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Appeal hearing - please help

(56 Posts)
lucyb162 Fri 14-Jul-17 16:19:16

I have submitted an appeal application for our catchment school, after being allocated a school much further away. The catchment school was very oversubscribed in this year and 16 children in catchment did not get in. My appeal is based on 2 things - (1) that the school's admission criteria are not lawful and (2) that the distance criteria have not been correctly applied with regard to an apartment complex.

I'm comfortable explaining my first argument, so I won't go into that here, but I am having some trouble with my second argument. The crux of my argument is that: the school calculates distance as the crow flies using postal address information. Within the catchment area is an apartment complex consisting of 9 'blocks' located around a central square, therefore some of the blocks are further away from the school than others. However, using the postal address system, all of the apartment blocks in the complex appear at 1 point on a map, which is a point closer to the school than the majority of the physical apartment buildings. The furthest 3rd of the blocks are further away from the school as the crow flies than my house. The issue we have however is that I've been unable to find out how many children from these apartment blocks have been allocated a place this time (although I've been given numbers 'on the grapevine'. I've been told I can't request this information under a freedom of information request as it contravenes data protection rights. My appeal case, including this argument, was submitted 22nd May and yesterday I received the case for the school, which contains no reference to anything to do with either the distance calculation for the apartment blocks or the number of children admitted within them. I'm now at a loss as to how I will actually argue my point when I'm unable to prove or disprove whether my daughter would have got a place had the school applied the correct distance calculation.

Can anybody help??

OP’s posts: |
admission Fri 14-Jul-17 21:04:29

You have an interesting problem.
In distance measurements that are straight line distance, it is normal that the school has a fixed point (usually called seed point) and each home also has a fixed point allocated to it. As such it is most likely that the same will apply to the block of flats that you are talking about. If we were talking about a single block of flats I would be saying to you, that is the system and whilst you can object you will not win at an appeal.
The problem you have is that it is not one block but 9 blocks and therefore there will clearly be differences in distance between the different blocks. I presume that whilst there are different blocks they are all called the same place, as if each block was called something different they should have a different fixed point on each block.
The Local Authority are clearly going to rely on the fact that the complex is all called the same and therefore has one single fixed point for distance measurements. Under any normal situation I would agree with them but if it is clearly demonstrable that there is a significant difference in distance, then it does cast doubt around the whole allocation of places
Your best bet is to use Google Earth or some thing similar to show to the panel that this is not one block but 9 blocks, that there is a significant difference in distance therefore between the blocks and that some of them clearly fall outside the distance you have been quoted to your home. If they are prepared to accept that you may have been disadvantaged by this, then it is for the panel to then get the required information as to how many pupils from the blocks of flats were given a place. You will not be given that information under normal circumstances but the panel can request the information in a format that is not identifying individual people. There is however one very large caveat to what I have said and that is that if the panel do get information for each block of flats then that may not help you as much as you think, because there will be a lot of other people who will have been similarly disadvantaged and you might still not get a place.
It could be that somewhere in the LA information on admissions there is a statement about flats and even set blocks of flats and how they are dealt. If you want, send me the LA and the name of the block of flats and I will look around the LA website for you.

Strawberrybubblebath Fri 14-Jul-17 21:33:33

I am not an expert but I do know that with tower blocks in my area (South East) it's as the crow flies. If there is more than one child in the block,it is the child closest to the exit (i.e. the flat on the lowest floor) that gets the place.

lucyb162 Fri 14-Jul-17 21:46:00

Hi. Thanks, that's really helpful. I was a bit dismayed when I received the schools case as it didn't have any reference to my case on this point at all and I suspect they will try and dismiss it out of hand. The LA is trafford, although the school itself is an academy (park road academy, timperley) and are presenting their own evidence. The apartments are called 'Romana Square). In the information the LA sent (they are coordinating the appeals) they've told me the panel will decide the outcome of the appeal on the day of the appeal - I don't see how they can do that if the school have no counter to my argument? Being 5th on the waiting list, it could well be that even if I'm right, somebody further up the chain will benefit, but to be honest I'd rather that happened even if it means we don't get a place as there's a known history of parents abusing the apartments to get into what's regarded as a very well performing ofsted outstanding school.

OP’s posts: |
PatriciaHolm Fri 14-Jul-17 22:30:27

Looking at it, those flats do appear to have 2 postcodes, which have different co-ordinates in the system used by the schools admissions (the admissions document gives the schools co-ordinates and it's not hard to find those of the postcodes). I would expect the admissions system to use those 2 postcodes, which does provide some more granular demarcation between the relevant buildings.

In order to make your case at this level, I would be tempted to find the co-ordinates for your house, and those of the flats, and do the maths as to what the distance actually is as well as printing out the details from Google maps.

lucyb162 Fri 14-Jul-17 22:35:54

Already done and in my evidence! The 2 postcodes thad you can see don't accurately depict the position of the buildings which are actually on 3 sides around a central green area. The apartment blocks furthest back from where the road joins onto the main road are very very slightly further away from the school than we are. But these are not where the postcode points lie. If you look at the apartments using google maps 'terrain' view you can see what I mean a little better

OP’s posts: |
lucyb162 Fri 14-Jul-17 22:37:03

Satellite view I mean, not terrain! The central area is a grass oval and the blocks are all the buildings surrounding it

OP’s posts: |
lougle Fri 14-Jul-17 23:00:47

I see what you're saying, but if the criteria says 'using the postal address information', then won't the postal address be the defining point, rather than the geographical layout?

lucyb162 Fri 14-Jul-17 23:02:30

But If the postal address point is incorrect then that means the calculation is inaccurate and should be corrected - surely that should mean something when families lost out by as little as 0.02 of a mile in this instance?

OP’s posts: |
lougle Fri 14-Jul-17 23:07:37

I think it's a real conundrum, actually! In one sense, the postal address will put them nearer, which is what the criteria states as being used. But in another sense, only some are nearer, which is your argument. But the criteria doesn't use physical location, it uses postal address....which I think may be your problem.

lucyb162 Fri 14-Jul-17 23:13:58

I think I will have to try and convince the panel that it's inaccurate so that the nuances of the official wording of the calculation becomes irrelevant. Guess whether I can do that depends upon the panel and how convincing each side is

OP’s posts: |
ExplodedCloud Fri 14-Jul-17 23:22:32

even if I'm right, somebody further up the chain will benefit, but to be honest I'd rather that happened even if it means we don't get a place
If you appeal and your appeal is upheld then your dc gets a place. If the appeal identifies a discrepancy in the admissions process then the council must address that BUT your place is secured.

lucyb162 Fri 14-Jul-17 23:25:41

But to win, I'd imagine the panel would have to be satisfied that we would've got the place if the address issue was corrected - as I don't know how many people that would be and we're 5th on the waiting list, it's unlikely to be the case

OP’s posts: |
lougle Sat 15-Jul-17 08:13:47

ExplodedCloud that's not correct. lucyb162 is correct, that she has to show that not only was an error made, but that the error deprived her child of a place - in other words, that if the error hadn't happened, her child would have had a place.

If ExplodedCloud is correct, the council will need to work out how many children are affected, and then decide how many children can reasonably be admitted to correct the mistake, which with a PAN of 30, indicating a single class intake, is going to be very few. They may decide they could admit two children.

The trouble then, is that they are unlikely to remove the places at this stage from the pupils at the flats, as to do so would be Wedensbury unreasonable - too long a period has elapsed since the offer of a place was given and those children have done nothing wrong in their application process.

That leaves the issue of how many people are affected by the situation you raised?

lucyb162 Sat 15-Jul-17 08:47:33

That's what I don't know at the moment, explodedcloud

OP’s posts: |
lougle Sat 15-Jul-17 09:23:14

Sorry, I meant if lucyb162 is correct

admission Sat 15-Jul-17 15:31:12

Thanks for the information. I agree with you that with the discreet separate buildings that all come under the name of Romana Square there will be significant (certainly in admission appeal terms) differences in distances.
It should be very feasible using the computerised systems that Trafford use (which is the same for most LAs) to put a seed point on each block. What the school admission criteria says is

"In the case of a child living in a block of flats co-ordinates will be obtained as above. Where two or more applications cannot be otherwise separated, the final place will be determined through a random draw. The draw will be conducted and scrutinised by officers from the Local Authority."

If you are correct that they are using one seed point or even two from the two postal code addresses then they are likely to have a few pupils who are in a random draw.

I think it would be worth asking the question at appeal firstly how many pupils have been offered a place who live in the blocks, secondly how many living in the blocks did not get offered a place and then assuming a number did get the offer of a place, how did the admission authority carry out the random draw. If nothing else it will again blur the edges as to what is going on.

The other point that I would make to the panel is that they look at a map of the area. That there will be between houses on Windsor Drive and Balmoral Drive a separation with different seed points on each individual house from the school giving different distances, whereas if you are correct and there is only one seed point they have put together far greater distances between the different blocks of flats which is incorrect and is meaning you have been disadvantaged.

Having said that, I cannot believe that this issue has not come up before as an over-subscribed outstanding school, as it is an obvious issue. I do wonder whether they do have a seed point on each of the blocks of flats, which would destroy one of your reasons for appealing.

lucyb162 Sat 15-Jul-17 16:40:53

Thanks for having a look at it admission. As the school haven't put any evidence at all relating to the apartments in their evidence pack, I just don't know at the moment whether I'm right. Trafford Council put quite a strict timetable on submission of our evidence, which effectively meant that by the time I'd found this potential discrepancy, I'd 'timed out' to get the information from a freedom of information request in time for inclusion as evidence, plus I was obviously limited in terms of data protection relating to the addresses. From what I've seen, the majority of people appeal on the basis of 'child has allergies' or other such personal arguments rather than going for something like this, so I don't know whether it's come up before. There's a lot of conjecture about the volumes of children that get in from Romana Square each year and a lot of bad feeling about the apartments being used specifically for getting into the school.

OP’s posts: |
lougle Sat 15-Jul-17 17:32:03

Are Romana Square flats Housing Association, Council, or privately owned flats? One thing to bear in mind is that, regardless of any other timescales, Housing Associations are not public bodies for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, so you would not be able to to get any information directly from them if they were a HA in that case (but the Admissions Authority has to assist you with any information you reasonably ask of it that does not break the Data Protection Act).

lucyb162 Sat 15-Jul-17 17:57:36

No lougle, they're privately owned/rented apartments, so that shouldn't be an issue

OP’s posts: |
admission Sat 15-Jul-17 21:13:26

Trafford can put any timetable they want on the submission of evidence but at the end of the day you can submit extra information both before and at the appeal hearing. It is up to the panel whether or not they accept the information but not accepting if it is significant to the case is always for sure be considered bad practice by any appeal to the ESFA over the conduct of the panel at an appeal.
What you do need to do is ensure that you bring up the issue during stage 1 of the appeal , which is where the school as the admission authority explain why they could not offer any place to you. It is during part 1 when any issues about the admissions criteria should be aired but in many case the panel likes to leave it to part 2 of the appeal if it is specific to one person. In your case it is not specific to one person unless you are the only person appealing and it could have significant ramifications if the panel does find in your favour.
There is absolutely no question that the admission authority have got to answer the basic question of how are the distances measured and does each block of flats have a separate distance to the school to the satisfaction of the panel.
From your posts I wonder how many of the flats are being used not as long term living accommodation but for short term rent to allow pupils to get into the school. If you believe that this the case then whilst it is not for the panel to decide whether not individual people are doing this, it further strengthens your argument around the distance if you can show that people are short term renting and then when they have a place at the school moving further away to a more permanent address.

lucyb162 Sat 15-Jul-17 21:48:36

Admission, any idea how I could go about proving that people are short term renting and then moving further away? All I have is that it's a commonly held belief within the local area and that I've seen people doing the school run to to the school after getting off at the tram stop down the road and in Altrincham town centre in the morning, a long way away from catchment area. I also know from a friend who appealed 2 years ago that they produced evidence at their appeal that a family applying from Romana square were actually living somewhere else and the panel didn't accept it.

OP’s posts: |
lucyb162 Sun 16-Jul-17 08:34:41

Also, is there anything in this argument; the school is small and fair to say it couldn't accommodate another class within its existing premises. However, it currently has 2 full time head teachers, so efcould it be argued that one of those head teachers could be used to negate the infant class size legislation issue? The school we're currently allocated is 3 times the size children wise and only has 1 head, as do all other schools in the area that I'm aware of, so it seems bizarre to me why they have this extra resource.

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lucyb162 Sun 16-Jul-17 08:37:15

admission more questions for you above - only just found out how to tag, hope this works

OP’s posts: |
KimmySchmidt1 Sun 16-Jul-17 08:42:04

It shouldn't be a problem - it will be of the school to satisfy the panel that there are no relevant children in the block. The fact they haven't made that point (which would sink your case on argument 2) strongly indicates that they can't and won't take the point. If asked, so you have been told there are children in the building allocated a place but that the school has refused to confirm how many.

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