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How to submit an appeal? We were refused a place in Orleans Park

(48 Posts)
HannahCh Fri 13-Sep-13 10:34:46

Hi! Hoping for any helpful insights and tips - we moved to the UK two months ago, and DD (age 14) was not given a place in Orleans Park, despite the fact that we live really close (which was actually on purpose, to make sure she goes to this school). The authorities put her in RPA instead. What shall we do? Is there an appeal process? We definitely don't want to keep her at RPA. I am getting desperate here ... Thanks!

corlan Fri 13-Sep-13 20:32:13

Have you looked at Twickenham Academy - sounds like it's closer to you than RPA?

Babelange Fri 13-Sep-13 21:12:48

OP saw the name of your preferred school & was reminded that BF removed her DD from Orleans Park & sent her to St Catherine's Richmond (private girls' Roman Catholic secondary). Transfer was in-year & she was very happy there, selection is by taster day and tests in various subjects. From our conversations, the school was very nurturing & relatively affordable. Not sure even whether being a practicing catholic or even a christian was an issue but can't really comment further due to lack of info.

charliescatmother23 Sat 14-Sep-13 08:11:48

Good luck HannahCh, hope all settles, and can appreciate your concerns, especially re journey to school as winter approaches.

Decisiontimesoon Sat 14-Sep-13 09:52:58

Have you looked at travelling by train? Much quicker than the bus in the rush hour. Then it's not far to walk or a couple of stops on a bus from Barnes station.
Some of the issues are a change in culture which will take time to adapt to - like uniforms which are standard in schools here and tend to be formal. Your dd will need lots of support and positive encouragement to adapt to these changes. If she thinks you are negative about her school, she will pick up on this and it will make it harder for her to settle.

Decisiontimesoon Sat 14-Sep-13 09:58:50

Babelange -not sure an all girls catholic school would be right for a Y10 girl who isn't liking having to wear uniform not jeans?

Shootingatpigeons Sat 14-Sep-13 13:30:48

We found as returning expats that Orleans also had zero interest /experience in handling pupils who were moving from another country, or perhaps I should say ones who were not doing so with very apparent language or other cultural adjustments to make which would clearly affect their performance at school. Frankly the same applies to eg any pupil with moderate learning difficulties who still attains above the average level. There simply aren't the resources to focus on the individual needs of pupils if they are doing "OK" , or maybe it is a cultural thing...... However we were met with blank and disinterested faces when we mentioned DD was returning from another culture. I don't think that you will be able to argue that Orleans is going to be distinctively different enough in its approach to make a winning point at appeal.

I am surprised there were not places at Orleans, I have known quite a few local pupils move in there out of year. I am also surprised given all I have heard of RPA that your DD is being ignored quite as much as she claims. They have smaller classes for a start, and are working really hard to improve their reputation. Remember that every class in Orleans will be full and they face the same issues of crowd control (even at Waldegrave, I have friends who teach there) .

I really sympathise about the journey and the fact that the school does not serve this community but I do not think that her actual school experience at Orleans will be that different.

There is a big contrast to the independent sector where it was made very clear that DDs experiences would be valued and that they understood the difficulties faced when teenagers are facing fitting in to a new culture. I am not so sure St Catherine's is a rock solid nurturing option though. It is a lovely school but I have known difficult DDs be sent there to get away from a bad crowd and bringing their bad crowd ways with them, no school is immune. However I am assuming private is not an option. If it is there are a lot of good independent schools around and many local DCs go to them, often because they cannot get into the good local state schools. Plenty of local advice available.

Don't underestimate the difficulty for a teenager fitting into a new teen culture, even if on the face of it they are not dissimilar. It is the most difficult time psychologically to cope with a move. Fitting in with peers is so important and it is every subtle detail that takes on a huge importance, the language, the music, etc etc. thankfully from Year 10 they start to appreciate that difference is good too. When DD was 14 we had a chance to return to the country we had all missed terribly, and DD was still very much in touch with her closest friends there but she was adamant that she did not want to go through the period of adjustment again. The teen culture of her old friends was perceived by her to be so different to the new one she was now part of (though on the face of it very similar). DHs company engaged Councillors to help you adjust to a move and they were very clear that the greatest psychological challenge was faced by teenagers.

One thing your DD may be finding hard to adjust to is that Brits, including teachers, tend not to be so "out there" as Americans and that can come over as disinterest. I have American expat friends with DCs at schools in this country who constantly struggle to distinguish between discretion and understatement and genuine disinterest \incompetence. I would certainly go into school (possibly in secret, I do understand the teenage sensitivities) and see the Head of Year to make sure they understand how your daughter is feeling. You may wish to try and avoid the " pushy American mom" stereotype that a few of my American friends feel is a problem....

mummytime Sat 14-Sep-13 14:01:04

I think a lot of it is culture shock!

Have you ever seen "Mean Girls"? The bit that gets me is when the main character says "I like Math because its the same in any language" EXCEPT it isn't. Eg. The UK teaches Maths with geometry, algebra, trigonometry all mixed together; and then at A'level adds Calculus to the mix.

Then there is the huge difference in culture. Less touchy feely, don't stand so close, use different language (including the meaning of fanny).

It is a lot for her to deal with, and that is whatever school she goes to.

BTW I got yelled at by my DD this week for talking to her heads of years about how stressed she is over GCSEs. That doesn't mean I was wrong to do it, and it actually helped.

My DS has just changed school from one about 1/2 hour away to one 1 1/2 hours away, he's happy and is now thriving. The right school can help.

HannahCh Sat 14-Sep-13 14:37:50

Thanks so much everybody! Your input really helps! I guess no danger of being perceived as a "pushy american mom", because we are actually Israeli. This also rules out the Roman catholic schools, unfortunately, because, while we are not practising any religion at home,the idea of putting DD in a catholic school still makes me uncomfortable. We will explore the train option, but I think there is quite a bit of walk from the station to school - might be unpleasant in winter.

It is hard with teens, isn't it? Our younger kids are very happy in their wonderful primary.

HannahCh Sat 14-Sep-13 14:44:32

She'll get used to the uniform, it is the Catholic aspect that is a problem smile

HannahCh Sat 14-Sep-13 14:50:33

Shootingatpigeons - blank stares at OP? I guess the impression they gave us when we visited might not be entirely accurate ... They looked like they really care and will help.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 14-Sep-13 15:57:37

HannahCh I'm so sorry, I don't know why I got the impression you had come from America, possibly because I spend so much time having my ear bent by American expats with children at school here!

Re Orleans, this was ten years ago and presumably different staff (including the Deputy Head though). Also DD was 11 and we were not going to be back resident at our address until August so perhaps it was ennuie at showing another set of parents around without hope of a place, though in fact she was offered a place three weeks into term. Also we were not making a big thing of it being a problem, or even a big thing at all so perhaps being faced with you as a parent with an actual problem pressed their a compassion buttons. It was actually a remarkably cold and disinterested response to any 11 year old child, never mind one that was coming from another culture. Perhaps a bad day and we didn't get an accurate experience but I do know teachers at Waldegrave, and the points about the difficulty of devoting resources to individuals who are OK when wrestling with crowd control and those who are really struggling definitely applies everywhere (indeed even in independents in a dysfunctional year).

It was though a remarkable contrast to the reception DD had at even the most selective indies, except for Godolphin where the bursar clearly thought we had come from another planet, "I love Wimbledon week, do they play tennis in China?" ......... whereas the Head of one of the most selective indies said to me "We love to welcome pupils like your daughter into our community. They have had such amazing experiences and they can contribute so much"

I do endorse what mummytime says. Teens hate you going in but how can teachers help if they don't know there is a problem especially if your DD is being stoical at school. Perhaps you will get the same response from RPA teachers as you have had at OP once they realise the problem?

Shootingatpigeons Sat 14-Sep-13 16:35:24

HannahCh It has just occurred to me that I think the Head of RPA may have before now posted on Mumsnet threads, there is a long running and very busy thread on local about secondary schools in Richmond and I am pretty certain that she or someone close to her did post on the thread. It is not really surprising that schools (and allegedly the Education Officers) monitor the chatter that goes on about schools on the web and will on occasion jump in, either undercover or in their own name to correct misapprehensions. You may want to think that what you say on here may well be read by the RPA staff?

pixelchick10 Sat 14-Sep-13 17:36:19

Yes my niece goes to the Green school - it's a good one and a Church school

HannahCh Sat 14-Sep-13 17:43:40

Shootingatpigeons - my fault, I guess I never said where we were from, so you could just assume we were from the US! Thanks for the warning about the head of RPA posting here! Indeed, I guess we have to be careful about what we say on the internet in all situations, right? Especially since, in this particular case, it is very easy to identify me and my daughter given all the information I provided here. And thanks for sharing your experience! I think part of what causes us such shock was that we visited Orleans Park at the end of the summer term (OP was the only school that arranged a visit for us, which further contributed to our feeling of being welcome there), and they were extremely nice - really made us feel that DD will be happy there. Add to this the fact that all the kids in the neighbourhood go to OP, and that it is a short walk, as opposed to an hour on buses - and you get the picture. Oh, and a cranky teen, who was uprooted from her familiar environment and her friends and thrown into a very different culture, with different subjects to study, and in a different language - let's say that this is not one of the easiest times we had in life. I will definitely talk to her teachers again. If not anything else, at least we have to sort the issue of not having a dictionary and not knowing the right terms, even in subjects like math and science, where the material itself shouldn't be so different.

Mommytime - I got yelled at by DD too, for emailing the head of her year! On one hand, she is miserable and crying all the time, and on the other hand, she forbids me from talking to her teachers ...

loulou63 Sun 15-Sep-13 16:06:21

Sorry to hear HannahCh's daughter is struggling to settle at RPA. I too have a daughter in Year 10 who is also very happy and doing extremely well. It feels like you are talking about a completely different place - I've never had any trouble speaking to any of the teaching staff, Year Head or, indeed, Mrs Kirby herself. Please try again, book an appointment to meet someone face to face and I'm sure you they'll do their best to reassure you both. Of course it's painful to see a child so distressed but I'm certain there is a lot the school would be willing to do to help resolve the problems she is experiencing. I'm NOT saying this is true in your case, but the disappointment of not being placed in your first choice school can have a negative effect on how a child feels about a school, especially if you feel stressed too, and they can almost make their mind up that they're not going to like it. Presumably she has only been at the school for a few days - coupled with trying to get used to a completely new culture of schooling and the travel it is understandable that she is finding it all overwhelming. Try to put a positive slant on things, encourage her to look for positives and remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side!
Sending you good wishes for a happy outcome whatever happens.

HannahCh Mon 16-Sep-13 13:03:58

loulou63 - you are right! I talked to the Year Head and to Mrs Kirby today, and indeed I feel much better about the school. I think, perhaps, part of this whole being unwelcome feeling came from the chaos at the beginning of the school year. They are going to assess DD, and help her with the language, and the girls in her year are absolutely lovely, so I am sure she will find her place socially as well.

The long travel time is still a problem, though ... Also - they study longer hours than in other schools, am I right? The school ends only at 20 to 4, which is quite late, so DD is out of the door at 7:20 in the morning, and back home closer to 5PM, which is quite exhausting.

The education system in the UK takes quite a while to get used to, no? DD was certainly not prepared to think about exams and choose subjects at the age of 14. Seems that it adds quite a lot of stress to the whole school experience.

I am talking to the school so much lately, I will become known as a "pushy Israeli mom" smile

Elibean Mon 16-Sep-13 13:42:03

I think you will just become known as 'Hannah's dd's mum' wink

You are absolutely right to make contact and talk to the school as often as you need to. I think they will welcome it!

You know, I think the English system takes some getting used to even for those of us who are English and live here. I suppose any new system does, and to those of us who are not yet at secondary school stage - it is all a new system.

The school times don't sound longer than any of the schools I've asked about, to be honest. We went to see an independent school the other day, and the school day runs from 8.30am to 3.40pm and then they stay for clubs/homework etc. My brother's kids are at a French school, and they finish (primary) at 4pm.

The travel would be the worst part, for me - the rest you can adjust to, as you would have to adjust to in any school in a new place, I think. But yes, the travel times sound a pain.

That said, I have many friends who travelled an hour to and from school in London - they don't remember it mattering much, when they look back, but I suspect they had others to travel with!

CecilyP Mon 16-Sep-13 17:30:09

It seems like things are looking a little more positive and the move must have been a huge upheaval for your DD. It must be so frustrating to have so many nearer schools with no places. Regarding rail services, I don't know how far you are from your local station but the nearest station to RPA is Mortlake which is a 10 minute journey from Twickenham/St Margarets and, according to google, a 0.7 mile walk to the school.

Shootingatpigeons Mon 16-Sep-13 20:32:25

I am glad to hear that you are feeling a bit more positive about the school. It was not really making sense that RPA wouldn't if anything make more effort than OP. RPA is desperately trying to counteract it's image of a few years ago when it was allowed to slip to a shocking extent and local people got out of the habit of sending their children there. Now it has investment and a good leadership team and has improved it's results year on year. Given many of the older year groups preceded the improvement in image that would attract more parents to want to send their children there, they must be putting a lot of effort into making sure each and every pupil achieves their potential.

I do feel for your DD missing out on the local friends and shared journey but if anything she may get more help with fitting in to the UK system and getting decent results in the GCSEs, and come 16 there will be many more options open to her. I suspect being a teenager a bus ride door to door is preferable to hiking from Mortlake station to RPA, there isn't a bus. I remember DDs getting very frustrated that the Waldegrave girls got on the bus at the end of the Green to travel to Fifth Cross Road, a couple of stops and less than a five minute walk!

Shootingatpigeons Mon 16-Sep-13 20:41:08

That length of school day would be short in the Independents, DD's last school was 8.45 until 4 and now it is 8.30 to 4 and many travel from a lot further afield. Hampton and LEH have buses going into Surrey and North London and journeys of an hour plus are more common than not.

And we came from a system overseas that had MORE exams in their state system, and a lot of repetitive rote learning with little chance to express your ideas or develop academic skills in critical reasoning and analysis. It is always going to be a big jump going into the education system of another culture, there are big differences between Britain and it's near European neighbours let alone the rest of the world. One of the hardest systems for Brit children to adjust to seems to be Switzerland, I have known many expats (actually a few natives) quit Switzerland as a result.

loulou63 Tue 17-Sep-13 07:10:08

So very pleased that things are looking up!
I can only support what others have said about school hours and travel time - they're reasonably standard in the UK these days.
Hope DD is feeling a little less shell-shocked!

keepsmiling12345 Tue 17-Sep-13 21:41:05

OP, I'm really glad things at RPA are looking up. I'm still concerned about your DD's commute. You say you are on the doorstep of Orleans Park? The 33 bus goes from directly outside Orleans Park to East sheen in about 20mins (even at rush hour) and the walk from the bus stop in Upper Richmond Road in East sheen to RPA is 7mins. It really shouldn't be taking your DD more than 40mins door to door which is pretty standard for secondaries in London.

Melfish Tue 17-Sep-13 21:53:12

My ex-neighbours sent their daughter to Marymount International School in Kingston and she was very happy there. They were from the US (I am not sure how the syllabus/structure of classes and lesson content is similar to the Israeli system) but it is not too far and may be worth a look. I believe they have a lot of students who do transfer in throughout the years and they should, hopefully, be good at settling in pupils that have moved in from abroad. It is all girls though.

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