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Anyone used a school appeals service

(15 Posts)
demsy Wed 15-Jun-11 12:30:35

I have 2 upcoming school appeals for my DD. We are facing an infant class size appeal in both cases. Has anybody used a school appeals service and if so did you find it very beneficial?

prh47bridge Wed 15-Jun-11 14:07:23

I did my infant class size appeal myself and won. I would generally advise people not to use such services. I may be being unfair but I have come across many cases where they have given bad advice and more than a few where they have antagonised the panel. There may be some good ones out there but I don't know which ones they are.

demsy Wed 15-Jun-11 16:07:38

Thanks for that and well done you've acheived the seemingly impossible! After looking up infant class size appeals I almost feel like giving up. Do you mind me asking on what grounds you managed to win?

prh47bridge Wed 15-Jun-11 17:24:53

It was complicated. The short answer is that the LA were not applying the rules correctly. That's how I got to know the Admissions Code and Appeals Code so well!

admission Wed 15-Jun-11 22:13:44

If they are infant class size appeals then the only realistic way to win is to establish that the admission authority made a mistake that should have given your child a place.
To some extent it depends whether you feel anything was wrong about the admission process. If you do then using someone with the right skills maybe worth it, if you don't feel that was any issues then you are frankly going to waste your money getting them involved. They cannot win a case when there is nothing to win with (no matter how much they may say the opposite)
I would go to the appeals but recognise that you have only a very low level of potential for success. Before the appeal go though everything on the admission authorities case to see if anything does not seem right. The obvious things are which admission category you were in, does the distance measurement look right, is there any suggestion that they might have let applicants in that were late applications. Also if they are operate an accept/ decline system for the places offered did they actually use the waiting list correctly.
Don't give up there are always a few mistakes made each year (by the very nature of the process) and you could be one!

demsy Thu 16-Jun-11 07:33:03

One of the schools we are appealing to we were incorrectly categorised, the school say this is because they did not receive any supplementary information (which was posted but not sent recorded) so unfortunately it will come down to our word against theirs. However if my daughter was correctly categorised I'm convinced she would have been offered a place. With our other appeal I have doubts the school has applied the code correctly as they did ask for job roles in one of their supplementary forms. We were in the correct category but we were rejected on distance however as the school is VA I'm suspicious they are being selective using this information especially as the number of children on role receiving free school meals is well below the national average but the school is in a by no means affluent area. Also at this school it seems common knowledge amongst parents who are not practicing catholics that when it is time to apply for sibbling places they simply turn up to a certain church in the borough for a few weeks and the priest will happily sign their proof of commitment form! However this is very difficult to prove. I am not holding out much hope as it is incredibly difficult to win these appeals however I will try my best!

prh47bridge Thu 16-Jun-11 09:58:14

Unfortunately, with the first school being your word against theirs I'm afraid the panel are likely to go with the school unless there is evidence that the school has a history of losing supplementary forms. After all, the form could have been lost in the post.

You say the second school asked for job roles. Do you mean they asked what job you do? Is this a boarding school? If so they are allowed to ask that question as part of assessing your child's need for boarding. However, if this is not a boarding school the question is a clear breach of the Admissions Code paragraph 1.78(a). They are not allowed to ask about parents occupational or financial status. That is certainly worth raising in the appeal. The panel will then have to consider whether the school was using this information to give children priority and whether your child would have been admitted if they had not been doing so. I'm sure the school will say that they don't use the information but then why are they asking the question?

The priest being overly eager to sign proof of commitment forms is not good. He really needs to think about the fact that by helping some families in this way he is disadvantaging others. Unfortunately there isn't really anything you can do about that. It isn't something the appeal panel can consider, I'm afraid.

B4r4joon Thu 16-Jun-11 12:42:09

I am one of the happiest mums, who just won an appeal (Infant Class Size) a few hours ago for a reception place. I found mumsnetters' advice so useful, honest and caring and to the point. I wouldn't have won my case without them advice. The appeal hearing is a short time, you just need to speak to the point. Not intimidating at all.
In general (I don't know about the school appeal service), the advice I got from her school (current) was mostly wrong ifnormation(not intentianlly perhaps, but they don't know themselves) and no useful and off-putting.
I would stick to here and I am sure if there is a chance of winning, people here take it out, and you can base your argument on that. That was my experience.

demsy Thu 16-Jun-11 14:20:00

Well done you must be elated! I have just received the schools appeal papers one set seems to be very thorough the other doesn't even claim infant class size prejudice (even though it will be) and has just basically given an account of the application timeline and what stages I sent certain paperwork and how they categorised applicants. I'm a little confused!! On what grounds did you successfully appeal?

prh47bridge Thu 16-Jun-11 14:46:06

B4r4joon's case was essentially that her child should have been given priority on medical grounds but the LA failed to do so.

Your case for the first school is that you submitted the supplementary forms but they lost them. That is unlikely to succeed, I'm afraid, but it seems to be the best you've got at the moment.

Your case for the second school appears to be that they have broken the Admissions Code by asking a prohibited question and that you believe the answer to this question was being used to illegally give priority to some children.

If the paperwork from the second school is as basic as you say that is a serious problem. They are required to say why admitting your child would cause prejudice and make it clear whether or not they think it is an infant class size case. They are required to state the school's net capacity. I would also expect them to give the class arrangement and the number of pupils in each year. If you lose your appeal for this school I would recommend a referral to the Local Government Ombudsman on the grounds that the school failed to comply with the Admission Appeals Code paragraph 2.20 and this hampered your preparation for the hearing.

The fact the second school think they can get away with such a poor case makes me wonder if they've had the same appeal panelists for a long time, to the point where they are no longer truly independent. Watch out for anything that happens in the hearing which gives the impression that the panel isn't independent.

The important thing, though, is to give it your best shot and hope the panel come down on your side.

demsy Thu 16-Jun-11 15:09:31

Thank you so much for your advice, I also am a little uneasy about the sheer lack of supporting documentation as it seems they are either extremely naive in the preparation for the appeal or extremely confident (the latter I'm sure).

Just having a look through at the documentation at the school which we have a dispute over supplementray info we would have definately got a place if she was in the correct category as they could admit some children from the category below us. This wont help the appeal but the school detailed all of the applicants full names and dates of births which I'm sure must be some breech of data protection? I have also found they have not adhered to their own procedures as they are supposed to write to families where they have not received supplementary information - this did not happen if it had I would of been alerted earlier and we would not be at this stage now!

The other grounds I am appealing for our first prefernce school is my daughter has a SEN, she doesn't have a certificate but this school makes exceptional progress with children with speech and language difficulties. I understand children without a certificate have to be treated as any other but I want to bring it up as this is the main reason this was our first preference. The reason being at the school she can maintain good friendships she has already established. This may seem insignificant but due to her speech and language problems it is difficult for other children to understand her and making new friendships is very hard for this reason. It has taken my daughter a long time to become confident in her peer group and I'm worried that her progress will be put back at the school she has been offered as she has no continuity or familiarity in her peer group whatsoever there. I have supporting documentation from her speech therapist and play school key worker and manager supporting the fact her progress will be hindered in an unfimiliar peer group. I don't like to make an issue of this but it is the reason this was our first preference school so I don't think it can hurt to give the panel our reasons for why we believe this school is so right for our daughter.

prh47bridge Thu 16-Jun-11 16:39:54

Oh dear. These schools don't seem to have a clue. Yes, you are right. There is no way the first school should have given full names and dates of birth of all applicants. The good news is that if their admission arrangements say they will write to families where they haven't had supplementary information and they failed to do so that is a mistake which could win your appeal. Of course, you may be in the situation where they say they sent it and you say you didn't receive it but if they admit they didn't send it you can clearly show you have been disadvantaged.

It can't hurt to talk about your daughter's SEN. The panel aren't supposed to take it into account in an infant class size case but it may mean they are more inclined to give you the benefit of any doubt.

And don't get paranoid about the second school. They may just be rubbish at handling appeals. It does happen.

demsy Thu 16-Jun-11 18:03:15

Sorry another question but your are so knowledgable on appeals you are literally my font of knowledge at the moment! Is there anyway if the school has just been genuinely rubbish at preparing their case I can use this to my advantage or will it make little difference on the outcome?

prh47bridge Thu 16-Jun-11 21:19:21

I'm afraid I can't think of a direct way of using it. Of course, the panel may think that a lack of competence in preparing their case for the appeal reflects a general problem.

demsy Sat 18-Jun-11 10:57:06

Thanks again for all your advice our appeals are in just over a week. I'm mainly focusing on the one where I think there has been maladministration as I think this has the best chance. I will follow your advice with our second appeal though if unsuccessful and refer to the Local Government Ombudsmen.

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