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Primary School Infant Class Size Appeal - Don't Know What to Do

(10 Posts)
ChiaraMetal Tue 13-Sep-16 10:55:46

Hello all, I'm new here (waves).

I've come to ask for some advice that might help me get through the minefield that is the Infant Class Size Appeal. I have a 5 year old daughter who should be in year 1.

I'll give you a background of how my family and I have got to this point. We've moved about 15 miles from one house to another, still within the same Local Authority, but enough to be far away from the dump we used to live in. We were victims of prolonged anti social behaviour and harassment there, and felt we had no choice but to move. The move took much longer to come about than it should have, as our former Housing Authority landlord put up lots of unnecessary roadblocks (we've now gone private). Unfortunately our move happened in the last week of school term, so, worried about my daughter's school place, I tried to put in an application for schools local to our new home before we moved.

Our move day arrived, and so did a letter from the Local Authority, my daughter had been refused a place at all three of the schools we had chosen. Naturally we were very disappointed about this, but given the timing of the application, it was understandable. More frustratingly, however, the school place offered was that in a village two miles away, which on further research is not actually passable as a pedestrian, if you were to travel the quickest route given on Google Maps, trying to avoid the impassable route would mean walking for about 6.5 miles. Public transport there is a little dire also, we would have to catch two buses and even then, because of the timetable, you can either arrive 40 minutes early or 15 minutes late. I don't drive.

The school offered has a pretty bad rep at the moment, the last couple of Ofsted inspections deem it as requiring improvement, that status still applies up to now.

I have decided to appeal, I know it's a difficult subject, and I really don't want to be the parent that upsets the apple cart, but I feel I have at least a solid argument to put across. I have decided to home educate dd whilst this is ongoing, and if the appeal is lost I plan to continue up until she is eligible to apply for juniors, since the closest schools are just infant ones.

I'll give a background about my dd as this will help people understand my reasoning. She's a lovely happy girl, as many 5 year olds are, but she requires extra help at the moment. She has a language delay, her articulation is fine, it's the processing and expression of language she struggles with. She has been attending speech therapy, but the centre dealing with us has been absolutely appalling as they keep letting her go longer than 6 weeks without an appointment. Most recently she had no appointments between December-July as the therapist had left and no cover was arranged. This I feel has really hindered her progress. She is also on the waiting list to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, this came about following an assessment myself and oh requested due to her behaviour. She has echolalia within her language issues, she has meltdowns, attention problems, and there are certain loud noises that she just cannot tolerate, hand dryers in public toilets being the worst offenders at the moment. She's also very set in her ways and does not like being moved on from her favourite activities.

The above means that dd has also been assessed by an Educational Psychologist as her previous school brought up their concerns. She is slightly behind for her age in all areas of education.

To clarify, she's not statemented or under an EHCP as yet, I have spoken to my LA to understand how they class her situation since it was they who sent the psychologist. DD has 'acknowledged' special needs and I was given permission to share their report with any prospective school.

So, being completely realistic, I know I have a very slim to none chance of winning the appeal. I have appealed against refusal at all three schools, though the first choice school has only been named in the documents the LA has sent to me.

My arguments are that I would prefer a closer school due to DD's difficulties, busy traffic and lots of people can be very distracting for her, and I would have safety concerns. Getting ready for school on a morning can be hard, I still have to help dress her as she does not understand instructions well, and she can have a meltdown over things like not finishing her breakfast if we're in a hurry (again linked to understanding as she does not understand concepts like time, and 'why' we have to do things).

I know that despite DD having SEN, without statement/EHCP we are stuffed, though I have submitted psychologist and paediatric reports as evidence. Any potential diagnosis will not be given to us until 2018 at the earliest, due to the absurdly long waiting list for these things, so I'm not sure about applying for EHCP without one.

I am quite flabbergasted at the sheer amount of schools that have been overlooked when the LA arrived at their decision, there must be at least 10 other primaries nearer that are apparently all full.

Lesser reasons for arguing that I know will probably make no difference to the appeal are having a 14 month old (dd's brother) to drag around for the several hours a day travelling, said travelling also affecting the amount of time I can work as I work from home.

As the LA confirmed that the class of the first choice school is already at 30, I know it's definitely a class size appeal. I don't think a mistake has been made, though I should note that the initial refusal was sent to my old address, before any proof of my new address had been seen. If we talk about distances in the 'as the crow flies' way, we are something like 0.018 miles away from the closest school, opposed to the 1.7 miles of the school offered.

I'm curious to know if anyone out there has ever appealed against refusal of all three choices, how does this work? If one school refuses the appeal, can the others step in?

I sorely wish we didn't have to move, dd was in a really good school and got plenty of support, but it was too close to where we lived, going there now would be even worse transport wise, and I would worry about suffering more abuse.

I've done my own head in trying to research legalities and so on, but I've found something that may help me. Apologies if I do not get this word for word, but hopefully it's close enough. The School Admissions Code states that a class size exception can be made if a child has just moved in to an area outside of the normal admissions round, and there is no school place within a 'reasonable' distance. The first two parts of that match our situation, but what is a legally 'reasonable' distance?

I thank anybody in advance who takes the time to read and reply to this, sorry it's long! I'll say again, I know I will probably not be successful, but I feel I should try, even if it results in the LA having a look at other schools they may have missed out, I do wonder how they worked out the distance with the decision going to the wrong address, I have not yet been sent their argument to be put to the appeal panel (the letter I received advised that I should be getting it, but I will ask myself if it doesn't arrive).

NynaevesSister Tue 13-Sep-16 12:26:31

I can't really help you but there are some brilliant experts here who will be able to give you some sound advice. Prh47, admissions, Tiggytape if they are still around.

Just wanted to send you some virtual support and hope it all works out for you flowers

PatriciaHolm Tue 13-Sep-16 12:41:30

With regards to the reasonable distance - for a primary school aged child, that would normally be about 45 minutes travelling time.

If the school offered is more than 2 miles walking distance away, the LEA have to provide transport - this can be a taxi, or bus pass, but only for the child (you would have to pay on the bus, for example). Have you shown them that the walking distance is in excess of this in practical terms? Have they offered transport?

If the only school offered is well in excess of this 2 miles walking distance, then you have a good case to go back to the LEA and ask them to invoke the FAP - Fair Access Protocols - which would enable them to force a nearer, full, school to take another pupil.

On infant class size appeals, as you seem to be well aware, you need to show that the LEA made a mistake, that the admissions criteria are unlawful, or that the decision was so perverse no rational person would have made it.

I think, at this point, your most hopeful route is to go back to the LEA with proof that the school is a significantly longer walk than the straight line distance would suggest, and request firstly transport for your daughter and secondly that they consider invoking the FAP.

SharonfromEON Tue 13-Sep-16 12:48:35

I am not knowledgeable about appeals..But can you put your DD on the waiting list for every school you would accept a place for.

ChiaraMetal Tue 13-Sep-16 13:50:12

Patricia, I haven't yet shown them the route, but I intend to submit it as soon as I'm sure I have it pinned down correctly. I followed the route down on Street View, there's a section where the paths begin to narrow and then disappear altogether. It's on a bridge which goes over a river, there's only space provided for cars, and as far as I can see there are no signposted footpaths for pedestrians to get around it. There are barriers and thick bushes at either side. When I refer back to the map it would seem that a lot of nearby routes all connect to that same section, so we would have to walk a long way around to avoid it. My oh took screen shots of the route in question and they also show a pin of their location on the route map. Transport has not been offered.

Sharon, I'm not 100% on this but I think being refused a place puts you on the waiting list automatically at your chosen schools, though I am considering asking my dd to be placed on others.

PatriciaHolm Tue 13-Sep-16 13:53:53

I think you need to actually go out and walk this route, snapshots from StreetView could be out of date and don't prove anything - there could easily be a path you can't see, as the Google car clearly can't go down pedestrian only routes. If it's genuinely impassable, get back to the LEA with the proof.

You would need to check on waiting lists too, in many LEAs it's not automatic that being refused an in-year place gets you onto waiting lists.

admission Tue 13-Sep-16 18:28:40

You need to do a number of things. First is to ensure that you are on the waiting list for each of the 3 schools you applied for, not assume. Secondly it would appear that the LA has instigated an appeal for only the one school (though there should be separate paperwork for each appeal) so you need to check what actually has been started.
I would suggest a bit of caution about applying for appeals for all three schools. If they are all infant class size cases then you have little to no chance of succeeding at appeal. The LA have offered a school which is within reasonable distance (not in your terms but in legal terms for the LA) so there is no case unless they have made a mistake, which seems unlikely. You are allowed one appeal per school per academic year unless there is a material change in circumstance. I am not sure what that material change could be, so I would just caution doing one appeal at a time and see what happens, rather than rush to appeal for all 3.
I would also agree with PatriciaHolms - get evidence that the way to the allocated school is much longer than they think and try and twist their arms to consider another school which is much closer. You said that there may be 10 schools nearer than the one allocated - ask for a place at each one and to go onto the waiting list for any school that you think is a better journey than the one allocated.

ChiaraMetal Wed 26-Oct-16 14:21:00

Hi all, I thought I would give an update, just in case anyone comes back and wonders what happened. The first appeal I spoke of originally failed. The school had a very strong case and made it sound like they literally could not cope with another child. I subsequently chased up the status of my appeals against the 2nd and 3rd choice schools. It turns out administrative errors were made, the 2nd school had not even been considered, and the 3rd school was delayed for unknown reasons. I eventually received a hearing date against the 2nd school. During the weeks that this was ongoing, I regularly called Admissions to keep up to date with availability in my area. The last time I spoke to them, I was advised to hang fire as they were due to have a meeting about the Fair Access Protocol which might affect our application. This was confirmed on the same day I got the 2nd appeal hearing date, as by strange coincidence, the council decided to adjourn the hearing, pending the outcome of the Fair Access meeting.
So, the meeting happened last week, I was previously advised it could take a few days to get any answer, and I duly waited for a phone call/letter.
The postman arrived on Monday bearing good news. My daughter has now been offered a place at our 2nd preference of school, under Fair Access rules. The reason the policy was invoked in our case is that my daughter has acknowledged involvement with external SEN agencies. I don't know why this wasn't a factor sooner but I am beyond relieved to have finally got a result. There have been so many times I felt like giving up because I felt no one was listening, but I'm glad I didn't. I'm now looking forward to my daughter joining her school after half term smile

redskytonight Wed 26-Oct-16 18:26:35

Excellent news for you. I hope your daughter settles in quickly at her new school!

blaeberry Thu 27-Oct-16 00:14:24

Great news! However, I would still consider applying for an ECHP. These should be based on need so it isn't necessary to have a diagnosis. Many LA also turn them down almost routinely so be prepared to appeal.

I was also told any reports relating to my dc are 'his' information and he can therefore share them with whoever he wants!

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