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secondary application preferences - different tactics - advice appreciated

(20 Posts)
shouldbeironing Thu 06-Oct-11 21:59:23

Friend and I have DC at same primary, live in same (small) street. There are 4 secondary schools that we have any realistic prospect for: otherwise would have to go long distance and unlikely to get in to any decent distant schools.
One of the four "local" schools is faith and so is effectively a non-runner though we could put it on our list even if we would never get in.

That leaves schools A, B and C.

School A: nearest school. Likely to get in if we put it down. Is okay.
School B: next nearest school but not as near as A. Very very oversubscribed. Would be our first preference. Also most children from our primary school would go there as our primary school is close to it. My friend and I dont live in the "usual" catchment for the primary. So it seems as if all the children we know will be going there. We probably have a 50% chance of getting in.
School C: furthest "local" school and undersubscribed - so we would be likely to get this one if we failed to get A or B.

So I have put in my form with school B first, then the faith school , then school A and lastly school C.

My friend refuses to consider anything but school B so has only put that one down. She plans to appeal if she doesnt get in. I have tried to get her to put school A as a back-up but her reasoning is that if she puts it down then it will hurt her chances of getting school B on appeal. She plans to go to appeal to say only school B is suitable for her DD mostly for social/emotional reasons (separation from friends etc). She knows that people who appealed last year on this basis were successful.
She says if she puts school A on the list they will say "well you have got one of your preferences" and she thinks it will undermine her arguments when appealing for school B.

I am planning to at least appeal if we dont get school B myself - on the same basis. But thought should have my other preferences as backup. But i can see my friend's reasoning - by putting your backup option on the form, you imply that it is acceptable so you undermine your appeal for your first preference.
I just dont know what would be the best tactics?

Sorry if it all sounds complicated! Any advice appreciated.

admission Thu 06-Oct-11 22:59:41

Your friend's reasoning is faulty and you are doing exactly what is right to have the best possible chance of getting the school you would really like but also the ones that you would be prepared to accept.
I can tell you that categorically no appeal panel member should use the arguement that your friend is putting forward. As a panel we are not allowed to know what other schools have been appealed for or where any appealant stands on a waiting list, so that all decisions are made on the weight of the evidence submitted not what school they have been allocated.
The appeal process is in two parts. The first is where the admission authority argue that there would be prejudice to the school and the current students to admit any more pupils. Quite often that is the case. In the second part however you as the appealant are arguing that there will be prejudice to your child that is actually greater than the prejudice to the school and defining that prejudice. If the pupils last year were admitted on the basis of social/ emotional reasons then this is actually not a very good reason and normally would be considered not to confer a high level of prejudice. That implies that either the level of prejudice to the school is very low or that the panel were very generous in their interpretation of the level of prejudice. The other alternative is that the cases were not won on the social / emotional arguement, which would of course leave your friend with no appeal worth a damn. Is she absolutely sure that was the reason that the appeals were upheld?
If your friend is really unlucky she will not get school B on initial allocation, schools A, C and the faith school will be full and she will be allocated some really awful school a long way away. By the same arguement that she is putting forward the panel should reject her appeal for school B as she has a school place and leave her with a school they really do not want in comparison to A or C. She needs to put down schools A and C as protection.

CustardCake Thu 06-Oct-11 23:10:24

The trouble is that you either qualify for your first preference or you don't. Either you will be lucky on the distances this year (and find yourself inside this year's catchment zone) or you won't and nothing you write on that form apart from having a sibling / special medical need is going to change that.
Putting a second choice and getting an offer there has no negative impact on a future appeal but there's not a lot you can do if your friend doesn't believe this. Putting your first choice and no other school at all does not improve your chances of getting that school by showing the LA how serious you are. Putting the same school down 4 times does not make you more of a priority – it is all done by computers using your postcode and that’s as emotional as it gets.

Your friend is putting all her eggs into the "successful appeal after allocations day" basket which is a dangerous game to play. For a start, whilst she may have heard of people who were successful last year on the "social reasons" criteria, does she know the is and outs of their case? Does she know that the child who won their appeal wasn't horribly bullied or bereaved and has a counsellor who said they need to be with friends or does she know that the other child who won didn't have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and a Dr said they needed to be kept with friends?

Local rumour always says that "so-and-so's mum just told the appeal that her child needed to be with his friends and if she didn't win the appeal she refused to send him anywhere else and she kicked up a huge fuss and won. She told them the other school was crap and that’s why she didn’t put them on her form and they were forced to let her have a place" This just isn’t true. Yes she can win an appeal on social grounds if she convinces a panel that there are special reasons why her child needs to be kept with friends more so than the thousands of other 11 year olds who are separated from friends when they move schools. But unless she has something pretty convincing to pull out of the hat then she is being very foolish. The panel do not respond well to blackmail and telling them that its that school or nothing will not help her case at all.

prh47bridge Thu 06-Oct-11 23:29:28

Agree with the other posters. I would also add that putting school A down as backup will make no difference to her chances of getting a place at school B in the intial allocations.

Theas18 Fri 07-Oct-11 06:59:59

You friend is playing a dangerous game. If she qualifies for 1st choice then great but if she doesn't she will be placed at sink school Z miles away as your choices A nd C will be filled by people who expressed some sort of preference for them. Appeals will be unlikely to succeed unless there is a breach of protocol that can be proved.

shouldbeironing Fri 07-Oct-11 09:11:34

Thanks for your advice. This is also the way I see it and I couldnt face the risk ending up with a distant school and failing on appeal.

I spoke to my friend about this last week and to be honest she got quite upset with me. She is absolutely determined and has already put her form in. Friend and I met one mum who got her DS in last year on appeal. She had coffee with a group of us a while ago (one of those coffee mornings where they want you to buy makeup and stuff) and was telling us all about the appeal which she had just been through and found out pretty much straight away she was successful. She lives even further away than us.

She said she got her GP and the primary teachers and school psychologist to write letters saying her DS was stressed and unable to sleep and suffering at school etc because he was so upset about being placed in this distant "sink" school 10 miles away where he would have to get 2 buses and all his friends etc were in School B and could walk to school.

So the fact he had been allocated this really distant bad school did sort of play a part in this appeal if you see what I mean. If he had been allocated school A which is close by and not so bad (even though not with his friends) then maybe he might not have won that appeal as his argument about stress etc might not have been so convincing.

So my friend is intending to go down the same argument. She has heard it "from the horses mouth" and this other mum has convinced her that this is the way to go and is better tactics. Personally I just couldnt cope with taking that risk. I am just hoping we both get in without having to go to appeal. If we do both end up appealing then it will be really difficult if one of us gets in and the other doesnt. My DH agrees with what we have put on our form but says my friend has a different attitude to risk to me and sometimes taking a risk can pay off.

prh47bridge Fri 07-Oct-11 10:18:43

The mother concerned was very lucky in my view. Most appeal panels would not have been taken in. They should not even have considered whether or not the allocated school is a bad school. The fact that the boy was allegedly upset and stressed about being allocated this school is also something they should have ignored as it does suggest that he would have suffered any long term damage. If the journey would take an unreasonable time (significantly over an hour each way) that might have given a case but that is all. If I went into an appeal with a case like that I would expect to lose.

drivinmecrazy Fri 07-Oct-11 10:43:31

This whole applications process is driving me insane. Our choices are 2 grammars equal distance apart (although no gaurantees with 11+ being so competitive in our area) third choice is a really good comp for which we are (just) i catchment for but only qualify for admissions criteria 5. At open evening I spoke to local admissions lady who said that last year they only got half way through the criteria 5 list before they were full. This has scared the crap out of me because 2 other local schools are utterly useless. Only glimmer of hope we have is that admissions lady told us that according to GP lists there are fewer children this year of this age than last.
I really hadnt appreciated the angst we would go through just trying to secure a decent education for DD1. It is a horrid process leaving so much uncertaity for us and our children until we find out in March if we will have to fight for a decent place Really should not be such a lottery with our childrens future.
Sadly DH and I really believe if we had of known this 11 years ago we probably would not have had DD2 to enable us to afford putting 1 child through private education

shouldbeironing Fri 07-Oct-11 10:52:21

I have also been told there are fewer children this year - which gives me hope. On the other hand I have heard that there are more people who would have gone private but are unable to afford it due to the economy so are also trying to get into the good state schools.

prh47bridge Fri 07-Oct-11 11:05:39

Just noticed in my last post - "does suggest" should be "does NOT suggest"! Oops!

admission Fri 07-Oct-11 16:41:18

I would expect that the letters that were written all started with Mrs ZX tells me that ...... These "expert witnesses" all know that actually that kind of letter will in effect be ignored by any appeal panel. We are told to ignore it because in effect what is written is heresay, it is not specifics that the consultant etc is making decisions on. The reason that the appeal was successful is almost certainly that the panel thought that 10 miles was too long for a daily commute to school using 2 buses. Not a strong case but the panel were obviously feeling generous on the day. If the child had been in school A I would agree with your assessment that the appeal would not have been successful.
You have pointed out the dangers and regretably you can do no more if they are going to onsist on relying on what happened at an appeal last year.

shouldbeironing Fri 07-Oct-11 17:37:10

Interesting what you say admission - as it sort of confirms that despite what people say, taking the higher risk could in fact pay off. Of course it could also backfire. But if you are right about the buses etc then if last year's mum had played safe by putting school A down as a preference, then she might never have won that appeal and got the school she wanted.

I can understand my friend's point of view - as my DH says, it depends on what sort of risk you are willing to take. I guess i will find it a bit galling if she goes down that route and gets in to our 1st choice and we dont because we have been given our backup option. I hope it doesnt come to that.

Do the appeals panel look at previous cases when they make their decisions? Does one appeal sort of set a precedent for future appeals? Would the panel be likely to be the same people?

prh47bridge Fri 07-Oct-11 17:56:51

Appeal panels are not bound by precedents and don't generally look at them. The fact that one panel has said this journey is too far does not mean another panel has to come to the same decision.

The panel must be independent. That tends to get undermined if the same panel is used repeatedly. The panel this year should therefore be different from last year. So it is quite possible that this year's panel would have rejected that appeal. Indeed, it is quite possible that last year's panel would have rejected that appeal on a different day.

CustardCake Fri 07-Oct-11 19:41:19

The other thing to bear in mind is waiting lists. Yes there is a tiny chance that your friend could deliberately sabbotage her chances of getting a local school just so that she can breeze into an appeal and declare that 10 miles is too far but that is a very very dangerous tactic.
She is risking being lumbered with a not-so-great school miles away from home. Her chances of winning at appeal just on social / travel grounds are small. Maybe someone was lucky last year, got an expert who would sign a letter and an appeal panel who felt sympathy but who’s to say the same would happen this year? Its a case by case basis and anything could happen.

AND being allocated a school 10 miles from home has zero impact on the waiting list position of your favoured school. Your best bet of getting a place if you don't get one in March is to go on the waiting list and hope a space comes up (there are often several offers made from the list especially in larger sized schools with several classes per year group). Your friend will be above or below everyone else on the waiting list depending on where she lives so her risky tactic won't help her there at all. People will be allocated places at the school she likes before she is even if they have an O.K back-up school and she has an awful allocated school. If they live closer they will still get first-dibs at any spaces that become free. So she is literally pinning all her hopes on getting allocated a school miles away from home and then trying to convince an appeal panel that this is no good even though distance to school is a very weak reason for appeals.

It might all work out exactly as she plans but I'm guessing she'd has a very very small chance of that happening and, annoying as it would be if she did get her own way, I just can't see that many parents would risk being lumbered with an awful school 10 miles away in return for a small (much, much less than 50%) chance of using this as leverage at appeal.

shouldbeironing Fri 07-Oct-11 20:14:45

I am sure you are right and I certainly feel happier with the backup option. I dont think I could take the stress otherwise.
I am not sure I understand about waiting lists - if she doesnt put school A (our nearest school) down as a backup, is she still allowed to go on the waiting list for school A in March? i.e can you join the waiting list even if it wasnt originally one of your preferences? If you can, then it is less risky as she does live reasonably close to school A so would probably get in via the waiting list if she joined it in March. As you say there are always some places come up that way.

prh47bridge Fri 07-Oct-11 20:52:26

You can go on the waiting list for schools that weren't your original preferences. So yes, she can go on the waiting list for school A in March.

shouldbeironing Fri 07-Oct-11 21:18:15

Well that does give her more options if it comes to it. Thanks for all the info. Fingers crossed we get the places we wanted and dont have to come back for advice in March....

CustardCake Fri 07-Oct-11 22:39:26

Yes she can go on the waiting list of school A or any school she wants to but she won't get any special treatment due to the fact that most other people on the waiting list have a local school offered (even if its not one they want) and she has a school offer for a school 10 miles away. They won't bump her up the list because her need is (she feels) greater than averyone else's. She will have to wait her turn on the list like everyone else.

mossy99 Sun 16-Oct-11 09:35:41

Quest Academy, Selsdon, any thoughts?

mossy99 Sun 16-Oct-11 09:44:47

Sorry I meant to post this somewhere else. Newbie!

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