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What influence does head teacher have at an appeal to expand class?

(14 Posts)
GeorgiaP Mon 11-Apr-16 10:52:07

We are in the process of appealing for an in-year place in a junior school (not infant/entry class).

My child used to attend this school before we had to move away for my work, and now we have moved back. Before leaving I spoke to the head teacher and she informally said that she would be happy to expand a class to 31 pupils when my child returned.

Now we have moved back, applied for a place, been rejected and are now appealing.

The application process was run by the LA, so they of course didn't give us a place (because the head teacher/school was not involved in the decision at all), but just followed their rules, and the school was 'full'.

But what is the head teacher's role in the appeals process, and how might we use the info that the head teacher said she was happy to expand the class our child?

From reading the info about the appeals process, it sounds as if it is decided by the independent appeals panel getting info from the admissions team at the LA (i.e. NOT the school/head teacher) and ourselves, and then again just following the rules. So, I can't quite see how the head teacher telling us she would be happy to expand the class has any meaning, given that the school/head teacher doesn't seem to be part of the process.

Is the head teacher/school actually involved in the appeal, not just the LA, so there would be an opportunity for them to tell the LA that it would be OK for the class to be expanded to accommodate our child? Or should we formally use this info in our appeal?

ThatAnneGirl Mon 11-Apr-16 11:18:57

I thought it was the other way round. That the actual application goes to the school and the head decides whether they can accomodate the child if they are at capacity.

I've been through an appeal myself, also for a in year junior school that was full. In the paperwork it said that the school might send a representative to the appeal to put forward their side.

Really at the appeal you are trying to demonstrate that the disadvantage to your child not getting a place is greater than the disadvantage to all of the other children by having an extra child in the class.

At my appeal, the chap from the LEA presented his side first. The information had been provided to him (and me) by the school. It was about fire exits, square footage, chairs, teaching assistants. I think that any information the school puts forward would be said at this stage. You will know about it as it will all have been sent to you beforehand.

The appeal panel is made up of three people not connected to the school in any way.

ThatAnneGirl Mon 11-Apr-16 11:20:46

I'd be happy to PM or email you my statement if you want. Have you been to talk to the head?

meditrina Mon 11-Apr-16 12:07:40

Your appeal will be on the 'balance of prejudice' ie you have to show that the detriment to your DC is greater than the detriment to the pupils already at the school in going one over. The only way to get a place at a school that is full is via appeal (or FAP if there are no local places whatsoever, but then you don't get to choose which school)

So the (independent) appeals panel has to weigh up the strength of your reasons for wanting this school against the school/LA case not to admit.

If the head really does not think there will be any detriment to the school by admitting another pupil to that year group, then it is unlikely that the admissions authority (which could be LA or the school itself, depending on the school's status) will be able to put up a terribly strong case and that makes your appeal significantly more winnable.

eddiemairswife Mon 11-Apr-16 12:26:01

I think you would need to have what the head told you in writing, unless he/she is present at the appeal. I have many times sat on appeals where the parents have claimed that the head has said they would have the child, but unless they have evidence to prove it we don't accept it.

Witchend Mon 11-Apr-16 14:27:59

The thing is unless you have in writing that the head said she would be happy to take your child, it isn't really useable unless you have evidence that is actually what is said.
You see it's very easy for people to hear what they want to: So a HT saying "we have taken up to 31 in a class, it may be that is possible for your dd" can be heard as "we will definitely accept your dd". Not saying that's the case in your situation, but you can see how that means the appeal panel can't just accept it.

I've certainly heard conversations of much less positive comments from teachers when the parent listening has taken away something which is definitely not what they wanted to convey.

However if the head doesn't really put up a fight it will swing it in your case to make it more likely. For some strange reason in ds' year the head decided to turn up to the appeal and announce he could take all appeal children, giving every class in his year 3 more pupils. No one knows why he decided this was a good thing to do-he hasn't done it before or since. confused

Of course that then caused a lot of issues in people who were at the top of the waiting list, and thought they had a good chance to get in, so didn't worry about appealing, and now haven't got a chance of getting in really. It's not as though those appealing had particularly good cases either. At least one's case was "it's not fair because I went there and I knew the previous head well..." hmm

bojorojo Mon 11-Apr-16 15:18:31

What would happen if three of four children wanted to be admitted to that class? Surely a head could not just say it was OK to one parent if several others wanted a place too? It must have to be on the criteria for entry to the school, not just on what the head thinks, surely? Otherwise how is that fair on other families who may also be in that predicament but have never known the head?

eddiemairswife Mon 11-Apr-16 16:26:26

Is this a decision the head would make alone, or would the governors have to be consulted?

prh47bridge Mon 11-Apr-16 18:23:11

The head cannot make decisions on admissions on his own. If the school is its own admission authority the governors (or a committee set up by the governors) must be involved. If the LA is the admission authority they make the decisions. And if there are several applicants and the school admits a child it must be based on the admission criteria. They cannot pick one just because the head likes the parents.

In terms of the OP I agree with the advice given by meditrina and eddiemairswife.

AugustaFinkNottle Mon 11-Apr-16 21:22:58

I once sat on an appeal panel where it was an incredibly sympathetic case, and the child was the only one applying for that school for that year group. The LA rep basically implied very strongly that if they could have given the kid the place direct they would but their hands were tied, went through the spiel about being full really half-heartedly, and then actually prompted the parent when she forgot something salient in support of her case. We were really quite impressed, and it was the easiest decision ever to make.

GeorgiaP Mon 11-Apr-16 21:51:21

My original conversation with the head was just a casual chat in the playground near the time we were leaving the UK. At the time I knew nothing about the application/appeals process, so I just asked the head for any tips on how we should go about it. He wasn't very informative but, completely unprompted, he basically said something very similar to "I wouldn't mind expanding the class to 31 for your child".

I just took what he said at face value, and assumed that when we returned we could get in touch with him regarding my child re-entering the school, but now I know the way the application and appeals process works, I'm intrigued as to why he said it, given that the LEA is the admissions authority, which seems to mean that the school/head are not involved at all in the whole process!

Obviously I really need to talk with the head teacher again, to get it clear - was it just an off-the-cuff remark which is meaningless, or something more? Presumably if the school are involved in putting the LEAs case forward, then part of that could be how disruptive to the class the particular child might be? I don't really know how it works, but it intrigues me as to why he said it!

For in-year appeals, the "balance of prejudice" thing seems to be ripe for unfairness to occur, given that it is so subjective!

admission Tue 12-Apr-16 19:01:40

I would suggest he was saying it out of politeness. You obviously have a nice child who the school feel there is no problem with but that is not the same as the school
in reality wanting to admit an extra child to the class.
As you have not got it in writing, you will not get something now and in many LAs headteachers are under orders not to help // sympathise with parents who are appealing because it can give the wrong impressions.
You need to apply for the place and see what happens. The probability will be that you are told there is no place available at which point you appeal. I would not bother including the head's comment as it is really not going to make a difference to the outcome of the appeal. You need to put together the strongest case possible to gain a place and hope that is sufficient to convince the appeal panel.

bojorojo Thu 14-Apr-16 01:09:47

The school/LA will also be able to put forward its case at the appeal. It may be quite laid back about accepting one child or it might put up a big fight because it means the 30 is breached. Some schools will try and stick religiously to the pan and defend their position very strongly. The appeal panel will listen to them (or he LA saying the same thing) as well as the parent.

I think the balance of prejudice is not unfair because there becomes a tipping point when a class is too big for the classroom, too difficult to manage in and around the school, school trips become more difficult, and it may be unsafe in labs and workshops where work stations have to be shared, art rooms and computer suites do not have sufficient equipment etc. You are looking at when admitting yet another child will prejudice the quality of education available to the others already in the school. The school that does not want more children will find very compelling and objective reasons not to!

teacherwith2kids Thu 14-Apr-16 11:31:13

Looking at it from the school's point of view, while in casual conversation the head may have said they would be happy to have your child back, to admit over 30 will create a precedent. This will make all future '31st children''s appeals much easier for the parent to win, and the school has to consider the impact of this.

For example, the school I work in has, in the past, had some classes of 33 in KS2, without obvious detriment in terms of results etc, and we routinely work with 32. This means that appeals to become the 31st and 32nd children in a class are almost always won. We do fight the 33rd pupil quite hard, not because an individual class cannot accommodate them, but because that will mean 12 extra pupils in the school (we are routinely over-subscribed and have a LOT of in-year appeals) and it is the 'shared' areas of the school - cloakrooms, hall, toilets in particular - that really, really struggle. However, because of the precedent a really good parental case can cause us to go up to 33.

So if the school does end up fighting their side of the appeal strongly, it won't be because they would be happy to take 'your particular child'. It is because the implications of admitting a 31st child into ANY class would mean they could in all probability rapidly end up having 31 pupils in every KS2 class, because once they have clearly coped with 31, it is harder to fight another 31st child's appeal.

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