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Primary school admissions - opinions please...

(45 Posts)
MaisyMoo123 Sun 28-Apr-13 18:45:13

Hi. My son didn't get a place to start in reception at our preferred school. I'm devastated. Not just because it's a wonderful school (and who doesn't want their child to go to one of those!) but because I am so heavily involved at the school and have a huge emotional attachment to the place. It's an infant school and my dd is currently in yr2 there, so moving up to junior school in september, which means the sibling admission rule didn't apply. We live out of catchment but not by much at all. I have been a governor at the school for nearly 2 years and am vice-chair. I know the school really well, have spent hours there working with the Head and other staff members on various things and I know everyone so well. My son has also spent loads of time there and is really familiar with the school and all the staff. He thinks he's going to start there in Sept hmm. I am so sad and all over the place as to what to do now. The school are being really supportive but there is very little they can do. We have placed him on the waiting list and judging by where some people live who have got a place, I'm hopeful we might be fairly high up on it but we can't find out until 13th May and even then it probably won't get us a anywhere. I've spoken to lots of people, some of whom know about the appeals procedure and the advice I'm getting from them is that I don't have a case - basically it would be based on emotion which doesn't come into it. Everyone I speak to who doesn't know the system instantly says I should appeal though, which just makes me wonder if I might be able to win a panel round. I'm pretty sure it's a vain hope I'm clinging to but I'd be grateful for any thoughts people might have on our case. To add to the equation dd is transferring to a linked but completely separate Jnr school and although the sibling rule doesn't apply at present it is due to start being applied from next sept which would probably mean he'd get in. Rubbish.

tiggytape Wed 01-May-13 11:53:27

There will be a space tt the back of the form to write your reasons for appeal.
You can put the reasons in bullet point form and then elaborate on each one on a separate sheet. You can send letters of support and other evidence with the form itself or send them at a later date as you get them (but well in advance of the appeal hearing when a date is granted)

MaisyMoo123 Wed 01-May-13 11:14:47

Thanks Tiggy - wise words yet again!!

The school has written to all those offered a place and asked them to confirm purely because they had 5 children just not turn up on the first day of term last sept and they just want to avoid that happening again if they can. They won't take any action themselves in terms of releasing places etc it's just for there own admin purposes really. Obviously the actual list is being managed centrally. I know there's nothing concrete in any of this for us really, but little things give me some encouragement anyway!!

It's very reassuring to hear you say that my case is ok. I guess it's a question of pulling all the elements together into a coherent argument. I will endeavour to get a letter from the SALT - she's very nice and I recently touched base with her on the issue so she's aware. Your point about linking the effects of the more chaotic school on ds's dysfluency is really helpful. I'm sure the vicar will be happy to provide a letter too - guessing this should emphasise our links to the church and the fact that ds is part of the community (which includes church and school!?)

I've been told we can call on 20th to find out where we are on the waiting list and that's the day they reallocate spaces too. Seems ages off so time to turn my attention to filling out the appeal form. Do I just list the arguments set out above or do I need more context? And can I submit letters later on?

tiggytape Wed 01-May-13 10:27:27

yet to reply not apply!

tiggytape Wed 01-May-13 10:26:58

An appeal is the logical next step. So many of the variables are beyond your control that, whilst sitting tight and just waiting may work, if you are way down the waiting list, you may not get an allocation any other way.

The school can chase offers but cannot enforce deadlines so soon. They certainly cannot take places away from the 8 people yet to apply. Not until every avenue for contacting them has been exhausted.
The person appealing to go elsewhere is even harder to rely on. As you know, most YR appeals are ICS ones and have virtually no chance of success (unless there's been an error). If the school they want has 30 per class, their chances are very slim at best.

The list thing is a bit of a pain. Most schools / LAs will tell you your list position at this stage even if they stress a million times that it isn't static and more may be added above you as late applicants are dealt with.

All of your arguments are fine for a non ICS appeal. They might not win an appeal on their own but as a combination may sway a panel especially where a school's case to refuse entry is weak (they have gone over 40 before and coped just fine)
Yes a letter from the vicar will help. And a letter from your SLT too if you can get one. It would be useful for her to say the familiar environment of the school will ease transition anxiety which could exacerbate DS's speech problems. If she doesn't feel comfortable naming one school even a letter saying small class sizes and a less busy environment would be good (because you can then join the dots to show that the school you want offers such things)

MaisyMoo123 Wed 01-May-13 09:41:10

I've just had a quick chat with the head. She's very supportive. Tahoe confirmed that they currently have 42 in reception and their PAN is 40 - so thinking that's positive?

They have written to everyone who's been offered a place and asked them to confirm that they want it by today. So far one has declined and they're still waiting for 8 to be returned. Plus, there's one person who's accepted the place but is appealing to go elsewhere. Obviously this information is fairly academic as it depends where we are on the waiting list but a little encouraging - especially as judging by where others have hot in from we might be fairly high. Who knows though.

Our case is the fact they can (and have) take more, familiarity with school, established relationship with staff and the fact he's already part of the community, The faith element (- would a letter from vicar help with this if it's only controlled?) and his dysfluency which might be exacerbated by unfamiliar school. I'm struggling to think of any features of this school over the other which we could argue on other than the fact that the other is more chaotic (and actually feels more crowded) which won't suit his personality but that's flimsy I know.

This is so hard but I'm reaching the point where I think I have to get an appeal form submitted and see how we go.

PanelChair Wed 01-May-13 09:04:29

You need to gather your own evidence on class sizes, because you need to demonstrate that admitting your child won't take the class above 30. If you find that any recent class has had 29 or 30 in years R to 2, that helps your case.

The reason I say don't go overboard on the 'familiarity' argument is that that is the argument always used when children in an attached nursery don't get a place in the school and, on its own, it never works. That said, those are usually ICS appeals, which are argued on narrower grounds, but even so you need to find some other arguments to add to the mix.

MaisyMoo123 Wed 01-May-13 07:49:45

Thanks Panel - that's really helpful.

Just to clarify - the school weren't trying to persuade me not to appeal and implying that they might be able to swing a place for us if they go above PAN later. They're assuming we'll be fairly high on waiting list, in which case there would be the potential for that avenue to be helpful to us. Absolutely no guarantees though.

Their advice was also that we didn't have a strong enough case and that the waiting list was our best option - and I'm still not sure. There are so many differing (and extreme!) opinions on this! I'm just not sure we can build a robust enough case. You say that we need to gather evidence on class sizes - I've also heard that the school will be asked to do this? Would it need to come from both of us?

The school has no clubs that would especially benefit ds (in fact alternative has more!!!) I fear I'm hanging way too much on his familiarity with the place but I know this will look way too flimsy to a panel hmm

PanelChair Wed 01-May-13 00:46:32


Can't add much to tiggy's comprehensive advice, but I am puzzled and alarmed by the school apparently trying to talk you out of appealing with a vague promise to raise the PAN to admit your child. There is a proper formal process for any school to go through, to increase the PAN, and it's unethical (in my view) to dissuade anyone from exercising their right of appeal. Besides, as you see, if they create an extra place there's no guarantee it will go to your child if you're not first on the waiting list.

In constructing your appeal, you need to establish what current numbers in each class are (ie below 30), similar information for previous years would also be helpful. Do set out what your child would gain by attending the school, but (as others have said, some gently and some not so gently) don't go overboard on your child expecting to go to the school or playing with duplo in the HT's office. That will sound flimsy - plenty of children get a school other than the one they expected and do just fine - so you need to look for more concrete reasons, such as the school's Christian ethos, aspects of the curriculum and after-school provision etc.

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 23:02:36

Maisy - that's a good idea. prh, Panel Chair and admissions are often around but may miss something added on to an older thread. If you start a new thread for advice and put in the title that you need ideas for an non ICS appeal, I am sure they will be able to offer advice and support.

idiuntno57 Mon 29-Apr-13 21:28:39

kilmuir did you mean to be so horrid?

OP is upset. Why say nasty spiteful things. angry

MaisyMoo123 Mon 29-Apr-13 21:11:56

I don't think there's any need to be nasty here kilmuir. I know I choose to be involved in the school and but I certainly don't expect my ds to get in on the back of it. No appeal would ever be won on a child having played duplo in the school and I have never suggested it would. It was just an illustration of how much time he's spent there and how familiar he is with the place. I know none if these reasons mean he is more entitled to a place than any other child and it's not about my child stealing a place from another child anyway.

Tiggy - thanks again. It's great that you're using your experience with all this to help shed light on it for others. Your insights are so helpful. The other 2 appeals experts haven't responded yet - might start another appeals related thread rather than this vague one and see if they spot that.

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 18:37:39

MaisyMoo123 - I am a parent who went through a complicated admissions process for my first child and as such know far more about appeals and admissions than any one person would want to - but definitely less than prh admissions and Panel Chair - the other regular posters here who are admissions experts / chair appeals. They are the ones who will be much better placed to help you with the Stage 1 aspects especially (the bit where you seek to prove the school won't be disadvantaged by taking more pupils as opposed to Stage 2 which is your reasons for wanting a place)

The reason so many people will be very negative about your chances is that reception appeals are almost always ICS appeals which are very hard to win unless you can prove an admissions error. Normal reception appeals are notorious for almost always failing.
You are different. You in the slightly rarer (and from an appeals point of view, luckier) position of this not being and ICS appeal which totally changes things in terms of your chances of success.

You can win at appeal if the panel feel the disadvantages to your child of not being accepted outweigh the disadvantages of the school of taking him.

If the school's case is to say they see little disadvantage to taking more pupils, your appeal (and others) will be much easier to win than it would be at schools who put up a real fight and have very compelling evidence that the school simply cannot admit more pupils.

If the schools case is so weak as to be non existent (and I have heard of it once) everyone who appeals can win with none of their reasons for appealing even being looked at! That's rare though. Examples of people who may get to stage 2 and win at appeal include a (documented) shy child wanting to stay with friends, a child new to the area wanting to build local community friendships, a child with hearing problems preferring a school with smaller classrooms rather than open-plan ones, a child wanting to be in a faith school or with siblings or in a school that offers orchestra clubs if they are good at music, a school with wide doorways or no stairs for a child with mobility problems.... all sorts of things.

But people with the exact same reasons can also lose at appeal even if they present an identical case to somebody else who won somewhere else. There are no precedents set by appeals.
If the school is full and really struggling with the pupil numbers, then sometimes nothing the parents can say will overcome that and even evidence of quite strong medical needs will lose at appeal.

It is a balancing act and although you may not feel faith and dysfluency are strong reasons (I would say the dysfluency would be stronger if you got a letter detailing advantages of this school in terms of ease of transition), that doesn't mean you cannot win.
Because in your case, the schools case may also come across as very weak - they have no more than 28 per class and are actively discussing increasing PAN. Therefore they may not convince a panel that 28 pupils is the absolute limit and the sky will fall in if they take one more.
The panel balance you against them. They don't have a chart somewhere that says 'these reasons win appeals and these don't'

kilmuir Mon 29-Apr-13 18:01:37

get a grip, you chose to be so involved in the school. I would not be impressed if you got a school place because your child had spent hours playing duplo there!

MaisyMoo123 Mon 29-Apr-13 17:12:31

Thanks Tiggy - your advice is very sound. Do you mind me asking what your background is and how you have such a good understanding of it all?

I appreciate what you're saying about appeals not being scientific. It sounds like whilst the key reasons for appeal are obviously factors, a lot of it comes down to who's on the panel, who else appeals etc. This makes it all the more difficult to decide whether it's worth putting yourself through the ordeal for though.

Can anyone shed any light on the kind if cases that do win at appeal? Everyone keeps saying only very compelling cases get through and people just keep telling me what wouldn't win (I.e everything as far as I can tell!) It's fairly encouraging to hear Tiggy say that "social" cases can win - but that goes against everything I've been told so far, which has basically lead me to believe that nothing, other than proving admission criteria have been wrongly applied, would get a second thought. I'm SO confused.

Ted (think that's right!?) I understand your point now and good to know someone understands what it feels like to be essentially excluded from a school you're so entrenched in. It's more painful than I thought it would be hmm

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 16:02:47

Mutley - you are correct.
A documented medical need to attend the school will lend weight to an appeal. But it is perfectly possible to win non ICS appeals without any additional needs being a factor.
People can and do win purely on social and other reasons although it does of course make sense to include additional needs if any are relevant.

The trouble with thinking "my friend lost and she had a really good medical reason" or "my friend won and she only had a social reason" is that this is only half the story at an appeal.

An appeal on what you might consider very trivial grounds can win if the school isn't that full and doesn't put up much evidence that it can't cope with more children.
Equally a person with overwhelming medical needs can lose at appeal if the school's case that it cannot cope with more children is convincing.

For that reason nobody here can tell the OP how likely she is to win. The only advice would be to include anything that is relevant and that documented proof is better.
For the reasons above, nobody with a really strong case should enter the process feeling sure they'll win and nobody with a weaker case should feel sure they'll lose at appeal. It just doesn't work like that. The best to do is to join waiting lists and a plan B but use the appeal as only one avenue - not pin all your hopes on it.

Mutley77 Mon 29-Apr-13 15:24:05

tiggytape - You have misunderstood what I wrote, which is in fact correct if not very well phrased. I understand that SEN statement children get automatic right to a place which is why I said that would be the only way a special need would really count.

What I meant by the sentence you have quoted is that in my view the only avenue for success that this OP is likely to have in appealing is focusing on the special need and the possible impact upon this need of one school versus another. And in this instance there is an argument for the familiarity minimising anxiety and therefore the issues associated with the stutter. In my experience of friends and people I work with appealing on the basis of this is far more likely to be successful than arguing a social and emotional type reason.

Maisy - of course you make the choice you believe to be in your child's best interests but what I'm saying is you are now past that point in that he hasn't been allocated the place and it was on that basis I suggested you consider the other options positively. You may get through on appeal but you don't seem to have significant grounds and I have seen friends go through the heartache of failed appeals.

TeamEdward Mon 29-Apr-13 15:19:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MaisyMoo123 Mon 29-Apr-13 14:58:54

Thanks Tiggy - I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to reply! My spelling is just as bad - I blame the phone!

I know being a governor makes no odds at all and I've never expected it to. It's just that my heavy involvement in the school means that my son is so familiar with the place and so at home there - so, me being a gov is relevant only as far as the impact it's had on him and his attachment to one school. Part of me feels penalised by it if anything - I feel like me spending so much time there has unrealistically built his expectations around starting school - we've never said he'll definitely go there he's just assumed as his big sis is there and he's always in and out for things!

I think I need to talk to the school again and talk about numbers and whether they do see me appealing might cause them problems. We have a very good, honest relationship so I think we can be upfront about it.
Thanks again!

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 14:27:44

sorry still terrible spelling (am in a hurry today but wanted to reply)

TeamEdward Mon 29-Apr-13 14:27:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 14:26:39

MaisyMoo - the concept of 'good enough' is a grey one for appeals

An appeal is a balancing act. The disadvantage to the child of not being admitted is weighed against the disadvantage to the school of taking the child. The outcome therefore depends on the strength of the cases relative to each other.

If the school was packed to the rafters with children, horribly overcrowded and struggled with existing numbers, their case would be so strong that even the strongest case from a parent would be unlikely to overcome that.

However if the school said they weren't that full at all and in fact were happily considering increasing PAN, this would make their case very weak and a parent's case would only have to be marginally stronger to win overall.

So sometimes people with hugely important reasons lose appeals and people with more 'minor' reasons win an appeal. There is no universal standard of what is 'good enough' to win at appeal.

In extreme cases people have won appeals by just turning up to the appeal hearing! They appeal, the school offer no evidence against them and in fact say they're more than happy to take 10 extra pupils and everyone who botehredt to appeal wins (this is rare of course but just shows that it isn't how strong your case it necessarily only how relatively strong it is).

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 14:19:20

terrible spelling sorry!

MaisyMoo123 Mon 29-Apr-13 14:01:25

Don't all parents choose their preferences for a school based on where they feel their child would thrive and be happiest? That's not to say he won't be just as happy somewhere else but if everyone went by that mantra then people wouldn't be worried about which school their child ended up at and there would be no preferences, waiting lists or appeals. That's not the world we live in. We are offering a level of choice and finding a place where you believe your child will thrive and be happy is surely fundamental to making that "choice". I'm not saying I can't see him happy anywhere else and I would get over it and make the very best of it for him - but I don't think I'm wrong to want this in the first instance!?

I don't think my son's stammer is significant enough to hold much weight in an appeal. It's certainly nowhere near statement level. The unfamiliarity and stress of going somewhere rise could well exacerbate it though.

My concern is that I don't have enough for an appeal - I can't see how I could constructively argue the benefits of this school over another for ds other than his familiarity with the place. The other infant school is very similar in size and class structure so I can't argue that he'd benefit from the way one is organised if the other is the same. There are no special clubs or ways of working there that mark it out either. They are very different schools but the differences are not tangible - one is more ordered and the other a bit less so etc but that's not an argument is it and I know that comparing one with another isn't helpful anyway. It's just his familiarity with the place and the fact he has been imagining himself there that is the real issue - but not strong enough to stand up in an appeal on its own. I could bring in the church link and potentially the stammer but really, that's not enough is it?

I know only I can decide but it's really helping me to thrash my thinking out on here. Thanks for helping!

tiggytape Mon 29-Apr-13 13:50:02

It would only really count if he has a SEN statement but that is the only avenue I think that would give you any chance of success.

Mutley - that is not at all correct.
Children with statements are not part of the normal admissions or appeal process at all. They get automatic entry into the school names on their statement.

Children without statements (with and without additional needs) can win appeals as long as they can show their need for the school outweighs the disadvantage to the school of taking more pupils and assuming their are less than 30 per class.

Mutley77 Mon 29-Apr-13 13:36:32

I am not saying the school didn't want to take your son per se - and I am sure that they did want him to get in through the normal admissions procedure but if by taking him through appeal it forces them to have bigger class sizes and opens them up to other appeals etc they may not want to do so that way. They have already indicated that they do not recommend you appeal.

I do think your appeal is unlikely to progress unless you can get more on your DC's special need. It would only really count if he has a SEN statement but that is the only avenue I think that would give you any chance of success.

I am sure you think you know where he would be happiest but what I was trying to say is don't focus on this as if he doesn't get the place you will feel like he is going somewhere that is second best for him and this is likely to impact on his feelings about it (much as you try to hide how you feel). If he goes to the other school chances are he will be just as happy and it is unhealthy for you and him to dwell on where "he would thrive and be happiest" - you don't have a crystal ball so you can't know that for sure and it certainly won't give you any points at appeal.

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