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Could anybody help me with an in-year appeal for adopted child?

(21 Posts)
MyDogEatsBalloons Wed 05-Nov-14 14:53:27

Original thread here:

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/adoptions/2176229-Adopting-a-school-age-child-in-term-time?msgid=50528087#50528087

... but in a nutshell, we have an outstanding primary school, whose playground actually backs onto our garden - I can look out of the window and see the children in the playground. It's a very diverse school, with a counseling service, really understanding staff, and a lovely headteacher. I've had a chat with her a couple of times, and seen all of the school.

I've had my daughter, aged five, home for two and a bit weeks now, and with half term before that she's been out of school for three weeks, and to honest I'm struggling, and she's struggling - she's missing friends her own age, and desperate to go to school, and we need to set some kind of routine (probably half days to start).

Anyway, our LA has been really obstructive and unhelpful when we've chased the inyear application, so we had to get the placing authority involved. They've now come back saying the school is full, and are going to offer us one further away (a perfectly good school, but NOT the one I want her at).

We've been asked if we want to appeal, which obviously we do, but what do we put as a reason that they will accept? Other than quoting their own code back at them that says she's a looked after child and therefore an exception to class size regulations...

We never expected this to be a problem, after being told we would have our choice of schools as a matter of course!

Many thanks if you got this far! I'd be grateful for any advice.

TeenAndTween Wed 05-Nov-14 16:13:38

Not an admissions expert (But I am an adopter)

Congratulations. It will get easier, promise. thanks

How about:

Due to the massive disruption that AC has suffered already (at least twice, going to FC and then APs) in her short life, it is essential for her well being that she can settle and feel part of the community with her new parents. This includes being able to go to the local school so that she can make friends with local children. (If you can get placing SW to write supporting this all the better).

Furthermore this school is well placed to look after ACs needs due to it having a counselling service which AC will almost certainly need during school life as she makes sense of why she was adopted. (Especially good if the other school doesn't have one).

The diversity of the school may also be a reason? We sent our school age AD to local primary which was the least good in the town but had a mixed catchment. It meant the leap from Birth/Foster family/school to us was not nearly as great as it might have been to a different school in town.

If you are not working then also: Being located close to home will also mean she feel more secure in new school as she knows that Mum is not far away.

admission Wed 05-Nov-14 17:31:18

In some ways the LA is right and in some ways they are being silly.

They are right in saying that if the school is up to their Published Admission Number (PAN) then they can refuse admission. This would also appear to be an infant class size regs case, which says that the class cannot have more then 30 pupils with one school teacher. So in that context they are correct in saying the school is full we will offer you a place at the nearest school with places.

But then it gets to the silly bit. Under normal circumstances an appeal for an infant class is not going to succeed unless the admission authority has made a mistake (very unlikely) or the admission authority are not being reasonable. Reasonable in this context has a very high threshold - making a completely perverse decision. However there are exceptions to the infant class size regs so that there can be more than 30 in the class and the second of these is looked after children or previously looked after children admitted outside the normal admission round. There is also a recent case from the Local Government Ombudsman which clearly says that you would fit the criteria to be considered as an excepted pupil and therefore the LA must consider the application to admit not as an Infant Class Size case but as a normal prejudice case. Sorry it can get quite complicated!

If this goes to appeal given the proximity of the school to the house I would be extremely surprised if any panel would not admit on the basis that the LA in this instance is being unreasonable around what everybody will accept is a very vulnerable child, who needs every bit of help. The only conceivable reason I would not admit would be if the class already had 33 or more in the class. The LA is being silly if they think that panels are not going to have every sympathy with this situation.

I do not want to give you the impression that going to appeal and winning is a foregone conclusion. It is not because you could always get the panel from hell. My strong suggestion is that you email the admission team at the LA and tell them that you are going to go to appeal because the decision of the LA is unreasonable under the circumstances of the situation regarding daughter and that she would be considered an excepted pupil. If you put it in writing I wonder whether the admission team will realise that in these circumstances they are better off just doing what most LAs would do I believe and that is admit as an excepted pupil.

It is time to put the pressure on them, not on you.

MyDogEatsBalloons Wed 05-Nov-14 17:39:12

Thank you both, that's all incredibly helpful. Could you give me an idea how long the appeal process generally takes? And would I be forced to send her to the other school while I appeal?

The school we want is actually a three form entry, so I'd be surprised if all three classes are up to 33.

I'm so disappointed by this I could just cry. Well actually I have, a few times!

tethersend Wed 05-Nov-14 19:25:56

Does your daughter (congratulations BTW smile) still have a SW?

Admission is correct, as an excepted child, your DD should be admitted to the school. ICS regulations do not apply.

If she is technically still LAC, the the SW needs to email the LEA requesting that the school go over numbers and admit your DD as an excepted child. If they refuse, it becomes more complicated.

For a LAC, the placing authority can request that the home authority direct the school to admit the child. If the school is an academy (is it?), then the SW needs to apply to the Secretary of State to direct the academy to admit the child.

If your DD is now formerly LAC, it is not quite as straightforward- although, having said that, if the school is an academy then you can still apply to the Secretary of State for a direction in the same way as the SW would for a LAC. If the school is not an academy, then this is when you would appeal.

Like admission, I think you have a excellent case for appeal, and it should be a given that she will be offered a place, but I don't want to offer guarantees as I am not as familiar with the appeals process as I am with direction (am an advisory teacher for LAC). Hopefully, others will be able to advise.

As to what you do now, I would be asking that the SW or the Virtual Head of your DD's placing authority contact the admissions team of the home authority (the one in which the school is) and formally request that they ask the school to go over numbers and admit your DD as an excepted child. If you need a template email, feel free to PM me. If the school still refuse to admit, then the next step is either direction or appeal, depending on the circumstances outlined above:

Is your DD technically still LAC?
Does she have a SW?
Is the school an academy?

Lastly, don't panic. IME, admissions departments frequently have no idea about excepted children, and it often only takes a strongly worded email to produce a school place.

tethersend Wed 05-Nov-14 19:27:15

I would advise against sending her to the other school while appealing- this could be very unsettling for her.

MyDogEatsBalloons Wed 05-Nov-14 19:43:02

Thanks - right, hopefully I can answer all of this.

Yes, she still has a SW (visiting tomorrow, handily).
She's still a LAC - only very recently placed
School is not an academy

The placing authority's 'Education Manager' has been talking to the local authority, but has now come back to me via SW to say another school's been offered, and they think it's ok, and that they can't do anything else now because the offer letter has been sent, and could I let them know if we want to appeal, and on what grounds. After we got back to them they they replied (via SW again) saying we have to appeal the place and they'll "support where they can".

Now that the offer has been sent, is there any point in the placing authority sending an email?

Would love the template, thank you, will PM.

tethersend Wed 05-Nov-14 19:55:41

Absolutely. The offer being made makes no difference. I am shocked at the education managers advice, TBH.

Since your DD is still LAC, the placing authority should be requesting a direction. LAC should not have to appeal for places.

Do you feel comfortable PMing me the placing and home authorities? Completely understand if you don't.

One more question- what is the Ofsted rating of the school you want and the school you've been offered?

SoonToBeSix Wed 05-Nov-14 20:03:26

No nobody will force you to send your dd to the offered school whilst you are appealing. You are entitled to home school during this time.

TeenAndTween Wed 05-Nov-14 20:18:23

OP. re forcing you to send her to school.

Your Education LA can't force you to. You can as Soon said home educate.

However, I do believe that the child's LA/SW could in effect force you to. Because ultimately they can threaten to remove your child if they deem you to not be caring appropriately. Try to do whatever you can to keep the placing SW (and yours) on side.

Listen to admission and tethers they know what they are talking about.

ps. I think half days to start with is a great idea.

SoonToBeSix Wed 05-Nov-14 20:50:38

Sorry, I wouldn't want to suggest anything that could jeopardise the placement.

MyDogEatsBalloons Wed 05-Nov-14 21:00:00

Now worries - I don't think they'd want to jeopardise the placement to be honest (it was quite a slog for everyone to get this far). I'm not too confident in Home Schooling, though we have been (trying) to do some maths and writing every day. It's really the company of other children more than anything else that concerns me.

Thank you all again, the advice here has been truly amazing, and I'm so grateful.

bearwithspecs Wed 05-Nov-14 21:14:59

I can't offer much except moral support - my experience with several friends with adopted children is that they simply chose which school they thought was best suited etc. there was no class size rules or appeals. the local school is the right one for you for many reasons. Good luck

admission Wed 05-Nov-14 21:46:50

The LA just appear to be not in the real world. I assumed in my previous post that daughter was a previous LAC but if they are still officially a LAC there should not be any messing around, they should get the place in the school that is most appropriate for them.

It will take a number of weeks for an appeal to be organised and it will be organised by another separate department from the admission office. You do need to apply as much pressure as possible to get this resolved.

The LA should have what is called a "virtual head" who has responsibility for all the LAC pupils in the LA. Ask the LA for their name and telephone them and say that it is disgraceful how your daughter is being treated, that you are literally next door to the school. I would ask them whether the LA is aware of their responsibilities under the statutory guidance entitled "Promoting the education of looked after children" published in July 2014 and maybe quote the following bit

24. It is the responsibility of the Virtual School Head to ensure that:
• admission authorities understand that Fair Access Protocols do not apply to looked after children and that they are ‘excepted pupils’ in relation to infant class size regulations
• the local authority, as a corporate parent, does not tolerate drift and delay where children the authority looks after are without an education placement that is appropriate to their assessed needs. This includes using their powers of direction in a timely way rather than delay issuing a direction as a result of protracted negotiation

tethersend Wed 05-Nov-14 23:10:09

It seems that the VH is simply not pulling their weight, admission...

Just a small point, VHs are responsible for all children in the care of the LA, no matter where they live, rather than all LAC living in the LA. For the OP, this means the VH from the placing authority should be requesting a direction if necessary. The VH of the home authority can be a useful contact, and can certainly get things moving with regard to admissions, but they have no legal duty to oversee the education of LAC living within the authority who have been placed there by another authority.

Having said that, some authorities do extend the remit of the VH to include all LAC within the authority although there is currently no requirement to do so.

TeenAndTween Thu 06-Nov-14 11:28:22

Try to look on this time as bonus bonding time. smile
It would with hindsight to have been good to have this with my elder DD (who was in y3).

But I do understand the pull to make friends and play, it was what DD1 needed too. Also school can be a stabilising/normalising thing for a child who has lost so much already.

MyDogEatsBalloons Thu 06-Nov-14 16:50:03

Ha! so it seems like the Virtual Heads haven't even been informed of this situation yet! We fired off an email last night, thanks to all the useful info in this thread, and asked for a lot of things to be clarified, including details of whether they had formally requested that the school go over numbers.

Got an email back this morning, saying they would do that now, and that if no good response they would involve the VHs. We've chased for the reply again now, and asked the the VHs are involved at this stage.

I don't know what I would have done without you lovely lot with all your information - just rolled over and appealed I suppose.

Fingers crossed for the VHs taking a look and kicking some arses now! - I'll keep you updated.

tethersend Thu 06-Nov-14 17:29:58

That's brilliant news- although not so great that the VHs have not been involved thus far.

You should get a response from the school within the next seven days. Let's hope it's positive- if it isn't, then it's time for the VH to request direction.

admission Thu 06-Nov-14 20:38:18

So as I understand your post, the admission authority simply decided that because the school was at PAN or above that they said there was no place and never asked the question as whether they would exceed PAN on the basis of daughter being treated as an excepted pupils. They are now going to formally ask the school whether they will exceed PAN and the VH has not been involved at all in both LAs.
What a mess, but hopefully something positive will now happen

TeenAndTween Thu 06-Nov-14 20:43:54

Consider this as good practice in advocating for your child. It will come in useful for later years! grin

MyDogEatsBalloons Thu 06-Nov-14 21:22:27

Admission - yes, that's right! No-one at the LA with the brain power to think 'oh, a looked-after child, what should happen here then?', backed up by an 'Education Manager' at the PA saying 'yeah, you need to appeal, byeee'.

Onwards and Upwards, hopefully!

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