Advice needed for primary place appeal, please!

(14 Posts)
MostAppealing Thu 02-Jun-16 21:13:45

Name changed so as not to out myself, but this is a shout-out for Prh47bridge, meditrina, admissions, and any other appeals experts, please!

We are in the process of moving house - totally new area, couple of hours away from current home.

Process has been fraught, exchange deadlines have been and gone, problems below us and above us in the chain. We and our buyers have been waiting many months. Looks like we should be exchanging tomorrow or early next week.

We have 2 DC, one currently Y2, one at nursery, will be YR Sept. We found a school with a place for DC1 and then found a house nearby. We had hoped/expected to exchange in time for the late applications deadline latest, if not the Jan deadline. Obvs missed it, and for the first time in years the school is oversubscribed for YR, now has a waiting list. Next nearest school is >3 miles away. No other school within several miles has a Y2 place.

So - plan is:
1.we exchange contracts on house sale & purchase
2.apply for DC1,
3.get offered and accept Y2 place immediately,
4.apply for DC2 for Sept YR as both sibling and catchment,
5.receive rejection letter/allocation of school miles away,
6.appeal.

We need to appeal on or before next Thursday 9th for the hearing to be held this side of Autumn. Timing will be very tight so I want to get everything prepared ASAP.

Appeal will be prejudice, not ICS, as PAN is 25.

School has taken a YR class of 30 pupils within the last five years, so there's precedent, and is currently under PAN in other infant classes.

I've made notes on why we want that particular school (the obvious - sibling there, walking distance from house, not knowing anyone in the area, difficult to make friends for me, Dc1 and Dc2 simultaneously anyway and DC2 will suffer most if at a school miles away as I have limited time/resources), why other schools would prejudice DC2 (>2 miles away so would have to use provided transport, DC2 only 4yo and would not get in a car with strangers, in fact never been in car driven by anyone other than us as we currently live in London and use public transport, wouldn't be able to attend EC activities due to provided transport, we currently have just DH's company car which he needs for work so I can't get to school for school run or in an emergency...) and also personality/interests (needs routine and familiarity, has trouble regulating emotions, needs help from me/Dc1 to develop friendships, will find it hard to cope with upheaval of moving house and community and starting school for first time (currently only PT at nursery) without the extra issues of isolation at school, etc).

Sorry for essay, but I'd really appreciate advice on what's important/relevant here, how to prioritise and what I've missed.

Many TIA!

MostAppealing Fri 03-Jun-16 09:13:37

Bumping for morning traffic [hopeful smiley]

bojorojo Fri 03-Jun-16 10:11:34

You currenty do not have a child there so cannot see how sibling is relevant. In fact it could well be that other appeals are held and any spare places are taken before you even move to your home. As you do not live in the catchment at the moment, have not yet applied for any place at the school, and do not have a moving date, you are, presumably, at the back of the queue because other people may have made a timely application and are actually living in the catchment area.

I think a lot of your arguments for not accepting a school only a short distance away (and 2-3 miles is nothing) are a bit tenuous. If they provide transport, then you cannot really say it is unsuitable if other people use it happily. If your child has never been in another car, then that is not the fault of the LA. If you have no time, that is not the fault of the LA. If you drive, you may have to get a car if you do not like taxis. Every child gets used the taxi driver and your views on "strangers" is not likely to be taken seriously when taxi drivers are CRB checked and vetted. In rural areas thousands of children are taken to school by taxi every day.

Because of your very late application for the school, and it could be as late as July before you actually move, I do think you will have an uphill struggle on lots of the issues you mention. However, your best bet is that they have taken 30 in a class before so have set a precedent. As Early Years is not KS1, and it would appear the classes are not mixed, then 30 is probably the limit and Governors have not got round to moving the PAN to 30. However, 5 more children is a welcome addition to funding and probably a prudent school would see the benefit of going to the maximum class size, although the YR classroom could be very small, hence deciding to stay at 25. Unless the Y1 class numbers are very small, eg 20, the school may not wish to mix the two classes to allow for more YR and I do not think they can be forced to do this. Obviously you cannot pop a YR child or two into Y1 in September to even up the numbers.

I would not be too hopeful. With a bit of luck the experts you mention will be along soon.

bojorojo Fri 03-Jun-16 10:15:29

Few schools have extra curricular activities for YR and as you get to know people, DC2 could get a lift home with another Mum. You will have to network! Again, this is not a case for the appeal. You need to concentrate on the education provided at your preferred school, the precedent of going to 30 and the fact you wish DC1 to go there. Unless your DC2 has special needs, then the difficulties of moving have been brought about by your decision to move, so not really sure how sympathetic they will be on that one.

Arkwright Fri 03-Jun-16 11:59:45

A lot of your points are irrelevant for an appeal. You need to concentrate on why that school is the only one suitable. The panel won't be interested in your lack of transport or how many friends you have.

admission Fri 03-Jun-16 15:35:33

The first decision is whether to take a gamble and apply for the two school places now from your current address. This is a risk as there is still the chance you will not complete as expected. However on the other side of the coin, the place in year 2 could be snaffled up at anytime.

You do need to accept the year 2 place but you might as well apply for the reception place at the same time. It will make no difference if as you believe the reception class is full to PAN. It is more a question of getting child on the waiting list for the school ASAP. The timing on when you get to have both catchment and sibling priority is open to conjecture. Until the elder sibling starts at the school, you do not have sibling priority, so getting him into the school before the end of term is a priority. You get catchment priority when the local authority recognise your address as being appropriate for admission purposes.
I would be cautious in assuming that a PAN of 25 means that it is not an infant class size appeal. It could be and depends on exactly what the class organisation is in reception,year 1 and year 2, along with the current school numbers. The fact that other year groups in infants are not up to PAN is not relevant for any appeal, as future infant class size appeals, make an assumption that the empty spaces will potentially be filled.
You also need to be cautious about precedents. Every panel is told that they must not assume precedents but only go on the evidence submitted from both parties involved. By all means make sure the panel know that the school have had 30 in a reception class but do not assume it will give any weighting to your case. Everything you have mentioned is relevant but it is for the panel to decide the level of weigh of prejudice that is attached to each one. It is probably that in most instances each will have little weight, especially around transport but they do eventually all add up. The issue is possibly how good a case does the school have not to admit and that will probably be around the reasons for the PAN being 25, the size of the classrooms and possibly what the classroom organisation is in the junior end of the school.
You need to be thinking about the positive education that youngest child will receive in the reception class. So do they have really good outdoor learning areas? Is there anything special about what they have done in the last 12 months - look on the school website. Will the way that they work in reception bring on your child's issues with regulating emotions. What was said about reception /early years in the last Ofsted report. All can give you an idea of positives that your son will get in reception in the school.

MostAppealing Sat 04-Jun-16 20:53:09

Thanks all. It's not relevant for the initial appeal letter, but the school has already said that a) it's PAN, not ICS, and b) they will not put forward any opposing arguments (*bojorojo*, you are absolutely right about funding being a factor; the school traditionally loses children to the private system at 7+, the mixed classes take into account the point of exit thus it being PAN and not ICS). However, I still need to submit an appeal letter, presumably with reasonable arguments, in order to start the process. I'm keen to make it as easy as possible for everyone, not least because I have found both school and local authority very cooperative and helpful!

What's been particularly useful is the realisation that I need to clarify certain points, e.g. 'Our view of strangers' is actually far from the case. DC2 has pretty big meltdowns - no SEND diagnosed and we want to avoid that route for the time being, in part because this move is at the suggestion of the hospital asthma who was certain that a) health/hospital admissions would be dramatically improved and b) behaviour would be improved due to lessened reliance on the concoction of drugs (including oral and inhaled steroids) if we moved out of London (simplified version!).

However, meltdowns currently triggered by overstimulation, unfamiliarity, disruption to routine, etc. My wording was probably unfortunate - it was triggered by recent nursery session on 'stranger danger' resulting in DC2 having an hour-long meltdown when I invited a 'stranger' (actually a friend of mine, but who hadn't met DC2 - but DC2 takes a lot of things very literally) into our car for a lift on a wet day! Nothing to do with transport policies, just their effects in DC2's ability to cope with daily life - but it makes me realise that what we consider to be our strongest priorities (DC2's emotional wellbeing and ability to develop/sustain friendships) may well be our weakest arguments, and that what may be our strongest arguments (e.g. school's G&T programme for maths) are what we consider to be non-essential added bonuses (DC2 is currently using maths workbooks for 7-9 year olds independently at home, plus maths/coding apps - we don't really give a shit about this and kind of assume that it'll continue whatever school DC2 ends up at, but it seems that we should focus more on academics).

I think the problem is that many of our reasons can't be evidenced. We made an initial shortlist of schools/villages/towns based on a list provided by the local authority of schools with (then) Y1 places. Not many. We then looked at which of those places fitted our criteria (budget, commuting distance, distance from friends and family, distance from hospitals - DC2's medical needs, but which are not relevant to a school appeal, hospital admissions/appointments just happen!). I then visited all of the schools (about a dozen) and made a further shortlist, narrowing it down still further according to which schools had suitable houses on the market within walking distance. Ironically the schools which could be possibles for DC2 have been oversubscribed for the past five years, have no spaces in Y2 and are OFSTED outstanding. The school we've 'chosen' is historically undersubscribed, is not OFSTED outstanding, but this year has a combination of >60% siblings and an unusually high number of out of (defined) catchment applications.

Unfortunately it means that I'm going on 'soft' reasons - conversations with the HT, perceptions of 'safe areas' and handling of children mid-meltdown (always good to see SEN children fully acknowledged in front of visitors, instead of hustled into a cupboard as with one school I viewed... Or not acknowledged at all - "oh no, we have no behavioural difficulties at all at THIS school"), and I don't have much hard evidence because clearly on paper the other schools are 'better' schools. I've worked in education, and also SEND, long enough to feel that an institution can be judged on its treatment of its most vulnerable members, but enough of the soapbox. I have no experience of appeals, and no knowledge of what boxes need to be ticked, which is why I need MN's help. Lots to think about, thanks. Any further thoughts on what's a 'good' reason would be helpful!

MostAppealing Sat 04-Jun-16 21:00:27

One last thing - Admissions, both the school and the LA said that we should apply for DC1 first and that Dc2 would be treated a sibling priority from the moment that we accepted a place for DC1, as evidenced by email confirmation from school - I.e. Not actually attending school.

This was explained as Dc2 "having a sibling on the roll of the school at the time admission to the school was expected" (I.e. Sept 16).

This is fairly crucial - please can you explain why this isn't so? Do appeals have a different priority system from admissions? Thanks!

prh47bridge Sun 05-Jun-16 00:22:27

both the school and the LA said that we should apply for DC1 first and that Dc2 would be treated a sibling priority from the moment that we accepted a place for DC1

That is therefore what they must do. Admission is, I believe, thinking of the fact that many LAs don't give sibling priority until the older sibling has started at the school. However, an LA can define sibling priority any way it wants, including of former pupils. If they want to give priority as soon as one sibling has accepted a place they are at liberty to do so.

Do appeals have a different priority system from admissions

Yes but not in the way you mean. Unless the appellant is claiming that a mistake has been made the appeal panel won't look at the admission criteria to determine which appeals should succeed. They must arrive at their own decision based on the merits of the case.

I agree with Admission that none of your arguments is a winning argument on its own but put together they add up and may be enough to get you over the line, particularly if the case to refuse admission is weak. Take a good look at the school and see what it offers that the other school doesn't apart from being closer to home. Then see if you can find ways to argue that the things it offers are particularly relevant to your child.

If you can get a letter from whoever is treating DC2 outlining the stuff you've talked about in your 20:53 post that will help. Indeed, if the letter says that, in their opinion, DC2 needs to go to your preferred school that will be a very strong point in your favour.

MostAppealing Wed 08-Jun-16 15:04:16

Thank you prh47bridge. I went back to the admission authority to make absolutely certain, and they confirmed that the priority includes "children who at the time of application have a sibling for whom the offer of a place at the preferred school has been accepted, even if the sibling is not yet attending."

I'm now gathering all possible shreds of 'evidence'.

I thought I saw on a previous appeal thread (but have now read so many I can't remember which!) that it may be possible that if the school does not put forward any argument as to why the child cannot be admitted, there may not be a panel hearing. Is this true or did I misunderstand?

I had assumed that the full process was followed regardless, I.e. We would appeal, panel asks school for reasons against, school responds to say no reasons against, hearing date set, we all turn up, someone reads out the case and the school's response, panel ask questions if they need to, then they come to a decision. Can they bypass the hearing if they consider it expedient? It would be a little glimmer of hope that we might get this sorted before September. The school still holds out hope that DC2 might make a YR induction day and that DC1 could have a 'transition day' at the same time, but they do seem to be rather more relaxed and sanguine about the outcome than I feel.

prh47bridge Wed 08-Jun-16 15:32:22

The admission authority will put up some sort of case for refusing admission otherwise there is no point in having an appeal. If they are happy to admit they can just get on and do it without putting everyone through the stress of a hearing.

admission Wed 08-Jun-16 18:10:58

If this is a maintained school, then the admission authority is the Local Authority. As a matter of policy they will, under most circumstances, as soon as the PAN level is reached, say the school is full and go to appeal. They will have to produce other evidence over and above the fact that they have reached PAN to ensure that the panel comes to a conclusion that there is prejudice to the school in admitting another pupil. In fact if the school does not show anything other than having reached PAN, the admission code says that the appeal must be allowed.
The difference is that what the LA will say and what the school might want to say and do are different. The LA will go to appeal whereas if the school was given a free hand they might well admit, knowing what happens in the year group involved. You should go to appeal and maybe you should ask the question of the representative making the case for the school, whether they believe that they have proven prejudice over and above reaching PAN. To me the idea of having classrooms that could take 30 but only have 25 in them as a year group, says that the case is very weak. Which might be why they have had 30 in a class in the past.

MostAppealing Wed 08-Jun-16 21:17:14

Oh bollocks! False hope of a swift resolution then!

Yes, admission authority is LA.

I don't know for sure as I didn't ask the specific question, but the answers I got to other questions suggested to me that PAN was a result of total capacity divided by number of years - total capacity limited by the number of classrooms which are a very good size (I'd have guessed would have capacity of 35-40 on floor area) but fewer than 7 of them and layout means they couldn't easily be subdivided to have two classes of, say, 20.

Back to trawling through the docs. We won't have a watertight case but hopefully will have 'good enough'. DC2's nursery has said that they will write a statement detailing specific needs, with examples, and outlining some of the steps that they have taken to help with the behaviour issues (they've actually been great, at financial cost to themselves, so are well-placed to comment on DC2's emotional problems, need for routine, rules and patterns, familiarity etc). They're also looking at the OFSTEDs for the respective schools in case they can find anything extra.

Thanks again for all advice.

admission Wed 08-Jun-16 21:57:46

There is a net capacity figure, which is in effect a measure of all the rooms except the toilets, kitchens, hall and those used for SEN. There is a nominal area for each pupil which then gives a net capacity of pupils. As a primary school there are 7 year groups, so the PAN is a sensible figure based on the net capacity figure divided by 7. That is the easy explanation.
The more complicated explanation is that there are actually two calculated net capacity figures and an agreed net capacity figure. The first is the 100% figure obtained as above (the maximum) and the second is the minimum figure that is 90% of the maximum. However the school can set the net capacity at any figure, even below the minimum figure (if it can justify it) but it is usually a convenient figure somewhere between the maximum and minimum to give when divided by 7 to give a sensible PAN. That is the agreed net capacity figure.
So a school with seven half decent size classrooms (50sq metre + each) will almost for sure to have an agreed net capacity figure of 210, so that when it is divided by 7 it gives a PAN of 30. However the agreed net capacity of 210 could be the minimum figure, in which the maximum figure would be 233. The reason why an argument around this never gets anywhere at appeal for infant children is the Infant class size regs that limit the class size to 30 maximum with one school teacher.
However when you start to get to silly figures like a PAN of 25, it does open up an avenue of attack as what level of prejudice is there at stage 1 of the appeal. A PAN of 25 suggests a net capacity of 175, which would suggest 6 classrooms of reasonable size. My suspicion is that the school you are appealing for might only have 5 classrooms in use, because of small numbers in some year groups and that there is another classroom being used as a library / ICT room or small group working.
The key questions for me are how many classrooms are in use, how many pupils in each year group and how has the school organised the classes because there is no obvious easy way to divide 7 year groups into either 5 or 6 classrooms. You will get that information when the appeal documents arrive with the schools case but you could ask for them now and see how quickly they respond.
if I had to guess I would say the school is intending to operate with a reception class of 25 because nothing else is sensible but it totally depends after this how many under PAN they are in year 1 and year 2 as to what the class organisation is.
The danger to you is that adding extra numbers in reception could lead to a future prejudice Infant class size case under certain conditions. The school and LA maybe saying it is not ICS, because of the 25 number but it is only when it gets to the lawyers and / or the appeal hearing when it might be realised that there are ICS issues because the expected numbers could exceed the 30 in a class maximum.

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