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In year admission appeal hearing

(48 Posts)
IRegretNothing Thu 19-Jan-17 14:58:49

I'm hoping for a bit of reassurance in advance of our school admissions appeal hearing as we've just had the lea's case and it's terrifying!
We moved to a town with only one secondary school. Its 0.59 miles away from our house but is oversubscribed and so our application for a place for our son in yr 8 was refused on those grounds. Places in his yr are 172 but they are operating at 177 currently.
Most of the secondary schools in the nearest town (8 miles away) are over subscribed but we found a place in a school 9.27miles by car from our house. We have younger children and work commitments so can't drive him ourselves and there is no school bus so our son uses public transport which costs us £25pm.
When we asked for financial help we were told we'd get petrol money if we drove him which we can't do.
After 4 wks at this school my son was complaining of being tired. The journey to/from school requires two buses and takes 1hr 25mins each way (when buses are on time) and frankly it's tiring him out. So we decided to appeal mainly based on this and the effect 3 hrs commuting is having on him which will only get worse when his workload increases as he goes through school.
We also mentioned a bullying incident in his new school, another child runned chewing gum into ds's hair and when he told his tutor, his tutor handed him scissors to cut it out himself (in front of his peers, ds was humiliated) leaving him with a chunk of hair missing. Other boy was not sanctioned. I waited a couple of days for the school to let me know what happened (son told me) but when I didnt hear I rang and complained that the teacher's management of the situation was inadequate. Boy was eventually sanctioned.
I mentioned this incident in our admissions appeal and I'm livid because ds's current school have minimised what happened (didn't say Ds had gum rubbed in his hair by other student just that his mother was unhappy he had gotten gum in his hair) and outright lying that they contacted me re incident and other incidents. Theyve also cited an ofsted report from three yrs ago saying bullying is minimal but what bearing does this have on my ds's experience of bullying?!
Should I mention the untruths from his current school or will that make me seem petty? Tbh the real reason we are appealing is becasue of the long school journey ds has to take when his catchment school is a 5min walk away. Should I mention bullying at all?
Do we have a good case? I'm worried we'll be dismissed instantly.
Thanks for reading my essay!

Witchend Thu 19-Jan-17 16:24:00

I think if you talk about the chewing gum incident you'll be wasting your time.
You're appealing for the new school not against the old. I get the impression from the experts on here that running down the old school at best gets totally ignored and at worst turns the panel against you (you might have a parent/old pupil/other connection to the other school for example)

They would normally pay transport for a school that far away-have you turned a closer one down?

IRegretNothing Thu 19-Jan-17 16:46:22

Thanks witchend that's what I thought. In our statement we mentioned there had been a few incidences of bullying but didn't go in to specifics for those reasons. The lea then contacted ds's current school for more info. I feel like I've opened a can of worms now as what the current school has said is not factual and makes us look pernickety. Ah well. I'll ask for them to please focus on the distance when coming to a decision.
No, we haven't turned any other schools down. For some reason where we are you can't simply contact the la and explain you've moved and ask them to find you a place, you have to ring each school individually yourself and ask if they have spaces. This was the nearest school (I enquired at 8 or 9 if I remember correctly!) who said they had space. It's kind of awkward as when I explained the situation to the la they said that secondary schools shouldn't tell us they have no space until we've formally applied but given how many schools we'd have to apply for we just applied for the catchment school and the one which had a space. In the info we've recieved from the lea prior to the hearing they acknowledge that ds's current school is his nearest only option so hopefully the fact that we haven't applied for every secondary school within ten miles won't pose a problem (I hope!!)
When speaking to the schol transport team they admitted they were liable for help with transport as it's over 3 miles away but would only help if they were paying for an official school bus (there is none) or X pence per mile if I drove him there which we can't do. They say there is no option to get financial help with a public bus ticket which seems pretty ludicrous.
What really bothers me is that there are current plans to build several housing estates down the road. All the bumf presented to local residents at meetings says that current local infrastructure is adequate to support the expected additional population. Clearly not as our daughters only just got into the local primary school by the skin of their teeth and we've had trouble registering with a gp! But that's a whole new thread!!

IRegretNothing Thu 19-Jan-17 16:50:59

Just to add-all the other school we've enquired at are at the nearest town and so only a mile or so closer to ds's current school. So even if by some fluke he a space at one of these marginally closer schools he'd still have very similar commuting times.

Middleoftheroad Thu 19-Jan-17 16:54:26

yes the emphasis should be on why the school you are appealing for would be a better fit for your son.

Agree that the transport angle should be your focus, otherwise you may dilute the argument and seem like a troublemaker.

I knew of a family who went to the media about their appeal and it didn't help their case. Quite the opposite.

Good luck. we may need to go to appeal this year and I am dreading it, but keep the points short, clear and factual.

IRegretNothing Thu 19-Jan-17 16:55:09

Correction- it's not £25 per month for ds's buses, it's £50!

IRegretNothing Thu 19-Jan-17 16:59:13

middle that's my concern. We're really not trouble makers, we could have appealed as soon as we had ds's place refused but we gave it a month to see how he got on at the other school and it's just a struggle for him.
Cool, calm and factual. Dh will be with me and can manage that well. I'm a waffler as you can see!!

IRegretNothing Thu 19-Jan-17 17:01:28

Good luck with your appeal, middle It is really quite a daunting prospect isn't it?! I'm sure you'll present your case well, you seem very well informed and with your head screwed on!

prh47bridge Thu 19-Jan-17 17:54:16

When we asked for financial help we were told we'd get petrol money if we drove him which we can't do.

That is not good enough. Given the distance involved the LA is under an obligation to provide free transport if that is the nearest school with places available.

but would only help if they were paying for an official school bus (there is none) or X pence per mile if I drove him there which we can't do

So if parents can't drive and there is no school bus they think that somehow relieves them of their legal responsibility? Ridiculous. Tell them that you will be referring this to the LGO unless they refund your transport costs to date immediately and provide a bus pass for your son.

you have to ring each school individually yourself and ask if they have spaces

Also not good enough. Whilst the LA can insist you apply to schools rather than through the LA, they are still required to tell you which schools have places (Admissions Code paragraph 2.21).

Witchend is correct that normally your focus should be on the school you want. However, when dealing with an in-year application it can be worth bringing up bullying if you can show that your child has been bullied and the school has failed to handle it correctly. The point is to show the appeal panel why the child cannot remain at their current school. Having said that, you only mention one incident and, whilst they took their time, they appear to have dealt with it. So overall I agree that you should focus on the transport. However, if there have been several incidents and you can show evidence that they have not been dealt with properly (copies of emails, for example) that would be worth bringing up. If you can show that the current school is giving false evidence that would also help - even if you can't disprove everything they say, disproving some of it throws doubt on the rest.

Government guidance is that a journey of up to 1.25 hours each way is reasonable for a secondary school pupil. This journey clearly takes longer than that so your argument is that it is unreasonable, you need a school nearer home and the LA is not helping you find one. As the LA has acknowledged that this is the nearest school with places available the fact that you have not applied to other schools should not be a problem.

You can strengthen your appeal further by looking for things the catchment school offers which are not available from your son's current school that are relevant to him. For example, if he is musically talented and the catchment school has more extra-curricular musical activities that would help.

bojorojo Thu 19-Jan-17 22:29:49

I would also consider what the catchment school offers after school that he might be interested in. Clearly the long journey home at the moment stops him joining anything at his current school. In general focus on the opportunities at the catchment school.

Most schools have a PAN that is divisible by 30. 172 is not. 180 is. Most schools would consider they had 3 places available with 177 in the year group! 172 is not an even number in every class, assuming there are 6 classes so this seems unusual. 174 would be 29 per class but I have never seen this in my LA where all PANs are divisible by 30.

IRegretNothing Fri 20-Jan-17 08:03:02

Thabks prh47bridge and bojorojo
That's really interesting about PAN. When we first enquited about an appeal the appeal co-ordinator said they looked at PAn and we have a good case based on that but receiving the LEA's argument against offering a place has really knocked the wind out of our sails.
I will try and emphasise what our closest school has vs his current one.
I've mentioned in my statement that as a result of being so far away, ds can't attend after school clubs etc but not specified which. I'll look into it.
It's difficult as his current school is actually very modern (only 4yrs old) and has had a lot of money thrown at it and is very well appointed. It offers a wider range of subjects and has great facilities. They also are only functioning at half capacity so plenty of resources. However, ds is so knackered that I don't think he feels the benefit of it. He's not able to work at his best.
The only thing I can think of is that he's v.v good at maths and teacher is not challenging him at all. He finishes work v early in lessons and sits twiddling his thumbs. Teacher won't set him any additional work, not even 'busy' work simply to keep him occupied.
Then there's the fact that I've written two letters as ds is still not registered with 'show my homework' and I've had to set him my own version of homework as he can't access the specifics (ie write a creative piece about this landscape (random, unreferenced picture), analyse this propaganda from the boer war etc)
All these little things sound pernickety and fussy when I mention them.

languagebridget Fri 20-Jan-17 08:40:15

I think you really need to concentrate on why the closer secondary school should take him. We won our secondary school appeal based on the PAN. The school had set this number very low. We got the capacity assessment for the school, which shows how many children the school could safely accommodate and it was a lot higher than the school was using for the PAN. So the argument that the school was full was dismissed.

prh47bridge Fri 20-Jan-17 08:47:44

It may sound pernickety and fussy to you but it all helps.

Why has the LA's argument against offering a place knocked the wind out of your sails? What does it say?

eatingtomuch Fri 20-Jan-17 08:51:41

Also focus on your sons emotional well-being. It is going to be difficult for him to become part of his local community if he is attending a school a distance away.
What impact is it having on his emotional well-being/mental health traveling to school daily.

IRegretNothing Fri 20-Jan-17 09:34:11

prh47bridge I guess it's the language used and the fact that my son's Head of Year has misrepresented the facts so comprehensively and made us out to be difficult. I was feeling relatively confident that things were starting to be handled properly by them but that they've trivialised it so much has made me lose a bit of faith in them.
At one point the HoY writes, "X didn't get along with one other boy in his tutor group and his tutor has been in touch with his mother to discuss this." Tutor was never in touch with me about something like that and tbh I wouldn't consider that bullying. Rubbing chewing gum in another child's hair and calling him homophobic slurs are though and it's all being conflated and minimised. I don't have any email record of this though, I spoke to school over the phone.
It feels like his current school are going out of their way to make me out to be difficult. I don't know how to say, "but she's lying!" without it turning into a case of he said/she said and me sounding like a petulant child and difficult mother.
I know I need to focus on other things but I feel that this misinformation will colour the panel's view of us as parents and troublemakers and undermine our primary reason.

In the report it says that the agreed pupil capacity limit as agreed by the Sectetary of State is the same as the admissions figure which they are currently exceeding. It also says, quite dispassionately, that the school my son currently attends is a perfectly adequate alternative to the school we want a place at.
This is going to sound like a drip feed but Dh took ds to the Drs last week as he's been having recurring stomach aches and constipation. He's now on medication for ibs. I wasn't there in the appointment but acording to dh, when ds was explaining his symptoms he mentioned that he's mainly getting pains in the evenings and mornings and the dr was asking him about school. Dr suggested it was a symptom of anxiety. I'm not used to "making a fuss" and I'm considering mentioning it at the appeal but worry that the timing will seem 'convenient' so I'll probably let it go. My reluctance to bring this up at appeal makes me feel like a bad Mum though. The thing is, DS has also been advised to cut down on dairy and whilst I don't doubt that there is an anxiety related factor in ds's bowel problems, I can't categorically say that it will improve with him moving schools or that it isn't just needing a change in diet.
I'm a bit muddled really.

IRegretNothing Fri 20-Jan-17 09:35:26

Thanks to eating and language and all other posters too!

prh47bridge Fri 20-Jan-17 10:21:19

If you don't have proof of the bullying it is probably best not to spend too much time on it, but I would recommend sending emails to your son's school in future to create a paper trail (although I hope you win your appeal so that won't be necessary). I'd leave out your son's stomach aches and constipation as you don't have any evidence that it is related to his school.

The important bit, from the panel's point of view, is not what your son's current school says. It is the case the catchment school makes against admission. If they have simply said that they are over capacity and that your son's current school is an adequate alternative that is an extremely weak case, especially since your son's current school clearly is not an adequate alternative as the journey time is unreasonable and the LA is failing to meet its statutory obligation to provide free transport. Simply being over the official net capacity is not an argument to refuse to admit further pupils.

It is a bit of a stretch to say the capacity is "agreed by the Secretary of State". The SoS does not personally approve their net capacity. There is an official formula for calculating the capacity. This gives a range within which the net capacity must be set. It might be worth finding out the maximum and minimum figures from the net capacity calculation. If they have set the net capacity near the bottom of the range that indicates they have room for more pupils, especially if the number currently on roll is below the maximum capacity.

languagebridget Fri 20-Jan-17 10:40:05

Yes, we looked at the net capacity calculation and as I said previously the school we appealed for had set their PAN at the very bottom of the range that the government allows. We had to ask for the Net capacity assessment from the council, they do not readily supply this information. At our appeal we were the only parent of 6 appeals for the school who had requested this information and as a result all 6 children won their appeal as the council failed to prove that the school was full. Their intake number is based on the net capacity calculation but you may be able to prove that their PAN is low. In my opinion you are better to argue why the school is able to take your child than why your child should not go to the other school. Our appeal was heard in two stages first the admission authority case then our case. We won because we argued the admission authority did not have a case as the school was not "full". We did not have to go to stage 2.

bojorojo Fri 20-Jan-17 10:47:09

I think the capacity and the PAN do not match up. Normally the PAN gives equal numbers in each class. You school does not and at 177 you could argue it has 3 spaces to equalise numbers. Do look into this further.

IRegretNothing Fri 20-Jan-17 10:57:10

Thank you so much everyone. I'm going to ring the council now.
I think you are all right. This is not about how my son is x, y, z and his school are not dealing with it adequately, it is about the lea's obligation to provide an adequated school space.
I'll let you know if i have any luck with the council.

IRegretNothing Fri 20-Jan-17 11:25:33

Ok, the person at the council has told me that as the school is an Academy Trust there is no Net Capacity Calculation and that the information is not available to me. They kept telling me the PAN which I said I had and then told me to ring the school and ask their figures directly. But seeing as the school is opposing our appeal it seems unlikely they'd be forthcoming.
I've had a look at the figures (I'm not good with them at all) and the total school capacity is 860 although they only have 728 on roll. My sons year is the only year that is over their PAN. It doesn't give an indication of tutor group numbers as it operates a vertical tutor group system.
I feel a bit out of my depth.

languagebridget Fri 20-Jan-17 11:44:58

Interesting, the school we appealed for was also a trust and I have just looked through the emails that went back and forth from me to the council. I was given the runaround by them. They told me the net capacity numbers were 1851. I then asked for a copy of the capacity calculation carried out for the school and it showed their min was 1841 and a max of 2046. So their net capacity was low and they could take my child.
If their total capacity is 860, and they only have 728 on roll it suggests they have space and can go over their PAN. That would be my argument for appeal, that even though they have exceeded their published PAN they have the capacity to safely take you child.

prh47bridge Fri 20-Jan-17 11:52:42

But seeing as the school is opposing our appeal it seems unlikely they'd be forthcoming

They would be. They are required to answer any questions you ask to help you prepare for your appeal. If they refuse to do so you can bring that up with the appeal panel.

Where did you get the capacity figure from? It seems a little on the low side. If they have a PAN of 177 I would expect the capacity to be 885 - more if they have a sixth form. If they only have 728 on roll they are a long way under capacity, which means the panel may well take the view that they have plenty of room for additional pupils. Whether they have enough staff is another matter.

If you would like to post the figures and anything else in the school's case that you are unsure about I will do my best to advise.

By the way, I disagree with bojorojo regarding PAN. Primary schools tend to have a PAN that is divisible by 30 or 15 due to infant class size regulations. Secondary schools are different. There are schools near me with PANs of 144, 168, 93 and various other odd numbers. Sometimes this is driven by pupils with EHCP plans naming the school, sometimes it is due to the capacity of the school. You need more information as to why they have set this PAN before you can try to argue that they have spare places.

IRegretNothing Fri 20-Jan-17 12:22:38

prh47bridge it says that their pan per class is 172 but that they have 177 in my son's (potential) year. So they've taken their total PAN of 860 I guess and divided it by the number of years excluding sixth form to give a PAN of 172 per year.
I'll give the school a ring. Gulp.

prh47bridge Fri 20-Jan-17 13:12:12

That's reasonable. However, if they have a sixth form the total capacity should include that as well.

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