11 plus appeals

Section A: Appeals General Points

For a summary of some of the key questions and answers, start here.

A lot of useful information can also be found on the Appeals Forum.

A1. Introduction

Please note that a new Appeals Code came into force on 1 February 2012 and applies to all appeals lodged on or after that date.

The appeal process

The School Standards & Framework Act 1998 gives parents a statutory right of appeal against any decision made by or on behalf of the admission authority. All appeals are basically the same in that they must conform with the law and Code of Practice. The main differences are (1) how strict the panel is [success rates vary enormously], and (2) how the appeals are organised [e.g. whether non-qualification is being dealt with separately, or forms part of an appeal for an oversubscribed school] – See E27

Issues to be considered at an 11+ appeal

In order to prepare properly for an appeal, parents need to be clear what issues they need to address.
* Is it maladministration (i.e. the admission authority made a mistake in the admissions process as a result of which it is clear that the child has been denied a place which he/she would otherwise have been offered)?
* Is it non-qualification?
* Or (if score is one of the admission criteria) is it not reaching a score high enough to gain a place?
* Or is it oversubscription?
* Or a combination of these?

Bear in mind that even though non-qualification – or not reaching a score high enough to gain a place – might be the initial reason for refusal, oversubscription could also be an issue by the time of an appeal.

Special rules might apply to certain appeals:
* Where a local 11+ review has already taken place, the appellant’s rights might be seriously curtailed because the Code now says that, provided this review was fair, consistent and objective, no other issues need be considered at appeal. (See B18: What is a Head teachers appeal? Do all counties have these?)

* In the case of primary schools, where parents are appealing for a Key Stage 1 class that already has (or will have) 30 pupils, the grounds on which an appeal can be allowed are severely limited under ‘Infant Class Size’ legislation. See here.

The appeal paperwork should make clear what issues will be considered at the hearing. If it doesn’t, ask for clarification!

Please note the following points

a. Sally-Anne, other moderators, and I – together with other regular contributors – are happy to try and help with specific questions on the Appeals Forum wherever possible. Without meaning to be too prescriptive, please help us by:

  • Stating which area you are from, and whether your appeal is to a Local Authority school, or to an academy or foundation / Voluntary Aided (VA) school that handles its own appeals.
  • First reading the Q&As to see whether your question has already been answered.
  • Reading previous threads in the 11 Plus Appeals Forum to see what has already been discussed.
  • Using meaningful topic titles can be a big help to other readers, e.g. “Deadline for submitting appeals in Lincolnshire”, “Question for Etienne about head teacher support”.
    Examples of less informative topic titles are “Appeal”, “Appeal Question”, “Question for Etienne”.
  • Giving as many relevant details as possible

b. Please be aware that any points discussed with us at any time may be used in the Q&As to assist as many other parents as possible.

c. Although most of our time is spent on 11+ appeals, we can offer advice on the whole range of education appeals from Reception to Sixth Form.

d. If you are about to embark on an appeal, then you need to be realise that it can be a very stressful process. Realistically the odds are against most appeals succeeding. If you have already been bitterly disappointed at the outcome of the 11+, ask yourself whether you can face the possibility of what some forum members have described as a “second hammer blow”. However, I suspect that most parents, provided they have some sort of a case, will choose to go ahead, otherwise they will always wonder what the result might have been. Just bear in mind that, no matter how good a case you may have, it is very unwise to go into an appeal expecting to win. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.

e. Remember that, although you could complain about a significant procedural error, for all practical purposes you cannot challenge the panel’s judgement.

f. Never compare your own case with someone else’s. You are not in a position to judge other people’s cases unless you have attended their appeal, read all the papers, and heard all the questions and answers. Those who comment on other cases rarely know all the facts, even if they think they do.

g. You do not normally need legal advice for an appeal, nor is it necessary to pay for a consultant to represent you – in my opinion you will usually stand a much better chance on your own.

h. Lastly, although the Appeals Forum provides a valuable opportunity for parents to share experiences, beware of generalising from the particular. Few parents who are successful at appeal really know why. It may be that the panel decided to give particular weight to something that hadn’t even occurred to the appellants. On the other hand, if absolutely everyone says “We wore a copper bracelet to our appeal and it worked,” it might be worth a try!

i. To sum up some of these points:

Be clear about why your application for a school is being refused, and what sort of appeal case you will need to present.

However good a case you may think you have, you must be prepared for the answer to an appeal to be “No”.

You cannot challenge the panel’s judgement.

Do not try and judge other people’s cases – or compare them with your own.

It is not normally necessary to pay for advice. Good advice is freely available – but be careful who you listen to.

Note: Links to external websites were correct at the time of writing, but can easily become out of date. If you find a link does not work, please feel free to let us know on the Appeals Forum here.

A2. Is there a deadline for the submission of an appeal?

There is no statutory time limit for the submission of an appeal, but Admission Authorities must indicate a date by which papers should be submitted (a minimum of 20 school days from the date of refusal of a school place), so that arrangements can be made for the main batch of hearings. Check carefully all the paperwork to make sure you don’t overlook any deadline, or you could miss having your appeal heard at the same time as everyone else.

A3. Do appeals always go to a hearing? Or can places sometimes be offered before the hearing date just on the submitted paperwork alone?

There is no provision for a decision in a statutory appeal to be taken without a formal hearing to which parents have been invited.

What occasionally happens, however, is that pupil X decides not to take up a place. That place is then offered to pupil Y by the admission authority, using the published oversubscription criteria. Pupil Y’s appeal can then be cancelled.

Some authorities conduct an internal review to sift the borderline 11+ cases (this is not strictly speaking an “appeal”, although confusingly the phrase “head teacher appeal” is sometimes used). If successful, there is then no need to go on to a statutory appeal.

A4. What is the Department for Education (DfE) Code of Practice on Appeals? Where can I find a copy?

This government publication sets out how school admission appeals are to be conducted.

The current Appeals Code came into force on 1st February 2012.

You can find a copy of the Appeals Code here .

A5. How is a disability defined?

The answer to all the following questions has to be “Yes”:

  • a. Is there an impairment?
  • b. Does it have adverse effects that are substantial (i.e. more than minor or trivial)?
  • c. Are the effects long term (at least 12 months, although the effects do not have to be the same throughout)?
  • d. Are there effects on normal day-to-day activities?

e. If there is a disability as defined above, and if the admission authority is aware of it, that authority has a legal duty to take reasonable steps so that the pupil is not at a substantial disadvantage when compared with other children, without justification.

f. You will need written support from an appropriate professional dealing with your child’s condition (an educational psychologist, for example), and – where the 11+ is concerned – this evidence should be submitted to the admission authority in time for them to consider whether any special arrangements would be appropriate.

A6. Does it make a difference if the grammar school is an own-admission authority school that organises its own appeals?

a. The DfE Code of Practice on Appeals applies to foundation schools, VA schools and academies as well.

b. Statistics

The latest available national appeal statistics (for admission in September 2013) are available here
It can be seen that 26.7% of all secondary school appeals were successful.
There are a number of changes in the way the data has been compiled, so the statistics are not directly comparable with previous years.

Unfortunately the Department does not publish separate figures for grammar schools, and the Local Authority figures do not show community/VC, VA, and foundation schools and academies separately.

c. Own-admission authority schools

The term “own-admission authority schools” is used to describe self-governing bodies such as foundation & voluntary aided schools and academies.

There has in the past been evidence that some own-admission authority schools are not always following the correct procedures. In his special report on appeals some years ago, the ombudsman wrote:

“We have observed differences in performance between LEAs and other admission authorities … we found faults proportionately in virtually twice as many cases involving other admission authorities as compared with cases involving LEAs (39% and 20% respectively).”

It is likely to be the case that big local authorities with their legal departments have much more expertise in handling appeals than individual schools. Because of the burden of ensuring that independent panel members are up to date with the guidance, the law and legal judgements, many own-admission schools sensibly opt to pay the local authority to arrange the appeals process on their behalf.

The way in which panel members are recruited might also be a factor. The larger the organisation, the easier it is, I believe, to ensure impartiality. A big LA might have up to 100 different panel members it can call upon, with recruitment carried out, not by the local Education Department, but by a completely separate department such as Legal & Democratic Services.

With most own-admission authority schools the number of available panel members is likely to be small, and when the same panel hears most of the cases over an extended period of time, there is a risk, I suggest, that it can become “case hardened” and set in its ways.

Even when an own-admission authority IAP (Independent Appeal Panel) is doing an excellent job, it cannot be easy to overcome the perception that it may not be entirely independent.

Some own-admission authority schools combine to form a joint appeal panel. This would seem to be a small step in the right direction, but I have long argued that the best solution would be for all own-admission authority schools to delegate responsibility for running the appeal system to the Local Authority. Some already do so. More recently the Chief Adjudicator wrote:

“Aided and foundation schools should be persuaded to use appeals tribunals run by local authorities, diocese or private companies and should not attempt to negotiate the complexity of running their own tribunals.”

The Code of Practice that took effect in 2008 published an unprecedented warning from the Secretary of State to own-admission authority schools:

“I appreciate the burden on schools of administering appeals. But it is also a concern to me that appeal panels established by own-admission authority schools are so often found failing by the Local Government Ombudsman, when they could avoid this by working together or with their local authority.”

Even more recently the chair of the AJTC (Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council) has written:

In the case of schools/academies that are their own admission authorities, it is unsatisfactory that Foundation and Voluntary Aided schools and academies run their own appeal panels. Full independence needs to be ensured, following the principle of natural justice that no-one should judge her/his own case.
…………

The Commission recommends that the Secretary of State should identify an organisation that is well-placed to provide an independent appeals service, to be instigated and run in a quasi-judicial manner. It also recommends that the Local Government Ombudsman’s powers should be extended to hear complaints concerning the maladministration of admissions and admission appeals of all admissions authorities (whether from maintained schools or academies).

These findings and recommendations chime closely with the findings in a report produced in 2003 by the AJTC’s predecessor body, the Council on Tribunals (CoT), setting out concerns at that time about the operation of school admission and exclusion appeal panels. Of course, this report pre-dated the creation of academies but raised the same concerns about schools which are their own admission authority running their own appeal panels, highlighting the perceived lack of independence of such arrangements. The same is now true of academies whose panels lack any semblance of independence, and whose operation was never brought under the oversight of the former CoT and the AJTC (which the Commission’s report omitted to mention). Moreover, not only do these panels lack independence their operation lacks any degree of transparency or public accountability since there is little or no information published about them – for example, the cases that they hear are not included in the official appeals statistics produced by the Department, either for admissions or exclusions.

With regard to the Commission’s call for an independent appeals service, the most obvious solution would be for local authority appeal panels to hear admission and exclusion appeals for all schools in their area, including those for voluntary aided and foundation schools as well as academies. The local authorities already have a cadre of trained and expert appeals clerks and panel members, usually situated in the democratic services department, with an appropriate degree of separation from those involved in managing local admission arrangements. Indeed, some local authorities already manage the appeals for own admission authority schools in their area, including academies, under a special arrangement with the schools in question. We do not believe that this suggestion would be inconsistent with the ethos of academies having freedom from local authority control as it is important to remember that the independent appeal panels are concerned solely and primarily with access to justice. The issue of prime importance is the perceived independence of the appeals arrangements rather than where they are situated. Moreover, the local authority retains overall responsibility for ensuring the provision of education for all children in the area.

[ Response by the chairman of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council on the Academies Commission Report ‘Unleashing greatness – getting the best out of an academised system’ ]

I think all own-admission authority grammar schools that handle their own appeals should voluntarily publish each year the number of appeals heard, with a breakdown of those that are successful and unsuccessful. If they do not do so, then I hope some local parents will be prepared to obtain the statistics from the admission authority under the Freedom of Information Act. (Appeal panels themselves, as tribunals, are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.)

If it were to come to light that the success rate for a particular own-admission authority school is extremely low, then I hope unsuccessful appellants will request the notes of their hearing under the Data Protection Act – to check, among other things, whether the decision-making appears to have been clear and fair. See section D4: The Clerk’s Notes .

(See also section E29: Appeal Statistics reported from particular areas)

A7. Can we submit late evidence? We could also do with more time to prepare our case.

If you need more time, you can return your appeal form stating “Details of case to follow”.

In the past we have suggested it would be worth checking with whoever is organising the appeal to see what deadline they recommend (it has usually been something like 7-10 days before the hearing), but in practice we’ve never heard of parents being denied the opportunity to submit additional information.

With regard to whether additional information could technically be presented as late as the day of the appeal, the previous Code of Practice stated:

They [the parents] should be told that they may submit additional information any time up to the hearing but that, if they provide anything new too close to the hearing date which the panel thinks may be significant, the panel may need to adjourn to allow all parties the opportunity to consider it.

The new Code now insists that appellants are informed what the deadline is:

2.7 No later than 10 school days before the hearing, the admission authority must provide appellants with written notification of the date of and arrangements for the hearing. The notification must include a deadline for the submission of any further evidence that was not sent with the initial appeal. Admission authorities must inform appellants that any information or evidence not submitted by the deadline might not be considered at the appeal (see paragraph 2.10 below)……

2.10 The clerk must send all the papers required for the hearing, including the names of the panel members, to both the parties and the members of the panel a reasonable time before the date of the hearing. This will allow opportunity for any objections regarding impartiality of panel members to be notified to the clerk. An appeal panel must decide whether any material not submitted by the specified deadline is to be considered, taking into account its significance and the effect of a possible need to adjourn the hearing.

If you were to turn up on the day of the hearing with some significant new evidence that you had only just received, then take with you 6-7 copies: 3 for the panel, 1 for the clerk, 1 for the admission authority, and 1-2 for yourselves, the parents). The longer or more complex the new evidence is, the more likely it is that an adjournment will be necessary. Whether this means a pause in the proceedings, or an adjournment to a later date, depends on what is reasonable in the circumstances.

A8. How much should I write for my appeal submission?

I suggest no more than one side of A4 (plus supporting evidence). The best-presented cases are usually the most concise ones. It helps to focus attention on the key points. (See also section B21 )

A9. And how long should my oral presentation be?

I suggest 5-10 minutes maximum. It should be long enough for your key points to be clear, but not so long that the panel drown in all the detail – there are no brownie points for talking interminably! The panel have already read all the paperwork – what they need now is for you to highlight the main arguments and supporting evidence. If they want a lot more detail or clarification, they’ll ask you.

When invited to sum up, don’t take more than a minute or two. Just remind the panel very succinctly of your key points.

A10. I’m very nervous, and don’t know how I’m going to get through the hearing.

It doesn’t matter if you’re nervous. The hearing is meant to be “as informal as possible” but, inevitably, when you walk into a strange room and sit down with three panel members, an authority representative and a clerk, it can still seem intimidating. Remember that panels are used to dealing with nervous and sometimes distraught parents. It is much better to be nervous, than to be in an overconfident or aggressive frame of mind.

Parents often break down (even those used to public speaking). More often than not it’s triggered by a particular word or phrase in their presentation. Everyone present will be sympathetic.

Plan beforehand exactly what you’re going to say for your presentation, and read from a script if it will help you.

Rather than attend the hearing on your own, take a relative or friend with you.

If you break down and feel you cannot carry on, ask whoever is accompanying you to finish reading aloud your script.

If you’re on your own, take 6 copies of your script to the hearing. If you break down and cannot carry on, hand 5 copies to the clerk and ask if everyone would be kind enough to finish reading your presentation on their own.

Panel members will not intentionally seek to do anything to add to your stress. They have a job to do, but they will try their best to put you at your ease, so that you can present your case and answer questions properly. When it’s all over, even if you disagree with the result, I hope you will feel that you have been treated considerately and given a fair hearing.

A11. Is my appeal more likely to succeed if I have professional support, e.g. if I am accompanied by a solicitor or barrister? I also note that there are a number of individuals and companies that offer specialist appeals support and advice.

a. Unless there are some difficult legal issues relating to your case, I do not believe that professional support is needed or would make any positive difference.

i. The appeal system was devised so that parents did not have to pay for professional advice or seek a remedy in the courts.

ii. Even if you don’t present your case well, a good panel (and that is the vast majority of panels) ought to be able to tease out the important facts.

iii. A panel has an ‘enabling role’ when parents find the process difficult, and should be sympathetic. On the other hand, they will see through a slick presentation and not be impressed.

iv. My experience, when an ‘appeals specialist’ actually came along to the hearing, was invariably that the parents would have been better off without his or her input. I can think of only one case when I was really impressed ……. but we would have upheld that appeal anyway!

v. Some ‘appeals specialists’ claim high success rates. They might, of course, be picking and choosing their cases – and even then, a successful outcome might well be despite their efforts not because of them.

vi. A helping hand is always welcome – but you can get that for free on this forum!

vii. If yours is one of those very rare cases where legal advice really is needed, we might suggest you try the advice line of ACE

The Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) is a national charity that provides independent advice.

Update:

ACE has had to restrict the availability of its advice line. Please check its website for any further details.

Extract from a forum post:
“It has always struck me that it must be very difficult to present an appeal if you are not used to presenting information to others e.g. at work. If you are used to it – it is much easier to make the points / stick to the time / not confuse yourself or others while you are at it.”

“I recently went to a planning committee and the woman who was speaking, opposing the application in question obviously was not used to speaking in public – got jumbled with what she wanted to say – went off at a tangent and only got half way through before being stopped. Difficult, as amongst her group of supporters, there were many who could have managed it better simply because it was part of their everyday work – also they would not have got nearly as nervous as she did.”

An education appeal hearing is not quite the same as a public meeting held by a planning committee.

It is important to understand that an appeal panel has an ‘enabling role’. It would have treated the woman who “got jumbled with what she wanted to say and went off at a tangent” differently. She would have been helped, encouraged, coaxed into finishing her statement, and there might even have been an adjournment to give her time to regain composure.

b. Although I have given advice elsewhere in the Q&As about the written submission and the presentation, I don’t attach great importance to them. In my experience, what really matters is the Question and Answer session, and the strength of the supporting evidence.

i. Appeal panels are well used to dealing with parents from all sorts of backgrounds, and are actually quite good at eliciting the information they need.

ii. I can recall parents who had written absolutely nothing for their submission (lack of literacy/understanding) and couldn’t even begin to present a coherent argument, but whose appeals were upheld thanks to strong supporting evidence from the school and patient, skilful probing from the panel. So much for presentational skills!

iii. Written submissions prepared by a lawyer or consultant, full of grand sounding phrases such as “We reserve our right under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 …..” will do nothing to impress an appeal panel.

iv. Where I hope this forum is of value is in explaining the process to parents, and helping them to look at their case from a different perspective.

A12. Is it a good idea to invite my local Councillor along to support my appeal?

In the past, Codes of Practice routinely advised against politicians attending. The previous Code was amended to clarify that MPs and local councillors can support parents at hearings provided that there is no conflict of interest. (An example of a conflict of interest would be if the local councillor with responsibility for children’s services were to try and support your appeal!)

If a politician is being brought along to impress the panel, then in my view parents would be better off on their own.

I used to see the occasional letter of support from an MP, but quite frankly it never told the panel anything new, and carried absolutely no weight at the decision making stage.

A13. My English is not very good

Ask in advance for an interpreter, or bring with you a friend who speaks good English.

A14. Should my child attend the hearing with me?

The 2009 Code stated:

“it is for parents to decide whether their child should attend the hearing, unless the child is an appellant.”

The 2012 Code is silent on this issue, but I’m inclined to think that it is still a decision for parents.

In any event, I would not advise parents to take children to an appeal. It’s a very adult environment, the technicalities are likely to be boring for them, and their presence could inhibit the discussion of any sensitive matters.

Bear in mind too that the panel are not allowed to assess or ‘interview’ the child – the panel’s role is to weigh up the evidence (not the child!).

A15. I am interested to hear what you think of this suggestion which came from the Deputy Head at a primary where they held a meeting for parents considering appealing. It was that you may like to include a personal letter to the panel from your son/daughter.

I would strongly advise against a letter from the child. The panel would never know for certain how much input the parents had had, but the assumption would be that parents had suggested, scrutinised and checked it!

It would not be valid evidence and I do not think the panel could attach any weight to it.

A16. Is it all right to go to the appeal on your own, or does it show a united front if the partner comes along too? I just don’t want the situation whereby one starts off a sentence and the other finishes it like a well rehearsed play.

I don’t think it matters so long as you feel comfortable.

If you’re on your own, there will be no adverse assumption. The panel will think that your partner is at work, or perhaps you’re a single parent. It would do no harm to explain “My husband/wife/partner really wanted to be here, and sends apologies, but had to be at work today.”

If there are two of you at the appeal, I do think it’s important to try and plan beforehand who will do what.

Rather than attend on your own, bring a friend along. The friend doesn’t have to say anything – the panel will understand he/she is there just for company and moral support. They can also assist by taking any brief notes that you may feel that you need to help you recollect the names of panel members, questions you were asked, etc. (but I suggest they do not do so too ostentatiously – the sight of a third party, notebook in hand and pencil poised, might appear just a little threatening to a panel and lose you some sympathy!).

A17. What do you mean by presentation?? I’ve sent in the appeal forms. I didn’t have any further evidence as such. I’m getting a little worried now. I was going to attend that appeal and answer any questions they had for me. Are you trying to say that I will have to stand up and talk for a few minutes to present my case.

You will be invited to ‘present’ your case. You don’t have to. You could just say “I have nothing to add to my written submission”. However, I suggest the following:

The appeal panel will already have looked at your letter of appeal during the previous week – along with many others – but it’s useful if you now remind them of what your case is all about.

Most people just read through their letter of appeal or something similar (and there is no need at all to stand up).

Most presentations take from a few minutes up to 5-10 minutes. Ideally they should never take more than 10-15 minutes.

A18. A friend has just come back from her appeal. The chairwoman appeared not to have read any of this friend’s significant medical evidence. Don’t assume they’ve either read the paperwork, or can remember what was in it.

If there are a lot of appeals being heard, and a lot of paperwork involved, even the best of panels might overlook some of the details.

I do think the panel would have read the written submission, but bear in mind that they may have had to read lots of other papers as well (perhaps hundreds of pages if it’s an exceptional day involving some really difficult cases), so they may need reminding about some of the details of a particular case.

My advice to appellants is – don’t be afraid to take the panel through your letter of appeal, highlighting your key points.

It’s a good idea to refer to the supporting evidence as you go along, but make it easy for them to follow: “If you turn to such-and-such document, the first page, second paragraph …….” (pause until you see that everyone has found the right place) ”…… you’ll see that …..”

A19. What is the difference between Freedom of Information and Data Protection?

The Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act are often confused.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) applies to non-personal information.
There are exceptions to the provisions of the Act. For example, appeal panels are exempt.

For an example of a Freedom of Information request, See A39

The Data Protection Act (DPA) applies to personal data. Put simply, this means that the ‘subject’ of personal data held by public authorities (i.e. your child, and by extension, you) can request that that personal data be released to them.

For an example of a DPA request, See B47

However, there are some permitted exceptions in the Data Protection Act:

In particular, exam scripts are exempt from the DPA (although authorities can make them available at their discretion).

Schedule 7 of the DPA, says among other things that the public authority does not have to release exam/test results until five months after the ‘relevant day’. (The relevant day is the date on which the data controller has both a properly submitted request for information and the information itself.)

So, if you are in a situation where you are tired of waiting for the 11+ results to be announced, unless five months have elapsed after the ‘relevant day’, you cannot use the DPA to get hold of the results in advance of the normal date!

(See B47: We are being refused access to our son’s 11+ scores)

The Clerk’s Notes

According to the Appeals Code of Practice:

“Where a request has been made under the Data Protection Act for access to personal data contained in the records of proceedings, whether that data should be disclosed will depend on a number of factors including: the identity of the person making the request; the nature and individual circumstances of the appeal; the way in which the data is held; and the interests of any third parties identified in the data. Appeal panels or clerks may therefore wish to obtain their own legal advice before responding to such a request.”

(See also D4: The clerk’s notes)

A20. If there are a lot of appeals for the same school, is it an advantage to have one’s case heard last, so that the details are fresh in the panel’s mind?

It makes no difference whether someone’s case is heard first or last! Panel members and the clerk take careful notes of the key points of each case as the appeals proceed. Decisions are not taken on the basis of what panel members happen to recall – they’re taken on the basis of the paperwork in front of them, including all the evidence and all the notes they have made.

An alternative (and contradictory) myth is that it’s an advantage to be early on, because places are being ‘filled up’ as the hearings proceed. In a multiple appeal, the panel cannot take any decisions on individual cases until all the hearings have taken place.

A21. Do the panel know how schools have been listed on the Common Application Form (and might this affect their decision)?

The wording in the previous Appeals Code with regard to preferences was a bit convoluted to my way of thinking:

how an appellant has ranked their preferences on the common application form (e.g. if they are appealing for a lower ranked preference school than the one they have been offered) need not be a factor in the panel’s consideration unless this is directly relevant to the grounds for appeal.

I do feel uncomfortable at the thought that an appeal panel might be giving weight to where a school has been placed on the CAF, but cannot guarantee that it never happens.

When parents fill in their CAF, they are taking part in what they understand to be an ‘equal preference system’ – and that is why I do not think anyone should be penalised at appeal for having originally placed a school second (for example) rather than first. Each school listed on a CAF receives equal consideration during the admissions process (with no advantage for being first, and no disadvantage for being last). The only reason for asking parents to rank schools was simply to sort out which school should be offered in the event of becoming eligible for a place at more than one school.

If appealing for a second rather than a first preference, parents could well argue “We would be equally happy with either school!”

I have to say that I have never heard of any panel actually allowing appeals on the basis of preferences, but one cannot be sure what might be happening at a subconscious level!

It is always a good idea to appear enthusiastic, and it will certainly do no harm to say “Our child is really keen to go to this school!”

If your appeal fails, and you have concerns about their line of questioning, I suggest you see what the ombudsman (or EFA) thinks. I would have thought that, if challenged, the panel would have to explain the purpose of these questions.

It is difficult to say whether the panel will be given information by the admission authority about preferences. In the case of an LA panel hearing appeals for a community school, it is entirely possible. I would have thought that panels for own-admission authority schools running their own appeals may be less likely to know about the CAF (although the LA might make the information available for the purposes of an appeal).
You will get exactly the same papers as the appeal panel and the presenting officer a week or so before the hearing, so you will be able to see whether any information about preferences is included.

Even if the panel has been given no information about your preferences in the appeal papers, be prepared for the possibility that they might ask you about them (and about other appeals).

A22. How to greet the panel

I just wanted to know whether it was recommended to shake the hands of the panel when we walked in to the room. We don’t want to seem too pushy but would like to appear confident and friendly.

I would suggest that it’s far better to appear nervous than confident!

You may not be able to reach the panel to shake their hands anyway! It all depends on the size of the table really. Take your lead from them – if they reach over the table to shake hands, obviously you respond. (I have known parents walk round the table, invading the panel’s ‘private space’, and shake hands with excessive zeal! Don’t do it!)

Most panels will smile and be welcoming.

You are not expected to take the initiative, e.g. by starting a conversation. Take your lead from the panel.

There’s no need to address the panel in any particular way, but they usually have nameplates in front of them, so you could, if you wish, say “Mr. Smith”, “Mrs. Brown”. It’s not obligatory but it would be polite to address the chair as “chair” or “chairman”.

Best not to use first names when talking to the panel and presenting officer, although you may feel emboldened to do so if they happen to address you by your first name. (The hearing is meant to be informal, but all the same there are degrees of informality! It would be safer to appear respectful rather than over-familiar.)

A23. The admission appeals timetable

The Appeals Code states:

2.1 Admission authorities must set a timetable for organising and hearing appeals that:

a) includes a deadline for lodging appeals which allows appellants at least 20 school days from the date of notification that their application was unsuccessful to prepare and lodge their written appeal;

b) ensures that appellants receive at least 10 school days’ notice of their appeal hearing;

c) includes reasonable deadlines for appellants to submit additional evidence, for admission authorities to submit their evidence, and for the clerk to send appeal papers to the panel and parties;

d) ensures that decision letters are sent within five school days of the hearing wherever possible.

2.2 Admission authorities must publish their appeals timetable on their website by 28 February each year.

2.3 Admission authorities must ensure that appeals lodged by the appropriate deadlines are heard within the following timescales:

a) for applications made in the normal admissions round, appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for lodging appeals;

b) for late applications, appeals should be heard within 40 school days from the deadline for lodging appeals where possible, or within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged;

c) for applications to sixth forms:

i) where the offer of a place would have been conditional upon exam results, appeals must be heard within 30 school days of confirmation of those results;

ii) where the offer of a place would not have been conditional upon exam results, appeals must be heard within 40 school days of the deadline for lodging appeals;

d) for applications for in-year admissions, appeals must be heard within 30 school days of the appeal being lodged.

2.4 Any appeals submitted after the appropriate deadline must still be heard, in accordance with whatever timescale is set out in the timetable published by the admission authority.

A24. Decision letters

a. The Appeals Code states:

Notification of the decision

2.24 The panel must communicate the decision of each appeal, including the reasons for that decision, in writing to the appellant, the admission authority and the local authority. The clerk or chair must sign the decision letter and send it to the parties as soon as possible after the hearing but not later than five school days, unless there is good reason. In the case of applications outside the normal admissions round, the child must be admitted without unnecessary delay.

2.25 The panel must ensure that the decision is easily comprehensible so that the parties can understand the basis on which the decision was made. The decision letter must contain a summary of relevant factors that were raised by the parties and considered by the panel. It must also give clear reasons for the panel’s decision, including how, and why, any issues of fact or law were decided by the panel during the hearing.

b. Example of a decision letter (non-qualification only)

[We are grateful to the parents who supplied a copy of the following letter which they received]

I am writing to inform you of the decision of the recent Independent Appeal Panel. I am very sorry to have to inform you that the appeal was unsuccessful.

What the Independent Appeal Panel had to decide:
As you know, the Local Authority requires children to score 121 or more in its Verbal Reasoning Tests (VRTs) to qualify for a grammar school place. In the light of the fact that ….. scored less than 121, the Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) had to decide whether there was nonetheless sufficient evidence to indicate that ….. is academically suitable for grammar school.

What evidence the Independent Appeal Panel took into account:
The IAP at your selection appeal took into account the fact that ….. did not achieve the qualifying score of 121 in the VRTs. The IAP then carefully considered information submitted by the Local Authority and all the information you submitted in support of your appeal, either in writing and/or in person at the appeal. The IAP also took into account whether there were strong reasons for not achieving the minimum qualifying score of 121 in the VRTs. The evidence weighed up by the IAP included – but was not necessarily limited to – the predicted SATs scores, school work, the head teacher’s letter and summary sheet, and the Educational Psychologist’s report. The panel noted that ….. is described as diligent and conscientious, and took into consideration that …..’s grandfather died in July.

Why the Independent Appeal Panel came to the decision it did:
The IAP noted with care the supportive evidence provided by you. However, the panel did not feel that it was strong enough that it could be satisfied that ….. is academically suitable for grammar school at this time.

What will happen next:
On or about 1st March your Local Education Authority will write to let you know of the outcome of your secondary school application. This application will take into account the result of your child’s selection appeal and the ranking of your child’s preferences as well as the published over-subscription rules. The IAP is aware that you will be disappointed by its decision but wishes ….. every success in the future.

Yours sincerely

Clerk to the Independent Appeal Panel
Copy: The Admissions Team

Putting the outcome to one side – not an easy thing to do! – the parents concerned thought this was a well written letter, clearly set out. They were least happy with the short paragraph “Why the Independent Appeal Panel came to the decision it did” – but that’s the difficult bit!

c. Example of a decision letter (oversubscription only)

[We are grateful to the parent who supplied a copy of the following]

I am writing to inform you of the recent decision of the Independent Appeal Panel.

I am pleased to inform you that your appeal for the admission of ….. to the Y School was successful.

As you are aware, in hearing your appeal the Panel had to go through a two stage decision making process.

At the first stage, the Appeal Panel had to decide whether the admission of an additional pupil would prejudice efficient education or use of resources at the Y School. Having considered the statement of the Admissions Authority, the Appeal Panel concluded that such prejudice would arise.

It was also satisfied that the admission arrangements had been properly carried out.

At the second stage, the Appeal Panel had to decide whether there were any factors that it considered would support the admission of ….. to the Y school, when taking account of the prejudice that would be caused to the efficient education or use of resources at the school.

It noted with care all the evidence you presented which, in summary, included:

a) ….. is worried about attending the allocated school because there is a long history of his having been bullied by pupils who go to that school.

b) …..‘s sister already attends the Y school, and, with a younger sibling at the Z primary school, it would be logistically difficult to have all three children at different schools, especially in view of Mrs. …..’s poor health.

c) ….. would benefit from the school’s specialism in Science, a subject at which he excels.

The Panel considered carefully all the reasons why you felt ….. should be granted a place at the Y School and determined that the circumstances you presented to the Panel outweighed the degree of prejudice to the efficient education or the efficient use of resources that would arise.

The Headteacher of Y school will be informed of this decision. I would be grateful if you could contact the Headteacher at the school to discuss arrangements for the admission of …..

Yours sincerely

Copy to: Admissions Team
Headteacher, the Y School

Note: the precise wording in such letters will vary from authority to authority, and is subject to change at any time to take account of legal considerations.

A25. Is it possible to have a second appeal for the same school?

Not for the same academic year, unless:

a. The first hearing was not conducted properly, and a judge, the admission authority, the ombudsman or (in the case of an academy) the EFA or Secretary of State, decides that a re-hearing is appropriate; or

b. The admission authority exercises its discretion and agrees to a fresh appeal because it accepts that there is significant new evidence that was not – and could not have been – available at the time of the original appeal.

Otherwise, an appeal for the same school can only be made for the following academic year.

A26. Changing preferences

“A colleague pointed out to me the following line in the admissions code (2009) which stated that no LA should allow a change of CAF without good reason, so why do some LAs allow this?”

1.39 Once the closing date for applications has passed, local authorities should not allow preferences to be changed without a genuine reason for doing so, for example, if the family has recently moved address. Local authorities must make this clear in the information they provide for parents.

I think that this was usually held to mean that preferences cannot be changed without good reason between the closing date for applications in late October and the allocation of places in March. After allocations parents may generally make new applications – most authorities will not deal with these until after they have done the allocations for late applications (usually people who moved into the area too late to have their application dealt with at the normal time but before 1st March). It is not unheard of for parents to make a series of new or “revised” applications especially in areas which allow for only the minimum of three preferences, crossing off a school for which they have had an unsuccessful appeal and adding another in its place and so on. [Alex]

Update: There appears to be no equivalent of para. 1.39 in the new (simplified) Code published in 2012.
One would have thought that any existing policy on dealing with changes in preferences is unlikely to be affected, but you will need to check with your LA.

A27. Giving reasons for preferences on the CAF

There is a space on the CAF (Common Application Form) where parents are invited to give reasons. The space is there because it is a requirement that parents be offered an opportunity to state their reasons for wanting a particular school.

Quite often parents do not bother to fill in this part of the form, which is not a problem in so far as all the admission authority can normally do, anyway, is to allocate places strictly in accordance with the published criteria.

However, if there are good reasons for a preference, it is in my view worth stating them because, in the event of an appeal, there is a possibility that a copy of the CAF might be included in the case papers. Parents who suddenly have lots of “compelling reasons” for wanting a school place at appeal might be asked why those reasons were not quite so compelling as to merit a mention when they submitted their application.

A28. Is it a good idea to submit a copy of our presentation along with other new evidence in advance of the hearing?

As new evidence ought to be submitted some 7-10 days before the hearing (depending on the exact date given for the submission of late evidence), I don’t think it’s a good idea because you might change your mind about what you want to say!

In any case, I would not normally recommend giving copies of your presentation to the panel. It’s not necessary, and they will already be drowning in paperwork!

On the other hand, the clerk will almost certainly be grateful for a copy of your speech at the start of the hearing as it will help ensure an accurate record of what is said.

A29. Is there any dress code for attending an appeal hearing? Is formal attire preferable?

There’s no dress code, and the panel will be judging the evidence, not you – but I’d avoid jeans and baseball cap!
Otherwise, anything from smart casual upwards will do (and preferably something you feel comfortable in).

If, for any reason, someone had to attend an appeal in their working clothes – those of a plumber or nurse for example, a simple apology for “not having time to change” would be entirely acceptable. As Etienne says, you are not being judged – the evidence is what counts." (Sally-Anne)

A30. Who will be at the appeal hearing?

In addition to the appellant(s), there will be a minimum of 5 other people present.

The Panel

The panel will consist of a chair and at least two other panel members. A panel must include at least one person from each of the following categories:

a) lay people (someone without personal experience in the management of any school or provision of education in any school (except as a school governor or in another voluntary capacity));
b) people who have experience in education, who are acquainted with educational conditions in the local authority area, or who are parents of registered pupils at school.

Only panel members can take part in the decision making. Their decisions do not have to be unanimous – they can allow or refuse an appeal by a majority vote.

1.6 Admission authorities must ensure that panel members are independent and retain their independence for the duration of their service.

The Code of Practice disqualifies certain people from membership of an appeal panel – for example, any person who has, or at any time has had, any connection with the authority, school or [any person employed by the local authority or governing body of the school in question, other than as a teacher or teaching assistant] which might reasonably be taken to raise doubts about that person’s ability to act impartially.

The clerk

The clerk’s role is to be an independent source of advice (or to seek appropriate advice) on procedure and on admissions law; to keep an accurate record of proceedings; and to arrange for a written notification of the panel’s decision. The clerk remains with the panel when they take their decision, but has no say in the decision.

The presenting officer

A presenting officer will attend to represent the admission authority.

2.15 Admission authorities must ensure that appeal hearings are held in private, and are conducted in the presence of all panel members and parties. One party must not be left alone with the panel in the absence of the other. Where one party is unable to or has failed to attend the clerk must remain with the panel and remaining party at all times.

A31. I’m thinking of showing the panel a photograph of my child. Will they appreciate seeing the subject of the appeal?

I wouldn’t recommend it!

A32. How should I present our appeal papers? I’ve got 5 copies, and I’ve put tabs to show which bit is which. Should they be stapled? Does it matter? Am I obsessing over nothing?

Different authorities might have different requirements. Here’s an example from one LA:

When you send any documents to us please ensure that:

• The correct postage is used
• They are A4 in size (please reduce or enlarge any documents that are not A4)
• They are not fastened by staples, treasury tags or clips
• They are not in plastic or document wallets or binder/lever arch files
• They are not separated by file dividers or by any other means

There is no provision to copy any documentation in colour, therefore please bear this fact in mind when you send in your information.

The information you provide to us is photocopied by an external reprographics company and any folders received will be recycled, so may not be returned to you.

If in doubt, contact whoever is organising the appeals for advice. However, you can’t go wrong if you keep it simple:

• One set of papers – unless you’ve actually been told to provide five. (Most administrators/clerks will expect to be doing the duplicating!)

• Nothing that looks too ‘professional’ – you don’t want the panel to think they’re in for a slick presentation!

• Appendices for the evidence – which is all that’s needed to make it easy for the panel to find information. See B40

A33. We have not been able to contact the Appeals Clerk independently of the School. When the Clerk’s contact details are the same as the School’s, does this not indicate a lack of independence?

One of the ombudsman’s investigators has considered a similar case, and reached the following conclusion:

The complainants were concerned that the Clerk did not have separate contact details. In response to my enquiries, the School explained that the Clerk works from home and wishes to avoid contact outside working hours. The School also said that the Clerk has contacted appellants and their representatives when requested to do so and the School forwards the Clerk’s post to his private address.

I do not consider this explanation unreasonable. The Code says that the Clerk must be independent of the School but does not give specific guidance around how the Clerk should be contacted. In the absence of evidence that the School interferes with the Clerk’s work, I am unable to conclude that the Clerk’s use of the School address and telephone number indicates that he was not independent of the School. The arrangement that the School describes is administrative and does not in itself, in my view, compromise the Clerk’s independence.

Report 11 003 563 London Oratory School

A34. We had our appeal hearing today. Such a gruesome experience. We were in that room for almost 1 hour and we felt hammered. They kept on asking one particular question time and again, pushing us into a tight corner. My child’s in a state school which does not do CATS and VR/NVR tests and they claimed that our documentation was not enough. We had our child’s school reports, class work and documentary evidence to back our appeal but that did not seem enough. We left that room feeling dejected………….. I’ve never been in a courtroom before but it sure felt like it! Never will I want to be in that position again. I don’t hold out any hope of success after today. Local comp here we come! ……… During the appeal one lady did not appear to have looked through our paperwork or to be listening to what we were saying as she kept on asking questions that we’d already answered. It may be that she wanted to ensure that we were telling the truth, which we were! Of the panel I think we only managed to persuade one person (plus the LEA rep). There were 2 ladies and one gentleman. It really was hammering and full-on. [Lulu]

After receiving the result of the appeal, Lulu wrote again:

“I grabbed the post as soon as it dropped through the letterbox. The letter was there. I’ve never been so scared in my life but I am now shedding tears of joy as I write this because we have positive news. I have read and re-read the letter in case I am reading into things that are not there but it clearly says the IAP satisfied themselves that there was sufficient evidence to meet the criteria for selection and I am therefore pleased to inform you that your appeal was successful. I’m so overcome with emotion.”

The moral is – you can never know for certain how your hearing went!

You may think it went well, but be unsuccessful.

You may think it was awful – but succeed.

Just because the panel’s questioning may appear tough, it doesn’t follow that they’re going to turn the appeal down.

Harry’s story

To cut a long story short we had our appeal on Friday the 11th Feb, with little hope of success. We went in last, one hour ten minutes late! …….. All in all, the appeal lasted about 1hr and 20 mins. after which both my wife and I were absolutely shattered ……… The panel were very nice, but asked the same probing questions …….

After getting the result, Harry wrote:

Well, we received our letter today and SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Awanboueki’s story

We had the appeal hearing today, which was a bit nerve racking ……… the 2 lay persons and non lay person seemed to be interested in the case, the clerk was very nice, but there was another person at the appeal (can’t remember his role now) but he was very negative and quite rude and at one stage was saying that they can’t offer my son a place. I remember at one stage the lay persons looked at him and told to be quiet. I know that this person has no right in the decision but was trying very hard to influence the panel. I don’t understand why or what he had to gain by behaving the way he did. The appeal was going ok until he got involved, so I am not too sure now and have to fear the worst.

I replied:

It sounds like the LA Representative (presenting officer). With a score below 121, it’s his job to tell the panel that Admissions think an Upper School place would be more appropriate – just as it’s your job to tell the panel why your son should have a grammar school place! Reports on here suggest that most LA Representatives are very reasonable. Panels tend not to like it if they’re too forceful! Who knows? – he may have done you a favour! Don’t worry – if you were to lose your appeal, it’s unlikely to be because of this. Having listened to both sides, the panel will make their own minds up. [Etienne]

After receiving the result, Awanboueki wrote:

Etienne, looks like you were right about the LA representative doing us a favour. We got the letter today and we were successful, I can’t believe it, did not think we were going to get it. Very happy we got it – my son is over the moon. Thanks.

And for those who think a failed 11+ followed by an unsuccessful appeal = disaster ………

KT’s story

Hi Sally-Anne & Etienne

I’m not sure if you’ll remember me from last year (S-A, I’m sure you will but I’ve lost your email address so hope you pick this up). I’ve not been onto this website much since as it brought back too many memories…

DS had 114 in 11+ for 2011 entry (no tutor, such a mistake!!); very very strong academic evidence including a very favourable Ed Assessment. Took very strong academic evidence to appeal but our extenuating circumstances weren’t the strongest… the whole experience was horrible… appeals are certainly not for the faint hearted! Anyway, appeal unsuccessful. DS was devastated and watched his best friends go to GS.

We picked ourselves up… and he entered the 12+. This time we had the benefit of knowing all the 11+ websites, and we got a 12+ tutor (only 8 or 9 lessons, but it made the difference)…. had his 12+ result this morning ..138, so he didn’t just scrape through… he nailed it!! DS hasn’t stopped smiling! He worked hard for the 12+ (have to admit he’d always fluked exams in juniors, hence he probably didn’t try as hard for 11+).

DS has been doing very well in his current school and is getting all A’s in maths & science, and the work on the 12+ has helped pick his English up from C to A/B. Failing the 11+ and then doing the 12+ made him realise the importance of revising, which has been a hard but incredibly valuable lesson.

We now have the wait to find out if there are any GS places and do we move him from a school he’s settled in at… decisions!

I just wanted to update you both as you were so helpful last year.

A very happy and proud mum [KT36]

Heartmum encapsulates it all when she writes “What a wonderful, heartwarming post – it’ll give a lot of hope to parents and DCs alike”. We spend so much time dealing with those who’ve been bitterly disappointed by the 11+ and then by an unsuccessful appeal, and I try to console them with the thought that things often have a strange way of working out well in the longer term. This case makes the point – ’Don’t give up!’ Huge congratulations! [Etienne]

A35. When submitting evidence for the appeal, do I send original documents or photocopies?

Unless told otherwise, send a photocopy of each document. (I suggest you take the originals with you to the hearing in case anyone asks to see them.)

A36. What are my chances at appeal?

I’m afraid only your particular appeal panel can answer that – not least because all sorts of factors might affect the outcome, some of which could be completely outside your control.

a) if you are addressing the issue of non-qualification, or
b) if the score achieved was not high enough to gain a place , and you wish to put forward a case that your child was expected to perform even more highly in the 11+ than he/she did -

then the range of academic evidence that might help your case is listed here .

Your case might be based on:
i) very high overall ability and suitability for grammar school, or
ii) compensating evidence to address underperformance in one area of the 11+ (verbal reasoning, for example), or
iii) both.

If there are any extenuating circumstances that might help explain underperformance, you may wish to introduce relevant evidence. (Note that some admission authorities expect to have been notified of any extenuating circumstances at the earliest opportunity.)

Personal circumstances are discussed here . Or there may be evidence of a learning disability (e.g. dyslexia).

c) If you are addressing the issue of oversubscription (and it would be wise to assume that, even if the school is not oversubscribed at the time of initial allocations, it is likely to become oversubscribed during the summer term) -

then you need to give reasons for wanting or needing a place at the school, and where appropriate those reasons must be supported with evidence. See also C20b. Chances of success at appeal

A37. Some cautionary words about appeals!

a) Don’t even attempt to work out what the panel are thinking!
You can never be sure how your hearing has gone.

You may think it went well, but be unsuccessful.

You may think it was awful – but succeed.

Just because the panel’s questioning may appear tough, or things don’t seem to go right, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re going to turn your appeal down.

Here are just a few examples from the forum – but there are many more to be found.

Before the decision letter, lulu1408 wrote:

Well, we had our appeal hearing today. Such a gruesome experience. We were in that room for almost 1 hour and we felt hammered. They kept on asking one particular question time and again, pushing us into a tight corner. My child’s in a state school which does not do CATS and VR/NVR tests and they claimed that our documentation was not enough. We had our child’s school reports, class work and documentary evidence to back our appeal but that did not seem enough. We left that room feeling dejected ………….. I’ve never been in a courtroom before but it sure felt like it! Never will I want to be in that position again. I don’t hold out any hope of success after today. Local comp here we come!

During the appeal one lady did not appear to have looked through our paperwork or to be listening to what we were saying as she kept on asking questions that we’d already answered. It may be that she wanted to ensure that we were telling the truth, which we were! Of the panel I think we only managed to persuade one person (plus the LEA rep). There were 2 ladies and one gentleman. It really was hammering and full-on.

Afterwards lulu1408 wrote:

Despite me saying “whatever the outcome”, I grabbed the post as soon as it dropped through the letterbox. The letter was there. I’ve never been so scared in my life but I am now shedding tears of joy as I write this because we have positive news. I have read and re-read the letter in case I am reading into things that are not there but it clearly says “the IAP satisfied themselves that there was sufficient evidence to meet the criteria for selection and therefore pleased to inform us that our appeal was successful”. I’m so overcome with emotion.

Before the decision letter, HarryM wrote:

To recap. – DS scored 120 [one mark below the qualifying score] and his twin scored 141.
We went to HT and asked support and a statement to send to appeal, what we received back was a shockingly bad and slanderous report with a 3:3 recommendation. (What was actually written was in bold: ‘SIGNIFICANT RESERVATION’).

He was predicted a 5A in Maths and 4C in English.

To prepare we had no further evidence in support apart from his other 11+ results, and no support from his school. We even requested written evidence of his SATS mocks in January where he scored 5A in Maths 5C in English and was at level 5C in Science, but this was not issued on Headed paper by the school.

To cut a long story short we had our appeal on Friday the 11th Feb, with little hope of success. We went in last, one hour ten minutes late! …….. Needless to say they asked many questions on the report …….. His teacher refused to supply his best work (in maths, science and humanities) as she said he would need these books to work in on Friday!!

All in all, the appeal lasted about 1hr and 20 mins. after which both my wife and I were absolutely shattered ……… The panel were very nice, but asked the same probing questions, they also noted that the Head had not even bothered to sign the report …….

Afterwards HarryM wrote:

Well, we received our letter today and ….. SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Before the decision letter, awanboueki wrote:

We had the appeal hearing today, which was a bit nerve racking ……… the 2 lay persons and non lay person seemed to be interested in the case the clerk was very nice,but there was another person at the appeal (can’t remember his role now) but he was very negative and quite rude and at one stage was saying that they can’t offer my son a place. I remember at one stage the lay persons looked at him and told to be quiet.

I know that this person has no right in the decision but was trying very hard to influence the panel. I don’t understand why or what he had to gain by behaving the way he did. The appeal was going ok until he got involved, so I am not too sure now and have to fear the worst.

Etienne commented:

Sounds like the LA Representative (presenting officer).
With a score below 121, it’s his job to tell the panel that Admissions think an Upper School place would be more appropriate – just as it’s your job to tell the panel why your son should have a grammar school place!
Reports on here suggest that most LA Representatives are very reasonable. Panels tend not to like it if they’re too forceful! Who knows? – he may have done you a favour!
Don’t worry – if you were to lose your appeal, it’s unlikely to be because of this. Having listened to both sides, the panel will make their own minds up.

Afterwards, awanboueki wrote:

Etienne, looks like you were right about the LA representative doing us a favour. We got the letter today and we were successful.
I cant believe it, did not think we were going to get it. Very happy we got it – my son is over the moon. Thanks.

Before the decision letter, zeinab wrote:

I’ve messed things up now, so goodbye GS place for DS!

Afterwards zeinab wrote:

THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS ’DON’T EVER GIVE UP!!!!!’ ……. We won our case, Hamd Allah. xxxxxx

b) A cautionary tale about not rushing to judgement: See E24

If even panel members who’ve sat through an entire case find it sometimes incredibly difficult to come to a decision, we need to be somewhat cautious about passing judgement on the forum. It’s not really possible for people properly to assess someone else’s case second-hand, without having seen all of the evidence, and heard all of the questions & answers.

c) Feedback

It’a a great help to other parents when appellants (whether successful or not) take the trouble to provide a full report in our feedback section: Feedback from all areas.

d) And for those who think a failed 11+ followed by an unsuccessful appeal = disaster …… See B54

A38. I intend to complain about the conduct of my appeal. How forceful should I be?

I think complaints are likely to be more effective if the language is restrained and dispassionate. Avoid using words such as “outrageous”!

I suggested to one complainant recently that she should tone down her language and change:

“It beggars belief …….” to “It raises questions about whether …..”

“beyond belief and unfair” to simply “unfair”

“adversely influenced” to “influenced”

“categorically incorrect” to “incorrect”

“terribly unsafe” to “unsafe”

Complaints should be made as calmly and objectively as possible – difficult as this may be in the circumstances!

A39. How can I find out about the previous success rate of appeals?

You can ask the appropriate admission authority (which will be either the LA or the school).

You could start off informally with a polite request, or you could submit a formal written request, quoting FOI (Freedom of Information). It’s important to be very specific about the information required.

Example (FOI)

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I am writing to request the following information with regard to the XYZ School:
a) the number of admission appeals heard for entry into year 7 in each of the last five years, and
b) the number of those appeals that were successful in each year.

If you do not hold the above data, I should be grateful if you could advise who does.

Thank you for your kind assistance.

Name:
Address:
email:

FOI requests must be made in writing (letter or email).

Another possibility is to use this website which seems quite useful for making FOI requests.
However, it might be necessary to ask them to add the admission authority to their list of public bodies first.

A40. The recommended order of business

(i) the case for the admission authority;

(ii) questioning by the appellants and panel;

(iii) the case for the appellants;

(iv) questioning by the admission authority and panel;

(v) summing up by the admission authority; and

(vi) summing up by the appellants

A41. Can appeals be successful based solely on the case you submit at the time you apply for an appeal, or do you always have to go before a panel?

A date will be arranged for the hearing, and the panel would have to meet at that scheduled time in order to take its decision.

You don’t have to attend if you don’t want to – the panel can reach its decision without you, but you must have been given the opportunity to attend.

Your chances of a successful appeal might be reduced if you don’t attend. There may well be questions the panel would have liked to put to you in person.

A42. There isn’t enough room on the appeal form for me to state my case.

• The space available on an appeals form for giving reasons for the appeal is usually quite small. If you need more room, simply write:

“Please see attached case”

• It is up to you whether your case is handwritten or typed – but, depending on the handwriting, a typed case may be much easier to read!

• Fill in a form for each school you are appealing for. You are entitled to appeal for any school for which you have applied and been refused.

A43. Example of a letter of appeal (addressing the issues of non-qualification and oversubscription).

Dear Members of the Panel

We should be grateful if you would consider this appeal for our son John on the following grounds:

Academic Evidence

  • Strongly supported by the headteacher – please see letter of support (appendix 1).
  • High grades for achievement – please see attached copy of last report (appendix 2).
  • Alternative VR scores of 126 (=96th percentile) in 2012, and 123 (=93rd percentile) in 2011 – please see attached evidence (appendix 3).
  • Level 3s for KS1 SATs (appendix 4).
  • Predicted high level 5s for KS2 in English, Maths and Science – see headteacher’s letter (appendix 1).
  • Top group for Maths and English in what is regarded locally as a high performing primary school.
  • Junior chess champion (appendix 5).

Extenuating Circumstances

  • John felt under a great deal of pressure to do well in the tests because his older brother is already attending the grammar school – please see letter from class teacher confirming the effect of sibling rivalry on John (appendix 6).

We hope the panel may be prepared to take the view that on the balance of probability this could be sufficient to explain a shortfall of two marks.

Reasons for wanting a place

  • We live in the catchment area of the school.
  • Sibling link. Brother in year 8.
  • Educational reasons. Our son’s ability in Science makes him very well-suited to a school specialising in this area of the curriculum – please see attached evidence (appendix 8)
  • Social reasons. Our son’s friends, including his best friend, will all be going to this school. He has been bullied by boys who will be attending the allocated school. (Evidence to follow).

Thank you for taking the time to consider our appeal. We look forward to meeting you, and answering any questions you may have.

Yours sincerely

For more details, see: E11
and C18

A44. How many schools can I appeal for?

It is the refusal of an application that triggers the right of appeal, so you are entitled to appeal, if you wish, for all those schools for which you have applied and been refused.

A45. Can I write exactly the same case for each school I’m appealing for?

You need to fill in a separate form for each school.

If you are appealing against non-qualification, or – where places are allocated in score order – arguing that your child was expected to achieve a higher 11+ score, your academic case might well be the same.

Your reasons for wanting a place should be targeted at each individual school. (Some of these reasons might be the same.)

A46. Can the primary school headteacher attend the appeal to support me?

I think it can be very helpful if your current headteacher is prepared to come along and support your appeal as a witness.

Not all heads will want to do this, of course, because it is time consuming, and if they are willing to do it for one appellant, it could put them under considerable pressure to do it for others!

Some LAs actively discourage primary school headteachers from attending.
However, that is not your concern. The fact is you are entitled to bring a witness with you.

According to the Appeals Code:

Admission authorities must ask appellants whether they intend to call any witnesses or be represented at the hearing.

You should therefore advise whoever is organising the appeal that the current headteacher will be attending.

Strictly speaking, witnesses might be allowed into the hearing only when they need to give their evidence and answer questions – but in practice they are often allowed to be present for the whole of the hearing.

Because it is the exception rather than the rule for the current headteacher to attend, then (depending on what is said) the appeal panel could well be impressed!

A47. What is maladministration?

In the context of school admissions it usually means that the admission authority has made a mistake as a result of which it is clear that the child has been denied a place which he/she would otherwise have been offered.

An example of maladministration would be if one child was allocated a place under the distance criterion, whereas another child living closer to the school but otherwise with identical circumstances was refused. (It depends of course on the admission rules, but relevant circumstances might be: same year group, same score, timely application, in catchment, no sibling, no SEN statement.)
There can be no argument that this was maladministration. It is crystal clear!

A48. If I go to appeal, does my child need to know?

No – and bearing in mind what a long drawn-out process appealing can be, there’s a lot to be said for sparing your child the stress involved.

Tigger writes:

“My advice to anyone appealing is not to tell your child that you are appealing unless you really have to. Knowing that you are appealing doesn’t help children to come to terms with the school they will be most likely offered. I know that is difficult though if it’s your child begging you to appeal ….”

A49. Help – I really can’t make up my mind whether to appeal or not!

Provided you’ve taken all the advice you can, and have read the Q&As so that you have a good understanding of the appeal process, then the golden rule is:

If still in doubt, then appeal – if only to keep your options open.

If you are applying for entry to year 7 in September, you cannot normally appeal before March.

In March you would have to submit an appeal form, but there’s no need to set out your case – if you wish, you can simply write “Details of case to follow”.

Most appeals are not going to be heard before the end of April or beginning of May at the earliest.

There is nothing to stop you cancelling your appeal on the day of the hearing (although it would be kinder to give the administrators and panel a couple of weeks’ notice if you decide not to proceed).

A50. How do I fill in my common application form when my child didn’t qualify in the 11+?

The golden rule for completing the CAF is to put the schools in your real order of preference.

  • If you’re thinking of appealing, you need to include grammar school(s) on your CAF in order to keep your options open.
  • You must normally list all your preferred grammar schools above any other type of school. If your child is unqualified, those schools will simply be ignored and the first non-grammar school you have listed will become your new “first preference”, so your chances of a place at that school will not be affected.
  • However, all your preferences should be firmly rooted in reality. If you are desperate for your child to attend a grammar school 20 miles away, but the school has never allocated a place to a child living further than 6 miles away, it seems pointless to list it on your CAF.
    If you live 8 or 9 miles away from that same school, you can take a gamble. Who knows: this year there might be fewer children applying, fewer children living closer to the school, fewer children who qualify living nearer? Hope springs eternal, and it is worth a go to list it as your first preference.
  • The further down your list of CAF preferences you go, the more realistic you need to be about the chances of getting a place. Your last preference should always be a school that will be acceptable to you and your child and one at which your child is certain to get a place – the ultimate fallback if all else fails.
  • In many areas of the country the CAF allows you to express up to six preferences, which is generally sufficient for most parents. However, in certain areas there are only three spaces on the CAF, and completing the form presents considerable challenges.
  • If you do not obtain a place at any of your listed preferences, your home local authority will allocate you a place at one of their schools that is not yet full. This may not be a school you would find acceptable.

A51. How many schools can I appeal for?

You can appeal for as many schools as you like – provided you’ve applied for those schools and been refused.

A52. What paperwork should we receive in advance of the appeal hearing, please?

The Appeals Code states:

“2.9 The admission authority must supply the clerk to the appeal panel with all relevant documents needed to conduct the hearing in a fair and transparent manner and in accordance with the specified timetable. This must include details of how the admission arrangements and the co-ordinated admissions scheme apply to the appellant’s application, the reasons for the decision to refuse admission and an explanation as to how admission of an additional child would cause prejudice to the provision of efficient education or efficient use of resources.”

“2.10 The clerk must send all the papers required for the hearing, including the names of the panel members, to both the parties and the members of the panel a reasonable time before the date of the hearing. This will allow opportunity for any objections regarding impartiality of panel members to be notified to the clerk ….. "

“A reasonable time before the date of the hearing” is open to interpretation, but is usually taken to mean approximately one week.

A53. I’m preparing my appeal submission. Will it make a good impression if I photocopy the supporting evidence in colour, and use a highlighter to draw attention to the key points?

Unfortunately the panel will almost certainly be provided with the most economical photocopies (i.e. black & white), so any colour will be lost, and any highlighting will finish up as an ugly smudge!

It’s a very good idea to draw attention to the main points, but this is best done by underlining in black ink and/or by drawing vertical black lines by the side of key paragraphs.

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