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Appeal on Monday for son with no school place at all for 6 months. Help pls!

(352 Posts)
badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 12:22:34

Hello lovely folk, all help appreciated. We moved at the end of March this year to an area where all the primary schools are full. The council have been no help and offered no school place so I have had my 5 year old year R son at home for 6 months trying to educate him whilst taking care of his two year old sister. During this time we have gone from no 2 on the waiting list for our catchment school to number 9. The Head told me it would probably be Juniors before he gets a place.

We have an appeal on Monday and any hints would be appreciated. We spoke to the admissions dept at the council today who gave us lots of information I am sure is wrong eg we think he may fit under fair access protocol as he has been unplaced and the council said FAP doesn't apply to secondary. They also said that he had not been out of school for 6 months as it counts per year so he has only been unplaced for one day (?!).

They also said that the council are setting up a room in a school four miles away till Xmas where all the year R and 1 children who are unplaced in the area can go, with no plans for after Xmas. I can't drive due to a visual problem and would struggle to get him there and feel reluctant to put a nervous 5 year old in a taxi. My son is also very able and was taught on his own for much of the time at his last school as his literacy especially was so far in advance of the other 90 children in the year so the thought of him being in a class with possibly mostly younger children concerns me. He used to come home weeping with boredom from the last school and I can't help feeling that stimulation might not be great in this interim holding classroom. The council official also told me they did not have him on their list as unplaced for some reason so had not got him on the list for this temporary classroom set up, I have no idea why they would not class him as unplaced as we have all the documentation in place to show we applied and are unplaced and an appeal date.

I am sorry to ramble. It had been an exhausting year and I really want to do right by my son and feel pretty hopeless about the appeal at the moment.

thank you to anyone who has stuck with this!

badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 12:26:00

Sorry, that should say they council said FAP doesn't apply to Primary not Secondary.

badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 12:35:46

I don't mean to suggest my son deserves more than other children...we just want to school place we feel legally entitled to at a reasonable distance. my background is teaching and educational psychology and unfortunately I am already seeing the negative impact this is all having on my son...I have done my best to integrate him into local home ed networks etc but he is already seeming nervous in groups and with other children and starting to say he doesn't want to go to school again. I fell I am letting him down and desperate to sort this out.

Theas18 Tue 02-Sep-14 12:46:32

Good luck with the appeal.

However it looks like the council are going to fulfil their obligations in the bulge class 4 miles away. As long as they provide transport this is legally OK.

You are probably going to have to "worth with" your "nervous" 5yr old and (dare I say it, put your own anxieties to bed) and send him in the taxi. Many kids DO taxi/school bus at 5, especially in rural areas. It isn't the huge hurdle you seem to see it as.

Or.... home educate him.

lougle Tue 02-Sep-14 13:02:59

If they provide a school place and offer transport they will have fulfilled their obligation.

My dd has SN (now at age eight she's similar to a 4 year old) and has been travelling 10 miles to school on a minibus since she was 4.9. There's no other way.

NynaevesSister Tue 02-Sep-14 13:31:13

There are some fabulous experts on here who will help you. Hopefully they will be along soon with some good advice.

Something doesn't sound right at all and I cannot see how on earth a child has been left unplaced for six months.

badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 13:38:18

Thank you for taking time to reply.

L, it sounds like your dd has had quite some travelling to do, I hope that has been ok for her.

I suppose I am thinking that as we do have a catchment school 0.3 miles away it seems mad to be having to get a taxi or bus. This school is full but has a waiting list which gets bigger every year and seems to need more places. They have taken over the 30 in class this year (and in previous years) on instruction from the council because of this.

I also gather this holding class in not a school place, it is just a room in a school which will hold two school year age pupils with no plans for in three months time. It seems like a panic measure rather than a planned and thought out provision.

I am home educating now but that wasn't my choice and leaves me unable to work. It seems a little crazy that as primary school places in many areas are such an issue people should have to choose between temporary arrangements that may be stressful to children or having to basically fund their own child's education.

badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 13:42:43

NynaevesSister, thank you...you would think so but when we talk to the council it is as if we are after something unreasonable. It isn't my sons fault we moved house and I feel deserves to go to a school nearby.

The whole appeal process feels like we are having to find loopholes and make legal arguments and catch people out rather than the basic fact that my son is school age and we want a school place for him. We aren't trying to get him into a preferred school, just the local school.

The other local schools are all 1.5 miles + away and over subscribed with waiting lists so not being in catchment we would not get to the top of their waiting lists either.

Applefallingfromthetree2 Tue 02-Sep-14 13:49:21

Hi Badger, I am so sorry you are faced with this. For what it is worth I think it outrageous that you have moved so far down the list. If you were at No 2. you should stay there and it is reasonable for you to question the council on this one.
When this happened to us we were told it was because there were several families who were new to the area and that places were allocated on distance lived from the school and not place on the waiting list. We questioned the unfairness of this with our MP and were offered a place the same day!
Worth a try.

badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 14:01:20

Thank you Apple. I am so pleased you got a positive result.

I have debated contacting our MP (school place shortages is one of his campaign issues) but have been told that this just annoys people so not sure what to think...I am really glad it helped you and you are making me think again...

We have been told he moved down the waiting list as people moved into area with siblings who got places further up the school, or who lived nearer, but I agree..this could mean we are eternally 'bumped'. I thought this was what fair access protocol could help with (our council FAP says this applies to pupils who are unplaced for over two months) but the council said today that FAP only applies to secondary. I am sure this is wrong.

AuntieStella Tue 02-Sep-14 14:14:19

FAP will only be activated if there are no schools whatsoever with vacancies within about 45-60 minutes travelling distance.

When did you last ask LEA for a list of schools with vacancies? How many schools are you in the waiting list for?

admission Tue 02-Sep-14 14:23:17

You are getting rubbish advice from your council.
Firstly the FAP does apply to all pupils and therefore there is no reason what so ever why they cannot be placed in a local school under FAP. You have been without a school place for more than 2 months. That does not necessarily say that it will be your local school but certainly it should be at a school less than 4 miles away. As for the comment it is only each school year that counts - that is laughable, you have been without a school place since March and the LA have a legal obligation to find you a place if your child is 5.
The school room being set up in a school four miles away is just a fig leaf to cover the local authorities blushes in not being able or willing to find your child a school place. It is temporary not a permanent position and therefore not an acceptable substitute.
It is also very worrying that the LA appear to have "lost" you for so long. When you go to the appeal and preferably before the appeal you need to copy the appropriate evidence that you have showing how long this has been going on and get it to the clerk of the appeal panel. Also include as many emails etc asking for a place as possible, plus if the LA have given advice that I believe is wrong in writing include that.
The clerk should then be able to put this in the evidence supplied to the admission appeal panel. I would suggest that your case should be that you have waited patiently for a school place to be allocated since March. The LA have ignored you, lost your papers, refused to do a FAP in the mistaken belief that it only applies to secondary pupils and are now offering a very temporary classroom which is more than 4 miles away. The LA have been breaking the law in not offering a place and you now want the panel to accept that you should be admitted to the local primary school under the FAP. Best of luck

NynaevesSister Tue 02-Sep-14 14:41:53

OP, Admission is one of the best experts I have seen on here for this, the other being PH47Bridge. So take their advice as gospel.

Post all the questions you have about your appeal here. And don't be afraid to get your MP involved. Be annoying! Mumsnet will help you through this. Even if it's just to let off steam :D

NynaevesSister Tue 02-Sep-14 14:42:27

Also Tiggytape smile

badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 14:54:59

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to this. I hugely appreciate it as I am sure my son will. I have just drafted a letter to our MP and we have kept all documentation along the way.

I feel like we have been stupidly patient and misadvised in the first place with the council not meeting their duty of care to place our son. He is appearing less confident in groups of children and says he doesn't want to go to school again. It breaks my heart. At the risk of sounding petty 45 years of family taxes paid shouldn't come to this...He is a tiny little 5 year old and shouldn't have to put up with chaos and disruption because the council don't provide enough school places. This isn't new and has been going on for years in this area (and others).

I understand the logical fact arguments...schools don't have elastic walls etc etc but I genuinely believe children are entitled when they are tiny to have a steady place to go to school that isn't too far away from home.

I will think about more questions to post.

HUGE thanks again for your time and support.

badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 15:05:13

AuntieStella the only school with places is nearly two hours away on public transport (I know appeals don't care about our logistics but I can't drive)

We are only on the list for our catchment school which with hindsight was a bad decision but was based on being told by the council that the other schools 1,5 and 2 miles away were so oversubscribed too with such long waiting lists that a non-catchment child would never get in. I Realise now that I should have put him on those lists regardless, although the council told me today that those lists are still as such that he would be nowhere near a place.

badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 15:06:51

Admission- unfortunately a lot of the communication has been phone calls which I now regret and wish I had mailed and written.

Applefallingfromthetree2 Tue 02-Sep-14 15:28:03

Don't be afraid to phone the MP direct a few days after he receives the letter and don't be shy of showing him how upset you are, it is a really emotional situation for you and your son. You have made some very good points to support your case and from the things that Admission has pointed out you have been treated badly so far and fair access is what it is all about.

Good luck, hope your DS will be starting his new school very soon.

tiggytape Tue 02-Sep-14 16:20:15

Your council's advice is incorrect and their response overall is awful. No wonder you have had to force it to an appeal. They have not met their legal duty to you and your DS and their temporary 4 mile solution also fails to meet the requirements.

Admission- unfortunately a lot of the communication has been phone calls which I now regret and wish I had mailed and written.

You can also submit memory notes to the appeal panel as long as they are accurate and totally factual records of the phone conversations (no extras, no emotions, nothing but a factual account of what each person said and when including dates and times). For example:
"On September 2nd I rang admissions at 10am because I wished to enquire whether FAP may apply to my son who had been without the offer of a place for over 5 months. The admissions team told me that FAP only applies to secondary school pupils and was therefore not an option to place my child"

"In the course of the same conversation the admissions team told me that the clock gets reset every academic year so, as far as they are concerned, my son has only been without a school place for 1 day whereas in fact it has been 5 months spanning 2 academic years. The council also told me that although they has mislaid my son's application, plans were in place to run a temporary class for unplaced children in a room 4 miles from my home. There are no definite plans that this class will continue after December."

Start today as the conversation you had this morning really highlights a lot of their failings. In addition, you can email summaries of all future telephone conversations to the council as 'proof' of what was said to be printed off i.e.
"Dear Admissions, Following our conversation this morning, I wanted to reiterate that I still believe FAP should be applied to my son. I was surprised that you advised me it only applies to secondary school children and I am concerned that you appear to have mislaid the details of my son who has now been without a school place for 5 months. I was told this morning that you will only count him being unplaced for 1 day since a new academic year has started however I wish to stress that we applied in March and have yet received no offer."

I agree that you have a very strong case for appeal and have been very badly treated by the council. Submit all emails and all letters that you have that in anyway prove when you applied and the council's response. Make sure you submit any evidence before the appeal date if at all possible and good luck

badgermama Tue 02-Sep-14 16:35:25

Huge thanks Tiggytape. Your advice and time is hugely appreciated.

NynaevesSister Tue 02-Sep-14 16:51:44

Good luck and please update us! I am hoping there will be a happy outcome.

prh47bridge Tue 02-Sep-14 17:52:28

I agree that the advice from the council is appalling.

As others have said, the FAP definitely applies to primary school whatever the LA think. If they genuinely only apply theirs to secondary school they are in breach of the Admissions Code. Resetting the clock and pretending your son has only been without a place for 1 day is ridiculous. I cannot imagine any appeal panel going along with that. A temporary place until Christmas with no plans for what happens in the new year is not an adequate response to the situation. And if they did manage to lose track of your application for a place for your son that is potentially maladministration.

It is a shame that a lot of communication has been phone calls. Submit whatever written evidence you have. Produce a log from memory as Tiggytape suggests. Even better, if you took notes at the time submit those (transcribe them if they are difficult to read).

Email the council today with a summary of today's call. That email will be evidence of what was said.

I agree with Admission as to what your case should be. The LA has clearly broken the law. You applied for a place and they were required to find one for you. Worse, they appear to have lost your application. Even now they have no plans to resolve the situation properly. You therefore want the appeal panel to resolve this situation properly and do what the LA should have done - offer your child a place.

I trust the appeal panel will do the right thing. If they don't this is one I would definitely take to the LGO.

I hope it goes well on Monday.

hoboken Tue 02-Sep-14 18:10:18

If the LA opens a "bulge" class and offers transport it has covered its legal obligations. Highly unsatisfactory, though. Google the Depth of Education FAP document where it appears that the terms are "binding". Hope you get it sorted.

clam Tue 02-Sep-14 20:03:52

Apple: "If you were at No 2. you should stay there and it is reasonable for you to question the council on this one... We questioned the unfairness of this with our MP and were offered a place the same day!"

From everything I have ever read on this subject on here, that doesn't sound like the reason you were offered a place. More like a happy coincidence.

tiggytape Tue 02-Sep-14 22:39:33

It is perfectly correct that a child can move up and down waiting lists.
Some people get all the way to number 1 or 2 several times but are bumped down again by new people moving into the area.
If someone new moves to the area and lives closer to the school than you, they are placed above you on the list.
If someone's sibling starts at the school, then they can move from below you on the list to the very top of the list because of sibling priority.
Lists are not first come first served - they follow the admissions criteria. There is also no priority on waiting lists for children with no school place as opposed to those who have a place but want a different one.

Apple - If you queried the unfairness of the list then either one of two things happened: your query led to the council checking the list again and seeing that someone had been mistakenly placed above you so they remedied this by offering you a place. Or it was coincidence and the week you complained was the week a space naturally became available to which you were entitled.
It is 100% correct that new people to the area get added to the list in the right position according to their new address not just stuck on the bottom - they have already been penalised once for moving by not being able to apply and be considered at the same time as everyone else when all the places were being handed out.

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