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What Do You Think Of This Secondary Appeals Experience?

(7 Posts)
GirlInASwirl Fri 13-Jun-14 07:56:52

Had secondary school appeal today - seeking opinions on our experience.

Our presentation was at 3.30. Had feeling that we would be in middle of day. Tried to contact clerk before the hearing to see if we had a set time limit to present our case - no response.

Had spent many hours researching the school's case (voluntary aided) and replying to every point they raised. I knew that we would not get round to all our points- but was expecting some time to counter-act the schools case.

When came to hearing; we were given a quite extensive list on what we could not ask by the clerk. This was before we started to present; and I admit both my partner and I (co-presenting) were stumped not be able to ask the questions that we had prepared to counteract the school's case. We were advised to raise our social and medical needs only (son has a few medical issues and experienced extensive bullying at primary). No information was given as to why the school's case was not being questioned until a panel member jumped to our aid and told clerk 'that that was unfair' , we were then afforded that the panel had heard counter-actions to the school's case eleven times over (which must be challenging). I asked them to sum up what they had found out so far - only a small amount of our material.

We tried to raise other points (non-abrasively) - but were interrupted a few times. I am sure that (if we were allowed) we may have raised some new points that hadn't been addressed before. Whenever we contradicted the governor; the chair said that we 'were going round in circles'. I saw it rather as healthy debate.

We pushed on through and gave only some of our information and a strong summary of our case. The clerk approached us afterwards and apologised saying that he hoped that he had not affected our input. I felt compromised at this point (as I know that we are not really supposed to be giving information outside of the hearing). I told him that we had points to counter-act every part of the governor's statement and pointed out how much research we had done.

Every bit of research/conversation I have had has suggested that there would be some time to counteract the school's case and that everyone would be listened to in full without interruption - feel a little cheated.

Is this usual practice towards the end of the day if the panel have heard a few cases before. Were they trying to make it easier for us/ have they denied us a full hearing?

All views welcomed

GirlInASwirl Fri 13-Jun-14 07:58:18

Post moved to secondary education area of site. Please feel free to comment there. Thanks

prh47bridge Fri 13-Jun-14 09:23:34

we were given a quite extensive list on what we could not ask by the clerk

If you lose your appeal that is grounds for complaint to the LGO or EFA (depending on the type of school). You should be allowed to ask any question within reason. It is not the clerk's job to decide what you are or are not allowed to ask. That is up to the chair of the panel. Personally I would have ignored the clerk and asked anyway but I know most parents would not have the confidence to do that.

Yes, it can be tedious for the panel to hear the same points in every appeal. That is one of the reasons to the admission authority is allowed to arrange a grouped multiple appeal where all appellants are together for stage 1. If they don't do that the panel must treat each hearing separately and allow you to make your points, no matter how often they have heard them before.

Whenever we contradicted the governor; the chair said that we 'were going round in circles'

Hard to call. The chair needs to control the appeal and keep it on track. If you really are going over the same ground repeatedly it is fine for the chair to put a stop to that. If you were raising new issues the chair should allow you to do so. Given the clerk's apology after the hearing I think you may have a case to refer to the LGO/EFA on this point as well.

GirlInASwirl Fri 13-Jun-14 11:10:54

Thank you for that - who are the LGO/EFA? How can they be contacted? PM me please.

All our questions were based directly on the school's statement.

Felt like something had happened before we entered the room - friction in the air.

The clerk did actually start telling us what we could/could not raise before we even entered the room. As the clerk is responsible for ensuring legal procedure is followed; we just thought that maybe he knew of some legislation that we did not in relation to this advice.

You mentioned about confidence - but I also think that it is difficult for parents to know which way to go when the role of the each member is not explained beforehand. We did not know how it would be received if we ignored the clerk.

We did try to ask questions of the rep anyway and were stopped/interrupted. We were reminded that we needed to focus on the medical and social needs instead.

I agree that if the hearings are to be individual that every single one should be heard in full. I just think that it is courteous and respectful of parents that have prepared well.

I don't think the appeal was going off track when the chair said 'going round in circles'. I think the school rep raised a point and we countered it and vice-versa. I think this was more a referral to the fact that our points were as strong as each other - which is not quite the same thing. There was only repetition on one point - once.

tiggytape Fri 13-Jun-14 23:26:34

As prh says - it is their tough luck if they are bored by hearing the same stage 1 information and debates over and over again. It forms an important part of any appeal (overcoming the prejudice to the school of admitting more children or at least casting some doubt on the extent of that prejudice). If lots of people are appealing, they are allowed to arrange a group hearing for stage 1 where all parents attend to speak and ask questions. If they choose not to, they have to hear each stage 1 and stage 2 appeal in full.

If it is an academy, the EFA (Educational Funding Agency) will listen to complaints about conduct of appeals
If it is a community school, the LGO (Local Government Ombudsman) will listen to any cases where appeals were not dealt with correctly.
Both bodies deal with cases where appeal procedure was not correctly followed. They don't deal with cases where the appeal is correctly conducted, the parents lose and are unhappy. But in your case, you would have strong reasons to question how it was handled. They have the powers to order a fresh appeal and sometimes (in rare cases) to recommend a place be offered at the school with no fresh appeal. In practice their recommendations are followed when they make their findings.

GirlInASwirl Sat 14-Jun-14 09:21:37

Thank you both for your inputs. I read up on both sets of complaints procedures yesterday. Like you suggest; the procedure does not appear to have been followed in terms of stages discussed or impartiality. We felt rushed and I am sure that our arguments (even for our side of the case) were blunted because of previously being shut up.

We will see what the decision letter says when it arrives - but I will make further enquiries about our rights in the meantime.

Can I ask - if the LGO (its a voluntary-aided school) suggests a second hearing; are we likely to have the same school rep again? How long does the complaint process take to resolve?

prh47bridge Sat 14-Jun-14 20:10:01

Impossible to say for sure but with a VA school I think it is quite likely you would get the same school rep. They won't be overflowing with people who can represent them at appeals.

How long it takes depends in part on how quickly the school respond to the LGO's requests for information. The LGO prioritises school admissions cases so it is usually just a few weeks.

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