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Group appeals

(16 Posts)
Jaq2 Mon 12-Mar-18 14:44:00

My son, along with around 20 others, has been refused a place at our local school. It was a shock as local children have previously got in and the local primaries take the Yr5s and yr6s for taster days, to the dress rehearsals of the high school's shows, the band go there to practice, etc. But this year, a year or so after a large new housing development was built opposite the high school, the east end of our "township" is deemed too far and we've all been allocated a distant school we know little about (save for all the gossip about how bad it is!). The children will have to go past our local school on at least 2 buses. The allocated school is as surprised as us (they thought the 30 extra places they have agreed to this year were for the new houses built near them). Unsurprisingly everyone's reaction is to appeal. Does anyone know if the LA will have a Group Appeal and if so, whether there is anything different we need to do about preparing for our appeal? I feel I should keep my plans to myself to give my son the best chance of a place, but equally I want to support the other local families and I feel so cross with the school (an Academy which prides itself on links with its local community, which we no longer seem to be part of) and the LA for not planning for this when it gave permission to build all the new houses (plus the other 5 developments which are being built nearby). Sorry this is just a bit of a rant, but any advice will be gratefully received!

admission Mon 12-Mar-18 15:12:23

If there are 20 appealing then the appeal is probably going to be a group appeal anyway. What this means is that all who are appealing are together for part 1 of the appeal, where the school explains why they cannot admit. You can ask questions of the schools case and attempt to knock holes in their case not to admit. Then in part 2, when there is only you present, the school will say the specifics of why you could not be admitted - too far away etc and then you will have the opportunity to explain why a place should be made available for your child. All cases will be heard and then the panel makes decisions.

PatriciaHolm Mon 12-Mar-18 15:24:18

If there are many appeals for one school, they will if possible be heard by the same panel over a few consecutive days and will often start with a Group Stage One, which is where the school makes its case that it is full to PAN and cannot take any more children. All appellants would be in attendance, and can ask questions to the school about its case (but not about their own case). Here you would raise questions about how the school has dealt with being over PAN in the past, sizes of classrooms, how they deal with lunch times, is there any actual evidence of overcrowding etc...Remember you are not trying to prove that it can cope with all the appellants, just at least one, in order to get to the next stage.

The key issue I've seen in similar cases is that parents tend to get rather irate and wound up at this point, for understandable reasons. However, it's not the schools fault this has happened - it seems that they have already taken a bulge this year from what you say, so are doing what they can. Is it a bulge or a permanent increase? An appeal is not the place to raise questions about why there aren't more school places in other local schools, for example, or why the LA allowed so many houses to be built.

If after this stage the Panel disagree, think it has not made its case at all and can take all the children appealing, then all appeals are won. This rarely happens unless there the school doesn't put up any sort of case and is actually happy to take the children.

Usually the school makes a case that admitting more children would cause at least some prejudice to the school. At that point, the appeals move on to the individual, private stages, where it is up to you to show that the prejudice to the school of admitting another child is smaller than the prejudice to your child of not attending.

prh47bridge Mon 12-Mar-18 18:03:33

I feel I should keep my plans to myself to give my son the best chance of a place

That isn't really an option. In the first stage of the appeal (the group stage) you must ask any questions you have or present any evidence that shows a mistake has been made or that the school can cope with more pupils. You can't keep it back until stage 2. If you do, some panels won't allow you to present that information at all. If the panel allows you to present the information they will take it into account for all the appeals. There is no way to gain an advantage for your son by holding information back.

shouldwestayorshouldwego Mon 12-Mar-18 18:16:50

Do you mean keep back information you gather from sites like this? Reasons you are putting in the appeal for why your son is particularly disadvantaged? Unfortunately I think that I probably would keep some of that information to yourself. I would share enough to keep you in the loop with the other parents but keep the specifics- my Jonny wants to study Spanish because his grandmother is Spanish type information to yourself. Hopefully they will put on a bulge class but if they decide they can only take one extra child per class you want your ds to be the one they take. There are, as the experts have said, two stages to the appeal the stage one which is often heard as a group and the stage two which is your individual reasons. It is the reasons in stage two that I would keep quieter on.

prh47bridge Mon 12-Mar-18 18:24:07

Yes, you don't need to share anything that is specific to your child. However, if it is applicable to other children as well you have to share it.

Jaq2 Mon 12-Mar-18 22:48:07

So if I intend to argue that a local bridleway which is well surfaced (more like a lane than a path) and used by a considerable number of children to walk to and from that school every day is a "safe, walking route" I would have to say that in the first part of the appeal? But the personal things my son needs in a school would be in the second part and not need to be shared with the other parents?
The school has already agreed to take on an extra 10 children this year (1 per class) but the council have forecast the numbers of places required will keep going up, with up to 470 extra places needed in 6 years time. They are hoping to establish 2 new free schools (on the other side of the borough!) within 5 years but state "Co-operation from secondary Academies will be vital to the provision of sufficient school places as options at LA maintained schools have been fully utilised". Can we use this in the first part of the appeal, i.e. that our local school will be expected to increase numbers under pressure from the LA, so can they not fit another 20 in now?

Jaq2 Mon 12-Mar-18 22:50:36

Is there a legal limit to the number of children per class at secondary schools?

shouldwestayorshouldwego Mon 12-Mar-18 22:58:26

Well unless they are already committed to taking an extra 20 next year. If they have taken an extra 10 already then an extra 20 will bring it to a whole extra class which on one hand makes sense, however at secondary it isn't as simple as one extra classroom. It depends on how the whole timetable works because if the science block is fully booked for lessons or the teachers are all at full capacity, the lunch queues are awful etc., then one extra class could mean lots more teachers, squashed specialist rooms etc.

Is the bridleway lit? Think around here it needed to be lit to be considered a safe walking route. Might be different more rurally though.

shouldwestayorshouldwego Mon 12-Mar-18 22:59:47

No legal limit but they start muttering about desk space, number of text books, number of children around a bunsen burner etc.

prh47bridge Mon 12-Mar-18 23:42:18

Re the bridleway, yes, that belongs in part 1 of the appeal. And yes, the personal stuff belongs in part 2.

Nothing to stop you using the LA's statement but I doubt the appeal panel would give it any weight. The LA saying they want local academies to take more pupils doesn't mean it is going to happen. Even if it does, they may need to carry out building work to create additional capacity. So it doesn't prove that they can handle more people this year.

As the PP says, there is no legal limit on the number of children in a class.

Jaq2 Tue 13-Mar-18 00:16:17

Thanks for all your help. Yes I'm sure the LA will state paths need to be lit and the Academy will state they use the LA rules - ironic as if my son walked via the bridleway he would have to cross one road. If a child who has got in and lives a few streets away from us walked by lit paths they would have to cross 12 roads! I know which I think is safer!
Oh well, I shall look round the allocated school later this week but off to count the pennies now and see if we can send DS (and his sister who I'm sure won't get in either in 2 years time) to an independent school - if they have any places!

admission Tue 13-Mar-18 12:34:43

You need to establish exactly what the LAs procedure is on distance to the school. If it is straight line distance then whether your son uses the bridlepath or not is irrelevant. If it is the shortest walking route then it should say somewhere on the LA admission website exactly what they call shortest walking route. In many cases they say via safe walking routes and these are pre-populated into the LAs computer software to allow them to work out the distance. When it is computer controlled that is sometimes not an exact science and they occasionally agree some peculiar routes. I would not say too much about the bridleway in your initial appeal document, just refer to a belief that the distance measurement might be incorrect and that you will confirm with more evidence nearer the date of the appeal. When you have an appeal date and preferably when you have the admission authorities reasons for not admitting, you should ask them in writing to confirm which route was used as the safe walking route. You can then flesh out your appeal documentation to say you believe that the bridleway is a safe walking route.
Part of your appeal is clearly to show that the safe walking route the school / LA are proposing is considerable further and more dangerous with the roads to be crossed than using the bridleway. Whilst I would not normally say use photos, this is probably one of those times when it could be to your advantage. A photo showing hordes of pupils from the school using the bridleway would be evidence that it is a well used path to counter the admission authority saying we do not think it is safe. Photos of any lights on the bridleway (if they exist) would also be good evidence.
The other thing that might just play to your favour, if the bridle way has not been the subject of appeal discussion previously, is that the school will rely on the LA distance data, whereas the presenting officer will be from the school. It just might be that they will not be able to make a convincing case not to admit if they are not used to having to defend the walking routes.

Jaq2 Tue 13-Mar-18 13:42:07

Thank you so much admission, that has given me some hope. The LA use a safe walking distance to your second nearest school minus distance to your nearest school (in which case we would have got in, as we would have if they used a straight distance measurement!) but the Academy use only proximity to them by safe walking distance. What they really should do is prioritise the children in their township, up to the county border, before they consider the children on the other side who don't even live in our township and are about 3-4miles nearer to the town's schools than all of us - but that's a battle for another day! Thanks again and I will wait for some good weather so that I can get good photos!

PatriciaHolm Tue 13-Mar-18 14:36:40

The LA use a safe walking distance to your second nearest school minus distance to your nearest school "

What an odd system. OP, would you mine PM'ing me the name of the school? I would like to take a look at that, it seems needlessly complex.

And with regards to giving priority up to the county border - that would be fraught with difficulty. Admissions authorities can have priority catchments, but having those catchments align with county borders would go against a legal ruling in 1989 which established that LEAs could not give priority to children simply because they lived in the authority's administrative area; all applications must be considered equally. Defined, fair, catchments are fine, but having them run along county borders is not!

Jaq2 Tue 13-Mar-18 23:28:58

I've PM'd you PatriciaHolm.

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