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School appeal... can they do this!?!

(14 Posts)
bourgeoisfishwife Tue 20-Mar-18 17:29:22

Long story short we didn't get our first choice secondary school for sept. First choice school we live one street out of catchment for, they select 30 odd kids who have a performing arts aptitude, and this criteria comes above distance. Our daughter did the test (she does a lot of dance drama stuff outside of school anyway) to boost our chances of her getting a place but still didn't get it.

We're appealing on several grounds. One of them (not the main one) is about the test itself. We asked for our daughters score and ranking which the school said they'll provide. We also asked for a copy of the scoring system they use, and asked if they moderate the scores at all and if so how. The school say they "can't" provide us with a scoring system. This makes me think there isn't one... which is not very accountable or fair. They said the scores are agreed by the heads of dance drama and music but mention nothing about moderation.

Legally I'm thinking they should be able to provide a copy of their scoring system? As this is freedom of information? And also is it normal for there to be no kind of moderation process after?

OP’s posts: |
Glumglowworm Tue 20-Mar-18 18:45:36

There are some brilliant appeal experts over on the education boards, so to get advice from people who know what they’re talking about, I’d recommend reposting in secondary education

admission Tue 20-Mar-18 19:06:49

Not sure about any moderation process but if they admit 30 on performing arts aptitude then they have to have a fair and reasonable process for carrying this out. Clearly you do not know what that process is or was and therefore that immediately brings into question how pupils are being chosen. I would have expected something to be within the admission criteria even if it only says an aptitude test around the pupils dance and spoken word capabilities or something similar.
I would put back in writing to the school the request for your daughter's score and therefore ranking so that there is no possibility of the school avoiding the question. The school must be able to show at appeal how they marked the aptitude and where your daughter was on their ranking. If they cannot show that then they have a serious problem at the appeal. Having said that i would expect they will come up with a score and a ranking which means your daughter did not get a place on aptitude. It is going to be near impossible to argue against the score as it is about what the three heads of department felt about what your daughter did at the test.
What you do need to do is find out from your daughter everything that she can remember about the test and see how this compares with anything the school say before the appeal. The other thing that does seem relevant is that you say you have a number of other appeal reasons. Given how hard the above might be to prove the test was flawed, i wonder whether it is worth not bringing this up if you have other strong reasons for appealing. You need to play to your strengths at the appeal and not involve arguments you may have little chance of winning.

bourgeoisfishwife Tue 20-Mar-18 20:13:26

So it is reasonable then to expect that the aptitude test is standardised, and that there should be some sort of form they use to score the children? Because I would assume this to be he norm, but the fact they say they can't provide it makes me think they have not followed a due process in their test. The admissions criteria simply says on aptitude for performing arts and nothing else.

OP’s posts: |
prh47bridge Tue 20-Mar-18 21:52:40

There definitely should be a score and a ranking. The test must be for aptitude, not achievement, and must be objective. What form did the test take? If the pupils were asked to perform and that performance was marked by the heads of department there won't be much to the scoring system.

bourgeoisfishwife Wed 21-Mar-18 07:57:29

It was a workshop. They did dance, drama and music tasks in small groups whilst being scored. No individual performances/tests.

OP’s posts: |
bourgeoisfishwife Wed 21-Mar-18 07:59:21

(And this was the point we were going to appeal on with regard to the structure of the test, because there were large numbers of children from feeder schools there who knew each other whereas our daughter only knew a couple of other people and this would have affected her confidence. Had it been an individual test it would have been fairer.)

OP’s posts: |
PanelChair Wed 21-Mar-18 08:17:10

I agree with admission and prh that there ought to be an objective test of aptitude - and that probably does mean there should be some sort of form or score card - but I’m not sure you can go as far as arguing that the test should be standardised. How? Against what? I agree you should ask in writing for your daughter’s score and ranking, but (in my view) your argument about her underperforming because she had no friends at the test is unlikely to persuade the panel, given it’s supposed to be a test of aptitude as a performer. Better to focus on any doubt about whether she was or wasn’t in the top 30 and on the other things that make this school the best for her.

TammyWhyNot Wed 21-Mar-18 08:27:37

If it can’t be standardised, how can it be a proper test of aptitude?

And therefore how can it be part of a fair and accountable admissions process?

I know the music and language tests, for example, at schools such as Kingsdale and Grey Coat are of a type that can be standardised. It is harder to see how a drama workshop could be? It does highlight the role these selective place tests play in engineering an intake, IMO.

OP: does your Dd’s extra-curricular involvement not give strong grounds for appeal anyway?

meditrina Wed 21-Mar-18 08:34:35

One thing to remember is that error/inadequacy in admissions procedures will only win you a place if it can be shown that it deprived your DC of a place they would otherwise have been offered.

Kicking out the drama scores might well be the right decision in terms of whether this part of the process is being carried out to an adequate standard, but that error affects all applicants who went to assessment. So any query about whether then rankings should be different will apply to many, and it is not clear that you can make a strong case on showzing the potential inadequacy (well, nit for you, but it would help future year groups)

Which is all a rather wordy way of agreeing with admission in recommending that you look at the other aspects of your case and build the argument in your DD's needs

PanelChair Wed 21-Mar-18 09:16:19

Yes, but if the OP has other strong arguments in favour of her child getting a place, it might help persuade the panel to give her the benefit of any doubt if she can also say that the test is so vague/subjective/lacking in rigour that her child might actually be one of the 30 best candidates. That’s a slightly different argument.

admission Wed 21-Mar-18 20:38:48

From the description of the aptitude test I would question how the panel making the decisions could know who was who if they were in small groups. Did they have numbers on them or some identifying method because otherwise there is no way they can guarantee they were selecting the right named pupils - unless of course they already knew the 30 they were going to nominate, which would completely nullify any aptitude test.

bourgeoisfishwife Fri 23-Mar-18 08:09:30

I am going to sit down at the weekend with my daughter and get her to remember everything she can about that day. I don't think they can have properly assessed 30 kids (they did 3 workshops with 30children in each) on 3 different subjects in 90 minutes, and therefore it wasn't a fair assessment. Unless they already knew who they were going to pick. Incidentally the school run a youth theatre....

Of the 90 children lots of those will have been offered a place on another criteria (catchment, feeder school etc.) it was explained to us that they filter out all these children in the allocation process to ensure that the aptitude places only go to those who won't get a place at the school on another criteria.

OP’s posts: |
prh47bridge Fri 23-Mar-18 08:39:25

The filtering you describe must be specifically mentioned in the admission arrangements. If it is not, they can't do it. They must follow the process exactly as laid down in the admission criteria. If the filtering is not mentioned, they have disadvantaged some pupils who just missed out on distance but who would have got in if some of the aptitude places had gone to people living closer to the school.

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