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Primary admissions - based on "emotional need" - tiggytape? admission?

(23 Posts)
drspouse Thu 22-Oct-15 15:12:19

Our DC were adopted from abroad but have a very similar background to children placed and adopted within the UK. Our SW thinks that we should get the same priority as formerly LAC who were placed by an LA within the UK, and has had success with a letter to this effect before within our LEA (technically, the children were fostered and under state care in their home country).

We've been looking at schools in our area and there are 2 or 3 we won't consider because they have almost no non-White British children (one of our DCs would be the proverbial sore thumb), one of which is our closest school. We are due to look round the next closest school soon but several friends are saying they don't like it at all, unfriendly, rigid, crowded, noisy, poor transition from R to Y1. All things we are very concerned about with our DC1 in particular who has some "issues" especially behavioural ones possibly stemming from background. No diagnosis but risk factors.

We already looked at 3 schools. One would be lovely and we loved it very much and the family worker who showed us round had several degrees of clue about LAC/adopted children, they have a dedicated therapist and buy in extra therapy time where necessary for such children. It's also lovely (did I mention that?) and very calming, much the best transition from R to Y1 we've seen.

One wouldn't really do at all for a few reasons, and one would be OK and fine, large but also seemed calming, less of a clue than Lovely School, no therapist, but is miles. It's actually not too far from my work so the commute would be manageable but though it's not oversubscribed most of the children are from the immediate area so DC would potentially have a hard time with out of school socialising.

We would probably get a place at Distant School and at Nearby School but I'm worried if Nearby School is as manic and clueless as friends are saying, that we might not get a place at Lovely School (which is oversubscribed - our neighbour who is in YR didn't get a place) and would end up at Distant School.

It is really unusual (as per other adoptive parents) for a school to have a therapist onsite and likewise to have enough of a clue to buy one in when needed. Maybe more schools in our area do than we know (we were shown round Won't Do School by pupils who wouldn't know the answer to that question, for example). We'll make sure we confirm that this is really the case but assuming it is - and the LEA don't think our children count as care leavers - can we ask for this school on emotional grounds?

If so, what kind of thing would we need to say? I'm assuming we'd do this at application stage, alongside the letter from our SW that may or may not be accepted, or would it be better to submit the application with the letter, and then appeal on emotional need grounds if we don't get Lovely School.

I'm really crossing my fingers that Nearby School is not like people are saying but I'm not holding my breath...

lougle Thu 22-Oct-15 16:06:57

Does 'lovely school' have social grounds as a criteria for admission? You can only apply on those grounds if it does. You can't apply on those grounds is there is no 'social and medical' criteria.

Similarly, you can't appeal on the grounds that Social circumstances weren't considered if you haven't applied on those grounds, and can't appeal that there should have been a S&M category.

I don't know whether you should get priority 1 -the criteria is very specific that it is LAC or previously LAC. As such, your child doesn't count in the same way that a child under a SGO placed from burgh parents' care wouldn't count.

Finally (sorry to be a voice of doom) if it is an infant class size appeal situation, the grounds are extremely limited and your personal circumstances will only come into it if the panel has to decide whether that information was material to you being denied a place improperly (e.g. that your case would have been successful for social and medical but they treated you as a distance applicant).

admission Thu 22-Oct-15 16:29:20

I am assuming that you are talking about entry into R next September and are just sussing out the schools now.
If that is correct then you need to understand that the admissions are based solely on the admission criteria of the schools concerned. The first criteria will be around looked after and previously looked after children because that is the law. I am not an expert around adoptions and I know that it is complicated as the admission code definition of previously looked after and those under a child arrangement order do not exactly match the social services definitions.
My belief is that if the adoption was abroad that it will not count but different LAs will have slightly views on who and what counts. I would make an immediate application to the LA school admission office in writing, with as much detail as possible, including a letter from the SW confirming it has been so in other such cases and ask them to confirm that DC will be accepted as a previously looked after child. They can only say no but hopefully yes. If they say yes then you can put more or less any school you want down and you will get a place there.
The next question is whether there is a social or medical criteria within the admission criteria of the different schools. The fact that one school has a therapist suggests to me that they may well have an admission criteria that says that. Again if there is such a criteria then you need to try and get formal confirmation before the cut off date of the Jan15th for on time applications that DC fits that criteria. It is much more difficult arguing that you should have fitted the criteria at appeals than having the answer before you get to that stage.
If there is no such criteria then I am afraid that it will come down to distance and how many applicants that there are as to whether you get a place at your preferred school or not.
If not then how successful you could be at appeal is down to the numbers in each class in reception. If it is an infant class regulations case, then the only way that you can win realistically is if a mistake was made.That is unlikely. If however it is not an infant class regulations case then with the information that you can generate around the background and needs of your DC and the advantages of the preferred school, you have got to have a reasonable chance of success. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that the panel will believe that whilst DC may not legally be previously looked after that they fit the profile completely and will if possible admit. But that is up to each panel to make that decision.

namechangeforissue Thu 22-Oct-15 17:16:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

drspouse Thu 22-Oct-15 22:17:47

Lovely School has "medical social or welfare reasons" or some such wording, sorry it's "social" rather than "emotional". It's a community school anyway and that's the criteria for all community schools.

Yes admission it's for entry in Sept 2016. Sorry not to be clear.

It's very helpful to suggest we ask NOW for a firm commitment that we will fall under the criteria for formerly-LAC because other overseas adopted children have done so - thank you very much. I'm not sure if our SW has specifically asked for admission on those precise grounds in the past or has just said "please be nice" and they have chosen to do so but if they HAVE done so on the grounds of "being nice" then they may have set a precedent?

The wording on the formerly LAC admissions is different in different regulations and it is hard to tell if it includes our DCs in its current wording but if they've already done it and set a precedent that would help loads.

Lovely School has a Reception intake of 60 so will have two full classes, so it seems like we need to get this sorted before appeal stage.

If we wanted to seek admission on "social or welfare" grounds, from what I've been reading, it would help to have something to say our DC needs this provision, from the SW? From nursery too as DC has needed a lot of one to one?

If it's this therapy in particular, we'll need to check other schools for this provision I imagine. How far away would we need to check i.e. would they give us a place 10 miles away in the non-work direction with the same provision (we live less than half a mile from our nearest school which we won't consider, and from Nearby School, and just over a mile from Lovely School.

Though to be honest if they are giving us a school 10 miles away we would get one in Distant School anyway (it's not quite that far).

tiggytape Fri 23-Oct-15 09:33:23

Yes - your thinking is correct.
If your child cannot come under the LAC priority admissions then you would be looking to make a case that the school you have selected is the only one that can meet DC's needs with a view to being prioritised under the Medical and Emotional criteria.

So as you rightly say, it would be very helpful if you had expert opinions to state that DC needs the therapy (and any other special features) offered by Lovely School. However that would only help if it was demonstrated that other schools could not meet this need. If they all offered identical support, it would be hard to push for one school on these grounds.

So it is a two stage thing really. The first is to get experts involved with DC to write matching DC's particular needs to the facilities that Lovely School can offer. And the second is to demonstrate why only Lovely School can meet these needs in a way that other local schools cannot. By local, they are likely to consider all schools within 45 minutes or so of home - that is the upper limit (guideline only not law) used when defining a reasonable distance for children this age so it seems reasonable they would be looking at that sort of range.

tethersend Fri 23-Oct-15 10:50:47

Is the nursery the children attend linked to Lovely school in any way?

drspouse Fri 23-Oct-15 13:51:52

No, it isn't. The school nursery has spaces, and I don't work full time so DC1 could potentially pick up a morning there but they already go to two settings (nursery and CM) and if DC1 went to that nursery and then DIDN'T go to Lovely School I think that would be even more unsettling.
Nearby School has no nursery but Distant School does so I may add a morning at the relevant nursery once we get places.
I will ring round a few other local schools about the therapy provision/adopted children generally though.

drspouse Wed 27-Jan-16 14:23:27

OK, so coming back to this, events/inefficiency/deadlines have overtaken us.

We saw round Nearby School and it is OK but not as calming as Lovely School or even Distant School, though as it's closer and probably better socially for that reason than Distant School we have put Lovely School 1st, Nearby School 2nd and Distant School 3rd.

We did get a letter from our SW but it was not at all what we were expecting and very last minute so we have left it as it is and not asked for more at the moment. The letter just states that DC1 is our adopted child and DOB etc. It has no mention of the overseas status nor of any precedent, just a reminder of the admissions criteria.

Talking to other parents of adopted children then some of those from other LEAs are being asked/have already provided copies of the Adoption Order but the only person we know from our LEA has not provided anything (or been asked for anything).

So we have decided to leave it until we are asked to provide something, on the grounds that it is a bit pointless to provide a letter when they may ask for the AO, but if they just ask for "proof of adoption status" this may do the trick.

Our SW has not been very efficient over this to put it mildly so there seems little point in asking whether this is the same letter that has "worked" in the past, but if the LEA ask for "proof" but don't accept the letter we will ask if this is the case.

However one helpful point was that Lovely School have said that they had children moving into and out of Reception during the first half of the autumn term so that being on the waiting list for a short period might be an alternative to an appeal.

Those following along at home may also be interested to hear that we're getting some assessment for DC1 and have just got a referral/date for specialist HV to come for a home visit. So though we should have some idea of how to proceed with DC1's difficulties by the time school starts, we're not at a point where we could ask for a HCP to specify a school.

tethersend Wed 27-Jan-16 19:17:00

Should the LA not accept your children in the LAC or former LAC category, you can submit the SW letter (ask for a better one detailing why the school can meet the child's needs) and a letter from the HV to place you in the medical/social category which should put you at the top of the waiting list.

It may be worth contacting the admissions team at this stage to see if they can confirm the SW's letter is enough to be in the former LAC category, and place you in the med/soc category if not. They can only say no.

drspouse Wed 27-Jan-16 20:19:15

Thanks tethersend we were wondering about just keeping quiet and hoping they process the application without further information (unlikely but they did give us 2 year funding without further information so you never know) or just submitting the letter, thus avoiding telling them our DC are not originally from the UK.

tethersend Wed 27-Jan-16 22:15:30

Hmm, tricky one...might be best to hold your nerve until April in that case.

Fingers crossed for you. The law clearly needs to change to cover children adopted from overseas.

drspouse Thu 28-Jan-16 09:01:04

Thanks, that's what were thinking, though we may get something helpful in a diagnosis before then (see those pigs flying by).
As it stands it technically doesn't cover children who were in care in Scotland/NI either. It's crazy.

catslife Thu 28-Jan-16 09:07:40

* thus avoiding telling them our DC are not originally from the UK.*

Be careful OP, many LEAs ask for a child's birth certificate at some stage in the application process, so it may not be possible to hide this info.

tethersend Thu 28-Jan-16 09:56:28

Catslife is correct, the LA can withdraw a place offered if they realise that the child is adopted from overseas.

A single letter from your SW should be enough evidence for the soc/med panel, as long as it sets out why this school can meet your child's needs in a way that no other can. It might be a safer option.

Interestingly, a select cttee post-adoption report recommended that:

291. We welcome the fact that children who have been adopted from overseas, and their adoptive parents, are entitled to request from local authorities the same assessment of their needs for post-adoption support services as children adopted domestically. We are concerned, however, to learn that the amendment to the School Admissions Code which will give priority to adopted children in the school admissions process will not apply to children adopted from overseas.

292. We reiterate the intense vulnerability of children adopted from overseas, many of whom will face serious challenges beyond even those faced by children adopted domestically. We call on the Government to reconsider the changes made to the new School Admissions Code to give priority in the admissions process to children who were looked-after in their state of origin immediately prior to the adoption.

I am very surprised that the law hasn't been changed, but I expect that it will be at some point.

Until then, pursuing the SW for a letter and seeing if you can amend the application to med/soc might be a more reliable way of securing a place at Lovely school.

drspouse Thu 28-Jan-16 10:12:20

Great advice, thank you. We will see how far along we get with the assessment by, say, March and approach our SW with what we have.

drspouse Thu 28-Jan-16 13:05:51

Ha. As reported in my other thread, our LA told our nursery manager that "only UK-LAC are eligible for EYPP". Then gave it to nursery for him having seen DS's foreign adoption order.

So fingers crossed for LA cluelessness this time round too. But backing up with reports from the healthcare team/letter from SW.

RueDeWakening Thu 28-Jan-16 23:03:11

Re the letter, I wrote to my consultant with phrases outlining exactly what I wanted his letter to say to support our application under social & medical criteria for a school place.

His secretary (I assume) copied them word for word into the letter we got back.

It said something like "Thank you for agreeing to support our school application for DC as we discussed at my appointment on (date). We are applying for a school place for DC under the medical and social category. This is because our first choice school is the only one I feel can meet our needs, namely 1), 2), 3)."

I also wrote a document supporting the application and explaining in more detail why it was necessary - in our LA, this seems to be the most important bit, although it's the bit nobody tells you about!

In other words, make it easy for them and you're more likely to get something useful back.

drspouse Fri 29-Jan-16 14:51:35

Thanks, that's really helpful to know. Sounds a great tactic to take.

drspouse Thu 03-Mar-16 11:14:17

Me again. We have not yet had our paediatrician appointment but have seen an OT and a PT who have suggested some additional activities, assessed DS at about a year behind, and his balance is particularly bad so we're getting orthotics and he needs to do lots of physical activities. So Lovely School with lots of outdoor space would again be better.

Once we see the paed I think we will ask them if they will write a letter if we give them some phrases to put in it and then we'll write a supporting letter too. Hopefully that will come through before the places are announced.

Should we ALSO get a letter from our SW outlining the emotional/family support Lovely School can give.

I realise we are awfully late to do this but with not having seen the paed yet and only just having seen the OT/PT it has been hard to get anything medical on paper.

We got a contact from the LEA who said they could not find our DS on the social care database (which is odd, as when he entered the country because of the regulations in the country he is from, he was not yet fully adopted so was officially fostered). They say they cannot help and our SW is telling them they should so they are in an impasse. I've requested his fostering details from the LA database but that could be weeks.

Our SW says that unfortunately she does NOT have other families who have had priority admissions from our LEA or any of the others she deals with but they have all just got lucky with being close enough to the primary school they wanted.

For secondary some of the other overseas adopters are suggesting appeals based on ethnicity e.g. if a DC will be uncomfortable in an all white school, but that's no use for primary as they aren't going to increase their class size on that basis (and all the schools we put down are multi-ethnic anyway).

Interestingly we have heard from another international adoptive family in another English county who HAVE had priority admissions due to being adopted. So clearly there is a postcode lottery going on. Is it enough to tell our LEA that other LEAs do give priority or is that not really anything to do with them? We may go to our MP and we will definitely tell them this fact about the other LEA but I am not sure if it's worth telling our LEA directly.

tiggytape Sat 05-Mar-16 21:05:36

Should we ALSO get a letter from our SW outlining the emotional/family support Lovely School can give.
Yes the more professional support the better. You know already what they're looking for but ideally it needs to state why only Lovely School meets DS's needs and to emphasise why it would be in his best interests to be able to attend (so any special support they offer could be mentioned and the school referred to by the professional eg "drspouse believes the [insert special pastoral support details] offered by lovely school would benefit DS and I fully support that view and feel that [special support details] would be very important in helping DS to [settle / thrive / access the curriculum]

For secondary some of the other overseas adopters are suggesting appeals based on ethnicity e.g. if a DC will be uncomfortable in an all white school, but that's no use for primary as they aren't going to increase their class size on that basis (and all the schools we put down are multi-ethnic anyway).
I think ethnicity is a much less sound basis for appeal (as are matters like language and religion). Generally it is expected that all schools serve the needs of children from all heritages equally. There would have to be something very special about a school (language or community clubs or groups for example) that made that a strong basis for appeal and even then it would be more about opportunities to learn about a culture or language rather than feeling uncomfortable with others.

Interestingly we have heard from another international adoptive family in another English county who HAVE had priority admissions due to being adopted. So clearly there is a postcode lottery going on. Is it enough to tell our LEA that other LEAs do give priority or is that not really anything to do with them?
As with many admissions-related policies, authorities have to do the minimum set by law but they don't have to go beyond that if they choose not to. The law gives priority to children in care and adopted from care in this country as defined by various acts which don't include overseas adoptions (despite those children facing very similar issues and having many similar needs).
Other LAs can devise ways to give priority for these children but that doesn't mean yours has to - just as some schools can choose not to give priority for siblings or not to give priority for social and emotional needs or not to give any priority for people who live close to the school.
It does however back up your claim that your child has the same needs as adopted children in general and that this is a widely recognised view even if it isn't part of admissions law.

drspouse Sat 05-Mar-16 21:39:48

Thank you tiggy that is so helpful. We can get the SW to write her letter now and also push for our paeds appointment.

drspouse Wed 09-Mar-16 15:48:11

We got a nice letter from the SW re Lovely School (now we have to remember the name of the person who showed us round as she has put the HT). She's also reminded the LEA of their duty to children who have been adopted cough cough you aren't fulfilling it cough cough.

DS has been to OT re his fine motor skills but has been discharged with lots of things to practice. To be honest all of the schools showed at least some clue on fine motor skills so we wouldn't have asked them for a letter anyway.

The paediatrician should be able to write a letter re. behaviour to tie in with the SW letter re nurture/therapy.

We are wondering though about the physio. SW has written that the much more extensive grounds at Lovely School will help DS socially (she's better at putting it than me!) but several other schools do have extensive grounds and DH thinks it's not worth asking the physio even though DS is still being seen for balance etc. because he says they may say "OK then we'll give you Fourth Massively Distant School on rubbish estate because THEY have lots of outdoor space" when we didn't even put that school down.

By the way, on the multi-cultural/ethnic issue - in theory schools should be able to cater for all children but if you are a White British family with a DD from China and your DD's needs include to see and socialise with children who look like her and are also of Chinese origin (and she cannot get that at home), a school which is 99% White British (or for that matter 99% Asian Muslim) will not fulfil that. So in some cases, I agree with your point, but for some DCs "being sensitive" and making sure other children aren't racist is not really enough.

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