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I need advice on the exceptional arrangements category in school admissions

(26 Posts)
lilymaxi Thu 29-Sep-11 20:43:39

My daughter is due to start school next september so i need to apply by begining of Jan.
I have looked at all the local choices and feel that only one school is suitable due to her very severe asthma.
I want to apply on exceptional circumstances but have been advised that hardly anyones application in this category goes through.
The reasons I feel only this school is suitable is:
-the grounds are a lot smaller than other schools so if she has any breathing difficulties a member of staff could get to her with her medication
-it is a primary school that goes through to age 11 so she would not need to change at age 7 and go though settling and staff getting to know about her conditions.
- it is a flat school so there is no stairs. When she is going through a bad phase she struggles with her breathing going up and down stairs
-it has an open air swimming pool. My daughter can not swim in an indoor swimming pool due to the chlorine and lily inhaling the chemicals. I have been told by my daughters consultant that swimming is the best exercise for asthmatics and will strengthen her chest, which will improve her health. i cannot take her anywhere local because they are all indoor swimmingpools.
This opportunity of being able to swim in an open air swimming pool would be invaluable to her.
Can anyone advise me on whether i would stand a chance at applying on medical gorunds. I can get both my daughters consukltants to write supporting letters.
Any advise will be greatly appreciated!

Northernlurker Thu 29-Sep-11 20:54:52

I think the stairs and the swimming pool sound like the only possible grounds tbh. A good school will deal with settling in issues and size of grounds in emergency situations. The only things that are uniquely helpful to your dd are the absence of stairs and the pool - but even then do the other schools have lifts? Ours certainly does.

admission Thu 29-Sep-11 21:00:52

The honest truth is that different Local Authorities apply the criteria to different levels of strictness but in most the level of success is low. For instance in one of my LAs of the 105 applications only 19 were agreed. So i would say you need to understand that this is a low success rate situation.

My immediate reaction to your specific circumstances is that asthma would probably be regarded as something that all schools should be able to handle and that your reasons are not strong enough. However you will not know until you do it. You have a considerable amount of time before the application has to be in, so my advice would be to get your consultants letters together and submit them to the LA asking for a decision to be made. That should be well before the cut off date giving you an opportunity to reassess your preferences depending upon the outcome.

The consultants letters must say what is wrong and must be the consultant saying i would advise or words to that effect, with a reason for this school. If they say Mrs X tells me then they are of no value.

madwomanintheattic Thu 29-Sep-11 21:05:12

agree with northern lurker - you not only have to prove that this school is the only one capable of meeting her needs (an outdoor pool is lovely, but not sure where you would stand on that being included as a necessity when many schools don't offer swimming at all/ rarely), but you have to prove the other schools are not capable of meeting her needs. (and this would include the lifts thing - if the other schools have lifts then they can meet her needs adequately. do you have a lift at home or live in a bungalow btw?)

often schools will reorganise classroom allocations to prevent stair use by pupils who are unable to use them btw - so this is also fairly doubtful - it was in fact the long term plan for dd2's infant school admission, when the yr 2 classrooms were upstairs (she has cerebral palsy and struggles with stairs, particularly when they are filled with rambunctious 7yos grin). the school just planned to move the yr 2's downstairs for that year if necessary. (as it happened they installed some adaptations and we moved o'seas grin so they kept the yr 2's upstairs)

so i would be concentrating on visiting the other schools ansd expakining why they can't meet her needs. (worth remembering that 'meeting needs' isn't proving which would be the gold plated solution, just which one she can be educated adequately in - other wise everyone would be choosing the school with the best facilities etc)

worth a try. but no telling if it would work. (and you need to be prepared for the LA to say 'but we've got 20% of children who are asthmatic in this school - why is she so different that she can't go there?')

lilymaxi Thu 29-Sep-11 21:25:52

Thank you all so much for all your advise.
madwomenintheattic, just to let you know we live in a bungalow, which means my daughter doesn't have to contend with stairs.

What I would like to know is what cases actually go through on exceptional arrangements?

CustardCake Thu 29-Sep-11 22:35:16

admission is right. Asthma would be considered a condition that any school should be able to cater for in terms of safety and it would be hard to convince admissions that this is not the case for your daughter.

If you are sure that the school you want is the only local school with no stairs and if you can get her consultant to state in his medical and professional opinion that your daughter needs a school environment with no stairs at all for the sake of her health then you might be in with a chance. It would not count if he said it was your opinion. He has to say it is his medical judgment that this is the case.
Ditto the outdoor pool. Whilst you could argue it would be advantageous for her, you need a stronger argument than this eg a consultant’s letter stating that your daughter's health requires this / would be helped by this and stating why indoor pools are unsuitable along with evidence from you that no such outdoor pools exist within a reasonable radius of your house and that this school is her only chance of getting an exercise vital to her health that she can participate in.
How easily you would be able to get letters worded as strongly as you need them to be and how easily you could show all other local schools would be detrimental to her health in the professional opinion of a consultant is hard to tell.

Cases that succeed on special arrangements are cases where a child has a medical need that no other school could adequately provide for or adapt to. This isn’t the same as it being the ideal school for them. The school simply has to be adequate. For example lots of schools have no swimming pool at all and whilst it is nice to have one, it might be hard to prove that having one is essential as opposed to just advantageous.
A case that might win would be along the lines of a child who uses a wheelchair wanting a single storey school where the only other school in the area is in a Victorian building with no lift and steep concrete stairs with half of all lessons and lots of facilities all being upstairs. Then a parent could say that they needed a place at the school with no stairs in order for their child to be educated and to be able to access basic resources at school.
A special social reason might be a child who is recently bereaved seeking a place at a school with specialist bereavement counselling services or a place at a school their friends attend to help them through a time where support is crucial and they, more than any other child, needs to be with people they know.

You won’t know until you try though and only you now the strength of your case in asking for this school in relation to the other schools you might be offered. There is certainly nothing to be lost from pursuing it and getting together the evidence you need as long as you realise that you need to present the best possible case you can and back up all your points.

RueDeWakening Thu 29-Sep-11 23:40:17

I don't know about rarely accepted, in my DD's school this year there are 4 kids (out of 60 intake) who were accepted under category 2, ie exceptional social or medical need.

Social & medical reasons can also include parent's medical conditions by the way, again if said parent can get the support of their consultant.

madwomanintheattic Thu 29-Sep-11 23:49:45

the stairs q was just to give an example of what you could be asked for proof of requirement, really.

dd2 was the wheelchair user lol grin - and in her case we successfully argued that the flat school was unacceptable and the old victorian school was the only one that could meet her needs (even though there were stairs and no lift etc grin)

good luck x

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Thu 29-Sep-11 23:50:17

Admission is right. My LEA would almost certainly take the view that so many children these days have asthma that primary schools are well used to meeting their needs.

cory Fri 30-Sep-11 08:07:03

If you go for special reasons, don't forget to get a doctor's letter about the stairs thing and the benefits of using the swimming pool. If they don't have a letter from a medical professional they will assume that there is no difference between your dd and most other asthmatic children (most of whom do cope with these situations). They need to be told why yours is a different case.

crazymum53 Fri 30-Sep-11 10:08:24

In my experience hospital consultants tend to be reluctant to recommend a particular school but you may be able to persuade them to write a letter saying about stairs being an issue.
However there is also a danger that if your daughters condition is very severe schools may question whether your child is fit enough to be at school at all so be careful. Most primary schools these days expect high attendance so check the schools policy on how medical conditions affect this. Some high performing schools are very intolerant of children who have high levels of sickness so try to get an idea of what they will be like before you apply.
By the way, my child has a medical condition but it did not count towards this admission criteria as it is well controlled and the LEA have the view that most schools should be able to deal with it through first aid.
I would also try to find out what your LEAs policy is for this category as there is a wide variety of policies nationally.

cory Fri 30-Sep-11 10:31:06

Crazymum is right, doctors certainly won't want to mention a particular school, but they can describe the kind of school your dd needs.

But crazy, state schools are not allowed not to admit children because who have high levels of sickness: in fact, state schools don't deal with the admissions procedure at all, the LEA does that and the LEA has to find a school anyway.

But it is true that you want to check out what the school's actually going to be like when your dd is in there and struggling with her condition: we had a ghastly experience with junior school and it would have helped to have known beforehand that "this school has a headteacher who is obsessed with attendance and has very little empathy". So talk to the school and listen to those subtle signs. They can't refuse you admission unless they are widely unsuitable, but it's not everywhere you want to get admitted to.

PanelMember Fri 30-Sep-11 12:44:52

I'm sure Crazymum is right that consultants are reluctant to name a particular school but LEAs will expect some compelling arguments if they are to be persuaded that the child's medical needs are so severe that they are above and beyond what other schools could reasonably be expected to cope with. Certainly, at the appeal stage, I would normally expect any evidence of medical needs to spell out unambiguously why it had to be the preferred school and not the allocated school.

crazymum53 Fri 30-Sep-11 13:52:30

Cory thanks for summing up what I really meant about schools having empathy about sickness. There is a big difference between pupils who have attendance below 90% due to holidays and unauthorised absence and those who genuinely have medical conditions - yet some schools show no sympathy for the latter.
What I did mean is that there are some very severe medical conditions that cannot be managed by mainstream schools but this really doesn't apply for asthma.
I have helped with my dds class and if a child has severe asthma and the class are doing an outside activity e.g. playtime or PE then their inhaler can be taken into the grounds with one of the adults supervising the activity, so it is at hand if needed. So the size of grounds isn't really an issue.

joencaitlinsmum Fri 30-Sep-11 14:01:33

Does the school have a exceptional circumstances category in their admissions process? If they do then get as much evidence from the world and his wife to support your application, there is never too much information and evidence.

If they dont and you dont get a place then you will have to go to appeal, again the same applies about evidence. I went to appeal for my DS who has ASD but is not statemented and won on exceptional circumstances (medical) grounds.

HTH

jgbmum Fri 30-Sep-11 16:33:51

Isn't swimming part of the KS2 curriculum? I thought there was a target of all children being able to swim 25m by the end of KS2.

In which case surely the open air pool would be the only way that the ops daughter could access that part of the curriculum, and is unique in only being available at the one school.
Disclaimer - I know nothing about admissions, just trying to apply some common sense.

RedHelenB Sat 01-Oct-11 19:01:38

don't outdoor pools use chlorine then? And how much of the year would you actually be able to use it in???

GwendolineMaryLacey Sat 01-Oct-11 19:04:54

DD's prospective school has an outdoor pool and they use it for about 6 months of the year, beginning April to end of October, rain or shine.

lilymaxi Thu 06-Oct-11 13:13:04

Hi All,
Thank you so much for all your comments. Been away so haven't been able to reply.
i actually have a supporting letter from one of my daughters consultants stating that in his opinion my daughter needs to get offered a place at the school I want and he has listed all my reasons. He has also named the school.
Outdoor pools do contain chlorine but as it is in the open air it is not contained like at an indoor pool so my daughter is not constantly breathing it in.
I would like to know more about jgbmums comments on swimming being part of the curriculum. Does anyone else know anything about this?
This school has advised that they offer swimming lessons once a week right through the school year as it is heated.
I really don't know what to do now. Whether or not to apply under medical circumstances or not. I don't want the LEA to say my daughter is unfit to attend a normal school!

lovingthecoast Thu 06-Oct-11 13:25:57

The LEA are unlikely to say your DD is unfit for school. I think if your DDs asthma is very severe and the consultant thinks weekly swimming in an open air pool would be of notable benefit to her health and therefore her education (due to missing less) then you should apply under the medical circumstances. Maybe make sure this point is made clear in the consultant's letter about the health benefits directly affecting her education.

Re curriculum, swimming is part of the PE curriculum at KS2. If this school is going to offer it from Reception onwards and it will make a significant difference to her quality of life then I'd say go for it.

lilymaxi Thu 06-Oct-11 13:41:49

Thanks lovingthecoast!

admission Thu 06-Oct-11 16:54:05

you have nothing to loose by going for medical criteria, it can't harm any other admission preference that you make. However you do need to try and get the medical criteria application accepted before the cut off date for applications so that you have the best opportunity to put down your preferences.

lilymaxi Sat 08-Oct-11 13:52:21

thanks for your advise admissions.
So shall i submit my application now? How do ask them to make a decision on whether my applicatipon will be accepted on medical grounds? Surely they will just say they don't need to make a decision until april when we get our offers through?
Can you advise how best to approach the Lea about making the decision for me now?

Lougle Sat 08-Oct-11 14:00:43

Most schools don't start swimming lessons until YR2, I think..might be worth checking that out.

Lougle Sat 08-Oct-11 14:02:08

You would also need to find out if the schools which don't have swimming pools travel to another school to use theirs. If so, which one, and from what year do they offer it? Because it would undermine the swimming element of your argument, if 3 other schools in the area all travel to the school with the outdoor pool for swimming.

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