School Appeal / Appeals / Appeal(9 Posts)
Firstly I am going to only write this and then sign off for ever. I don't need a debate about this topic. I am only writing this for every parent out there who is, or possibly is thinking about appealing, now and in years to come. I Know while writing this there will be lots of people who disagree with me on this site and will vent their anger or frustration at what I say.
Remember all, most people come to mumsnet for information and advice on what others have gone through. I am providing this from my point of view only. No one has to listen/read.
We appealed for secondary school and in our opinion it was awful, biased, discriminatory and un-independent.
Rule 1. - Don't believe that all appeals are independent - our view in our area they are not! the panel know the school and the clerk knows the panel and the school, they often work for years together!. The panel often grow up in the area their children went to school, their grandchildren go to school they know other high profile people in the area. Now I must stress this is in our area! I am sure that there are areas where they are truly independent and I applaud those places. Remember also the panel members on this site that give advice are probably in the main the ones that care, the ones that spent time trying to give good advice and help to worried parents but remember also that there are a handful of panel members on here and there are hundreds if not thousands of panel members and clerks around the country!
Sour grapes I hear some of your cry - I agree we are very sour but have very good reason. When clerks answer questions on behalf of the school there is something to be sour about!.
Rule 2 - Don't think natural justice will win through. - In some areas natural justice is non existent it is all agreed before the parents enter the room for the appeal.
Rule 3 - Don't think you have rights even if there is discrimination. - The school can discriminate, the panel can then also discriminate, the only course of action then is either the ombudsman (which reading their previous reports seem to be truly independent) or the very watered down version the (EFA) Education Funding Agency which nearly all secondary schools will end up under!. If you have money you can hire a solicitor to take out a judicial review meanwhile your daughter or son are starting their settling in days! (I mean come on they know how far most parents will go!)
Rule 4 - Don't think for one minute it's a process that is meant to be relaxed and informal. - This is as serious as a court case. I would urge every parent who can afford it to hire a representative or solicitor at the panel. The process is time sensitive if you can win upfront it is better for your child. If you have to or are willing to go to judicial review or EFA/ombudsman it takes ages and you and your child are in limbo land.
Rule 5 - If you have good or outstanding schools value them. We have the worst schools in the country and over 90% are requires improvement or are in special measures we sadly are screwed. (unless I read my rule 9)
Rule 6 - A pre rule really - when the council talk about your school options quiet honestly you have none (Well in our area!) it must be a running joke that they laugh about in offices. Its all about money (As in where you live!)
Rule 7 - They can break the school admissions code (numerous times) and the appeals code and frankly they can get away with it unless you have the money and or gall to tell your child they are going to one school and then make them change if you happen to win 3 months later.
Rule 8 - Don't think the impact on the child is small doing all this. It's huge thats all I have to say on that one.
Rule 9 - When all else fails think about the power you have as a parent!!
When you are stuck, as you can not afford to take out a solicitor to sue for the discrimination that occurred with the council that betrayed you so badly. Put that energy into helping your child. I can not tell you the amount of stuff I help/run or volunteer with. So what have I done? I have stopped it all!. But why? well my job (I don't mean main job) now is supporting my child in all they do. Filling in all the gaps that not attending that school will now create. One very, very positive thing is that when I wrote my evidence for the school appeal, I wrote a very comprehensive view of my child, their strengths, weaknesses and what they required to push them forward, make them happy etc. I will now use this, to see what the school they have can offer and what the gaps are, so maybe I can fill them at home maybe! I will try my best.
If you are reading this and later you are let down by the system! just remember thousands are let down every day, I think the real sting is that its your child that is let down and not you. I have been let down hundreds of time in my life but I don't mind so much, I'm an adult , I learn, pick myself up and move on. The fact they let down and more seriously discriminated against a child is very upsetting. (as an adult they would have a major law suit against the council and school but as a child they seem to have less rights) and as we were told at the appeal its all about money!! I doubt they would have said that out loud if english was their second language can you imagine!!!!!
OTOH some parents go to appeal, present it themselves and win without much fuss.
There are some very experienced posters on MN who give excellent advice on school appeals.
Hiring a representative is often counter-productive, vast majority if solicitors do not routinely handle school appeals and expect it to be like a court. It is not.
If the Admissions Code is broken, that is definitely one for review. Did you post on MN for advice on your particular circumstances and the breaches which concern you?
I know you said you weren't going to engage with the thread you started, but I hope you will reconsider that, and avail yourself of the wealth of experience from posters here.
Rule 1. - Don't believe that all appeals are independent - our view in our area they are not!
True. Most are fully independent and very fair. However - and unfortunately - a few appeal panels are far too close to the school and not completely objective. An extra stage exists (LGO for community schools) to complain about this if suspected and a fresh appeal with a new panel can be ordered.
Rule 2 - Don't think natural justice will win through
True again. In many cases natural justice does win through because the parents' argument in those cases far exceeds the school's. But in some ways a panels hands are tied. A prime example of this is in Infant Class Size appeals where one extra child cannot be admitted if it takes a class above 30 even if the reasons are very strong. To win such a case exceptional or technical reasons have to be met and this is very hard to do. In other types of appeal though, it isn't so difficult.
Rule 3 - Don't think you have rights even if there is discrimination
You do have rights and these can be upheld through the various appeal and LGO or EFA channels. However one person's "discrimination" is another persons "perfectly legitimate admissions policy" eg in cases of faith or sibling or catchment priority
Rule 4 - Don't think for one minute it's a process that is meant to be relaxed and informal.
The process is not designed as a court case and legal representation in most cases is neither necessary or helpful. If you have a good reason for your appeal and can state it (and back it up eg with a Dr's letter) then nothing a solicitor can add to that will help.
If you are unable to make any written or verbal case at all though - if you struggle with written submissions or are exceptionally nervous for example and need help, then anyone who understands your points could do it for you.
Rule 5 - If you have good or outstanding schools value them.
Of course - but also know that such ratings are snap shots in time, potentially years out of date and subject to extreme changes. Poor schools can improve in 2 years just as Outstanding ones can become poor schools overnight (well the process of decline happens over time but nobody checks on those schools as often to see if they're still outstanding and they can lose their rating literally in under a week).
Rule 6 - A pre rule really - when the council talk about your school options quiet honestly you have none
Everyone will get allocated a school if they apply for a place. Some people only qualify for 1 school and have no real option to secure a place at any others unless they move / start attending church etc. On the other hand some people qualify for numerous schools (church goers with a sibling who pass the 11+ and live close to 2 schools for example). School admissions are about preferences. If you don't qualify for several schools then your preferences aren't relevant because you don't have realistic ones to choose between.
Rule 7 - They can break the school admissions code (numerous times) and the appeals code
Yes they can break it - usually due to errors on their part than any malice. But appeals are designed to deal with that and correct that. Where admissions rules have been broken, appeals aren't always necessary to rectify it and are almost always won.
Rule 8 - Don't think the impact on the child is small doing all this.
It's best to minimise it if you can. Be positive about the allocated school no matter how you feel about it. Be positive about making new friends and anything else that might be a worry. If your child knows you are appealing the decision, try not to give the impression that losing is a complete disaster. Unless you can Home Ed or go private, parents don't always have many options apart from appeals and waiting lists and neither of those are certain.
Rule 9 - When all else fails think about the power you have as a parent!!
You are right. Children who have a supportive home life do best no matter which school they attend. And children are away from school for 170/365 days per year - almost as many days at home as at school. As far back as 1966, reports concluded that "schools are remarkably similar in the effect they have on the achievement of their pupils when the socio-economic background of the students is taken into account." Well supported and affluent (unfortunately that is a big marker too) children tend to do better overall and the standing of the school has less of an impact on outcomes.
It sounds like you have had a bad experience, you have my utmost sympathy. The whole second secondary school admissions process is in my option completely unfair and stressful and utterly horrific. We didn't have to go as far as appeals but I prepared for it and it's a minefield and requires a steady nerve and a masters degree in negotiation. I hope whatever you have been through, things work out for you and your family.
I'm with you OP.
Just got letter rejecting appeal this morning. It was a foregone conclusion though. The head came I tot he appeal and said his piece - which was exactly the same as what he said to my neighbours' appeal too.
They 'don't have room' and this outweighs any need on our part.
As far as I can tell the standard response is 'we don't have room and your child has needs that we can't accommodate'
'We don't have room and your child's needs are not severe enough to outweigh the fact there is I room'
Take your pick and they always win unless they obviously fucked up in their process (we applied under medical and social)
Take your pick and they always win unless they obviously fucked up in their process
That is absolutely not true. Over 25% of secondary school appeals are successful. The vast majority of these are not due to the admission authority getting the process wrong.
The school will always say that they don't have room for any more children. If they didn't there would be no need for an appeal. They will say that for every single appeal. The appeal panel will decide whether or not that is true and, if it is, whether the child's needs are enough to justify admitting anyway.
I'm sorry you lost your appeal but most appeal panels do a good job. Most secondary school appeals are not a foregone conclusion.
I don't know your case so I can't say whether or not you had a good case. It may be you were unlucky with the appeal panel you got, or it may be that your case simply wasn't strong enough. But from years of experience helping parents with appeals I am certain that much of the OP's post does not reflect the reality of the system for most appellants.
I agree with Tiggytape's response to the OP. I would particularly urge people to ignore the OP's recommendation to hire a representative or a solicitor. I know of far too many cases where a solicitor or alleged "expert" has ruined a perfectly winnable case. I would, however, recommend that people get advice on Mumsnet. The experts on here give reliably good advice.
cant say much that has not already been said other than OP, sorry I disagree with a lot of what you say.
Everybody has the legal right to appeal for a place at the school of their choice and they should exercise that right. Unfortunately what also needs to go with that statement is the fact that your chances of success do vary from little chance in an infant class regs case to over 25% in the case of secondary school appeals
I always thought that what swung the decision when we appealed was my being able to explain to the panel from my experience as her mother exactly how dd's special circumstances impacted on her life. I really can't see how a solicitor who hadn't lived with dd could have got that across as well. What they needed to make the decision was not legal expertise; it was someone who could make them walk in dd's shoes.
As far as I know we were the only ones who got through out of maybe 50 appeals for that particular school. But then dd was perhaps the only child who could not have coped elsewhere.
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