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Appeal panel members - how strong is my case?

(49 Posts)
Cystaltipps Thu 05-Apr-18 01:44:20


I'm looking for opinions about how strong my appeal case is as we currently live overseas (not crown servants) so attending the hearing will be difficult and costly. We have these options:

- pay for flights back to the UK and take holiday from work to attend the hearing in person
- pay a solicitor to represent us (it seems this is not received well by panels)
- ask one of our son's Grandparents to attend in our place (in the nicest possible way this may hinder, rather than help us wink!)

The house we own (and will be living in by Sep) is a mile from the school. The furthest successful applicant lives 13 miles away. The school we have been offered is also a mile from our house so we can't argue distance is an issue. We didn't get a place as our application was late and our overseas address was used - I accept this, just giving a bit of background.

Our appeal will be based on the following:

(1) The school's PAN does not align with its actual capacity.
The school (an academy) has recently built a new building which news reports say will be ready to use this June. The news articles say this will increase the capacity by 60 pupils. However, no increase has been made to the PAN (209 per year). The D of E website says the capacity (before the new building has been taken into account) is 1045, in May last year they had 957 pupils on roll.

(2) The school offers a more comprehensive education in my son's specialist subject than the one offered. My son is particularly good with technology, specifically coding. I appreciate this isn't (yet) measurable like sport, music or even other academic subjects. However, he applied and was accepted into a 'hard-to-get-into' coding club at his current school and the school we're appealing for offers a coding club too (the one offered doesn't). I can provide a copy of his acceptance letter into the club. The preferred school also offers 2 different KS4 ICT qualifications, while the offered school only offers one.

(3) Other (less compelling) arguments such as friendship groups and an oddly reassuring message from the school about getting a place
There is the existing friendship group argument but I understand this holds no sway. There is also some surprising advice re admissions on the appeal school's website, suggesting that it's unlikely anyone would be unsuccessful, eg. " in recent years we have been able to offer a place in Year 7 to everyone who wanted one". I don't know if this will indicate a flexibility on the part of the school to the appeal panel?

Anyway, I hope for a few viewpoints on the strength of this appeal which might help with our decision making.

Many thanks in advance smile

OP’s posts: |
Rudi44 Thu 05-Apr-18 09:25:57

Do you know where you are on the wait list? Presumably you must be close to the top? It sounds like you didn't get the place based on the late application maybe? Rather than distance or confusion over home address.
The comment on the website may not relate to appeals, you should be able to search and see any appeal history for this school, it sounds as though on the website they are stating through the various place allocation rounds everyone who wants a place usually gets one. Is the school in an area where there is a high proportion of pupils who go independent? This can have a huge influence over wait lists

Cystaltipps Thu 05-Apr-18 10:15:37

I think we might be at the top of the waiting list or the only ones on it, as, for 19 of the successful applicants this school wasn’t their first choice. So people aren’t clambering over each other to go to the school. How do I find out - through the school or the LA? Also that’s interesting that I should be able to look up previous appeal stats. Where would these be? I’m not even sure there would be any though as it’s been undersubscribed for so long. A reasonable number of local families go private but I’m assuming they would’ve done this already? Thanks for replying smile

OP’s posts: |
BalloonFlowers Thu 05-Apr-18 10:27:05

The people being offered their second choice is a red herring. If the school is full, there can be people who want it as first choice, but didn't get it, and people who put it as second choice and got a pkace as they met the criteria better.

As a side note: how did you apply from a foreign address? But interesting if there was a way round this, as it's what we are going to face in a couple of years. I thought you needed to be in the UK to apply?

Cystaltipps Thu 05-Apr-18 11:27:38

No, you can apply from any address but it’s obviously unlikely that you’ll get a place at a popular school as you’ll be at the bottom of the pile re the distance criteria. I found this on the school admissions code: “B.4 Admission authorities should be sensitive to the position of children of parents returning from working abroad, including children of UK nationals returning from foreign postings, such as service personnel, Crown Servants and diplomats.”

OP’s posts: |
tiggytape Thu 05-Apr-18 12:00:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Cystaltipps Thu 05-Apr-18 12:15:26

Thank you Tiggytape - sound advice. Out of interest can you think of why a school (academy) would not increase its PAN when it has increased its physical capacity? I’m trying to pre-empt what their argument in the appeal will be. Another Netmums respondent suggested they might be cautious about upping the PAN before the building’s completed. That might work in our favour as it’s apparently on track to be ready for use in June.

OP’s posts: |
tiggytape Thu 05-Apr-18 12:50:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tiggytape Thu 05-Apr-18 12:56:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

meditrina Thu 05-Apr-18 13:01:34

As you are Crown Servants, then you should be able to apply using your future address (this started as a Forces thing, but applies to all Crown Servants), but you need written proof (from your postings branch) if your return date and a link to the address you will reside at on return.

As your application was late, that win't help with the appeal, because the schoo, would have filled up with on-time applicants. But you should pursue this separately to get yourself bumped up the waiting list. Get on to this straight away, because if the waiting list moves you want to be placed according to the home address you are qualified to use, not an overseas one.

Cystaltipps Thu 05-Apr-18 13:06:37

The new building is an English block and all the local news reports say it will increase the school’s capacity by 60 pupils. Unfortunately we’re not crown servants :-(

OP’s posts: |
prh47bridge Thu 05-Apr-18 14:05:11

I'm not surprised they haven't changed PAN as the new building is not yet finished and in use. PAN for this year's admissions was set roughly a year ago. It would have been very risky to take the building into account at that stage. However, if it is definitely going to be ready for September there is a good argument that the school has the ability to accept more pupils.

BubblesBuddy Thu 05-Apr-18 14:13:50

60 pupils is two classes per year. So potentially 420 extra pupils. Although with no 6th form, it’s 300 pupils). Personally I don’t think one English block will accommodate an extra 60 pupils per year. There would need to be much more building than one English block. There isn’t extra science or additional classroom space for other subjects and this would be necessary for a school to increase the PAN by 60. It could also be replacing temporary classrooms and providing a library.

What, if anything, does the academy chain web site say? Or the Local Authority as they still have a role for planning admissions? From 209 (usually 210) to 270 is a big jump. It also suggests it has no 6th form and the numbers on roll are smaller higher up the school. Would it be opening a 6th form? This may also mean the PAN would be static.

prh47bridge Thu 05-Apr-18 14:16:44

I would read increasing capacity by 60 as referring to the overall capacity of the school, so that would be a PAN increase of 12 assuming none of the extra places are required for sixth form.

PatriciaHolm Thu 05-Apr-18 14:40:59

Hmmmmm - if it's a local newspaper report, I suspect it's been written by someone who knows nothing about PANs. So "increase capacity by 60" could possibly mean it's just 2 extra classrooms of 30 seats each.

you need to get details on what exactly it offers and when it will be available.

Cystaltipps Thu 05-Apr-18 14:42:09

Yes, I was expecting these 60 places to be spread across all years (there’s no 6th form). The school has just replied to say they didn’t increase their PAN as there was simply no need (they have been undersubscribed until now). They also said we’re at number 5 on the waiting list but that not all successful applicants have accepted their place and that they do not envisage a need for appeals. If it did come to appeal, they said they would be prepared to go over PAN. They also said “one way or another we are confident your son will have a place at the school in September”.

OP’s posts: |
OlennasWimple Thu 05-Apr-18 19:27:59

How would adding 12 to each year actually work, though? It must surely mean adding two new classrooms which can hold 30 people each, or the school is going to expand massively starting with two new forms of 30 in Yr 7 and working up from there

OP - find out where you are on the waiting list, and ask how much movement there normally is between now and September. You might get a place anyway through the normal process (though you obviously can't bank on this)

I can't see that the tech specialism is going to be a persuasive argument: you don't have a SEND requirement for your DC to attend a specialist school, and getting into a coding club at primary school isn't an indication that he is necessarily the next Bill Gates. Or indeed that his skills can't be developed at another school.

I would read the statement from the school as meaning "We have been undersubscribed so anyone who has applied to us has been given a place", not "We are flexible with our admissions numbers and will go over our PAN to enable everyone to enrol".

Experts will correct me if I'm wrong, but successful appeals are where you can demonstrate that the admissions authority has made a mistake (lost the supplementary evidence form that demonstrated religious observance, used the wrong postcode in determining distance, failed to take into the sibling link) or has made a decision so perverse that it is utterly unreasonable (separating twins and sending them to schools an hour apart in opposite directions). Your late application means that you will have been allocated a place after everyone who applied on time has been allocated (unless the admissions authority has a "late for good reasons" policy, and agrees that you met that). So allocating the places at your preferred school to on time applications, meaning that there was no space for your DC, doesn't mean that they made a mistake

OlennasWimple Thu 05-Apr-18 19:28:33

Sorry, x-post there

PatriciaHolm Thu 05-Apr-18 20:52:43

"Experts will correct me if I'm wrong,"

Yes, you are I'm afraid!

A secondary school appeal is about showing that the prejudice to the school of taking another pupil is less than the prejudice to the child of not attending. OP doesn't have to proof any mistake, or that the decision was legally unreasonable (these are relevant to an infant class size appeal).

Cystaltipps Thu 05-Apr-18 21:45:42

Can I ask about another technicality? I had thought the deadline for the return of the initial offers of places closed in early March (according to my LA’s website). So if people didn’t return the form by this point then their space opened up and was offered to the 1st on the waiting list? However the school we’re appealing for say they’re still chasing replies. Could this be considered a breach of admission arrangements? I’m clutching at straws again and OleannasWimple - of course I don’t think my son’s coding club attendance makes him the next Bill Gates (!) but I’m throwing everything at this and hoping some of it will stick. Parents going through the appeals process are desperate creatures.

OP’s posts: |
EduCated Thu 05-Apr-18 21:48:34

Not an expert, but no. I understand it is generally accepted that LAs/schools should make some effort to chase up acceptances and that the deadline is not a hard cut off date.

admission Thu 05-Apr-18 21:58:54

No it is not a straw to grasp at. The admission guidance specifically states that the admission authority (the school as it is an academy) has to contact the parents a second time after the initial letter to confirm that if they do not respond they will have the place withdrawn. So it takes a lot longer than you think before the school will withdraw the place.
I would have more faith in the comment "If it did come to appeal, they said they would be prepared to go over PAN. They also said “one way or another we are confident your son will have a place at the school in September”. If this is in writing then they have given you an expectation that you will have a place and any appeal panel will have to take that statement into account in the appeal. Was it in writing?

Cystaltipps Thu 05-Apr-18 22:09:05

Yes, my communication with the school has been via e-mail so it’s all in writing. They have been quite positive about us getting a place, which is reassuring. They have also invited my son to an induction day, although I’m reluctant to send him if he’s not guaranteed a place, that might be a bit too mean.

OP’s posts: |
OlennasWimple Thu 05-Apr-18 22:17:14

I sympathise Crystal - we are overseas at the moment, and the one thing that terrifies me about coming home is sorting out the DC's schools. Good luck with the process flowers

BubblesBuddy Fri 06-Apr-18 09:11:36

Adding 12 to a PAN would not be done. Classes are 30 so PAN is multiples of 30 if anyone has and sense! So 180, 210, 240 etc. I tend to think it’s just 60 teaching spaces in the new classrooms too.

Schools can and do take more than PAN. Appeal panels often send more children to a school than the PAN. If a school is not challenging the appeals and wants the children, then it would seem places could be allocated by the appeal panel without any issue. The LA won’t really be able to challenge the school.

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