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Urgent advice re appeal process (sorry it's long I'm toooo stressed to be succinct x

(8 Posts)
purpleangelfairy Thu 21-Jul-11 13:28:59

Hi,

I'm new but have been advised to post on here as I may be able to get some valuable advise.

I'm having a nightmare which I'll try to make as brief as pos;

Last July I found out H had 2 yr affair- this was 3 weeks after my 2nd back op. He left in Aug and I settled my Son & Daughter into a new school/nursery. S- was going into reception and D- starting part time pre-school at same school. We lived around the corner. S knew nobody and same for D. My D took ages to settle as disrupted from split and new nursery while also going to her private one.

I applied for D reception place at same school when still living round the corner. However before Xmas I had to put house on market as I was struggling to cope on my own with back (need one more hopefully final op) and 2 young kids. I temp moved into my Dad's in April (about same time got accpetance into school) I then had very personal traumatic exp that I can't discuss on here but hence to say it distracted me from life itself. When I had to fill in the admissions paperwork for my D I informed the school that I had temp changed address & put this new address on all forms.

School admissions were quite bad in way handled and basically told me as you expecting (which I wasn't) it's bad news, I knew you'd be upset after reading your letter but you have strong case go to appeal- actually telling me to go along and cry!!

I was devasted (this was 2 weeks ago) and tried to explain the significant stress I am under and that I felt unable to cope with stressful appeal process ( I was due to find out about 3rd op & also stuff going on re traumatic exp). The admissions team asked me to send long e-mail in exlplaining everything and they would review decision. The very next day they withdrew my daughters place and sent me a letter saying she in dif school. They clearly were paying lip service to my situation.

Long phone call with head of admisssions who said sorry no other choice (to meet exceptional circumstances I would have to have terminal illness or one parent would have to be dead) She also told me very strong case for appeal.

The actual school understandably say they can't influence any decision but have confirmed they don't want to lose my son or think it in best interest of Daughter to send her somewhere else. They have concerns about her wellbeing & knows she needs consistency. Her bloody nursery teacher has only recently said that she is coming out of herself- no longer at her side every snack time or in the background- she is more confident & has made some excellent friends- all of who will be in the class she was supposed to join.

Appeal happened on Mon at very short notice- I agreed to waive rights of notice to respond as I was so stressed & unwell. However I did not receive a letter or leaflet about how to appeal or was I given the actual reasons for refusal in any clear words- So I went in fighting with my mitigation and it was actaully prejudice to class size so panel said totally sympathetic to my very stressful personal circumstances, getting 2 children to dif schools as single mum and having an operation. But refused my appeal as no evidence to support wrong decision on class size!! However a school in same borough has just let 3 appeals win for same reason - sibling out of catchment which takes their class size to 33. My son's current year was also 3 over.

I've asked for a 2nd appeal due to the procedural errors and I'm waiting to hear. I've also complained about treatment contacted MP and the Ombudsmen. Nothing much is happening and I'm freaking out as school breaks next week. But my lovely dr is now writing a letter of support as well.

I just can't tell my little girl that after such a tough year she has to leave her friends, brother and complete network of support to start a new school away from everything she knows. A school which is about 5 mins from the one I want her in and also out of the catchment area for my Dads address. I have made it very clear that I am going to move back into catchment area after by op ( a disability protected by Equality Act- Admissions team seem to have no regard to this at all though) I just can't cope either with hurting either of them after protecting them all year to make sure they were not hurt in anyway after separation.

I know not everyone will be sensitive to my situation and indeed be in a similar one or worse. I also understand the impact it has on schools/staffing etc.

However if anyone can offer any advice (if I have made any sense!!!) I'd be eternally grateful. I'm not strong enough to read bad stuff though smile

Thanks xxxx

PanelMember Thu 21-Jul-11 16:58:08

Hello.

If I've understood you correctly, your D was refused a place because being a sibling out of catchment puts her in a lower admissions category. There have been several threads this year where this has been the issue. It's very tough on you but, as you have found out, if this was an appeal heard according to infant class size rules, you have to show that the decision to refuse your D a place was wrong or so was so unreasonable that it was irrational. If the school's admission criteria create the possibility that a sibling won't get in if the family has moved out of catchment - which many schools' criteria do - that isn't necessarily unfair in itself and doesn't necessarily give you grounds for winning an appeal.

However, there are several issues here which are worth some further exploration:

1. The appeal wasn't (it seems) heard in accordance with the admissions appeals code. You were not in a good frame of mind when you waived your right of appeal and didn't realise what the implications could be. You weren't given the information you needed to present your case clearly and completely and were therefore at a disadvantage.

2. What do your LEA's admissions criteria say about parents with disabilities and/or children with social/medical needs to attend a particular school? Should you have been placed in that category? You are, I think, on slightly tricky ground in arguing that your disability means that your D has to attend your preferred school - you would have a strong case if the preferred school was closer to home than the allocated school, but it's not clear from what you say that this is the case. What might help here is a letter from your GP clearly stating what your health problems are and (maybe) confirming that you are only living temporarily with your dad while you wait for your operation.

3. Even so, the further difficulty here is that, if you've sold your house, you don't have any address in the catchment area to move back to. LEAs are on the lookout for fraud and saying that you intend to move back into catchment won't normally be enough, as anyone could say that to get a place at their preferred school - you usually need to provide proof (council tax registration, utility bills) to corroborate an address.

I think your best hope here is to get a second appeal (which you might, if the Ombudsman agrees that the first one was unfair) and then do your best to convince the panel that in all the circumstances - D is sensitive and needy after the divorce, needs the support of being at school with her brother, you have a disability - the decision not to admit was so unreasonable as to be perverse. I think it's borderline whether you'll succeed, but give it your best shot.

Seek advice from the Advisory Centre for Education too.

LadyLapsang Thu 21-Jul-11 17:46:03

Do you actually still own your house that is in the catchment area and where are you paying your council tax at the moment - your own home in catchment or your father's?

admission Thu 21-Jul-11 22:36:54

I think you need to establish some things.
1) did you apply within the time period for a place at the school with address of your house?
2) did you receive an offer of a place based on this address at the school and what date was this?
3) when did you move to your dads house? was it after an offer was made?
4) have you actually sold your house? if so, when?
5)is there anything in the LA admission criteria that says you must be in the house after the time of allocation of school? Alternatively tell me which LA it is and I will look.

I think we need to establish exactly what you were offered and when before anything else, because reading between the lines of what you have said I wonder whether the LA have incorrectly removed your offer. The fact you had the house on the market around Xmas is irrelevant to the admission process, it is only relevant as to when you moved out to your fathers and whether that was a permanent move or temporary.

PanelMember Thu 21-Jul-11 22:44:58

Yes, good spot, Admission.

I got a bit lost in the original post and thought OP had applied from her dad's address. As she applied from - and got an offer at - the old address there are a lot more questions to be answered about whether the LEA was correct to remove the offer of the place. The relevant dates and what it says in the admissions criteria will be crucial here.

purpleangelfairy Wed 27-Jul-11 17:51:43

Hi,

So sorry not replied thanks all for your messages, I have just been hectic with the kids and fighting with the council & feeling soooo stressed.

They are still refusing to budge but I have a face to face meeting with the head of admissions tomorrow at 10.

The ombudsman have allocated it to an investigation team but I do already have a date for a 2nd appeal- not till 20 September which means my D will miss intro to school and my son is confusing matters as so excited and aware that she is starting when he goes into yr 1.

Here is the e-mail I last sent which they are refusing to agree with, no worries if no one has time to reply I just didn't want you to think I had not bothered with your responses- I'm grateful and you will see from my e-mail below that I'm trying to sound like I know what I'm talking about but sadly don't fully!!!

'the letter I was sent dated 7/7/11 from * stated that 'consequently it has been necessary to reassess my daughter's placement in light of your address change and in accordance with the booklet 'applying for primary School 2011-12'' (page 16 refer), which you have ticked on-line to say you have read in October 2010 when submitting Georgia's application.

I have checked this page & it only refers to catchment areas on the FAQ-this is general information about how catchment areas work. However my situation relates to a change in circumstances & page 19 of the booklet refers to this-stating;

'in all cases the new address or circumstances will be re-assessed in line with each school admissions policy & when the change occurs (i.e. Before of after the closing date of applications) may affect the outcome of your application.'

This does not state that a place will be withdrawn or necessarily state which point matters most -e.g. Before or after the closing date.

I would like to point out that at the time of the closing date 15 Jan 2011 I had not sold my house & had no idea when I would-I therefore was understandably unable to know about the changes to my address.

The only point I can find that suggests a place is withdrawn -subject to further investigation is when the address declared on the online/paper application was not the child's principal parental home-I can confirm that the address I applied under does not meet this criteria.

I have already pointed you to 1.50 of the Government School of admissions code where it states places once offered are only withdrawn in very limited circumstances -i.e fraud or intentionally mislead-the info I have provided confirms that I do not fall under of these category's.

I would also like to refer you to 2.25 of the code;

Siblings at Primary School;
'Giving priority to siblings particularly supports families with young children at primary school age who are not able to travel independently. Families must be at the heart of the admission system. Admission authorities should ensure in their oversubscriptions criteria that siblings can attend the same primary school as long as they comply with the education act-i.e. Infant class sizes.'

I would like to point out that the class was within it's class size limits at the time of Georgia's application, closing date & offer of a place. I therefore feel that this part of the code has not been considered sufficiently.

I will now refer to the Stockport schools admission code;

'If the circumstances change at any time after the closing date this must be notified. The application will be considered in light of the changes of circumstances'

I would point out that I did notify the change of my circumstances & this part of policy specifically does not say a place will be withdrawn. It actually suggests some flexibility-which I certainly wasn't shown.

'an application can be refused on following grounds;
• infant class size limitation
•school is full -class prejudice
•pupil permanently excluded from 2 schools'

My daughters application was not refused on these grounds, it was accepted & then withdrawn -I can see no reference in policy to support that this was a technically correct decision & is potentially an unlawful decision.

The policy also refers to providing someone with a change of circumstances with a new application form-if I had been given one I may then have been able to claim highly exceptional circumstances & actually obtained written evidence to support this-in fact I explained my situation over the phone under a significant amount of stress & didn't understand this fully. I should have been made aware that all cases like this should be accompanied by written evidence & having a new application being sent perhaps would have been able to give me the opportunity to do this. I accept that very few cases are excepted but I was denied this right so a decision should not actually have been made about this.

I now refer to the Statement of the Corporate director to people;

Section 2 - Admissions criteria
2.1 'All admission arrangements comply with the Government school admissions code of practice'

I am concerned that point 1.50 & 2.25 have not been complied with in your application of your Guidance regarding my daughters application.

I have been advised by the Equality & Human rights commission that I should ask your service if it shows due regard to disabled parents-I have not seen any evidence of this in any of my dealings with the admissions service or noted in your policy. I believe this team may investigate such claims but I do not have the full info.

I therefore strongly disagree to the decision to remove my daughter's place. This decision was not made in line with published policy & I was not provided with the correct reason for withdrawing the place. I do not think this case is proper to the appeals process as there are so many fundamental flaws in the original action by your team-as you know I wish for the decision to be rescinded.

The Ombudsman have now prioritised this case & have concerns about 2 potential children missing out on important school time. I will not separate them at any time in the near future.

I have spoken to * & she has advised me she has received the MP letter & she will be passing this onto you & *-please consider this when reaching your decision.

But they are the rudest people I have ever dealt with and show no particular knowledge of the admissions code at times which is scary.
I just can't cope not knowing until the end of Sept and dealing with telling my daughter that she is not starting school when her friends do- it may well undo all of the hard work I have put in over the past year to get her into such a good place re school and coping with the split so well.

Thanks xx

prh47bridge Wed 27-Jul-11 19:11:52

Stockport again! They seem to think the rules don't apply to them. We already know they break the Admissions Code on waiting lists despite being told by the Schools Adjudicator that their interpretation of the Admissions Code is wrong.

Paragraph 1.50 of the Admissions Code is the important one here. Paragraph 2.25 isn't really relevant - apart from anything else, it is only a "should" so compliance is not compulsory.

If you moved prior to the offer being made and didn't tell them about the move they have grounds for withdrawing the offer. However, if you didn't move until after the offer was made or you informed them of your change of address prior to the offer being made they have clearly broken the Admissions Code.

I think you are saying that you moved before the offer was made but informed Stockport of your move at the time. That being so they are in breach of the Admissions Code. It is disappointing that the appeal panel failed to pick this up. If you have not referred the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman already please do so. If they agree that the offer was withdrawn incorrectly I would expect them to recommend that Stockport reinstate the place without the need for a further appeal.

admission Wed 27-Jul-11 22:15:40

I think this is quite simple. If you applied before the 15th January (the cut off date) and used your current home address and you did not move out of that address before the 15th April 2011 (the admission allocation date) then you used the right address and the LA have not a leg to stand on in removing the place that they allocated to your daughter.

If you moved to your parents house before the 15th April it is a bit more confusing but still obvious to me. Your move to your parents house was temporary because of your back etc but you still owned your principal parental home address and that is the address that you should have used.

Stockport seem to have a number of different policy documents about admissions just to further confuse. In their School admissions policies september 2011, when talking about principal parental home address it says

If the child goes to live with a friend or relative for reasons other than legal guardianship, it is still the parent’s principal home address that will be used by us to determine eligibility for the purpose of allocating a school place.

It is also very clear that Stockport will not accept a new address until various forms are complete and from what you have said on your posts you had not completed these forms.

Stockport have made an arbitary decision that you had moved between 15th Jan and 15th April and not told them. I would challenge the admission manager to put up or shut up. They either show concrete proof that you were permanently living with your parents on the 15th April 2011 and that you no longer owned your previous house or they reinstate the place at the school. If they are not prepared to do that then you will not only continue your action with the Ombudsman but be looking to take appropriate legal action against the LA.

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