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Starting an appeal where the school manages its own appeals- any point?

(30 Posts)
NickNacks Sun 03-Mar-13 17:55:12

Ok briefly fill you in...

This is a middle school application (so we are moving into year 5). We have 4 schools in our LA and applied for A B and C on our preference form. School B was our catchment school although geographically not the closest (complex but true- can expand if needed).

We've been allocated D. The awful, massive school which everyone in the LA gets swept into if they don't get their preference. Hardly anyone actually chooses it first place.

We think we have a good chance (maybe?) on the waiting list for this school B due to a friend getting in who lives relatively close and on the same criteria.

However we have also been told that there is no harm in appealing. This would be based on DS being a very nervous child, emotional and we feel the smaller school would give him fantastic pastoral care.

The thing is (eventually gets to the point!) this school B manages their own admission and appeals. Surely they are always going to side with themselves. Any point in even trying?

tiggytape Sun 03-Mar-13 18:40:57

If school B manages its own admissions it simply means that it schedules the appeal hearings. It doesn't mean the Head Teacher gets to have the final say or anything. All appeals have to be run according to the Appeals Code which has the force of law and applies to all state schools even academies and VA ones.

The most important feature of the code is that panels must be independent and the appeal must be run in a certain way and consider certain things to ensure fairness.

Your reasons for appeal will need to be backed up if you can with evidence. Generally all Year 7 children are nervous about starting at a huge new school - this is normal. If your child has a social or medical issue though that makes him more vulnerable or in need of pastoral care than other children then this argument can be strengthened. You would need to back it up eg with a letter from your Dr or CAMHS to state that your DS has additional emotional needs and that these are best met by school B rather than school D.
Other things to think about adding are curriculum options or clubs that school B offers that would suit your son and other things that school B has that would benefit him.

admission Sun 03-Mar-13 21:21:49

Just to confirm many schools are their own admission authority but actually use the Local Authority when it comes to appeals because of the all the hassle and paperwork it generates. So as Tiggytape says it will be independent and you should appeal, you have nothing to loose.
I would however say that you do need to accept school D, as your back up situation, although I accept that you do not want the place. If it all goes wrong you could end up with another school even further away.

NickNacks Mon 04-Mar-13 10:17:36

Thank you, both very helpful.

We have already accepted school D as I know it can't affect our appeal and/ or waiting list chances (I hope I'm right on that!).

Our appeal will also be based on the fact that school B is a church school (currently at a church school) and school D is not. We have spoken to his HT this morning and she is very supportive of our appeal, believing school B is the right choice for DS. She will help us write a statement to explain why he will be an asset to the school and it would not be detrimental to the other children. He has not been referred to CAMHS so not sure if we'll have strong enough grounds to win but we have to try.

Any other ideas/ advice?

tiggytape Mon 04-Mar-13 10:30:08

Yes you are right - accepting school D has no impact on appeal hearings or waiting lists.

The faith aspect is part of the ethos of the school that you are appealing for. It is a shared ethos with his current school - you just need to join the dots for the panel. Why is a faith school important to you and beneficial to DS? What does it specifically offer that school D cannot?

It is great to have the HT's support and for her to back up your reasons. I am not sure she is best placed to say though that it is not detrimental to school B to take more pupils. School B will submit a case explaining their decision to refuse you (i.e. they are full). This isn't personal - it covers practical things like playground space, number of desks, number of computers etc. It is probably not for your TH to tell them that they can easily squeeze in one more without problems. It is good that she wants to back up your statements that DS would benefit from School B because of the church ethos and because of the subjects he is good at and other reasons. Not all Heads will write letters to appeal because it means they then have to support all pupils or be seen as unfair.

NickNacks Mon 04-Mar-13 10:50:49

Yes you're right. HT didn't actually say she would write that it wouldn't be detrimental to the school. I paraphrased because she actually said she would add a sentence about his excellent behaviour and we should mention we feel he would be an asset rather than a burden. I realise they will say they are full. I also want to add a bit about his academic strengths (very bright in maths and has represented his school at county level) which I feel school B can provide better support to extend his learning.

I've heard we can dispute the PAN excuse of they have exceeded it in past years. Do you know if that includes past appeals won or statemented children? We know of another child who hasn't got in who is hoping to appeal with a statement. Does this give our case any positive or negative weight? If they win and exceed the PAN and then another child drops out, does this mean the place won't be offered to the waiting list because the PAN will still be met? Where can we find out this info about past years PAN? The LA keep referring us to the school but I'm worried about bombarding them with questions and they'll realise it's because we are gathering info for an appeal. Eek!

tiggytape Mon 04-Mar-13 12:57:57

NickNacks - if the school is an academy or its own admission authority then yes you'd get all this information from the school. There are a couple of great MN experts who can advise on chipping away at the school's case.
Basically you can ask for things like the number of students in each year (if there are more students in Year 8 and 9 than officially allowed and the school is coping fine with that then that shows the classroom size objections etc can be overcome). You can ask about how many children leave each year. If they lose 15 children before the end of Year 9, it shows some room can be expected to freed up.

PAN is only ever exceeded if appeals are won, if statemented children are admitted later or if Fair Access Protocol is used (an emergency measure for people applying at a time when literally no school in the area has a space for them and one school is instructed to take them). So if you find PAN has been exceeded, this will be why. If the school cope with extra numbers each year that will help your case. It doesn't really matter how those extra children came to be there - just that the school copes well (no documented pile ups in the corridor or anything like that)

If they win and exceed the PAN and then another child drops out, does this mean the place won't be offered to the waiting list because the PAN will still be met?
You are correct on this point. A waiting list position is only ever offered when the school drops below PAN. If someone wins an appeal then 2 people have to drop out not one person to generate an offer being made from the waiting list. I am surprised they are having to appeal though. If the child already has a statement naming the school, their place should be automatic. Statemented children take priority over everyone else.

Don't be afraid to ask the school questions. They are obliged to help you in putting together your appeal and there is no reason to hide from them the fact you will be appealing.

NickNacks Mon 04-Mar-13 13:30:37

Just to clarify we are talking about middle school here so years 5,6,7,8. I presume all the advice is the same.

The other child isn't currently statemented but hoping to be soon according to mum.

I guess all I can now is finger crossed. I'm mentally so worn out already by this all. I never dreamed I would be in this position. sad

tiggytape Mon 04-Mar-13 13:52:49

Yes the advice is the same. Different rules apply to Year 2 and below because of the laws restricting infant class sizes. These cease to apply to older children so, above Year 2, the same advice applies.

It is a very trying situation to be in I know. Appeal is just one avenue, you also have the waiting list options too and with any luck you'll be near the top for school B and maybe others. You are also allowed to appeal for more than one school so can submit appeals to schools A and C as well with perhaps some tweaks to your case to make your reasons fit what those schools offer.

lougle Mon 04-Mar-13 14:42:12

You can ignore the other child who may be statemented. Until they are, they are just another child - the school can't use their knowledge that there (may be) a child with a Statement coming soon, to reject your case.

Having said that, get your appeal in as soon as possible, so that their number is only at PAN and not PAN+1 grin

tiggytape Mon 04-Mar-13 14:52:49

Generally appeals are all held in the same week later in the year so getting in quick may not help but it is true that the school cannot 'save' spaces for someone who is about to be admitted with a statement.
All you can do until then is compile the best case and make sure you're doing all the extra things like confirming you've been added to waiting lists

admission Mon 04-Mar-13 15:23:37

There will be an interesting issue over this pupil who might or might not get a statement. The rules say that a pupil with a statement applying for a place at the normal time of entry to the school will be part of the PAN of the school. Whereas if it is at a different time of entry they come in over and above the PAN. I think that the normal admission round has taken place and therefore this pupil should automatically be given a place over the PAN.
OP are you making an assumption that they would have to go to appeal or is this something that has already been decided that they have to go to appeal?

NickNacks Mon 04-Mar-13 16:03:22

They don't have a statement at this stage but are starting off the appeals process citing a statement is in the pipeline. I guess if the statement comes in the meantime, then they won't need to complete the appeal.

lougle Mon 04-Mar-13 17:13:32

Until a Statement has been finalised, it isn't in force. Parents don't get asked to name a school until the proposed Statement is sent out, so right now, the school doesn't officially know that there will be a Statement naming them, even if the parents have made it clear that it is their intention to do so.

prh47bridge Mon 04-Mar-13 18:02:37

The other family shouldn't win an appeal on the basis that a statement is in the pipeline. The appeal panel will know that a place will be awarded automatically if the statement comes through naming the school so there is absolutely no reason for them to award a place in advance of the statement. They can, of course, cite their child's problems and show that this is the right school for him/her but the fact a statement may be in the pipeline is irrelevant.

NickNacks Mon 04-Mar-13 19:14:21

I'm trying not to get too caught up in the other family's battle. It hopefully shouldn't affectbud in any way and if it does then it doesn't sound like I can do much about it.

We have been asked to address our appeal to the Head Govenor within four weeks and it will not be looked at until those four weeks are up. This ties in with the acceptances/declines and the waiting list opening. So far we've had no response to our questions though so I hope they hurry up because I want to get it written.

Any ideas on how long and what I should cover aside from the reasons. Anything to avoid? Thanks.

NickNacks Tue 05-Mar-13 11:21:50

I've emailed the school (Sunday) asking for information for my appeal but no response so far. How long is reasonable to give them to respond? I'm anxious to get it in to them.

prh47bridge Tue 05-Mar-13 11:49:07

Don't worry about having all the information before you submit your appeal. You can just submit an outline argument now and add to it later. If you are only after information about going over PAN in previous years you don't need to include that in your submission at all. You can bring that up when questioning the school's representative at the hearing.

NickNacks Wed 06-Mar-13 18:59:22

prh47bridge Do you know how long this initial outline letter should be and how much detail. Is it better to raise just one point or several? We have letters from other people too- should these go in with the initial letter to the chair of governers? Thanks

prh47bridge Thu 07-Mar-13 00:34:40

There are no rules about that. They have to hear your appeal regardless of the case you submit. You can submit evidence up to a few days before the hearing.

The case you submit should be about why this is the right school for your child. Don't worry about undermining the school's case for refusing admission unless you want to argue that a mistake was made. Make the strongest case you can. Make it as long as it needs to be to cover the essential points but not so long the panel will get fed up reading it. And don't make so many points your strongest arguments get lost. Make sure anyone reading it can see what you believe are the strongest parts of your case.

If you want to submit an outline initially you can make it as simple as a list of bullet points highlighting the main points of your case if you want.

NickNacks Thu 07-Mar-13 12:25:11

Ok twist in the tail, we've been offered a place at school C, 3rd choice on our application. Will accepting this (and I confirmed we can still stay on waiting lists for schools A and B) affect our appeals in any way? Will the school know we have been offered and accepted/declined school C?

lougle Thu 07-Mar-13 12:38:22

No, it won't make a bit of difference. You should accept the place, while maintaining the appeal.

tiggytape Thu 07-Mar-13 12:44:16

It won't affect your appeal unless school C is almost identical to school B in all the points you are relying on at appeal in which case soem tweaking may be required.
For example - you plan to raise the faith aspect and small school ethos of School B at appeal. If school C is also a tiny faith school then obviously some of your points won't look so valid anymore but assuming that is not the case then it will have no impact at all.

NickNacks Thu 07-Mar-13 13:03:38

No it's not similar at all. It's more like school D (non-faith) but its a bit smaller and we got a better 'feel' for it. School B is much smaller, faith school which is what we want and our basis for appeal.

Floggingmolly Thu 07-Mar-13 13:15:41

Did your Headteacher really tell you that his excellent behaviour, and the fact that you feel he'll be an asset rather than a burden to the new school would be sufficient grounds for an appeal?
I don't mean to sound nasty, but if that's all you've got it's not looking good.

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