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School appeal - was it ok for the LEA to say this?

(25 Posts)
housemoverihope Thu 16-Jul-15 06:01:19

We had our school appeal yesterday and other than having no clue how it actually went I left with a bit of a query.

We originally applied for 6 schools in the authority, purposely not including the second nearest or a local faith school for various reasons including that they are both in special measures. We have been offered a school 90 mins away by bus and appealed yesterday for a place at the catchment school.

The woman representing the LEA admissions produced a map early on which she gave to the panel indicating our house to show we are in catchment. Later when asking us questions she asked why we hadn't considered any of the closer schools as she was aware they had lots of places. The panel then checked the map and there were raised eyebrows as if to say "they are complaining about distance when they could have quite easily had a closer place?"

I thought this was a bit unfair as I thought we were only discussing the appeal place and the allocated place? She did it under the guise she was being helpful but I feel a bit gutted that this will be considered as part of the decision? Anyone know whether I am justified in being irritated?!

Decorhate Thu 16-Jul-15 06:33:07

Don't know about the rules on this but personally I am always a bit hmm about people who don't put a local school they have a good chance of getting into as their final backup choice. But I'm guessing those two schools no longer have places or you would have been allocated one of them? So probably won't affect the outcome.

ThumbWitchesAbroad Thu 16-Jul-15 06:38:38

Well what did you expect, really? You've listed as an option a school that is 90 minutes away, or you wouldn't have got a place there; and now you're appealing it because it's too far away, but you haven't listed 2 schools that were much closer because you don't want your DC to go to schools in special measures (understandable) - but surely you knew there would be a risk that you would get allocated a school so far away if it was on your list?

So I think YABU to be irritated by their reaction, yes.

Tryingtokeepalidonit Thu 16-Jul-15 06:42:54

Well, if your appeal is on the basis that the school allocated is too far away, yet you failed to apply to close schools, it is pertinent to the appeal.

ThumbWitchesAbroad Thu 16-Jul-15 06:47:55

Yes, that's what I meant too, only Trying said it far more succinctly!

youbethemummylion Thu 16-Jul-15 06:52:02

If the two closer schools still have places you would have been given a place there not 9O minutes away so the 90 minutes away school must have been on your list. Don't put it on your list if you don't want to get it. What are your grounds for appeal? There is no such thing as a catchment school.

Blu Thu 16-Jul-15 06:54:06

On a 'human' level they might be wondering why you didn't apply to a nearby school, if it is proximity you are arguing, but technically (and that is what they are there to do ) they should only be considering your case for going to the school in question.

Did you have other reasons for the appeal? Specific factors about that school that make it the best school for your DC, and why they will be disadvantaged if they don't go? If distance was your only factor then they will have wondered about why you didn't apply to others at a reasonable distance, but they should only focus on your case FOR the school in question, I think.

Diamondsmiles Thu 16-Jul-15 06:55:48

Youbethemummylion what do you mean by the statement that there's no such thing as a catchment school?

housemoverihope Thu 16-Jul-15 06:58:05

There is such a thing as a catchment school? The school we are in the catchment area of?

I totally get what you are all saying but I wasn't really asking for an opinion as in "yabu" as I am fully aware I am! I was just asking whether they are allowed to do that.

I put the 6 schools down that I wanted in order of preference. I am appealling for a school not against another. He'll be going there if we don't win. The other two schools were never an option (special measures with a focus on bullying/safety)

youbethemummylion - some areas do have catchments still. Ours does (South Lakes)

housemoverihope Thu 16-Jul-15 07:00:56

Sorry blu, yes lots of other factors we raised but it's hard because none of them felt like they were important enough to the panel (although they are obviously very important to us!) Extra curricular, courses offered etc.

enderwoman Thu 16-Jul-15 07:12:26

I think you have realised that choice is often an illusion created by politicians. Most people are lucky to have 2 great schools to choose from and the lea is right- you should have put the nearest school as number 6. Sorry...

housemoverihope Thu 16-Jul-15 07:17:50

I did put my closest school down first (catchment school) but yes you're right there's not really a choice when it comes down to it!

lougle Thu 16-Jul-15 07:21:20

What year group is you DS due to be in?

Diamondsmiles Thu 16-Jul-15 07:22:19

Hang on, so you put your closest school down first, and this is your catchment school, yet you got offered one 90 mins away??

lougle Thu 16-Jul-15 07:23:09

Oops. Just seen that it's secondary. It's irrelevant.

OK, well it was reasonable to ask, if part of your case concerned the distance to the allocated school.

meditrina Thu 16-Jul-15 07:28:32

As this is posted in Secondary Education, you are looking at a 'balance of prejudice' situation ie: what is the balance between benefit/detriment to your DC by not being admitted compared to the detriment to the schooling going over numbers.

If part of your case is distance, and the impact on your DC, then it is entirely correct that this be raised during the appeal. I think that your position may have been weakened by them showing that there are closer schools with places available. Because the 90 minutes is your choice, not the only other alternative. Your reasons for not choosing the closers schools won't come in to it. Your DC could have a place much closer than 90 minutes.

So the panel's decision will come down to the strength of the other points in your case.

Where are you on the waiting list for the catchment school?

prh47bridge Thu 16-Jul-15 08:02:55

Since you included distance as part of your case I agree with others that this was a reasonable question. As Meditrina says, this may have weakened your complaint about distance.

To clarify something around catchments...

Most schools do not have fixed catchment areas. People tend to use "catchment" for such schools to mean the area from which they actually admitted last year. But strictly speaking if there are no fixed catchment areas you don't have a catchment school. However, if schools where you live have fixed catchment areas (often called priority areas) you are correct to call your nearest school the catchment school. However that is a minor point. Most people accept catchment school as a description for your nearest school.

Blu Thu 16-Jul-15 08:20:37

Good luck, OP, I hope the extra curricular factors were taken seriously and / or you get a waiting list place as it is your nearest school. In our area many people do move over the summer and give up their places, but often not until the last minute.

lougle Thu 16-Jul-15 08:34:27

You have a right to appeal for any school and the panel has to weigh up the strength of your case as you present it. The difficulty the panel will have is that if there are no outstanding features of this school vs the ones that have space, they can't allocate you the school on the basis that another local school 'isn't good enough' for your DS, when 200+ other children are sure to start there in September.

If your DS had been bullied by children due to attend there, or had suffered bullying to the extent that it was ongoing, etc, then you could have shown that bullying issues at the school in question are relevant, but the fact that it's in SM isn't a good reason to refuse a place there. So, the panel will have to take the availability of other local schools into account when considering whether they should limit resources for the children at the closest school by forcing the school to take your DS.

housemoverihope Thu 16-Jul-15 08:34:53

We are 2nd on the waiting list but since there have already been 12 successful appeals we need to wait until they are back under PAN before they admit from the list (ie not much hope!)

tiggytape Thu 16-Jul-15 11:17:35

I think it is fair enough that they pointed this out to the appeal panel because it was you who decided to make "unreasonable distance" part of your appeal case. The other side pointed out that it was your choice to list a school 90 minutes away in a bid to avoid a close but less desirable school. Otherwise it gives the appeal panel the (false) impression that you had no local options apart from the school you are appealing for.

As lougle says, if you had a special reason for avoiding a local school with vacancies (no wheelchair access, unable to meet an additional need, past bullies all going there....) then you had the option to say that but if the true reason is that the school is awful then, that carries no weight at appeal. After all they can't just leave the "awful" schools empty and grant appeals to everyone desperate to avoid them.

Distance and the availability of local places very rarely sways an appeal panel anyway though so, whilst it has put a dent in that part of your argument, that part of your argument was never the bit they'd consider greatly anyway (unless DC has mobility issues affecting ability to travel). The balance will come down to whether the panel think DC's needs and interests will be met by the school so well and are so well demonstrated that it outweighs the disadvantages to the school of having to take another pupil.

Diamondsmiles Thu 16-Jul-15 12:45:57

Prh47 there are still LAs that definitely do have fixed catchments for their secondary schools. In ours you can go on the council website and check out maps of the catchment areas of each school. Children living in the specific catchment area get priority over those outside except for LAC.

TheWildRumpyPumpus Thu 16-Jul-15 13:14:16

We are rural so our school has a catchment area of our village and the next one along.

In your case OP, since you brought distance up as a reason for appealing, it's fair game for the LEA to have their say on the subject.

prh47bridge Thu 16-Jul-15 13:28:14

Diamondsmiles - I know there are. You will note that I said "If schools where you live have fixed catchment areas...".

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