In-year school appeal (yr3) - need advice about challenging prejudice

(48 Posts)
Cystaltipps Sat 09-Jun-18 02:56:28

Hello,

I posted earlier in the year about our situation but thought I'd start a new thread as the situation has moved on.

We're moving back to the UK having spent just under a year overseas (due to work, we're not crown servants). We'd like our daughter to start back at her old school in Sep 2018 but the year group (year 3) is now full and we've been unsuccessful in getting a place so are appealing.

Our daughter did not cope well with the move abroad and has been referred to a paediatrician, school counsellor and a child psychologist as a result. She has experienced anxiety, behavioural issues and social problems since the move. A completed Conner's questionnaire put her at a risk of anxiety and depression. The paediatrician suspects ADHD but this has not yet been confirmed.

We have letters supporting her need to return to the old school (naming the school) from the paediatrician and school counsellor (who is a qualified psychologist). We're waiting on one from the child psychologist.

Obviously all this will go into the second part of the appeal - we'll argue that she needs to return to the old school for continuity to avoid a 'detrimental effect to her emotional health' (the paediatrician's words). She has still has friends there and was happy and settled.

However, the first part of the appeal is the part I find tricky.

It's a high performing school that has been consistently oversubscribed. When the latest Ofsted inspection gave it an outstanding rating it was oversubscribed by 6 pupils. So it seems they can maintain good results even if over PAN. In September (providing Early years is only at PAN), the school as a whole will be undersubscribed by 7 pupils, year 3 will be at PAN (60).

My questions are:

(1) SATs results - can I find out online/ask the school about SATs results for various years and use these to argue oversubscription doesn't impede the education the school provides. Are SATs results presented so that 'laymen' can interpret them?!

(2) Pupil/teacher ratios - the school seems to have a high number of teaching assistants. Full disclosure: I used to work as one in this school. Some of these are funded by the school itself (it benefits from extra funding from an educational trust) as the pupils they work with are not yet 'statemented'. If I find out some kind of ratios can I argue that they have sufficient staff for one extra pupil? Where can I get these ratios and again, will a layman be able to interpret them?

Obviously I will ask about NET capacity, number on the SEN register etc. What other things do I need to ask?

Thanks in advance

OP’s posts: |
prh47bridge Sat 09-Jun-18 08:49:15

Do you have the school's case for refusing admission yet? If so, what does that say? It is better to attack the issues they raise rather than coming up with points that may be completely unrelated. They may, for example, talk about health and safety issues, in which case talking about SATs results won't help you.

You don't need to put your points regarding the school's ability to cope with additional pupils in your case. You can raise them in the hearing.

You should find out whether they are or have recently been over PAN in Y3 and above. You also need to find out the calculated capacity figures. The net capacity will be PAN x 7. The calculated capacity (if they have one) will be a range with the lower figure being 10% below the higher figure. If they have set net capacity towards the bottom of that range it will help you. I presume you have asked about the total number of pupils currently in the school.

Cystaltipps Sat 09-Jun-18 09:27:28

No, we don't yet have the school's case. So far we've only had notification (via e-mail) that our application was unsuccessful from the LA, nothing yet from the school. I hope they haven't sent it via airmail, it could take 10 days or fail to arrive at all!

I didn't realise schools provide detailed reasoning, I had assumed it would be a generic 'we're at our PAN and admitting another child would cause prejudice to the school' type of thing. That will obviously be helpful as it will narrow things down.

Sounds like I'm jumping the gun a bit. Thanks for replying, I'll post again when we get the school's case.

OP’s posts: |
prh47bridge Sat 09-Jun-18 10:10:11

It sometimes is that generic but an appeal panel should look on that as a very weak case. The school should give specifics as to how admitting additional pupils will cause prejudice.

LivingMyBestLife Sat 09-Jun-18 10:19:59

They may well quote the ratios in their case against admitting another pupil, especially if that pupil is likely to require support that they will struggle to provide.

IME of a secondary school appeal, the school as a whole being under PAN does not counter the year you want being at PAN unfortunately!

Good luck with the appeal, hope your DD is doing OK in the meantime.

JoMalones Sat 09-Jun-18 10:25:26

Have you applied for an EHCP? It takes 20 weeks and can be done by parents (look to places like SENDIASS for advice). If you did it now you would be looking at October. If successful, you could name the school and they would have to take your DD (except in exceptional circumstances). It would really be worth starting to at least collate the information so you can apply. Good luck

Cystaltipps Sat 09-Jun-18 10:59:50

Re the EHCP, we won’t be living back in the UK until August, I am having to fly in and out for the appeal. So we wouldn’t be able to start the process yet.

However, I don’t think we’d qualify anyway. I doubt she will need any extra support in class. She’s not disruptive or falling behind. The only thing she’s getting at the moment is psychologist’s sessions to help with social skills and emotional regulation. If she does have ADHD it’s quite mild.

She’s got issues which are problematic but not severe enough to allow us to name a school...unfortunately.

Thanks again for the replies.

OP’s posts: |

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Cystaltipps Mon 11-Jun-18 11:55:47

OK, I have received the school's refusal letter and it says: "a place at our school has been refused for your child on the grounds that compliance with your preference would prejudice the provision of efficient education and the efficient use of resources for reasons of overcrowding".

So are they saying two things - (1) that admitting an extra child would impede the provision of education to the existing pupils and (2) that they would be physically overcrowded?

If it's both points I guess I need to argue that (1) they've been oversubscribed in yr3 before and maintained good results (Ofsted report / SATs) and (2) the school can physically accommodate another pupil. Am I right?

Apparently the secretary asked the head teacher and one governor to make the decision about whether they'd admit over PAN in this circumstance - is this enough people to constitute an admissions 'board'?

OP’s posts: |
PatriciaHolm Mon 11-Jun-18 13:46:32

Have they said any more about what that actually means?

On the face of it, that's a very weak case, unless they have backed it up with evidence about the current issues they have - accidents in corridors, children having to share resources/chairs, staggering of lunchtimes etc....

You need to show that the prejudice to your child of not attending is greater than the prejudice to the school of taking another pupil. So yes evidence you have that they have gone over PAN in Year 3 previously but had no reportable accidents, for example, thanks to overcrowding will help. Otherwise, it's a pretty standard and weak case. I would ask whether they have had any reportable accidents (you can ask that now or in the hearing).

If the school is an academy then it makes it's own decisions on admittance, and yes the Head and one governor is fine assuming that meets their quorum requirements.

Cystaltipps Tue 12-Jun-18 00:47:28

Ah, I've read some more about the process and I think I've misunderstood. What I've talked about above is simply the refusal letter, not the school's 'case'. It sounds like their case will be provided about a week before the appeal?

I'm keen to get my appeal form submitted asap as I have to arrange flights back to the UK etc, however, do I need to wait until I've had answers to my questions to the school concerning overcrowding so I can include all this in the form?

Or can I say something vague in the form about the school being over-subscribed in year 3 previously and that I have not yet received evidence to suggest this caused issues regarding health and safety or the provision of education?

I have to say that I am quite confused about the timeline of events in an appeal confused! Should it go: (1) receive school refusal letter (2) ask questions of the school to challenge prejudice argument (3) Complete and return appeal form (4) receive notification of appeal date (5) receive school's 'case' (6) attend appeal hearing?

Can anyone clarify? Thanks!

OP’s posts: |
prh47bridge Tue 12-Jun-18 07:41:18

No, you don't need to wait. Your case is about why your daughter will be disadvantaged if she is not admitted to this school. You don't need to say anything about the school's ability to handle additional pupils at this stage. You can make your points on that subject in the hearing.

Regarding your timeline, you have points 2 and 3 the wrong way round. You should return the appeal form as soon as possible, even if you only put a skeleton argument with the full case to follow later. Apart from that you are correct.

Cystaltipps Fri 15-Jun-18 00:24:54

OK, so I have submitted the form along with letters from our paed, pysch and school counsellor stating that our daughter's emotional health will suffer if she isn't admitted.

For all the lesser points I've argued, do I also need to submit evidence such as:

- Faith preference - vicar's letter
- Quotes from Ofsted report or school website - print-outs of quoted sections
- Existing friendship group - copies of letters & postcards from friends
- Affinity for dance & this school employs a dance teacher - membership of current dance group

Or will this just bog the panel down in unnecessary paperwork and irritate them?

When I get the school's case and challenge this, do I need to provide evidence of my claims (eg. print-outs of number on roll figures)?

Thanks!

OP’s posts: |
prh47bridge Fri 15-Jun-18 07:25:25

I would avoid most of the evidence you suggest. The only thing I would include is evidence of her affinity for dance. Note, by the way, that your preference for a faith school will not carry any weight at appeal so don't spend too much time on this.

You should challenge the school's case by questioning them during the hearing. You will only need evidence if you want to show that the school has made a false statement, which is unlikely but unfortunately does happen sometimes.

m0therofdragons Fri 15-Jun-18 07:37:10

You need to know what the agreed over subscription exceptions are. I'm afraid nothing you've mentioned above would fit into our school's exceptions - it's basically a child in care or forces children. If a school is over subscribed they can argue there's not enough resources and taking your dc would affect their ability to provide education to those already in the school. If there are already vulnerable dc in the class their case will be even stronger and they can use Sen needs against you if they can show that they are unable to meet those needs.

This is how it works here but it varies from county to county. It's rubbish but I would be looking at alternative schools. Round here the village schools often have spaces and that can mean a small school which is less daunting for dc.

Cystaltipps Fri 15-Jun-18 08:09:30

"it's basically a child in care or forces children" - eek, that doesn't sound promising for us! I assumed appeals looked at cases on an individual basis rather than deciding whether to admit according to a set criteria.

I was hoping that the medical letters would carry weight. They all say her (emotional) health will suffer if she's not admitted 😞.

There is at least one SEN child in the year but he has a constant 1:1 TA, so I would've thought that would mean he's catered for (though it's an extra person to squeeze into the room)? The school has gone over PAN by up to 3 children per year in the past too.

Anyway, guess I just wait to see what the school's case is and how they answer my questions.

OP’s posts: |
PatriciaHolm Fri 15-Jun-18 08:16:10

* I assumed appeals looked at cases on an individual basis rather than deciding whether to admit according to a set criteria.*

Yes they do. The oversubscription criteria aren't relevant to an appeal, other than panels need to be sure your application was considered within the correct category and no mistake has been made.

You need to demonstrate the prejudice to your child of not attending is greater than the prejudice to the school of taking another pupil.

The medical letters are your strongest point as long as they mention this school specifically. The dance point is relevant too as it's something which demonstrates how this school meets her needs specifically.

prh47bridge Fri 15-Jun-18 08:42:05

As PatriciaHolm says, m0therofdragons is mistaken. You don't win an appeal by showing that you fit the admission criteria. You win an appeal either by showing that a mistake has been made that has cost your child a place (unlikely for an in year application), that the decision to refuse admission was unreasonable (the bar for this is very high so it is difficult to win on this basis) or that the disadvantage (prejudice) to your child through not being admitted outweighs the problems the school will face through having to cope with an additional pupil.

In the hearing, the school will make its case to refuse admission. You will then be given the opportunity to question the school's representative. You should use that to point out any weaknesses in the school's case. It is usually possible to phrase any points you want to make as questions.

You will then present your case. You can include any points you want to make about the school's case that you couldn't make as questions but, when I'm presenting a case, I try to avoid this. It needs to be predominantly about your daughter. Given what you have said here about your case, I would lead with the medical evidence as that is by far your strongest point and the medical letters will carry a lot of weight with the panel. I would follow up with the stuff about dancing. Your other points (preference for a faith school, friendship group) should only be mentioned briefly if at all as they won't carry much weight with the panel. I'm not sure what you want to use quotes from Ofsted or the school website for but you should be careful with them.

If you want to say more about your case I will be happy to give more detailed advice. Feel free to PM me if you don't want to post information publicly.

m0therofdragons Fri 15-Jun-18 09:10:59

I'm not mistaken as I'm lead governors on this but we're in a mat so maybe it's different. The criteria is "in year admissions exceptions criteria" which isn't the same as the usual admissions criteria.

The appeal is actually less about what's best for your dc and more about whether the school can continue to provide sufficient provision for the dc currently in the school.

You need to know numbers in the other ks2 classes as well as TA support so you can show the school has made exceptions before and there's not been an adverse impact. We've been able to argue for a class to stay at 28 before due to the high level of existing needs.

I wonder if the angle should be more about the fact your dc will need less support in that specific school than elsewhere (as shown in reports you have).

PatriciaHolm Fri 15-Jun-18 15:03:59

Motherofdragons, we are talking about the grounds on which someone can win an appeal. These grounds have no relation to any in year admissions criteria, whether you are a MAT or not.

As long as no error has been made, OP needs to show that the detriment to her child of not attending is greater than the detriment to the school of taking another pupil.

Essentially she can show whatever evidence she likes to that point; in many cases appeals are won because the appellants have a number of points that weigh in the their favour. Some evidence has more weight than others of course. Medical support naming the school is good evidence. Evidence that the school has gone over PAN in this year group before is reasonably helpful.

prh47bridge Fri 15-Jun-18 15:21:59

Agree with PatriciaHolm. The Appeals Code is a statutory code and is binding on all admission appeals regardless of the type of school. It sets out the grounds on which appeals can be won. Any appeal other than an infant class size case can be won on the balance of prejudice. The school's admissions criteria are irrelevant unless the parent is alleging that a mistake has been made (e.g. being placed in the wrong admissions category).

FabulouslyGlamorousFerret Fri 15-Jun-18 16:57:18

I understand your reasons for wanting to return to your previous school but to add even one more child to a full class can really upset the equilibrium. 30 children is already a squeeze in many classrooms and often packs of books, drawers and tables (for example) are designed to accommodate 30. You also state that your daughter is undergoing assessment for ADHD (no EHCP so no additional funding for extra staffing) this is also going to impact on the class.

I imagine the school will be pretty pissed off to be forced into the situation if going over PAN.

Saying all that I totally get why you want her to go back there and you have some very valid reasons, it must be a very difficult situation to be in and I don't blame you for fighting for your daughter.

Are there any other schools that would fit the bill?

prh47bridge Fri 15-Jun-18 17:46:39

I imagine the school will be pretty pissed off to be forced into the situation if going over PAN

Unlikely. The appeal will only succeed if the panel is convinced the school can cope. Most schools get pushed over PAN from time to time. Many primary schools are happy to go over PAN in Y3 and above as it gives them additional funding without the cost of additional teachers. They just like to go through an appeal before doing so as it allows them to blame the appeal panel rather than admitting they were quite happy to have a larger class.

m0therofdragons Fri 15-Jun-18 21:33:39

We're a popular school and have been to many appeals. The only one that went through was a forced child. I'm not talking about the admissions criteria, there is a separate document that has clear exceptions to allow appeal panels to force schools to go over their PAN. It's for the dc who hopes to come to the school's well-being isn't one of them however it is slightly less ridged in ks2. In ks1 unless your dc is in care or parents are forces a school cannot be forced to go over (however they may be gently persuaded if they agree).

Biologifemini Fri 15-Jun-18 21:39:01

Do you really want your child in an overcrowded or busy class? It may be too much and detrimental to her and the other kids.
Any number over about 24 is really not considered good and the teacher will already be spread so thin.

prh47bridge Fri 15-Jun-18 22:03:21

I'm not talking about the admissions criteria, there is a separate document that has clear exceptions to allow appeal panels to force schools to go over their PAN

I believe you are confusing what happens in appeals for Reception (which would also apply to Y1 and Y2) with what happens in other years.

Most Reception appeals are heard under infant class size rules. An infant class size appeal can be won in three ways:

- the admission arrangements are in breach of the Admissions Code or relevant law and this has cost the child a place

- the admission arrangements have not been administered correctly and this has cost the child a place

- the decision to refuse admission was unreasonable

One of the ways a decision could be unreasonable is if the child could be treated as an excepted child (i.e. one that does not count towards the infant class size limit) but the admission authority has refused to do so. The Admissions Code includes a list of situations in which a child can be excepted. This includes where the child has been in care or is a forces child along with a number of other situations. I believe this is the list to which you are referring.

The important point is that the OP is not appealing for a Reception place. She is appealing for a Y3 place. There are fewer appeals for Y3 and later. The rules are different when we get to Y3. Infant class size rules no longer apply. Children can still be admitted on the grounds listed above but the appeal panel can also admit where the disadvantage to the child through not being admitted outweighs the problems the school will face through having to cope with an additional pupil. This is known as the balance of prejudice. Most appeals for Y3 and later are won on this basis. The list of excepted children to which you refer is not relevant for appeals for Y3 and later because infant class size rules no longer apply.

Any number over about 24 is really not considered good

Better avoid state schools completely then. Most run classes of 30 in infants and many run classes larger than that in Y3-Y6. The average class has 27 pupils and around 13% of all primary school pupils are in classes of 31 or more, some of them being in classes of 36 or more. Most appeal panels don't get edgy about class sizes until there are 33 or more in the class, although they won't be comfortable going that high if the rooms are too small. Appeal panels don't like overcrowded classes either.

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