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Primary School Appeals - Do they need to be changed? - debate

(9 Posts)
kazra1 Wed 14-Nov-12 12:58:38

We have just lost our 2nd appeal for our primary school which we applied for under medical and social grounds but during this process of the 2 appeal it became obvious to us that there is a flaw with the current appeals process for a minority of cases.

In order to save our sanity I was hoping that people could provide their honest views on this as clearly we are emotionally involved and maybe we are looking in too deep.

The scenario is this,

An out of borough applicant submits an application and sends their supporting medical evidence to the local authority on time in accordance with the admissions procedure.

The home authority confirms receipt of this documentation but fails to send this information on to the authority where the preferred school is situated so although the authority of the school has the application details they do not have ANY of the supporting medical evidence.

The application runs it course and due to the fact that there is no evidence available to the authority where the preferred school is located, the application can only be judged on distance criteria and as a result no place is granted.

Given the above scenario and the current rules regarding appeals the parents who in this case have done everything right have no grounds to win their appeal because the 'non home authority' made the correct decision based on the evidence that was available at the time.

The question is, should there be some provision for negligence whereby information that would have been available had it not been for negligence is now permitted to be considered?

Personally I do not think it right that parents in the above situation should have to rely on an appeal panel being able to view the bigger picture and make this decision.

This very scenario was given to our appeals panel and the chair stated that under no circumstances could it be considered.

This is very close to what happened in our situation but I have taken a slightly more extreme look to see what peoples thoughts are.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read it.

prh47bridge Wed 14-Nov-12 13:34:20

Based on the information you have given previously I do not believe this scenario is a correct description of your situation.

If the scenario was exactly as you describe here then the panel got it wrong. If you submitted the required medical evidence to your LA at the correct time, i.e. with your application, and your home LA failed to pass that on to the school's LA that would be a clear failure to implement the admission arrangements correctly. The panel should then consider the medical evidence that you submitted with your application and decide whether or not your child would have been offered a place had your home LA passed it on correctly. If the chair of the panel said they could not consider this I would say that the chair is clearly wrong and I would expect the LGO to order a fresh appeal if this affected the outcome.

However, given what I understand actually happened in your case I have always felt that your appeal was a very long shot.

kazra1 Wed 14-Nov-12 15:52:41

Just to clarify, I am not saying that this was the situation in our particular case. This purpose of this post is to gain views on if there should be a more clearly defined appeals process? In the above scenario the evidence would NOT be acceptable to the panel. This was asked of them direct so not based on assumptions and has to be wrong IMO.

I did not want to visit old ground regarding our particular appeal but can confirm that the panel was not interested in any of the medical evidence that WAS provided by anyone, despite the fact that procedure was confirmed to be broken by 2 local authorities.

It is my viewthe current appeals process is simply there to let parents hit off some steam and nothing more,Yes there are a few extreme cases that get through but something as clear cut as the 'scenario' would not be guaranteed to get a positive result and clearly that is wrong if the evidence was overwhelming.

I am sorry if the question caused confusion but please view this as a hyperthetical situation and thanks to prh47 for once again taking the effort to post.

Thanks

kazra1 Wed 14-Nov-12 15:57:14

In order to make things easier, maybe this would work better.

If by being negligent, a home authority failed to pass on overwhelming medical evidence to another authority, should this failing be enough to automatically warrant that information to be taking into consideration during any appeal?

Currently we have a situation where by the question is asked, 'did the authority make the correct decision based on what was available at the time?'

prh47bridge Wed 14-Nov-12 16:32:18

If the information was submitted on time and the home authority failed to pass it on that information must be considered during any appeal under the current rules. However, this only covers the information that was submitted on time. Any information submitted later than the due date would not be considered.

If the appeal panel limits itself to the question, "did the authority make the correct decision based on what was available at the time" it is failing to follow the Admission Appeals Code. One of the questions they are required to consider is whether or not the admission arrangements were correctly and impartially applied and, if not, whether the child would have been admitted if they had been. There is nothing in the Code that limits that question to the actions of the school's LA.

If the home authority fails to pass on to the school's LA essential information that has been submitted on time the admission arrangements clearly have not been correctly applied. The fact that the mistake is by the home LA rather than the school's LA is irrelevant. In this situation the appeal panel MUST consider the information submitted by the parents and decide whether or not, had that information been passed on correctly, a place would have been offered.

Bluntly, if you put this exact question to the chair of the panel and s/he said it could not be considered under any circumstances, either s/he failed to understand the question or s/he needs retraining. If this affected the outcome of the appeal I would refer the matter to the LGO.

timmytoes Wed 14-Nov-12 21:26:14

I chaired a panel in just such a case a few years ago, albeit it at Secondary school level, where one London borough failed to pass on relevant information to another neighboring London borough. We asked for and got proof that our borough had not received the information the parents had sent , the parents had copies of the information they sent; the dates of letters from professionals backing the parents case were before the proven date of submission and as such we deemed that the correct procedures had not been followed. The child was granted a place.

admission Wed 14-Nov-12 21:31:53

Completely agree with PRH, one of the first questions that any panel should be answering is was the admission process correctly carried out. The answer has got to be no, because the relevant information was not transmitted from one LA to the other LA.
I would also argue that the receiving LA were doubly culpable in that they must have know from the application supplied that this was a medical application and there must be some info to go with it and should have followed up with either the submitting LA or the family directly. The LA would to my mind fail then also under was this a reasonable decision - no because they did not consider evidence that they knew they should have.
However in both those situations that does not get you a place, because the panel has to agree that based on the evidence that they did not have, but should have had, that this would have meant you were considered under the medical criteria and would have been offered a place.
To give you an example, if the information was lost but the medical information was that you had an in-growing toenail then the panel would rightly conclude that whilst the process was flawed, to have accepted your evidence as putting you in the medical category would have been unreasonable, you did not meet the criteria. However someone submitting appropriate evidence from consultants on somebodies inability to walk far would have been appropriate and a place would be given.
I appreciate Kazra that you feel let down by the system, but the system should work, especially on the clear cut situation you describe. If you were let down by the panel, then I can only apologise and say that we not infallible and sometimes we get it wrong.

kazra1 Thu 15-Nov-12 15:26:19

to prh47 - this exact scenario was asked of the chair and he did in fact state that the information could not be considered if it was not available to the authority - this did leave me a little shocked and I can also confirm that it was understood.

to admission - thanks for your comments, they do raise a query and although I do not want to derail my own thread I wonder if you can indulge me with your opinion on this?

If the 'non home' authority did not receive the information from the home borough and made no attempt to chase up that same paperwork would this be classed as a breach of the code?

What is really frustrating for a parent dealing with 2 authorities is that 1 authority will not answer for the other, they blame each other and without being able to question the non attending authority its difficult to get that message across to the panel. If you couple that with the fact that the home authority is able to say 'I dont know' in answer to 80% of the questions it is like hitting your head against a wall.

prh47bridge Thu 15-Nov-12 23:25:04

Then the chair of the panel does not understand their responsibilities which is worrying.

Regarding your question to Admission, it isn't a direct breach of the code but I think the LGO would rule against the LA. There was a case in 2004/05 (reference 04/A/1909) where an LA failed to receive the required proof of residence even though the parents were adamant it had been provided. The LA claimed they had sent a reminder to the parents but they said no reminder had been received. The LGO ruled that, as this made a difference to whether or not their child got a place at their preferred school, the LA should have rung the parents regarding the missing documentation before making its final decision.

Whilst this is not identical to the situation in your case I would suggest that it is close enough to mean the LA should have rung you regarding the missing medical evidence.

I would suggest that you refer the matter to the LGO (again), pointing out that the answer given by the chair of the panel to your question shows that s/he is taking too limited a view of the situation and therefore there must be doubts as to whether the correct decision making process was followed. I would also suggest to the LGO that, in view of the decision I have mentioned above, the panel misdirected themselves in refusing to consider the medical evidence that would have been provided had the LA contacted you.

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