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Appeal Advice - Does This Sound Okay ??

(11 Posts)
RockinHippy Wed 19-Mar-14 20:55:55

Hi,
I'm hoping some of you either working with, or understanding the high school appeals process can run your eyes over this & give any advice please.

I have an appointment in the morning for help with filling in a high schools appeal form, I don't trust doing it on our computer, as trying to fill in the online application form & it not working with our MAC computer is the reason they cocked up & we are left with no choice but to go to appeal. Also I don't feel confident filling them in myself as I'm struggling with extra health problems at the moment & not sure if I'm on this earth or Fullers half the time, so I won't see mistakes if I make any. MP is helping, but not really feeling he has much experience in this area, he pretty much said so, though is backing us.

Bit of background...

The very oversubscribed school we need to appeal for is one of only 2 in our catchment area & both are almost equal distance from home, the other school is very slightly closer, but isn't as good on pastoral care & friends have recently removed DCs from there as they just didn't deal with bullying & we know of other parents who have done the same thing, so we didn't put this school on our list of choices & now can't change that without having to reapply for ALL choices, meaning the way the system works here we miss the appeal dates as "new" applications aren't considered until after all appeal dates.

We had to list 3 choices & I now know that once you list a school outside of your catchment area, our LEA carte blanche to offer ANY schoolhmm so basically we were offered the worst local school, over 5 1/2 miles away - I've had to turn this down as it is impossible for us.

DD has diagnosed health problems - Joint Hypermobility Syndrome/Ehlers Danlos Hypermobility, she has also been the victim of ongoing(various DCs over the years) bullying in primary school & it has had a MASSIVE impact in her health, IBS flare ups, general stress symptoms as she us hyper sensitive to stress (body over reacts) she is vulnerable to injury & had had a LOT of injuries. Rarely more than 6 weeks in between various casts, neck collars, slings, moon boots & often crutches too, (well over a year, of less than the last 3 years on crutches) She is at the mercy of all sorts of weird & wonderful symptoms, all set to get worse as puberty hormones increase, this also includes travel sickness, dizziness, exhaustion & more.

Out 1st choice school ofsteds show it as having excellent pastoral care, it fits DD to a tee in all ways academically & creatively too, known for its arts, drama & music depts, as well as science & generally even an all round good school.

DD was made so scarily ill by stress & so demoralised by yet more "accidents" that shouldn't have happened & not always well dealt with, also bullying teaching methods, that I recently had no choice but to take her out of primary school, something had to give & I just couldn't let it be her sad - Thankfully she looks set to start a new one next term.

Our grounds for appeal are...

Distance - based on DD needing the shortest possible journey to school for the following reasons ...

Exhaustion. CFS is an ongoing symptom for her, so extra travelling will take its toll

Travel sickness, due to POTs she struggles on anything more than very short journeys & will start the day feeling very ill if travelling far

Due to the likelihood of injuries, it is highly likely we will often have to pay for taxis to take her there & back (DH works away & my own health problems mean I can't safely drive) we are not well off, but won't qualify for help.

DD needs a school that deals effectively & strongly with bullying

We have CAF papers & medical notes showing bullying was an issue that affects her health badly & ability to be in school - appeals service told me this is good to use ?? & though I can't use anything from the school itself, that I can use letters from other parents of DCs in the school to support that in their experience the School deals very well with bullying - these I can provide

Though I've now had one friend/parent who has worked for the LEA tell me this won't help & is a bad idea ??

DD needs a school with excellent pastoral care - excellent pastoral care is listed in the schools strengths in the latest Ofsted report, so I intend to use that.

I've been advised to also use my own health problems - which are many & affect my mobility etc

DD already has friends in the school & 2 of her good friends now have places there

I was advised by Appeals service NOT to try & use the fact that she is considered G&T pretty much across the board - especially in creative arts ???

Though both appeals service AND school admission service advised me to reapply listing the other nearest school too - the SA booklet states this mean neither appeal would be considered until AFTER the dates for this years intake appeals hmm

So not sure whether all the advice given is good or not, as I would have shot myself in the foot big time had I reapplied for the other school confused

TIA smile

PanelChair Wed 19-Mar-14 23:08:26

Are you in England? I'm puzzled by the apparent advice that if you apply for further schools now, nothing will be done with your application until after all appeals have been heard. That isn't (although forgive me for not going back to the code to double-check) consistent with the admissions code.

Your arguments for appeal all look reasonable. Staying with friends isn't usually the basis of a winnable appeal, so you may need to draw out why, in your daughter's circumstances, this is more important than it would be for most children.

And the advice not to base the appeal on your child's academic ability is correct. However, if she has particular interests, aptitudes or needs that the appeal school is uniquely placed to fulfil, then you could certainly mention those. Does it have special provision for creative arts, for example?

prh47bridge Thu 20-Mar-14 00:15:11

I agree with PanelChair about what happens if you apply for further schools. Also the statement in their booklet that applying for additional schools means your appeals would not be considered until after all other appeals is, in my view, contrary to the Appeals Code. Which LA is this? Feel free to PM me if you don't want to post that information publicly.

I also agree with PanelChair regarding your proposed grounds for appeal. I don't know why your friend thinks the argument about bullying won't help. It certainly won't harm your case and could help.

Make sure you submit evidence from medical professionals regarding your daughter's difficulties.

RockinHippy Thu 20-Mar-14 00:32:05

Thank you, that's very helpful smile

& yes I'm in England, though I'm not sure if we are still the only part if the country with the daft lottery system, so maybe that makes the difference, as I can imagine appeals here are very busy - we are up against at least 80 others - eek!!

I was told by both the admissions people & appeals people that it would be okay for me to now add the other nearest school to our list, but as it wasn't on our first application, I would have to submit a new application form & re add our first choice school too, so effectively starting again, - I was going to do that, though bullying not effectively dealt with was still a big worry.

It was only on looking through the booklet again that I found a section that said any new applications wouldn't be looked at until after June the 14, which is later than the appeal dates - I rand the SA & the woman I then spoke to agreed the booklet is correct - all very confusing to say the least

We now know we have no chance at all with our 2nd choice as its a religious school & has been very popular this year & Appeals said it is already oversubscribed by Catholics & other church goers, lots who are also appealing & DD not keen now anyway as she knows one of the girls she's had a few problems with is going there.

There is space on our forms asking if they have friends at the school, hence why I thought it might help to mention as many as possible.

& yes the school is well known in the area for its art, music & performing arts, the music department was amazing, though DD is only recognised in school as gifted across the board in all forms of actual art, but they don't do music in primary here, but DD does have a genuine gift for that too, performed at local festivals etc - wondering how I can prove that without looking barking mad though as she's currently teaching herself - will think on that & see what I can come up with - thank you

MillyMollyMama Thu 20-Mar-14 01:01:05

In my LEA, changed applications are dealt with on the second round of allocations date. There are 4 allocation dates in total. Parents can appeal AND make a changed application but if they are offered a school from the changed application, then that offer stands and the previous one is dropped. The same applies with a successful appeal.

OP. I wonder why you did not make an application with all the health and social issues detailed on it in the first place. You can clearly do this in my LA. Usually schools and LAs give advice on how to play the applications game. Also it is not a good idea to tell an appeal panel that a school has bullying problems because, frankly, this is hearsay and you do not know the full details of the cases from both sides of the argument. It is much better to concentrate on what the school you want actually offers which is important for your DD. Mention music, but not sure self taught needs to be mentioned. You just need to highlight music and drama opportunities. You also need to highlight the curriculum, the ethos and the great benefit of moving with friends.

I do not know why you did not put down the other catchment school as an insurance as this would have prevented you being allocated a school you cannot get to. I would now include ii on your amended preference list and maybe not judge it on other people's reactions. Also one unpleasant pupil in a secondary school will be outweighed by lots of other pleasant pupils. You cannot guarantee nice children in every school. It just does not happen.

RockinHippy Thu 20-Mar-14 01:01:13

Thanks prh cross posted - I PMd u the LA

That's good to know about the bullying, our friend did throw me of kilter a bit with her response, as she was one of the people I though might help, as her own DC had a very positive as far as bullying in this school goes, but thankfully we have other friends with DCs there who are happy to write us letters.

& yes, I have a big wad of medical notes to support everything - more so & better than I had originally submitted(though that was good) I had to take DD to see a specialist in her condition in London this week & due to the fact that the NHS clinic had been suspended until July, we had to go private, so I had to get copies of everything to take ŵith me.

I'm glad we did go private as we had a very long appointment, as the Doctor was fantastic & apart from finally organising some help for DD, things like CAHMS to teach her coping techniques for the hyper anxiety etc - she is writing us a letter of support confirming all the different aspects of the condition & how it will affect DD more so as puberty hormones escalate & how injuries are slow to heal - she even suggested using her travel sickness, which I hadn't thought of smile

I also have a pile of papers almost an inch thick that are all A&E notes from DDs various accidents, 95% of which were in school scary to see it all in black and white like that some of those even mention that DD was hurt by other DCs in school, the only thing that worries me about them, is that not all state the treatment plan or time scale, just the diagnosis, but some do, but as its sprains, fractures, ligament & tendon damage etc I'm hoping its obvious that she needed crutches on all of the leg/ankle injuries.

I also have her OT notes, which mention she was on crutches the times she has seen her & CAF notes & even school reports mention bullying.

Hoping I can get something from DDs physio or fracture clinic that backs the length if injury time, one ankle/foot injury was a very bad one & had DD in a cast, then moon boot & crutches for over 9 months, but the accident report says very little

RockinHippy Thu 20-Mar-14 01:36:51

missmolly

Thank you, that sounds similar to how I've had ours explained - I think - our first choice school is the first appeal date, so I am planning to wait until that is out of the way & then look again at changing our choices depending on the outcome of that appeal as seems there is time between appeals to do that, but I'm not sure yet how best to play that, for now I am concentrating on the appeal for our first choice school.

Our 2nd choice is just not appealable as none churchgoers & our 3rd choice maybe, though I misread the distance, so its not ideal as further away than we hoped for, but again it has fantastic pastoral care & deals very firmly with bullying.

The school we were offered is a LOT further away than most of our local schools, we probably have half a dozen or more that are closer, but bar the school that doesn't deal firmly with bullying all a bit too far in the circumstances.

I don't intend to mention anything about any if the other schools at the appeal, good or bad, that's not what I've been advised to do & it just wouldn't make sense to go to appeal saying "we need X school because Y school is crap" only that "we need X school because it suits DDs complex need because of XYZ & its our closest school"

& sadly we know too well from experience that its not about having kids who bully in DDs school, that is just life, they are everywhere, DD knows that herself & is very level headed over it BUT not all schools are equal in how well they deal with bullying - some are slow to acknowledge the severity of the problem & then when they do, they support the victims, but don't deal firmly enough with the actual bully's - as was the case with her last school - some schools support the victims & deal very harshly with the bully's themselves - suspension, expulsion & generally no messing about once they have been found out & warned - our first choice school is in this category, hence why its top of our list.

& we DID submit good supporting medical evidence etc with DDs CORRECT Paper forms, but there was a cock up & DD was assessed on the WRONG incomplete ONLINE form that wouldn't work properly with our computer (MAC) meaning it looked like we had only put down 1 choice & no medical evidence at all, it wouldn't even accept her name correctly, so our School place offer letter thanked us for our online Forms, in a simplified form of DDs name - the SA initially owned up to the error, but then later back tracked, though it was pretty obvious that was a cover up - seems even with our MPs help, there is no complaints procedure, only appeal -

I've since spoken with 2 other MAC user friends who had the exact same problem & had to go to appeal - though they did win, they didn't choose the same school we have, which unfortunately for us is the most sought after school in the region :-/

RockinHippy Thu 20-Mar-14 01:51:05

I should have also clarified on my last post...

The reason a school that deals strongly with bullying is needed, along with general good pastoral care, is because her medical condition makes her hypersensitive to stress - this means it affects her physically, usually with raging diarrhoea, stomach cramps! nausea, headaches & causing a flare up of flu like aches - doesn't matter how well she deals with the bully herself & she is very feisty & very strong minded & won't be pushed around - her body has other ideas.

She also injures very easily - having her arm grabbed & pushed up behind her for example resulted in a fracture & dislocation - another time a DC trying to steal her bag & her arm getting caught in the strap & the DC keeping on pulling resulted in a dislocated elbow

So she really needs a school were DCs respect each other & the staff

PanelChair Thu 20-Mar-14 07:33:35

Not being Catholic does not disqualify you from appealing for your second choice school. As with your first choice school, it would be a matter of demonstrating to the panel that your child's need for a place at the school outweighs any difficulty to the school in admitting another pupil. How closely (or not) your child fits the school's over subscription criteria isn't the issue.

prh47bridge Thu 20-Mar-14 09:39:18

Thanks for your PM.

This LA may be in breach of the Admissions Code. Please refer them to the Schools Adjudicator.

There are two areas of concern. Firstly they use a lottery as the tie breaker for all their schools. This may be in breach of Admissions Code paragraph 1.35 which bans the use of a lottery as the principal oversubscription criterion. Whether or not it is a breach revolves around the interpretation of "principal criterion". They may get away with it on the grounds that in-catchment siblings and other in-catchment pupils get priority but I certainly think this is against what the government intended when it introduced this section of the Code.

Secondly they say that changes of preferences will not be considered until after 30th June, their argument being that allowing earlier changes of preferences gives parents who change their minds an unfair advantage by allowing them to list more than three preferences. I don't think their justification holds water - the new preferences replace the old ones so at no point will the parents have more than three preferences. In any event, paragraph 2.21 of the Admissions Code states that parents can apply for any school at any time outside the normal admissions round. This policy seems to be contrary to that.

I haven't been able to find a statement that applying for additional schools would mean that your appeals would not be heard but any such statement would clearly be contrary to the Appeals Code - something else to raise with the Adjudicator.

These points don't directly help your appeal. The Adjudicator can't order them to admit your daughter, only make sure they fix their admission arrangements for future years. And I don't think you can argue that these breaches cost your daughter a place. But I think you have a decent case on the grounds you have listed. You should also raise the issues around their system, specifically:

- the online form appears not to work correctly on some popular browsers (Safari on Mac presumably)

- due to the problems with the online form you submitted a paper application but this appears to have been ignored

If the panel accepts that they ignored your paper form and is of the view that you should have got a place had the application been processed correctly that is a very strong case for your appeal. I would therefore make these points first before moving on to the issues in your OP.

RockinHippy Fri 04-Apr-14 11:46:22

Thank you so much fir going to so much trouble prh

apologies so slow to reply, I've had a lot going on here, thankfully some of it included getting DD a start at a new & fantastic local primary school as her old school was affecting her health so badly, that I had to take the hard decision to pull her out. Something going in our favour there at least as after applying for a different school, I had a call from an inclusions person( forget correct title) & after deciding that the other school that did have a place, actually had similar problems in yr6 to the school we had left - so they have made a space for DD at an impossible to get into school based on her previous history showing she is a model pupil, learns easily & requires little teaching - something I'm also hoping will help with our appeal smile

Its just so good to have my all singing, all dancing, bubbly bright girl who looks forward to going to school & chatters on about what she is learning back smile

That is all REALLY interesting & though the LA do say they give siblings priority I know of at least 2 cases this year where that has not been the case & nit even looking at places at such a popular school as DD either - DDs old classmate is the only other to be offered the awful school DD was (just out of special measures academy, with well below average attainment level) - it means him journeying in exactly the opposite direction to his close aged DB & even further than DD - ironically he is another real bright spark too, which makes the sceptic in me wonder what's really at play here as we've heard if others offered this same school & they are also all considered more able/G&T, but I'm sure that's just my mistrust of the daft system we have.

I will definitely do as you say as far as the adjudicator goes, as our system is a complete joke, it meant to make it more fair, stopping only those who can afford the houses next to the best schools qualifying for catchment area etc, but it doesn't work as the catchment area is really mixed anyway, depending on which direction you go & I'm seeing that out of those who are offered the bad/not so good schools, its mostly only the ones who would be affording those so called better houses who actually bother to appeal, so plain stupid system all round sad

We now have our appeal date, first date covers whether DD was assessed fairly & whether it would prejudice the school if they make extra space for her, which I have some email evidence to submit & then our second date mid May for the health criteria etc - which thanks to a private Ehlers Danlos specialist appointment last week - initially booked because the NHS clinic was suspended & I was hoping for help with the school issues at the one I had to give up & pull her out of as she was so scarily ill & depressed by the situation there -

but the specialist was fantastic & is fully supporting us in this appeal & I now have a very detailed medical report that includes DDs travel sickness as a symptom (we didn't realise that) & that a sports college, which is the specialist area of the school we are fighting to get into, would be of massive benefit to DD along with a lot more very helpful stuff, such as her hyper anxiety & its physical affects meaning bullying affects her health & ability to be in school - I've an LA document that shows this school to be the most effective with bullying in the county.

So I am confident we have a very strong case & good supporting evidence, but its still very scary as there is a huge problem with high schools & lack of places here right now, so we are up against a huge amount of other families & if we lose, we have no school for DD to go too - EEK!

PanelChair thanks for that - we can appeal for second choice, but I found out we are up against 130 Catholic families as it was also massively over subscribed this year, so as its a church school & outside of the normal selection here as a result, we have no chance at all, so no point & I stupidly messed up with our 3rd choice school as its further away than I realise - still a great school, but DD would be made ill by the journey & that sort if negates our argument to get in, in part anyway sad

All we can do is hope for the best with this appeal & if not, I can then reapply to the other catchment area school & this school again & make sure we are top of the lists - though our second nearest school isn't great as I know of 3 families who have recently removed kids from there because of how badly bullying was handled

So I'm crossing EVERYTHING for this appeal

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