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catholic school appeal.

(22 Posts)
NICKYBAT1 Mon 13-Jun-11 02:02:59

Hi, we are appealing against a decision not to admit our daughter, we feel that the admissions policy was not followed for two reasons.
1) in school policy it states that after sibling priority it is priority for children that have had a mass verification signed by the local priest, we have been informed that only 5 mv forms were sent out (we were one of them and did get it signed) how can they work out who is priority when only 5 forms were sent out ,we haven't had the schools case yet so we dont know for sure how many applied.
2) We have had it on good authority (parent) that a non-catholic child has been given a place without a SEN, there is talk of another.
We are appealing on these grounds but until we get the schools case we are finding it very difficult to start the ball rolling as what to write in appeal statement etc.
Our appeal is 29th june which means we got about another week to wait for the paperwork.
I have brought the book by Ben Rooney which is very helpful but I really don''t know how to start and am getting really stressed that i'm gonna fluff it on the day.
Any advice would be greatly received
Thanks

nameymcnamechanger Mon 13-Jun-11 02:47:41

I'm not sure I have any stunning insights but let me start by saying good luck

firstly (and I was wondering about this at the weekend) I'm slightly under the impression that the situation has changed (at least local to me) and whereas the LA was 'tolerant' of catholic schools (for what of a better way of putting it ) assessing who to admit by grading their Catholicism according to recorded church attendance the schools ability to do that had been reduced and they were having to go on distance a lot more.

our school ended up with at least 1 non catholic who lives very close and according to criteria he shouldn't have been accepted but since he is so close I wondered whether they 'had to' IYSWIM

our school also ended up 'over numbers' head told parents LA had 'made her', we had 1 problem child again head told parents LA had 'made her' take of course we all know it would be very unusual for LA to 'make' head take a child (we know there were no appeals) when school is full, the parents also know that the LA was under the impression that the school had exactly the number of children in it it should have (OK to be clear year ended up with 52 instead of 45 LA told parents school only had 45 children)

also sorry to put it bluntly but do you know that your reference was OK? the rumour was that ours were coded and whatever the expression was (I don't know) lets say it was 'attends regularly' actually was code for don't admit and things like 'excellent parishoner' etc were used to indicate admit (I hope I'm making sense)

It is very difficult and emotional so I wish you luck there is some good stuff on the internet if you google

finally just be prepared to loose I have a family member who is a lawyer who gets involved in quite a bit of this for work, she looked at our appeal and made some suggestions (but didn't really help TBH certainly not as much as I'd have liked grin) she was pretty clear we had a watertight case, our appeal went well in that I was clearly right in what I said, however the LA mounted a very poor case and the guy just lied blatently and outright. Unfortunately it was also clear that I knew at least as much about the appeal process as the panel in some respects more!! When I told our family member she said 'great, sounds like you did really well you can't loose'
'but you will of course'

of course we lost

for a whole variety of complicated reasons I was unable to appeal I do wish I had though

prh47bridge Mon 13-Jun-11 09:28:13

nameymcnamechanger - No the situation hasn't changed. Schools have not been allowed to grade a child's Catholicism for a long time but they are allowed to differentiate between those who attend church and those who do not. If you school ended up with someone who shouldn't have been accepted according to the criteria it either means something has gone wrong or there is something you don't know about (e.g. the child having a statement of SEN).

NICKYBAT1 - I am very surprised that only 5 mass verification forms were sent out. I would expect the number to be much higher than that. I would be very suspicious of that information. Equally I would not regard a parent as good authority that a non-Catholic child has been given a place incorrectly.

Your appeal statement needs to be about why you want your child to attend this school. You don't need the school's case to write that. You can attack the school's case in the hearing.

If you can show that the school has not followed its own admission criteria and your daughter would have been admitted if they had then you will have a good chance of success at appeal.

If you can identify the school involved I'll take a look at their admission criteria and see if I can advise further. Feel free to PM me if you don't want to name the school publicly.

GiddyPickle Mon 13-Jun-11 09:50:56

Do you know how many siblings got a place? In some year groups, the majority of places go to siblings with only a few left for other children (that's why some non-religious schools end up with catchment areas of less than 200 metres - for example when 22 out of 30 places go straight to siblings).

After siblings, you should be high priority along with others who got their forms signed. I agree with prh47 - the number 5 just doesn't sound high enough unless there are local factors that affect this. Normally the numbers applying with proof of faith are much higher. And then of course the admission criteria normally states how they select from these if there are more people with MV forms than there are places (in our area the deciding factor would be distance)

You need to scour the admission criteria for that school to find out the order of preference and how they decide in tie-break situations (eg if there are 5 children with MV forms but only 3 places left after siblings are admitted how would they decide which 3 out of 5 get a place?)
And then you need to ask how many children were admitted under each criteria (ie how many siblings, how many with MV forms) and then check that you were put into the correct criteria (ie that they knew you had a signed MV form).

Other parents are probably well meaning but it is unlikely they would know for a fact that a child did or didn't have a Statement or an SN so don;t rely on local information to see if you've been treated unfairly or if the admission policy has been followed incorrectly. Find out which category you were placed in and find out how many from other categories were admitted.

jgbmum Mon 13-Jun-11 11:46:19

Apologies for the hijack,

PRH47 re your point about grading the catholicism, our feeder secondary seems to be doing this (just checked the 2012 admissions criteria), so are they breaking the rules? link here

prh47bridge Mon 13-Jun-11 13:04:10

I was specifically thinking of schools that interview parents in order to determine how Catholic they are, which is clearly illegal. However, I think there are a number of questionable points in these (rather complex) admission criteria.

Firstly, category 1 states "children with a Statement. Within this category preference will be given to baptised Catholic children." That is a clear breach of the Admissions Code. They cannot imply that they have any discretion over the admission of SEN children with a statement (paragraph 2.8). If the child has a statement naming the school they must be admitted even if the school is already full. They have no choice. They certainly cannot refuse admission to an SEN child because they are not baptised Catholic. Any attempt to give preference within this category would be illegal. Most schools/LAs don't include SEN children within their admission criteria at all because they don't go through the normal admissions process.

Secondly they say that, "Where decisions have to be made between applications within a category, the information provided by an applicant's recognised Minister of a Christian Religion will be taken into account. Commitment to the faith is considered on attendance - weekly, fortnightly, monthly, occasionally and never." I would question whether that meets the requirement to be clear, objective and fair. I am not saying they absolutely cannot use attendance as a tie breaker (although personally I think that is questionable) but it is not entirely clear exactly what they are doing here.

Their next tie breaker is distance. Here I would question their use of the RAC Route Planner to calculate the home to school distance. That will give a measurement from the centre of the home postcode (which may be some distance from the home) to the centre of the school's postcode (which appears to be some distance from the school). Furthermore the RAC Route Planner is at best accurate to 0.01 of a mile, i.e. about 18 yards. I think that fails to meet the requirement to use a reliable and reasonable system for measuring the home to school distance (paragraph 2.37).

You may want to refer them to the Schools Adjudicator for a ruling on these points.

jgbmum Mon 13-Jun-11 13:38:14

Thanks for your advice smile

OP - once again apologies for the hijack & good luck in your appeal

admission Mon 13-Jun-11 18:03:10

I agree with PRH both of these criteria are very open to question as to whether they are appropriate, especially the one about differing levels of commitment to the faith.
I actually would say that the whole 13 separate categories is far too complicated especially when you start throwing in subsects like siblings and a referral to the school adjudicator would be interesting.

NICKYBAT1 Tue 14-Jun-11 10:51:15

HI , thanks for all your comments, the child that is non catholic , this has actually come from his mothers mouth and is not hear say, have heard there is another non catholic been admitted i am waiting on verification on this.
Also the fact that only 5 mv forms were sent out came from a parent governor, and the fact that only 2 mv forms were signed by the parish priest came from the priest himself.
Too me the criteria reads that mv forms would be sent out to all those in category 1-3 or am i being totally thick and miss reading it, will add more later as I have to go off to work.
I feel I do have case but am getting very stressed and not sleeping because i dont know how to start writing it, as we dont get the schools case until 7 working days before the appeal.

admission Tue 14-Jun-11 21:44:14

nicky,
In terms of writing your appeal, you do not really need the schools case. It will talk about the fact that there are only so many places and they have been allocated in set order and also talk about the numbers in the school, classes and class size etc. When you get the school case you can pick holes in it which should help your case but it is not needed for you to outlien your case
Your appeal is quite simple you believe that the admission criteria for the school was not properly carried out. You say that as you signed an MV form that you should have been in category X of the admission criteria but that you are aware that a non-catholic pupil as admitted and cannot see how they had priority over your child.
It will then become at appeal a discussion about exactly how the places were allocated, whether you were put in the right catchment group and why you were not given a place. You might find out that these others have been admitted perfectly legitimately, they are all siblings for instance or you might establish you were disadvantaged.

prh47bridge Wed 15-Jun-11 00:53:10

Having taken a look at this school's admission criteria, they are more complex than it first appears.

The first thing to say is that they don't automatically send out mass verification forms to everyone in categories 1-3. They will already have the supplementary form and one item of supporting evidence to show that the child is of the faith. This form is so they can give priority to those who attend mass weekly.

The top 3 categories are all for Catholic children (looked after Catholic children, Catholic children in catchment, out of catchment Catholic children). Within these categories they give priority to children with a sibling already at the school with next priority going to children with a mass verification form.

Looking again at your original post, it sounds like they were able to admit all the children in categories 1 and 2 plus all the children in category 3 with siblings already at the school. They therefore wouldn't need mass verification forms for those children as they will all be admitted anyway. They would only need to send these forms to children in category 3 (i.e. out of catchment Catholic children) who did not have a sibling. That probably explains the apparently low number of forms. If more children provided mass verification forms than there were places the decision would be made on distance from the school.

As far as I can see the only way a non-Catholic child should be admitted ahead of a Catholic child is if the child has a statement of SEN naming the school (or, of course, if the parents have done enough to qualify as Catholic under the school's rules even though they do not regard themselves as such). So there is definitely a question as to whether the child you know of was admitted correctly.

NICKYBAT1 Thu 16-Jun-11 06:43:15

Thanks PRH for your input , so I could argue that she's been put in category 3 then, which is what i thought.
Will have to determine how they made the assumption that she was out of the parish, surely the parish is the church they were baptised in and also the church that they attend mass regular, we have two catholic churches where we live and two schools to go with it.
I have looked on the church sites and it does not really give any clue, as to where fits in the parish.

prh47bridge Thu 16-Jun-11 09:39:58

She could have been in category 2 if there were enough applications but category 3 sounds more likely judging from the small number of mass verification forms sent out. The school's case for the appeal should say which category your daughter was considered under.

Whether you are in or out of parish is determined entirely by where you live. If your house is outside the parishes served by this school then your daughter belongs in category 3. The fact that she may have been baptised at a church which is in the parishes served by the school is irrelevant. Equally the church where you go to mass is irrelevant. All that matters is where you live.

It is worth checking with the diocese or the individual churches concerned whether they think you are in or out of parish. It is not unknown for faith schools to use incorrect parish boundaries.

It is also worth finding out exactly which parishes this school is supposed to serve. Their website names one parish and then says "other parishes to the south of x" which is as clear as mud. The fact the school's website then goes on to list three churches suggests it is those parishes but it falls short of a clear statement. I can't find anything helpful on the county council's website either (although I've only spent a few minutes looking so it may be there somewhere).

NICKYBAT1 Wed 22-Jun-11 15:50:23

hi , well still not recieved the schools case , rang the clerk to the panel yesterday and was told that the school was late in sending it in, they recieved it Monday and it was sent out Monday evening by first class.
It really is annoying I beginning to think the headmaster is stalling for some reason.
PRh if you look on the website in the admissions policy it says it serves part of the parish of st gregory's namely walton on the wolds and barrow with postcodes LE128xx.
Then if you look on the information page it says a further parish which is 8.20 miles away.
Also the admission policy on the school website differs to the one on the LA website.
We asked the priest for a copy of the parish and he said he would gladly give it to us but warned us that it differs to that one of the school.
Any ideas anybody??? Surely it is the headmasters duty to make sure that all the information is the same on the website and on LA website.
Also a funny thing has happened the school website has dissappeared????

prh47bridge Wed 22-Jun-11 19:02:21

It is worrying that there doesn't seem to be a definitive list of the parishes served by this school. And if it says it serves part of some parishes it needs to say which parts. Not having this information freely available to parents is a breach of the Admissions Code. And if the school disagrees with the church as to the parish boundaries that is a further problem which could lead the appeal panel to conclude that a mistake has been made.

NICKYBAT1 Wed 22-Jun-11 20:07:35

thank you PRH you have been very helpful, luckily i printed all this information before the website "disappeared"

NICKYBAT1 Wed 29-Jun-11 20:22:17

UPDATE
Hi all had appeal today, didn't go very well, felt that they already made their mind up before we went in, wasn't interested in anything we said about things and just dismissed them as all being irrelevant to our case, the parish differences , the fact that things were different, i just gave up half way cus i felt like i was fighting a losing battle,we presented our case but we knew it didn't make any difference.
2 months of stress, wasted , endless amount of money on ink printing stuff,sleepless nights, what for.
Even the thing about the non-catholic they wernt interested all they said was well they have to produce baptism certificates. I know the lady before us felt exactly the same.
Moral of the story don't bother unless youv'e got 100% proof it ain't worth the stress.

prh47bridge Wed 29-Jun-11 20:57:35

That sounds like the independent appeal panel is not acting independently. The parish differences are very relevant for a start. Assuming you lose I recommend that you refer the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman on the grounds that the panel has not dealt with your appeal properly and has failed to consider matters that should be considered.

admission Wed 29-Jun-11 23:30:45

For a panel to be dismissing your arguements is completely wrong. They should be listening to you without expressing a view. Yes they then have to come to a view and make decisions but that is in private and having heard the whole appeal.
This on its own would warrant a referral to the LGO but with the parish differences apparently being ignored this seems a case as PRH says of having an appeal panel which was anything but independant.

NICKYBAT1 Thu 30-Jun-11 06:44:29

I don't know if I can go through any more, it's been so stressful, plus i lost my auntie on Monday, which didn't help yesterday. I even gave them the proofs of differences but they took them and looked at them and said that these things happen, and about the parish map the chair person started to help the head to answer the question,she said that new ones had been sent out recently to the parishes this is why they could differ, because he said that he didn't even realise they were different, then i said well if you policy states that you use the parish as to who gets in then how can they differ.
We asked about a map to show where the last child that got in was and they said there isn't one, in the admission code i believe it says that if distance was used they had to show a map. We didn't get the statutory 7 days to look at the schools case, i believe in the admission appeals code it states that there case should be sent to the clerk to the panel atleast 10 school days before the hearing, but this wasn't done either because his paperwork was done and signed on the day, i didn't bring this up because i was just so stressed everything just didn't go as i had written it.
I was just so angry yesterday partly with myself for not saying all i wanted to bring up and partly with the panel for just dismissing things.

NICKYBAT1 Thu 30-Jun-11 06:50:59

sorry forgot to add ,they said they were all irrelevant because they don't show that the school made a mistake in not admitting her, i argued that surely they are misleading parents into thinking that their children are entitled to a place, thats when they said these things do happen and i think thats when i gave up really.

prh47bridge Thu 30-Jun-11 10:01:20

I am really sorry for your loss.

The chair should not help the head to answer questions. That pretty much confirms that the appeal panel was not acting independently.

The Appeal Code does not say that a map has to be provided but it does say that, where distance has been used to allocate places, the authority must show how this was applied to your application compared to those offered a place. Most authorities provide a map in order to cover this point.

The school has to provide its evidence to the clerk 10 school days before the hearing. You should have all the paperwork 7 working days before the hearing. If that didn't happen you were denied the chance to prepare properly. Producing paperwork on the day of the hearing is unacceptable.

The only point where I agree with what happened is that you have to show that the school made a mistake in not admitting your daughter. That would clearly be the case if the school regard you as not living in one of the parishes they serve but the church says you do live in one of those parishes. However, even if that is not the case, a difference between the school's view of the parish boundaries and the actual boundaries could mean that other applicants were incorrectly given priority over your daughter. The panel don't seem to have considered this possibility. And saying that "these things do happen" in response to your comment that they are misleading parents is completely unacceptable. These things should not happen and it is part of the panel's job to make sure they don't.

Referring the case to the LGO is not particularly stressful. The LGO will not hold a new hearing. It is essentially a paper exercise. You will submit a statement of your complaint, covering both the way your application for admission was handled and the way the appeal was conducted. You will get help here with that if you want. The person handling the case will probably speak to you on the phone once or twice and that will be it. They will then make their decision. There are three possibilities:

- they could reject your complaint
- they could recommend a fresh appeal
- they could recommend that your daughter is admitted

They will generally only recommend admission where they are convinced that there is only one possible outcome from a correctly conducted appeal.

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