a few metres. On the plus side though, getting this sorted out and having your distance correctly recorded will improve your chances of getting a place from the waiting list as you must be near the top now. By all means go for the appeal and state your case but have a plan B in place including other waiting lists if you'd like to.

admission Sun 12-Jun-11 17:15:12

'nearest distance as determined by our mapping system.' is a complete waste of time. If they make a mistake then they have to correct it, not come out with that old chestnut that the expert is always right!

I would take with a pinch of salt everything that the LA says, they always say they are right until they are proved wrong. I have done far to many admission appeals where the distance criteria and especially nearest walking route has resulted in "unfortunate errors". So check very carefully everything.

prh47bridge Sun 12-Jun-11 23:48:19

Agree with Admission. If they really want to eliminate problems their best option would be to go for straight line distance. That should only be open to challenge if they measure from the wrong address.

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