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Primary appeals (Nottinghamshire council and their 'unfair' admission criteria)

(21 Posts)
RainAndCloud Fri 21-Apr-17 21:23:14

Notts council changed their primary admission criteria for 2016 to remove the category where out of catchment children were above others out of catchment. This was taken to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator who in Jan of this year made a ruling that the lack of this criteria was 'unfair & in breach of the Schools Admission Code'. They have been forced to reintroduce it for 2018 but children allocated places for 2017 have been judged under these criteria that were in breach of code.

My DD1 is in year 1 at an out of catchment (but localish school... Only place offered to her at time) but we've not been given a place for DD2 as they didn't take sibling link into account. We are pretty sure if criteria hadn't been in breach she would have place as I know of several out of catchment but no sibling children who were given places & we are 3rd on waiting list.

We will appeal but are confused that it's clear the criteria we were judged by are unfair (council accept this) but as far as we can tell they are still fighting on ICS grounds. Can anyone help or advise? Thanks

RainAndCloud Fri 21-Apr-17 21:32:12

Should also mention I'm pretty sure we can argue in appeal that we have been unfairly treated & would have got a place (if they hadn't fucked up!) but I know the ICS is notoriously hard to argue against. In these circumstances shouldn't unfair criteria alone be enough?

Andcake Fri 21-Apr-17 21:46:25

Sorry don't get
'Notts council changed their primary admission criteria for 2016 to remove the category where out of catchment children were above others out of catchment'

I am guessing you mean out of catchment siblings...

RainAndCloud Fri 21-Apr-17 21:53:58

Oh yes, my mistake. Used to be 5 criteria but they changed it to 4 and treated out of catchment all the same rather than separating those with sibling at school & those without. It's going back to 5 for 2018 but we've fallen into the 2 years of them using the rules they've now been told were unfair

FATEdestiny Fri 21-Apr-17 21:54:11

Have you actually gone in and had a conversation with The Head.

I am in Nottingham, children at an over subscribed primary. I've seen this in action with several families in the 2017 intake.

The Head at our school is looking at increasing the PAN (how many pupils they take per year group) for the intake year, to accommodate the handful of families this is effecting.

I suppose it depends on the level of over subscription and capacity for the school to take on extra pupils in a 'bulge' year group. But it cant hurt having a chat with The Head.

RainAndCloud Fri 21-Apr-17 21:59:39

I've spoken to office but not head. They seemed to be saying that there's not enough children that have been affected (think we're only one) to create a bulge class. They would be happy to have an extra class if there were as they want the funding!

I'll try to talk to head next week

Didiplanthis Fri 21-Apr-17 22:23:35

They have changed our criteria this way too but it specifically states that siblings of children allocated out of catchment schools by LA ( ie if parents requested catchment as first choice but didnt get offered it ) would be treated as if they were in catchment - it's worth checking if this is a subclause if this is your situation ?

MrsBungle Fri 21-Apr-17 22:30:42

Are you on th fairness 4 siblings Facebook page op? It's a Notts page set up last year. They're the group who challenged the criteria change. You're 3rd at the moment on the waiting list. From what I understand the out of catchment sibling priority will be applied to waiting lists (due to the adjudicator decision) but not until may when Late applications have been considered so you may move up. I advise joining the Facebook group - there's a lot of advice about appeals in this specific situation. If you can't find it, pm me and I can add you.

RainAndCloud Fri 21-Apr-17 22:48:27

Brilliant, thanks so much MrsBungle, that looks really useful.

didi unfortunately no such rule here

Charmatt Fri 21-Apr-17 22:54:46

Rainandcloud, although the original applications were ranked as if siblings out of catchment had no preference to others out of catchment, waiting lists for schools in Nottinghamshire will be ranked with siblings out of catchment prioritised over other children out of catchment. This was directed by the Schools Adjudicator and included in the decision that the original change was unlawful. You can appeal and should do on the basis that the original decision was unlawful so your child will have been ranked unfairly. The appeal is heard by an independent panel and if they decide to uphold your appeal, then you child can be allocated a space over PAN without the LA having to pay for an additional teacher. This is why they have not just swallowed their pride and offered places to children who were disadvantaged by the situation, because they couldn't disadvantage other children without siblings out of catchment and rank differently to the policy. If they offered places to all children affected then some schools would be over PAN and then the LA would have to pay for additional teachers where classes would be over 30.

I hope this information is helpful - bottom line is that you should appeal. You have a better chance of it being upheld than in other years due to the Schools' Adjudicators decision.

admission Sat 22-Apr-17 11:20:23

Bottom line here is that of the adjudicator is insisting that the LA include out of catchment siblings as a separate category for the waiting list then at an appeal that should be being applied for normal application as well. Whilst I can see why the LA will have difficulty in applying this to the original allocations because of the time scale etc I also cannot see how any appeal panel will not agree that the admission arrangements are faulty, based on the adjudicators decision and the appellant has been disadvantaged. As such the panel will need to consider whether they can allocate a place and it will come down to how many pupils are in the same position in the particular school. So for instance if you have a 30 intake and 6 are in this position then the panel will have to think long and hard over whether they can admit an extra 6 to the class, admitting one extra will take considerably less consideration.

RainAndCloud Sun 23-Apr-17 21:08:21

Thanks charmatt & admission you're both right & I kind of get why they can't just say 'we were wrong, here's your school place' but it's just so nerve racking having to wait until appeal in what seems like an obviously unfair situation. I just worry that we don't have any particular circumstances that make having the place vital, except for the fact that we just should have bloody well got it in the first place!

shouldwestayorshouldwego Sun 23-Apr-17 23:52:37

except for the fact that we just should have bloody well got it in the first place! that is much more likely to win a reception appeal than any particular circumstances.

HemiDemiSemiquaver Mon 24-Apr-17 07:19:57

Just out of curiosity, why is this considered unfair and in breach of the admissions code? Don't other areas have admissions policies that don't separate out of catchment siblings? Or is it that the way the change was done was unfair, rather than the criterion itself? I can understand that not considering out of catchment siblings as within catchment siblings when the child was placed at the out of catchment school by the LEA, but that seems a much more specific point than this. Is it just generally unfair not to have out of catchment siblings prioritised? Will other schools have to change their policy?

RainAndCloud Mon 24-Apr-17 09:49:57

I think it was to do with the change in criteria not being necessary. So it had never been the case that lots of catchment children in Nottinghamshire were being denied places by out of catchment siblings (all catchment were always higher than any outside it). There were very few cases where the old rule was causing issues & they thought (because of catchment areas that already exist) there was little to show the council's argument of
'Local places should go to local children' had ever been much of an issue anyway. They also looked at things like there being no rule to keep priority for those whose first child was in school before rule change happened (so weren't expecting to have issues getting 2nd child in).

The ruling was regarding one school in particular where parents brought a case against the council. But the adjudicator in the decision said that although he could only make a final decision re. that 1 school he has looked at info about whole county in his investigation & it was likely to be same situation across county... Council accepted this and that's why they have changed rule across county for 2018.

prh47bridge Mon 24-Apr-17 10:25:17

that is much more likely to win a reception appeal than any particular circumstances

Appellants in this situation need to argue both that a mistake has been made and that their child needs to go to this particular school. If, to take Admission's example, a school has a PAN of 30 and 6 pupils have missed out on places the appeal panel is likely to decide that it cannot admit all of them. In this situation the Appeals Code requires the panel to decide which appellants have most need of this school and admit them.

Just out of curiosity, why is this considered unfair and in breach of the admissions code

The change in admission arrangements to remove sibling priority for out of catchment pupils appears to have been driven by Councillors reacting to complaints from parents. The adjudicator found:

- the previous arrangements achieved an appropriate balance between competing interests

- there was no evidence to support the need for this change

- there are good reasons for recognising sibling links, particularly in primary school admissions

- the council had not provided any mitigation for those where there was already a sibling link (e.g. allowing sibling priority to apply only to those where the older sibling was already at the school when the change was introduced)

Note that the adjudicator was clear that the decision applied only to one particular school (High Oakham). The adjudicator stated it was up to the LA to decide what action to take regarding other schools. This leaves open the possibility that an appeal panel could decide that the changed arrangements were fair for other schools.

I have to say that I am somewhat surprised by this decision by the OSA. However, reading the decision it appears that the council did itself no favours with its approach to the objection, apparently failing to respond to points made by the objectors and justifying the change in terms that made little sense. Their main justification appears to have been that they wanted to ensure children could access their local school. As the adjudicator pointed out, having catchment areas would appear to achieve that objective so it is not clear how removing priority from out of catchment siblings helped. Having said that, I am not convinced the adjudicator's decision would withstand judicial review.

RainAndCloud Mon 24-Apr-17 20:37:23

prh for the appeal I was hoping to be able to draw as many parallels between High Oakham & the school we're appealing for a place at to try to demonstrate that the adjudicator's decision would be just as relevant there. E.g. school never over subscribed just within catchment area (apart from this year generally it's generally not been over subscribed at all), alternative school out of catchment kids would go to is still very local etc.

If I can get them to agree that do you think there's any chance of persuading them to take an additional child above PAN if there's no dd specific evidence I can put forward (I can probably pull together something generic but will have no statements from professionals etc that I could get done relating to dd as she has no particular extra need)? Do you think I stand as little chance as most appeals (i.e. none!) even with the OSA decision possibly on our side?

Charmatt Mon 24-Apr-17 21:23:43

I would leave High Oakham out of it. The panel only consider factors relating to the process and pertinent to your case and why your child is best placed at the school you applied for. I wouldn't over complicate it. The panel is trained to a high standard and will be well aware of the decision and reasons given by the OSA. They will also be aware that their decisions will be scrutinised this year.

prh47bridge Mon 24-Apr-17 22:23:00

I disagree with Charmatt. I don't think it would do any harm to show why the High Oakham decision should also apply to this school. And, from experience, I would not say that all panels have been trained to a high standard. Many have been but some panels are really very poor. I hope you get a well trained one that is aware of the High Oakham decision and understand how it impacts this school.

If the panel agree that the admission criteria were unfair and your daughter should have been offered a place your appeal should succeed regardless of whether or not you have any specific evidence relating to your daughter. However, if there are a number of appellants who have been affected by this mistake the panel may decide that the school cannot cope if they admit all of them. In that situation the appeal panel has to compare cases to decide who to admit so those who have arguments specific to their child will have an advantage. In the absence of any expert evidence saying that your daughter needs this particular school I would recommend looking at how this school differs from the allocated school. Does it have additional extra-curricular activities, for example. If you can find things it offers that are particularly relevant to your daughter you can use those in your case.

RainAndCloud Mon 24-Apr-17 23:32:57

Thanks both, lots to think about

Charmatt Tue 25-Apr-17 07:56:30

The members of the independent appeals panel for Nottinghamshire have in depth initial training and annual refresher training they must attend. If not they cannot sit on a panel. Thus year they have had additional training to ensure they are aware of tge implications of the ruling. Again, if tgey have not attended this training they cannot sit on a panel. Each chair has to have additional training before they take on the role and annually. Therefore, 'informing' them of the specific case of the application to High Oakham is irrelevant - they already know. I would concentrate on the specifics of your case.

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