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Help with possible/inevitable appeal next year 2016

(20 Posts)
Suzi78 Mon 14-Sep-15 14:02:40

Hello there, I'm posting about my dd's secondary school application that I have to complete by October. Not sure if I should have posted here on in the secondary school section but dd is still in year six at present so I thought it'd be ok, I'll pre warn you though it may be a long one.

Basically I want some advice on how to go about winning an appeal. Now I realise this is a bit previous as we won't find out which secondary school my dd has been offered until next March but after receiving a letter from dd's primary school last week I've become a little worried and just want to be prepared in case it comes down to an appeal.

My dd goes to a catholic primary school, she has been there since the beginning of year three and is very happy. Me and dh are Catholic and whilst we don't force our faith onto anyone including our children we did want dd to be educated at a catholic school. The time came to apply for primary, we listed the only two catholic schools in our parish and one community school. Despite being baptised and attending church with me and her dad almost every week our dd was refused a place at both primary schools. We appealed to both and lost, me and dh were upset at the time as we didn't particularly like the community school she was allocated but we had little choice.

Anyway our dd started at her school, she settled ok eventually but as the majority of the friends she'd made at nursery (attached to the first school we applied for) had gone on to attend the school so she found it hard to make friends. When it came to her starting year one we applied for an in year transfer to both catholic schools one by one and both times, again we failed to get her a place. However the first week of year three a place became available, we applied for it straight away and she was admitted to the school. My dd settled so well and she was delighted to be back with all the friends she'd left behind at nursery and the rest is history as the say.

Well fast forward to now, she's in year six and like I said we apply for secondary this year. There is only one catholic secondary school in our area, it is a fantastic yet heavily oversubscribed school but due to the admissions criteria my dd would have been more or less guaranteed a place. However I've now been informed that the seodndary school has changed it's admissions criteria and from looking at it, it means it's going to be a lot harder for my dd to get a place.

Basically the old criteria meant typically each year it never got past criteria 4 for admissions and it went as follows-

1) Children with SeN/Looked after
2)Baptised Catholic children who live within one of the listed parishes AND who have received their primary education at a Catholic school.
3)Baptised brothers and sisters.
4)Baptised Catholic children from other parishes who have received their primary education at a catholic school.

New criteria as follows-

1)SeN children/Looked after
2)Baptised Catholic brothers and sisters.
3)Baptised Catholic children who live within one of the listed parishes.
4)Baptised Catholic children from other parishes.

Basically they have put siblings as a priority over parish children, this I actually agree with but they have now taken away the stipulation of attending a catholic primary school. Now if my dd had not had moved from her community primary to a catholic primary then I'd have been delighted about the new criteria as it would have meant she'd be on a level playing field as it were with all the other baptised kids who either did or did not attend catholic primary. But as it stands I decided to move dd, firstly because I had always wanted her to be educated in the catholic faith and secondly because me and her dad knew from her being little that we wanted her to be able to go on to the Catholic secondary school.

Changing the criteria now means it won't just be baptised catholic children (who have attended catholic primary) from a total of 4 feeder schools applying it could now potentially mean that other parents who baptised their children but who failed to secure a place at catholic primary will now apply for their child to attend the secondary and this will mean that their will be people fighting for places and the category that my dd will now be in (criteria 3) will be so oversubscribed.

So I suppose what I'm asking is if my dd doesn't secure a place at the school would I have a good chance of winning an appeal based on my reasons. Ie being that we are a genuine practicing Catholic family, I applied twice and appealed twice to get my dd into a catholic primary school, when a place finally did become available I moved my dd immediately, my dd took her holy communion in year 4 and she/I want her to continue her education in a faith school, I now drive her over two miles to her catholic primary school everyday and have done for four years when it would have been technically "easier" to keep her at her community primary that was literally a two minute walk across the road from our house. Would these reasons, in your opinion be sufficient enough and plausible for me wanting my dd to attend the secondary school and would it be enough to win an appeal if we were unlucky enough to find ourselves in that position in six months time?

redskybynight Mon 14-Sep-15 15:48:58

I am not an admissions expert (sure one will be along soon), but to win an appeal it you need to prove that the school you want provides something that your offered school doesn't. In your case that seems to be a Catholic education. Just proving you're a practising Catholic family will not be good enough, as presumably every other child admitted will also be from a practising Catholic family and there will also likely be other Catholic children not admitted! So you need to focus on why a Catholic education is so important to you, and what (for example) your DD will get from a Catholic school that she won't get from practising at home and regularly attending church.

tiggytape Mon 14-Sep-15 17:49:47

Firstly, if the old criteria didn't list the 4 feeder schools by name then this wasn't allowed anyway. I know that is of little comfort but it may have been one of the reasons they looked at it again - admissions law says if a school wants to give priority to feeder schools it must name them. It can't just say "any Catholic Primary" or "any Bristol school" for example.

And as you've seen, the old system wasn't particularly fair even to practicing Catholics anyway - you did eventually get a Catholic primary place but only by luck when 3 places came free in Year 1. There must be other Catholic families who didn't get lucky enough for places to come up in their year groups and who would pay the price of that at secondary school admissions too.

In terms of appeal, you will certainly have evidence of wanting a Catholic education and the panel will know that this isn't just something you claim last minute to get that particular school. However you will still need to explain to the panel why that Catholic school in particular is the best fit for your child. So, the religious aspect will be one point but you would also probably want to state what else the school offers that meets your child's needs or interests and why they would be disadvantaged if they could not attend that school. So it might be the GCSEs they offer, the language options on offer, the orchestra that they have which no other school does, the record for supporting an additional need your child may have...

prh47bridge Mon 14-Sep-15 18:21:50

The fact that the admission criteria have changed is not something you can use in an appeal. The school is entitled to change its admission criteria provided it follows the correct process.

Wanting a Catholic education may help depending on the appeal panel but the main thing you need to do is show that your daughter will be disadvantaged if she doesn't attend the school you want. As Tiggytape says, you need to identify what the school offers that is particularly relevant to her and is not available at whatever school is offered.

ChippyMinton Mon 14-Sep-15 18:30:03

What are the over-subscription criteria for Category 3?

Intradental Mon 14-Sep-15 18:39:16

The thing is, ultimately, you are no more entitled under these new criteria than any of the other Catholic children who won't get in. Your history will be irrelevant to the appeals panel. I don't think you'll win, and I think it's better for you and your daughter to prepare mentally for that, rather than building false hope...

Suzi78 Mon 14-Sep-15 18:45:56

Well Intradental I have to disagree with you there. By appealing twice to get my child the Catholic education I think she deserves and by moving her from a more local primary school to ensure she gets this does, as well as attending church regularly and my daughter taking her first holy communion, this in my opinion shows our level of commitment. There are many families at my dd's primary that have never set foot in church or who only attend when school request they do for special occasions ie Mother's Day, Easter,Christmas etc, now I'm not one to question another person's faith, that isn't my place but surely if it came down to us all appealing at the same time then my dd would be more deserving in the eyes of the panel.

Suzi78 Mon 14-Sep-15 18:52:26

Chippy, if criteria 3 has to many children in it or it becomes oversubscribed then the governors will offer places to children who live closest to the school. The criteria does technically list these feeders schools and offers places to children who attend these but that's way down the list at criteria 6. However four of the schools closest to the secondary including the one my dd attends is in one of the listed parishes you have to live in to qualify for criteria 2 or 3 and we live 1.9 miles away in a straight line, but in the past they've taken children from miles further but not sure what will happen now with this new criteria.

Suzi78 Mon 14-Sep-15 18:54:33

Oh and I'm not sure if this would e relevant to appeal but the next Catholic secondary school closest to us is almost 8 miles away, which is way to far even for an 11 year old child.

Vernonon Mon 14-Sep-15 19:01:39

I can totally see why you want to appeal but your chances are slim because the admissions criteria are quite clear and don't put practising families higher up.

I've appealed primary, moved in y3 and then appealed secondary - panel didn't care on the slightest that dd had moved schools or failed to get her preferred school at primary.

titchy Mon 14-Sep-15 19:06:26

Your dd should be regarded as no more deserving than the non catholic child who appeals because (for example) this is the only school that can support her disability. How faithful you are cannot carry any weight, at appeal or otherwise, as it is too subjective. Your faith puts you in category 3, and that's it. There can be no subcategory of 'baptised but really really really wants a catholic eduation'.

tiggytape Mon 14-Sep-15 19:08:18

The desire / availability of a Catholic education alone is not going to win you an appeal but equally Intradental is incorrect to say it will carry no weight at all at appeal.

You can clearly demonstrate that one aspect of what this school can offer is of great importance to you but at appeal that isn't enough. Appeals are about the child. What is the disadvantage to the child of not attending? What other facilities or features does this school have that make it a good match for your child or means only this school meets the child's needs.

It is a bit like parents appealing for a single sex school. Some will have really strong views on this and even good reasons for asking but usually they also need to identify other features of the school that helps their child.

Few appeals are about one killer argument. Most are about building up a picture of need and suitability that slightly tips the balance of prejudice in favour of the family. The balance of prejudice is what secondary school appeals are based on: the problems created for a school by taking more pupils versus the disadvantage to the child by not attending. Whichever side convinces the panel most (even if only by a tiny margin) wins the appeal

tiggytape Mon 14-Sep-15 19:14:59

There can be no subcategory of 'baptised but really really really wants a catholic eduation'.

Well in fairness that is what many appeals are based on including many successful ones i.e. "my child does not qualify under the admissions criteria at all but we still really, really want a place."
Appeals are about wants and needs not about matching admissions criteria (except the few where the admissions criteria aren't followed and parents appeal due to that error).
If the school has a weak case to refuse more pupils, parents can tip the balance in their favour more easily. Of course if there are dozens of appeals, they are compared at the end and only the strongest (additional needs etc) tend to win.

Suzi78 Mon 14-Sep-15 19:47:59

This particular catholic school is a specialist performing arts centre and as my dd is gifted in this area IMO (attends drama school, performs at theatres etc) i think the school would benefit her and help her progress further. I've already researched online the school admissions booklets as these also publish the amount of pupils admitted each year and the ones successful at appeal. Every year for the last seven years there have been extra children admitted through appeal and they've taken between 5 and 9 extra pupils each year, so it isn't impossible to win.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Mon 14-Sep-15 19:55:32

Now that might win you an appeal. How much more catholic you are than the next person probably won't.

Electrolux2 Mon 14-Sep-15 20:03:10

I wouldn't look at past appeal rates too much

I appealed last year and won ( with help from the experts here who have posted on this thread so please do listen to what tray say, they know their stuff!)

There were only 3 successful appeals out of 40 odd ( can't remember exactly)

The year before there were 11 for a similar number.

I do know the other two families who won their appeal and their grounds.
One had a very weak case IMHO and was surprised they won. They other family was a strong case and I think we had a strong case too
I'm also likely to have to appeal this year again for my daughter.

I do also want to say it was one of the most stressful things I've ever done. And I don't think I've had a particularly easy life :-)

Also I don't think 8 miles away is too far to travel to high school. I drive my ds that far every day and it takes about 10 minutes.
I then drive past my house and then 8 miles in the other direction for dd's primary. But that's only for a year

I would look at the other catholic school and transport to it, if the catholic aspect is very important to you

Loads of people told me last year to have a backup plan if my appeal for ds wasn't successful. I didn't have one and the appeal panel was aware that Ds didn't have any other choices really; maybe that's why we won!
Sorry this is so long. All in trying to say is don't underestimate the effect of a planned appeal. If I had another realistic choice I would have not have put myself or ds through not knowing here he was going to school until the end of June. Nor would I be doing it again.
You may have more choices than I did.

PanelChair Tue 15-Sep-15 04:01:40

I can't add much to what prh47bridge has said.

I disagree slightly with Tiggytape saying that appeals are about wants. Obviously, wanting a place in a particular school is what drives people to appeal, but actually winning that appeal depends on satisfying the panel that the child has needs which that school is best placed to meet and which outweigh the school's need to stick to its original number of admissions. Your protestations about being a better Catholic than others and so more deserving of a place will carry very little weight at appeal (at least, if the panel is following the code) but your daughter's need for a school with a performing arts specialism would be highly relevant.

On back-up plans: no panel should allow an otherwise losing appeal just because the child has no other school place. If an appeal is allowed, it must be because the criteria within the code are met. Otherwise, it would be an invitation to parents to reject the school they've been offered and then try to blackmail the panel into allowing the appeal on the basis that otherwise the child won't be at school. If anything, that risks alienating the panel, when (if anything) parents want them to give them the benefit of any doubt.

tiggytape Tue 15-Sep-15 07:29:28

I suppose what I meant was that when parents in the past have said on here or to me "we really want him/her to go to this school as it is Catholic / single sex / the only decent school but we won't qualify"

That's the starting point. Turning up at appeal and saying "I want this school as it is Catholic / single sex / has a good reputation" is not going to win the appeal but they can express their preference and then start explaining it in more from there (the bit about the GCSEs offered, the curriculum, the meeting of additional needs etc).
A lot of appeals aren't about a killer winning argument that proves that a child is doomed if they don't go to a certain school or that prove admissions messed up (although sometimes admissions does mess up). They are about a parental belief that one school is better for their child and trying to explain why. The performing arts specialism and any associated clubs / industry links / curriculum help will all be things that fall into this category.

tiggytape Tue 15-Sep-15 08:12:00

(i.e. the fact that a child does not meet the admissions criteria well enough or that other people meet it just as much as they do does not prevent them winning an appeal. Often an appeal allows parents to make a case for their child to attend a school that they would otherwise not qualify for).

Electrolux2 Tue 15-Sep-15 13:43:21

I actually have a great deal of faith in appeals panels. They exist I think to catch children who's circumstances are not fitting their nice neat boxes on the preference form

We did actually win on a technicality. The LA hadn't follows the admissions policy and therefore Ds was prejudiced because of that. I would still like to think that the substance of our appeal would have been enough.

Unbelievably they haven't changed the policy for this year. Which means there is possibility for me to use the same thing again.
Different school. Same policy.

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