11 plus appeals

Section E: 11 Plus Appeals - Miscellaneous

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.

See also the thread feedback from all areas.

Note 1: Links to external websites were correct at the time of writing, but can easily become out of date.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.

Note 2: A new Appeals Code came into force on 1 February 2012 and applies to all appeals lodged on or after that date.

E1. Surrey: appeals for Tiffin Girls’ and Tiffin School (boys)

Thanks to Stroller for gathering the following data about TGS and Tiffin School appeals.

Tiffin Girls

Here’s the timetable

Tiffin Girls’ School appeals are handled by the Surrey School Appeals Service

Here are the numbers I’ve been able to find:

  • For 2015 entry – 1,273 applicants, 11 appeals heard, zero succeeded.
  • For 2014 entry – 1,316 tested for 150 places, 14 appeals heard, zero succeeded (the first year of the “designated area”).
  • For 2013 entry – 1,626 applicants tested for 150 places, 21 appeals heard, zero succeeded (the first year of the two stage entrance test process).
  • For 2012 entry – 1,471 applicants tested for 120 places, 32 appeals heard, 1 succeeded. Number of offers after initial offers: 19 (see note 1 below)
  • For 2011 entry – 1,199 applicants tested for 120 places, 32 appeals heard, 1 succeeded. Number of offers after initial offers: 5 (see note 1 below)
  • For 2010 entry – 1,171 applicants tested for 120 places, 43 appeals heard,3 succeeded. Number of offers after initial offers: 13 (see note 1 below)

Note 1: Numbers found online, but not in an official document. Although old, it’s unusual to see specifics about how many places were offered after National Allocation Day (mainly / all waiting list?), so I’ve included the numbers anyway.

Tiffin School (boys)

Here’s the school website’s appeals section

Here’s the timetable for 2016

Tiffin School appeals are handled by the Surrey School Appeals Service

Here are the numbers I’ve been able to find:

  • For 2015 entry – 1,799 applicants, 14 appeals heard, one succeeded.
  • For 2014 entry – 1,863 applicants, 32 appeals heard, two succeeded.
  • For 2013 entry – 1,644 applicants, 28 appeals heard, three succeeded. Number of offers after initial offers: 21
  • For 2012 entry – 1,685 applicants, 20 appeals heard, two succeeded. Number of offers after initial offers: 29
  • For 2011 entry – 1,367 applicants, 31 appeals heard, two succeeded. Number of offers after initial offers: 26
  • For 2010 entry – 1,314 applicants, 32 appeals heard, three succeeded. Number of offers after initial offers: 23
  • For 2009 entry – 1,263 applicants, 44 appeals heard, two succeeded. Number of offers after initial offers: 31

E2. West Yorkshire: Heckmondwike Grammar (Kirklees)

Appeals information for Heckmondwike Grammar in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, can be found here

(Thanks to Bigbirdcw for providing this link.)

E3. Out of county children had to sit their 11+ papers over a much shorter period of time.

“We are out of county. Children who took tests in their own schools took them on 4 and 11 October. However ours took theirs on 10 and 11 October because the test papers did not arrive on time from the LEA. In fact, we all received calls late afternoon on the day before the first test. We think this has had an adverse impact on the child’s preparation and performance.”

It’s worth a mention at appeal, especially if this breached any LA guidelines regarding how the tests should be spaced out.

“You may be interested to know that some authorities administer the exam over one day only. My daughter will be taking her test tomorrow in Newport, Shropshire (help!). This consists of 2×1 hour verbal reasoning tests in the space of 3 hours and I know that some other LEAs also do this, so perhaps a short time between papers will have no impact on your appeal.”

“We go one better than that in Devon: my son has just taken the 11+ here which consisted of a 50 minute VR paper, a 50 minute Maths paper and finally 50 min English paper taken in one morning, 9.00-12.30pm!! He was quite tired afterwards!”

Interesting to hear about Shropshire and Devon. Children are obviously made of sterner stuff over there!

I recall a case some years ago about a late 11+, administered by the child’s own school in May. The child was made to sit all the 11+ papers in the morning, and a national SATs test in the afternoon!

E4. Previous to this year, Lincolnshire did not give out the 11 plus results until mid February so it was too late for any appeals to be heard before allocation day. There really is not a good reason why appeals against non-qualification could not be heard earlier now, so that all candidates would have an equal chance at allocation stage. One thing which probably makes change a bit harder in Lincolnshire is the fact that we have a large number of foundation schools each with their own admissions policy, so the county council cannot bring in across the board changes as easily as a place like Bucks where most of the schools are under the direct control of the council (am I right?).

When the 1st March national allocation day was introduced, Bucks to their credit brought everything forward (a major task, because they have had around 900 11+ appeals per year to cope with!). From 2005/06 to 2011/12 11+ results have been issued late November, appeals submitted during the first half of December, and hearings held in January/February.

On the whole it’s worked very well, and successful timely appellants have been included in the first round of grammar school allocations. The LA handled the whole 11+ process, guaranteeing a grammar school place to in-county children who qualify (though not necessarily at their preferred school), and dealing with all the appeals against non-qualification.

Disadvantages?

  1. The internal review of borderline and other cases had to be abolished because there wasn’t time.
  2. Some parents of children who had qualified immediately felt a bit aggrieved that they didn’t have priority over those qualifying via appeal. (In my view if you’re qualified, you’re qualified!)
  3. Some parents found it difficult to focus on submitting an appeal at such a busy time of year (end of term/lead-up to Christmas). However, starting in 2006 the 11+ results were announced a week earlier.

With the conversion of grammar schools to academies, the system is changing for entry in 2013 (see E9).

E5. If we go to appeal in Lincolnshire, will it just be the school we are ‘fighting’ or will it include our local authority?

Your appeal will be against the admission authority. If the school you are interested in is its own admission authority, then your appeal would be against the school.

E6. Hertfordshire appeals

Official guidance from Hertfordshire County Council can be found here

E7. Child educated in Catalan until year 4. How much weight do appeal panels give to the language issue if she fails the exam? The situation in Lincolnshire.

“My niece is half Spanish and lived in Spain until her family moved to the UK halfway through year 4. She had been educated in Catalan until then, and , although her father is English and the intention was to bring her up trilingual (Spanish, English and Catalan) in reality the language in the home was Spanish, and her English, although very good, was by no means perfect when she arrived in the UK. It has improved hugely, but it is still not perfect. She took the Kent 11+ in January, and her parents are wondering how much weight the appeals panel would give to the language issue should she fail. I am just incredibly impressed that she could even take on the VR test – it’s hard enough for native speakers!”

I think it would depend how close to the pass mark she is, and on whether her English is inadequate for the 11+. There should be evidence to confirm that, although improving rapidly, her English puts her at a disadvantage in the 11+ (e.g. a report from the school, her English exercise book, her KS2 prediction). There should also be alternative evidence of very high ability (e.g. predicted level 5 for Maths, strong head teacher support, good school reports).

“This is a very live issue in Lincolnshire at the moment as quite large numbers of European migrants have settled here in the last few years. There is concern that the children are not able to access the Grammar schools in the selective areas of the county because their lack of English bars them from succeeding in the tests. We are waiting to see what the response to this issue will be.” [Alex]

In my experience the most problematic appeals were for children recently arrived from abroad with little or no previous knowledge of English. It can take at least three years before they are ready to face the 11+. Appeal panels will find it difficult to uphold appeals in such cases when there is an absence of any meaningful alternative evidence of high ability. It is difficult for a panel to know objectively how the standard of work at the previous foreign school compares with that of a local school. How is it possible to prove that the foreign school has very high standards? Any evidence of the foreign school’s academic reputation, preferably in writing, could be useful, together with an official translation of the child’s reports.

E8. Experience of a Kent appeal (with acknowledgements to Correll)

I had my son’s appeal for entry in a Kent Grammar yesterday and have a few observations for those still preparing for your appeal:

The Panel were very relaxed and will give you a very fair hearing – don’t worry about speaking slowly or reading word for word. I think they understand it is a nerve racking experience and don’t expect an impassioned speech without resorting to notes.

The LEA officer will basically say your child failed so can’t have a place. At the end he/she will say the LEA is sympathetic to you but you can’t have a place. It’s a scripted thing.

When asked to state your case, just run through each point – if you are presenting academic info then try and relate this to how it shows your child is capable of thriving in a grammar school. Also if, say, your child did very well on one paper but less on others you really have to focus on this weakness and explain why they may have scored so low or how the other evidence you present illustrates ability in this area. I think this is the key.

For example, if you had a low non verbal reasoning score try to explain for example how attainment in maths and science in fact points to a high ability in these areas, it being my understanding that this test is used as a predictor of a child’s ability to absorb and understand new concepts in these subjects.

I did mention the unpalatable school alternatives (in fact as I mentioned one school I noticed one panel member smile and nod her head). However they did explain that they cannot take this into the account as the appeal is whether your child should be admitted to a grammar school not that the other schools may be rubbish.

You will get questions from the panel – mine asked about my son’s character and interests and were really just asked out of politeness.

You are given the chance to summarise at the end – make your points briefly but firmly.

Generally if you get nervous don’t panic – I am confident that the panel are assessing your case not your performance!

E9. Bucks “Headteacher Recommendations”, selection reviews and appeals

(1) Headteacher Recommendations

a. Introduction

As far as I know, Bucks has been the only authority to grade candidates in advance of the 11+ as part of the official process.

The “Order of Suitability” was abolished for the October 2008 11+. Under the OoS system candidates were ranked in order of merit and head teachers were required to estimate their 11+ scores within certain ranges.

Since 2008 each candidate has simply been given a recommendation for academic potential, and a grade for attitude to work.

Before the publication of 11+ results, head teachers are asked to rate candidates’ academic potential as follows:

1= exceptionally highly recommended (changed to “Exceptionally able so very highly recommended” in 2014/15)
2= highly recommended (changed to “Very able so recommended without any reservation” 2014/15)
3= recommended with reservations
4= not recommended for grammar school_

and to categorise attitude to work as follows:

1=Self-starter. Independent worker. Consistent. Highly motivated
2=Independent. Hardworking. Reliable
3=Output varies
4=Lacks self organisation, requires support

This has been a requirement for heads of Buckinghamshire LA schools and for partner schools. For all other schools it has been optional. The deadline for heads to submit this information was 27th September 2013, a couple of weeks before the issuing of 11+ results.

At the time of writing, further information can be found in the headteachers’ manual on the Buckinghamshire County Council website.

b. How will headteacher recommendations be presented to panels?

The LA has used the recommendation gradings for the children to provide an individual and school summary grid. They incorporate this onto a sheet titled ‘School Summary – Selection Appeals, Year of Entry …..’.

Panels will be told the total number of children recommended under each heading, and how many of those children qualified.

Headteachers cannot alter their original recommendations (unless there has been an error). What they might be able to do, for an appeal in the summer term, is to indicate that things have changed. For example, they might be able to write before or after Easter a separate letter saying “There has been a marked improvement in Mary’s work recently and we would now rate her as a 2:1” (‘2’ for academic potential, ‘1’ for attitude to work).

c. My son has a ‘3’ recommendation for academic potential. In your experience do you think it is going to be a major issue?

Well, it’s an issue. Certainly panels would probably want to see a ‘1’ or a ‘2’ – or a good explanation why not.

d. Interpreting the Headteacher Recommendations

(i) If you opt for an appeal in Bucks, you will receive your appeal papers for Bucks about a week before the hearing, and included will be a summary of all the Headteacher Recommendations for your school – assuming this is a Bucks Primary or Partner School. This will show the correlation between the recommendations and which children qualified. It is one tool which might be used by both review and selection panels to gauge how reliable the primary school’s assessment of the children is.

(ii) We’d rather not get drawn into discussing individual Bucks schools on the forum, but in exceptional cases we may ask for the following information:

  • How many children had a 1:1 (a ‘1’ recommendation, and a ‘1’ for attitude)?
    How many of these qualified?
  • How many children had a 1:2 (a ‘1’ recommendation, and a ‘2’ for attitude)?
    How many of these qualified?
  • How many children had a 1:3 (a ‘1’ recommendation, and a ‘3’ for attitude)?
    How many of these qualified?
  • How many children had a 2:1 (a ‘2’ recommendation, and a ‘1’ for attitude)?
    How many of these qualified?
  • How many children had a 2:2 (a ‘2’ recommendation, and a ‘2’ for attitude)?
    How many of these qualified?
  • How many children had a 3:1 (a ‘3’ recommendation, and a ‘1’ for attitude)?
    How many of these qualified?

If we ask, please let us know all six categories, regardless of where your child is on the list – the overall picture is what we would be interested in – and use the format from the following example, where the figures are given as “number recommended (number qualified)”:

  • 1:1, 6(6)
  • 1:2, 4(3)
  • 1:3, 3(3)
  • 2:1, 7(5)
  • 2:2, 8(3)
  • 3:1, 9(2)

(iii) Remember that officially there is now meant to be no direct link between recommendation and score. (Once upon a time, a ‘1’ recommendation meant a predicted score of 131-141, and a ‘2’ meant a prediction of 121-130.)

If there is a significant mismatch between recommendations and qualifications, the primary school could argue “We never expected most of these children to qualify, but nevertheless we do believe them to be suitable for grammar school.”

All the same, it is not without significance that the number of “successful” recommendations is shown. It may give an indication of how realistic headteachers have been.

(iv) It shouldn’t be necessary for everyone to post their HTR summaries on the forum at the time of appeals. Here is our very rough guide to interpreting the figures.

On average one might expect around 80 percent of all of a school’s ‘1’ recommendations to have qualified, and perhaps around 40-50 percent of all of the ‘2’ recommendations.

It is of course for the individual panel to decide what they think of a head’s recommendations (and some might not look closely at the overall figures), but our view would be:

ABOVE AVERAGE RESULTS – we would be inclined to trust the recommendations.

AVERAGE TO BELOW AVERAGE RESULTS – difficult to draw firm conclusions (it doesn’t help your case, but doesn’t necessarily spoil it).

One or two final points about the recommendations

(v) Percentages can be a bit misleading when the number involved is very small. For example, if a headteacher recommends just three pupils, the only possible success rates are 0%, 33.3%, 66.6% and 100% – nothing in between! In reality the difference between one child qualifying (a 33.3% success rate) and two (a 66.6% success rate) is slight. The important thing is that ideally there should be no huge number of unsuccessful recommendations (especially ‘1s’).

Moreover, if in the above example the head gave everyone a ‘2’ recommendation, and none qualified, they might have been rather borderline candidates, expected to score around 121, so these recommendations could have been quite realistic. It would be more concerning if all three had been given a ‘1’ recommendation – that might be harder to explain away!

(vi) At an appeal hearing parents would not normally be asked to comment on the “accuracy” of the head’s recommendations, but we are aware that a few panels do ask. Unless there is a specific point you wish to make, it’s probably best not to get involved. (“I’m sorry but I don’t really feel qualified to comment on the headteacher’s judgement.")

(2) Bucks selection reviews and appeals

With the conversion of grammar schools to academies, the system following the 11+ tests in October 2012 has changed.
Selection appeals in January/February have been replaced by selection reviews. For some general information about reviews, See B18 .

Some serious errors were made in 2012/13. For example, parents were told that they had to go through a review if they wanted to keep open the option of an independent appeal (which was completely untrue, as we argued at the time). The next version of the Headteachers Manual gave the correct position as follows (but there were still instances of primary school heads giving out incorrect information in 2013/14):

“Where a parent is unsuccessful in making a case at selection review and they still wish to pursue a place at their preferred grammar school, they have the right to appeal before an Independent Appeal Panel once they have received their school allocation. However, in this case the Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) is restricted by the School Admission Appeals Code of Practice to consider only whether the child’s review was carried out in a fair, consistent and objective way. Only if there is no evidence that this has been done, can the panel go on to satisfy themselves that there is evidence to demonstrate that the child is of the required academic standard for grammar
school.
Parents may also appeal before an IAP if they did not take part in the selection review procedure.”

There has been considerable concern about the amount of time spent on each review (minimal compared with an appeal), and the lack of transparency (inadequate notes to show how decisions were arrived at).

Review or Appeal?

(i) Parents can opt for a review or for an appeal
- or for both
(but an unsuccessful review could have serious implications for any subsequent appeal because the Appeals Code states that, provided the review was ‘fair, consistent and objective’, no other issues can be considered at appeal).

(ii) The main advantage of a review, it seems to us, is that if the outcome were to be successful, parents would get the decision before the first round of allocations.

(iii) Unfortunately, with a deadline of early November by which their entire case for review must be prepared and submitted, we think many parents will be under extreme pressure. (In contrast, parents have from early March until sometime in the summer term to submit evidence for an appeal.)

(iv) Reviews will take place behind closed doors in November, December and January. We have no idea how long will be spent on each case – except that it is likely to be minimal compared with an appeal.

(v) Parents will:

  • be excluded from attending a review,
  • have no opportunity to expand on their case or to answer any questions the panel may have,
  • not be allowed to have school work taken into consideration.

(vi) Last year it was said that review panels normally expected there to be strong evidence of both

  • high academic ability
  • and exceptional reasons for underperformance in the tests.
    The Appeals Code, on the other hand, no longer makes any specific mention of ‘extenuating circumstances’ – which is not to say that parents cannot introduce extenuating circumstances if they wish to do so (and appeal panels will take any such evidence into account).

(vii) The sort of information that can be presented at a review or at an appeal is similar.
The range of academic evidence that might help a case is listed here.
However, as noted above, school work cannot be sent in for a review, whereas it can be brought to an appeal (if parents so wish).

(viii) Appeals are governed by legislation, and any breaches of the Code of Practice can be complained about to the ombudsman (or to the EFA in the case of an academy).
There are no statutory requirements or safeguards for a review.

(ix) Parents who opt not to go for a review are entitled to a full hearing in front of an independent appeal panel, and the opportunity to present their case in person and to answer questions.
However, we have no way of knowing how many grammar school places will still be unfilled in the summer term – it’s likely that oversubscription could be an issue at appeals for the more popular grammar schools. In this situation, as well as putting forward a case for selection, parents will also have to put forward reasons for wanting a place at the school for which they are appealing.

(x) Because parents will not be permitted to attend the review, it was suggested that the process will be less stressful for them. This conveniently overlooks the fact that parents have never been required to attend an appeal if they didn’t want to! An appeal panel can take its decision on the basis of written submissions alone (just as a review panel does).
However, we would always urge parents to exercise their right to attend an appeal. An appeal panel has an ‘enabling role’ (unlike a review panel). It can go out of its way to assist parents who are finding the process difficult. It can encourage and coax them into presenting their case, and tease out the information it needs.

(xi) Skipping the review and waiting for a summer term appeal will of course be stressful.
Arguably it will also be stressful waiting for a review which turns out to be unsuccessful, and then waiting for an appeal loaded with uncertainties (will the admission authority satisfy the appeal panel that the review was fair, consistent and objective? – and will parents be allowed to present their case for selection?).

xii) In 2012 a certain amount of ‘spin’ and disinformation appeared to be in circulation to justify the introduction of reviews. For example:

  • “Because parents will not be permitted to attend reviews, the process will be so much less stressful for them.”

As pointed out further above, this conveniently overlooks the fact that parents have never been required to attend an appeal if they didn’t want to. An appeal panel can take its decision on the basis of written submissions alone.

  • “Appeal panels are gullible and susceptible to ‘hard luck’ and ‘sob’ stories. They don’t focus on academic evidence.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. No appeals panel is likely to fall for a sob story. They would want hard evidence not just that something happened – but of the effect on the child (e.g. signs of distress and an unexpected deterioration in school work, confirmed by the school). Not only that, but the panel would still require hard evidence of grammar school ability! The focus has always been unrelentingly on academic evidence. As we often point out, you can win an appeal with academic evidence but no extenuating circumstances – you cannot win an appeal with extenuating circumstances but insufficient academic evidence.

Think about it: successful selection appeals have usually had a ‘1’ or a ‘2’ recommendation from the head (i.e. exceptionally highly recommended, or highly recommended). There would have had to be compelling reasons to win an appeal without the head’s support!

  • “Selection appeals were not ‘proper appeals’ anyway, because there was no statutory basis for them.”

Untrue – Section 94 of the SSFA (School Standards & Framework Act) gives the right of appeal against any decision (note the words “any decision”) as to the school at which education is to be provided, and since non-selection amounts to a decision not to offer a place at any grammar school, it follows that there is a right of appeal against the decision not to deem a child qualified.

In AS v Buckinghamshire County Council (2010) UKUT 407 (AAC), following an appeal to the Upper Tribunal, Judge Ward ruled that the local authority’s determination of grammar school eligibility was a decision “as to the school at which education is to be provided for the child”, and that therefore the appeal to the IAP provided by the local authority was an appeal for the purposes of section 94 of the SSFA 1998 (as opposed to a “local review”).

The real reason for the new system in our view appears to be financial. Grammar school heads now have to pay for the 11+, and they didn’t want to pay for selection appeals as well. Reviews are a cheaper alternative!

It wouldn’t be so bad if the grammar schools chose not to argue the ‘fair, consistent and objective’ test with regard to reviews. Bucks parents would then be guaranteed the same right to an ‘unfettered’ appeal as parents in Kent and Lincolnshire. It still wouldn’t be quite as good as the previous selection appeal system (because all appeals will now be heard after places have been allocated), but at least Bucks parents wouldn’t be disadvantaged to the same extent).

(xiii) Many parents will be anxiously wondering whether they should focus their efforts on a review or an appeal. There is no easy answer to this. All we can say is “Think very carefully – be aware that if you opt for a review, the scope of any subsequent appeal to an independent panel could be severely limited”.

(xiv) There is a very real risk that many parents will opt for a review simply because it comes first – and may not fully appreciate the implications.

See also: E32
E33
E34
E35
and this thread.

E10. I believe the headteacher recommendations at our Bucks school were done based on a CATs test at which our son did well in both verbal and quantitative but his average overall score was low due to a low non verbal score.

If the head really based the school’s recommendations on a single overall CAT score, it was contrary to the guidance given to primary schools.

This question pre-dates the introduction of CEM tests in 2013. At the time it would have made a bit more sense to use just the CAT VR score, which fitted better with the then format of the Bucks 11+. Even that would not have been advisable. The instructions to headteachers clearly state “it is not possible to directly translate a test score in another test to the 11+”. A single test is not reliable. In fact CAT results come with a warning from GL Assessment / NFER: “a pupil’s score is only an estimate of true ability …………”

E11. Letter of Appeal for Mary in Buckinghamshire

Note the clear layout below (introduction + academic points + extenuating circumstances + conclusion)

Note the brevity (less than a side of A4)

It’s rather good, isn’t it?

Notice any flaws?

(If the long list of academic evidence makes you lose heart, bear in mind the possibility that Mary might be fictitious …….)

Dear Members of the Panel

We would be grateful if you would consider this appeal for our daughter Mary on the following grounds:

Academic Evidence

  • Attained 115 in the 11+
  • Recommended as a “2” for academic potential
  • “Very strongly” supported by the head teacher
  • High grades for achievement – please see attached copy of last report (appendix 1)
  • VR scores of 126 (=96th percentile) in 2013, and 123 (=93rd percentile) in 2012 – please see Alternative Test Scores in the head teacher’s statement. 1
  • Level 3 for KS1 SATs
  • Predicted high level 5s for KS2 in English, Maths and Science
  • Top group for Maths and English (in a high performing school) 2
  • A well-rounded character. Sociable. Actively participates in church youth group, local swimming club, etc. Junior chess champion. 3
  • We, and the school, and indeed Mary herself feel that she is more than suitable to be considered for a Grammar school placement and that she would have no trouble in achieving and maintaining the academic standard required. 4

Extenuating Circumstances

  • Mary’s grandfather died at the beginning of July. This was obviously an upsetting time for the whole family, and did not help in the lead-up to the 11+. 5
  • Mary felt under a great deal of pressure to do well in the exams because her elder sister is already attending grammar school. 6 Knowing our children as we do, we have absolutely no doubt that Mary is actually much brighter than her sister. 7

To sum up, we do feel very strongly that she is definitely grammar school material and that the structure and ethos of a Grammar will provide her with the best possible educational opportunities. We also believe that the reasons outlined above provide an adequate explanation as to why she fell short of the pass mark by such a small margin. 8

Thank you for taking the time to consider our case.

1 Good to see at least two alternative scores – that shows consistency.

2 Useful to have a context for “top sets”, but only include the bit in brackets if it can be justified. The panel will have statistics showing how well the school has done at the 11+. If more than a third of the children qualified, it’s above average. How well has the school been performing at KS2 relative to other Bucks schools – is it well within the top 50 percent?

3 Should be omitted, apart from “junior chess champion”. Focus solely on the two criteria: academic points and extenuating circumstances. Anything else is a distraction, unless it’s an intellectual pursuit.

4 Should be omitted. The school can speak for itself. Parents’ and Mary’s views are not evidence and don’t count! It’s for the panel to decide.

5 A couple of months before the 11+? Any evidence that schoolwork deteriorated?

6 Sibling rivalry is understandable – certainly worth mentioning, if applicable, although it can be difficult to prove.

7 Panels are probably weary of hearing “And this child is much more able than our older child who’s already at grammar school and really flourishing”!
Such comparisons between siblings may be of interest to the parents – but not to an appeal panel!

8 Yet more assertions! It might be better to omit weak extenuating circumstances altogether. Alternatively some cautious humility would be appropriate, e.g. “We hope you would be prepared to take the view that these extenuating circumstances are sufficient to explain the shortfall in marks”. (I would only use the phrase “by such a small margin” for 117+. Otherwise use: “shortfall in marks”.)

The extenuating circumstances in Mary’s case are weak because there’s no evidence. Academic evidence is more important, however, and in this case the academic evidence looks quite respectable.

“Mary’s" appeal merits very serious consideration, especially if most of those pupils recommended as a ‘2’ by her school were successful in the 11+.

As I’ve written elsewhere, I wouldn’t attach huge importance to the letter of appeal. The supporting evidence, and the questioning at the appeal, are likely to be what really counts.

Just in case anyone was thinking of using a size 8 font to pack as much as possible into a page of A4, the “Letter of Appeal for Mary” is about 340 words long, and I’ve suggested removing certain phrases, so the final version will be shorter.

The simpler you can make your case, the better, because (including all the evidence) a panel might have hundreds of pages of paperwork to get through in just one day of appeals. Don’t let the panel drown in too much detail. List your key arguments with bullet points, and make reference as appropriate to the supporting evidence (“See appendix 1 – letter from …. dated ……”) for further information.

Remember you’ll have the opportunity to answer questions and go into more detail at the appeal itself, so it’s not as if all the points you think might be worth a mention will not be considered.

E12. What schoolwork should be submitted for an 11+ appeal?

Please check whether the relevant authority has issued any guidance. If in doubt, take along exercise books for the main subjects, and ask the panel if they would like to see them. (Some panels do, but panels in some authorities don’t! However, they ought really to consider any evidence you wish to bring to their attention, and exercise books full of high marks or complimentary remarks by the teacher about achievement ought to count as admissible evidence.)

In Bucks school work cannot be submitted to a review panel, but it can be brought to an appeal (if parents wish). photocopies of schoolwork are positively discouraged because they are not always clear.

I would advise anyway against a few carefully selected pieces of work. It begs the question “How much help was given?” or “What’s his or her work usually like?”

At the other extreme, some parents arrive with boxes of exercise books, folders, models, poems, bound projects, etc. I can just hear the panel inwardly groaning! There simply isn’t time, and it’s not necessary.

If the work is good, then in Bucks that fact should be reflected in the school’s comments as there is a space on the head teacher’s form for remarks on curriculum areas. Having said that, my advice would be to take exercise books to an appeal for the core subjects (e.g. English, Maths and Science) – provided that the work is of a good standard and has plenty of favourable marks/comments! Remember, however, that the panel may only have a few minutes to glance at school work.

Personally I am not a fan of ‘post-it’ notes to highlight good pages in school workbooks. I do not like the idea of specially selected pieces of work in principle. ‘Post-it’ notes might actually encourage some panel members to browse elsewhere! Other panel members may take a different view – but even so, if you do make use of ‘post-it’ notes, I suggest you don’t overdo them as too much ‘clutter’ can get in the way when panel members are trying quickly to get an overall impression of the standard of work.

“I have just looked over my son’s textbooks this weekend with a view to taking them into the appeal. I am worried about a few negative comments and am thinking that at what point do I make the decision that they will do more harm than good?”

It rather depends what the “negative comments” are. If they are along the lines “insufficient effort”, “careless writing”, but provide evidence of high achievement, I wouldn’t worry.

E13. Useful links for Buckinghamshire: (correct at time of writing)

E14. I found this site invaluable when preparing for our Bucks appeal for our daughter. Her VRTS was 118, she is ranked 10 (out of 31) in her school with all children ranked above her passing their 11+, and 4 ranked below her also having passed. She was recommended as a “1”, and exceptionally strongly supported by her head teacher. In addition we took in schoolwork evidence to show that she is currently working to a 5B level in her Maths and English. Our extenuating circumstances were that we had moved to Bucks at Easter in 2006 and then bought and moved to our current house in the September whilst the familiarisation for the 11+ was taking place at school, and that there was significant disruption in her life during that time. I am sad to say that even with the extremely strong academic support, our case was unsuccessful.

a. There’s quite a lot we don’t know about this case: what the other 11+ score was, how realistic the head’s recommendations were (e.g. what percentage of the ’1’s actually scored 131-141? what percentage of the ’2’s actually scored 121-130?), whether the school was officially predicting three 5s or even high level 5s, what other standardised VR scores such as CATs were available, exactly how the head’s statement of support was worded with reference to academic potential, which quartile for English and Maths (and in what sort of year group?), what school reports revealed in terms of achievement grades, what evidence supported the extenuating circumstances ………….

It wouldn’t be fair to expect people to go into too much detail publicly about their cases, but even if all the above points were satisfactorily covered, there might still have been other evidence that swayed the panel one way rather than another.

If both scores were 118, then I think this might have been a very borderline case, and borderline cases are usually the ones that could go either way. Absolute consistency is not possible when panels have to make very difficult judgements such as “To what extent did the extenuating circumstances affect this child, bearing in mind the score achieved?”

The ombudsman would fully accept that two different panels could come to different conclusions about the same case, especially a very borderline one. What matters, from the ombudsman’s point of view, is that all of the evidence has been properly considered, and that the decision is a reasoned one.

b. It might be worth asking for a copy of the Clerk’s Notes, using the Data Protection Act. This is certainly possible in Bucks. (Parents in other areas will need to check with whoever organised their appeal).

In Bucks, write to the Appeals Team at County Hall, Aylesbury, enclosing a cheque made payable to BCC for ten pounds, requesting a copy of the clerk’s notes “under the Data Protection Act”. (It has to be done precisely in this way.) It will probably take a week or so.

This should at least enable you to find out more about why the panel arrived at the decision it did.

If you disagree with the panel, then I’m afraid there’s absolutely nothing you can do about that.

On the other hand, if the panel did something wrong (failed to take account of an important bit of evidence, for example), there might be grounds for taking matters further.

E15. Are there any figures for complaints to the ombudsman regarding Bucks appeals?

In the year ending 31 March 2008 there were 60 complaints to the ombudsman relating to all Buckinghamshire appeals (both selections and transfers). The outcomes were as follows (with the previous year’s figures in brackets):

  • Maladministration: 0 (0)
  • Local settlement: 6 (15) [usually meaning the County Council decided to offer a re-hearing]
  • No maladministration/insufficient evidence: 46 (63)
  • Ombudsman’s discretion: 8 (9) [meaning the complaint was not worth pursuing]

‘Selection’ appeals generate most of the complaints. 47 out of 60 complaints in the year ending 31 March 2008 related to selection appeals. 72 out of 87 complaints in the year ending 31 March 2007 related to selection appeals.

E16. Are the results of practice papers useful evidence?

I doubt whether any appeal panel would accept the results of practice papers as evidence. They have not been officially marked and standardised.

You might be asked how your child got on with the practice papers – this does not mean that the results will be considered valid evidence.

E17. Whilst preparing my presentation it suddenly flashed into my mind something my son mentioned after taking his first Bucks test which I had completely forgotten! He was placed into a different classroom along with several others in his class to take the test as the school had exceptionally high numbers taking the 11+ this year, and this was not the room in which he had taken the familiarisation papers. Is it worth mentioning?

It’s worth a mention if the score was around 120. Remember, it’s probably a lot more traumatic for children who have to come in to Aylesbury for central testing in a totally strange environment – but little if any allowance is made for them!

E18. I am getting myself really worried that the Bucks 11+ appeals are in some way categorised and that the most likely to succeed are given an earlier date.

There really is nothing to worry about. Bucks 11+ appeals in mid-February stand exactly the same chance as appeals held in the first week of January.

E19. Format of a Bucks selection appeal

a. A Bucks appeal follows 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

b. The format is as follows (with acknowledgements to Sally-Anne):

The chairman will introduce you to everyone in the room – the LEA Rep, the clerk to the panel (who takes notes of the discussion) and the three panel members. You will all be seated around a table.

The LEA Rep then states the standard LEA case, outlining your child’s results and ranking, and noting any special needs. The Rep will conclude that the child is therefore not best suited to a GS. I must emphasise that this is a standard statement, not prepared for each child other than in the facts of the marks, etc. I should also say that some Reps make a lengthier statement than you may have been led to expect.

You then have an opportunity – no more than 5 minutes if possible – to highlight the key points of your case as stated in your letter to the panel. You remain seated at the table throughout. You may wish to only take one minute to re-state the key facts. For a more complex case, up to 15 minutes is acceptable, or if you are introducing compelling new evidence.

It is helpful if you can give the clerk a copy of the points you will be making to save them having to write it all down at the time, and they can also refer to it afterwards to ensure that they have included everything you said.

Then the panel will ask you questions – they will always ask questions, even if they are entirely convinced by your case.

Once the questions are over, there is an opportunity to sum up. Finally, the Chairman of the panel (one of the 3 members) will ask you if you feel you have had sufficient time to state your case. You will then hand any schoolwork to the clerk, and you and the LEA rep will leave the room. The LEA rep will wait with you while the panel look at the schoolwork. After a few minutes the clerk will bring the schoolwork out to you, and you can then leave.

E20. How reliable is the 11+ result?

I have written elsewhere that a single reasoning test is not 100% reliable.

Bucks, to their credit, administer a VR test twice and take the higher score. (They used to do it three times, taking the average of the best two scores!)

I occasionally came across the “margin of error” argument when I was hearing appeals, and it didn’t prove anything. I think the panel’s reaction to “My son scored 120 and there’s a 90% chance his true score lies in the range 115-125” is likely to be: “There may be an element of doubt, but that’s why we’re already considering the alternative academic evidence and the extenuating circumstances to see if there are sufficient grounds to overturn the authority’s decision.”

E21. Just a thought regarding the lower of the two scores in Bucks. If my daughter had scored 121 it would not have mattered a jot how much she scored in the other paper . I think it’s a little unfair that now her case will go to appeal, this score will be of such huge importance. If the higher of the 2 results decides whether they pass or not in the first place, then the appeal surely should just be based on that highest scoring paper?

If the higher score is the only thing that matters, then why would you be putting forward alternative academic evidence at an appeal?

The ombudsman has ruled that an appeal panel is entitled to consider all the evidence available to it, including the lower score.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is always of “huge importance”, but it is there on the record, will be included in the LEA case, and the panel can attach as much weight to it as they feel appropriate.

E22. Help!! – My daughter awoke this morning feeling unwell, I have kept her from school today, please could someone advise me on what happens if she is unwell and cannot go to school tomorrow? What will happen to her 11+ exam?

“If your child is not well enough to take the test, they should not take it, County actively discourage sick children taking tests….they can complete it on another day…….your school will advise in advance of the rescheduled date. If your child starts the test and becomes ill during the test, they CANNOT re-sit that test.” [With acknowledgements to Patricia]

Perhaps I could just add that an appeal panel is unlikely to be sympathetic when parents have knowingly sent a sick child in to do the 11+, and that is the basis of their appeal. (“Little Johnnie seemed a little bit better, and we thought it preferable to sitting the test at a later date …..”!)

“The school, or if necessary the LA, will set up another testing day for those that missed any. However, this often means they sit the test somewhere else – i.e. one of the school offices – so make sure you prepare your child for this. Further, make sure the school inform you of the time, date and place of testing well in advance so you can explain it all to your child so they know exactly what is going to happen.” [Forest]

E23. Does anyone have any views as to whether the Bucks Practice papers give you an indication of how your child might do in the real test?

The practice results cannot be relied on as any sort of prediction, and I hope no one will make this mistake. Unfortunately I attended too many appeals where distressed parents were saying “Our child scored so highly in the practice papers, we just can’t understand what has gone wrong.”

Admissions have warned school heads themselves: “Be wary about ….. extrapolating from these results …… it is not possible to accurately equate them with the real tests.”

E24. In Bucks the pass mark is 121. Why are appeal panels so inconsistent, upholding appeals with low scores, but sometimes turning down appeals very close to the pass mark?

Let me give as an example “John”. John scored 114, has a ‘2’ recommendation, middle 25%, predicted 4/5s for KS2. Horrendous extenuating circumstances, ongoing for 1-2 years, affecting 11+ and depressing curriculum results, but thankfully now at an end. Parents say that John is actually very bright. He achieved straight 3s at KS1. His school reports before the extenuating circumstances are exceptionally good. He has a VR CAT score of 129 in September of year 3, and 130 in September of year 4. His current academic achievements may not be impressive, but there is plenty of evidence of high ability. The panel note that the head teacher is supportive, and that his overall recommendations appear to be very accurate.

Then there is “Janet”. Janet scored 120 and 114, has a ‘1’ recommendation, top 25%, predicted straight 5s for KS2 (although her year 5 optional SATs suggest that 5c’s are most likely). Janet shines in class because she is so hardworking and enthusiastic. All her subject reports put the emphasis on how diligent she is. If there is a criticism, it is that she works slowly. Her previous CAT VR scores are 114 and 110. There are no extenuating circumstances. The panel conclude that Janet achieves her results through sheer hard work, is not quite as bright as her school claims, and that 114 – or perhaps the average of the scores, 117 – is a better indicator of her ability than 120. They are also concerned that the head teacher’s overall recommendations do not appear very accurate.

Would it be inconsistent for a panel to uphold John’s appeal but not Janet’s?
No doubt there were other facts as well.

Do not rush to judge other people’s cases when you were not present to hear all the evidence and may not really know all the facts.

E25. Experiences of a Bucks selection appeal

a. from ‘Tired Parents’

“The panel and LEA rep. were all without exception extremely polite, kind and friendly. They did the best they could to make a worrying situation as painless as possible. We have no doubt that they were all sympathetic and whatever they decide we know it will be fair based on the evidence we supplied. Doesn’t mean to say we won’t be extremely disappointed if we don’t get through and there will be considerable wound-licking!! Also like to add that have found this forum a great help and lapped up the comments from everyone, in particular Etienne and Sally-Anne: many thanks. Also good to communicate, albeit electronically, with others in the same situation.

Many thanks for your kind comments about the forum. All those parents still waiting anxiously for their own appeal will find your observations about the hearing reassuring, and will be grateful to you for sharing your experience.

“Well we have managed a little more sleep but have been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. We have had a long wait as we have only just got our results today which has meant a bit of a long-drawn out worry! I have read the letter at least 5 times and am pleased to say it still says the same thing: that we have succeeded, so am over the moon. Once again thanks to everyone for all your help. Good luck to those of you still awaiting your appeals or results.”

b. Lynsey’s appeal

We wanted to share our good news with everyone. Our appeal was successful. I spent yesterday celebrating and have recovered sufficiently now to record a few thoughts in case they can help anyone else. As it happens I have had an easy time since knowing the score of 120. Both the teacher and the head were very reassuring and seemed to imply that a grammar school place was almost in the bag. They wrote a very strong letter of support, placing my child in the top 25% for both maths and English, and agreed with my explanation about mitigating circumstances. They also predicted level 5 SATs. Consequently, I made the (potentially) fatal error of being complacent. I paid little attention to his rather weak CAT VR scores of 118 for year 5 and year 4. I opted to take a very small sample of work with me. Worse, he was initially recorded as a 3,2 but this was revised to a 2,2. As if all that were not bad enough, his other score for THE TEST was 111! Then came the hard part. We went into the appeal and the panel were very kind and patient. I launched into my my case. The panel probed hard into everything! We were asked to explain the disparity between his scores, his weak CAT VR results…it seemed never ending. We were also asked about whether the school streamed the children for English and Maths – I didn’t know. I was able to provide a convincing case for mitigating circumstances and the head teacher agreed with me. Unfortunately, it occurred to me after my appeal that the panel only had my word for it. It was impossible to provide external verification. By the time I came out I realised all too clearly my mistake. I was going to be in the minority of cases who manage to be unsuccessful at 120! I came home and found this site in a belated attempt at reassurance. What an excellent site…I can’t praise it enough. The advice is absolutely fantastic and so, so supportive. But I found very little to encourage me. So many people were mounting such well-researched campaigns. My world fell apart. I was so despondent. I felt as though I had thrown away some very good points by being arrogant/lazy/busy? I had let my son down and we had come so close. For three days and nights I could think of nothing else. Our appeal was on Wednesday and we received the letter on Saturday. Hidden half way down a page of small print was the line that our appeal had been successful but my eyes has blurred with emotion and anticipation of bad news by then. How could we have been successful? I have given a lot of thought to this. I think we were very lucky with our panel, but I agree with advice I have read on this site; they genuinely were trying to help. Even though I rambled, unprepared, they asked the relevant questions and elicited the information in spite of me. All that probing was to enable me to give them the information to allow our appeal to succeed. My experience proves without any doubt that it is not only the cleverly presented cases that can get results. I think the panel can have been in no doubt that I was telling the truth because quite often they saw me formulating a response as though it was the first time I had thought about it (which in some cases it was!) I think the questions about streaming the children was an attempt to gauge whether the placing in the top 25% was fair – after all children in the lower set must surely be in the next 25% or even lower. Perhaps it is worth making sure that at no time do the panel feel that they are being manipulated. So, all’s well that ends well. But I have had a small taste of the worry and anxiety that many of you have been going through for weeks and some of you still are. I wish you much support and strength and will be wishing the best results for you. Very good luck!

120 certainly doesn’t guarantee success at a Bucks appeal.

With the other score so low, it’s not surprising the panel did a lot of probing and focused on weaker parts of the case.

I think it’s right that sincerity and spontaneity make a much better impression than a slick presentation and well-rehearsed answers ……… which is not to say that people shouldn’t think long and hard about their case before the hearing.

c. Billy’s appeal

I won’t go too much into the specific details of our case as one thing I have picked up on having read all the Q & As and countless posts in the appeal section of this forum, is that no two cases are the same, and even when certain points of different cases may be similar, the individual circumstances are nearly always different, but I must admit that reading about the various different ways certain points were addressed certainly did help how we put our case together.

For us things started with our son narrowly failing the 11+ (120). We did think he would pass as he had done fairly well in his practice papers and in the few tests we had gone through with him at home. What we didn’t know was whether he was suitable for a grammar school or most importantly how much he really wanted to go to grammar school. We let his disappointment sink in for a few days then had a chat with him about this. We explained that it would mean knuckling down and would require a lot of effort on his part, we told him this as his most current school report was somewhat mixed, he did get good achievement marks but his marks for effort were poor. After careful consideration of his responses and reassurances that he was working hard this year, we made an appointment with his head teacher. “Is he suitable for grammar school was the only question we asked”. The head replied that he was and in fact in the head teacher’s opinion a grammar school would in fact be better for him in that he worked better in a challenging environment. We mentioned the poor report which showed he had got 118 in his previous NFER report which was a drop from 130 in yr 4, which showed good achievement as well as good effort. He replied that he was working very hard this year and that the score wouldn’t be the only thing that would be considered. We did put a lot of store by his comments as this was not our first appeal. Five years previously his brother had failed the 11+ by a fair few marks (116) and the head’s advice to us then was that maybe he would be better off in the top sets at an upper school rather than struggling at grammar, of course we ignored this, went ahead with the appeal, lost that and he went to the local upper anyway. As it turned out he got A*, A and B in his GCSE’s that he took in year 10, probably confirming the heads assessment.

Having satisfied ourselves that he was suitable and wanted to go to grammar we started our appeal.

We wrote a letter with our application basically dealing with why we thought he failed and why we thought he was suitable. He had been suffering with a skin complaint that had affected his sleep. We enclosed a letter from his doctor to confirm this. As for academic ability we just highlighted the best bits of the head teacher’s summary. Three 5 predications for SATS, that he was at the top end of the top sets for the main subjects and he had a gold award for a maths challenge in year yr5 and yr6. And he was recommended 1:1.

Then the worrying really began. How do we present it? Is what we have got enough? What should we include, what should we leave out? Would the fact that the date of our hearing is towards the end of the period when they are heard significant? Etc.

Then we found the eleven plus site, we read the Q & A section and found it answered a lot of our concerns, this along with viewing many posts in the appeal section enabled us to begin putting together our presentation. When we couldn’t find what we needed from the above, we made a posting and were delighted with the replies. It was also comforting to know we weren’t the only parents going through this most testing of times.

Our case was as ready as it could be. A few days or so before the hearing we got the case papers, all seemed well except the heads predictions were not very accurate. Rightly or wrongly in the end we decided to make a brief mention of these in our presentation. Also our son came home and said he had got his marks for the tests he sat just before Christmas. I asked his teacher what they were, they were better than his predictions, and asked would it be possible for her to furnish us with these details. This she did, it wasn’t so much a letter of support it just stated his results and his current scores (Maths 5a. Reading 5b, Writing and Science 5c) it did also state that it placed him in the top 5 pupils in the year for each subject, which we thought was very helpful.

Our actual hearing went as follows:

We were 50 minutes late going in and at the time the waiting seemed a whole lot longer. Lots of apologies were given for the lateness.

It started with introductions; I think they sensed we were nervous especially when my husband dropped all of our papers over the floor. I offered the clerk a copy of our speech asking if it would help her with her note taking (a tip taken from your site), which was gratefully accepted. I think having our speech written down definitely helped (again another tip) as it meant we got everything across we intended. Neither of us are confidant speakers and we both stumbled and flustered a bit, but because we had everything written down, even when the panel interjected for clarification on minor points, we referred back to our speech, to make sure we carried on from where we left off and so we didn’t miss anything out, which I have since realised would be very easy to do without notes/written down speech.

This is a summary of our hearing. I have added in the comments from the panel as best I could remember.

Firstly we gave everyone present a copy of his yr 4 and yr5 school reports and a copy of his letter stating his marks and actual grades on his recent interim SAT tests. Then I read the following;

“As to why he did not score 121, in all honesty I don’t know."

“In the run up to the test he had been suffering with some nasty sores on his leg for a few weeks as a result of an accident during the summer holidays. Prior to the testing these had spread to his face and stomach and were causing him a fair amount of discomfort. This did affect his sleep somewhat, which may have had a negative affect on him. He visited the doctor who prescribed him medication and it was another 5 or 6 weeks before they cleared up fully. Not being 100% may have cost him one answer. I don’t think it is too unfair to assume that one more mark would be the difference between him passing and failing having scored 120. You have a copy of his doctor’s letter confirming this.”

“Academic evidence”

“With regard to **** as being suitable for a grammar school we believe he has the academic ability required. The head teacher’s summary gives the most up to date assessment of ****’s progress. It states he is in the top quarter of the top set in maths and English. Given that 4 children from his school passed the 11+ and one other has had a successful appeal that would place him alongside and presumably ahead of some children already deemed to be suitable for grammar school”.

“This is backed up by the recent core tests that his class sat just before Christmas, please see letter from class teacher detailing his results. His class teacher states the scores place him in the top 5 of the year in every subject. He is currently at level 5a for maths, 5b for reading and he is predicted high level 5s in all his SATs by the end of year 6. We were told (by our son!) he achieved the highest score in Maths. Again this confirms that he is placed alongside and possibly above fellow pupils already confirmed as suitable for grammar school”.

“He is on the gifted, able and talented register”.

“He gained a gold award in the Mathematical Association’s maths challenge in both 2009 and 2010. I did not know if there was any significance in this. It surprised me, when I looked into it that the challenge it is aimed at the top 60% of primary children and only the top 10% of these achieve a gold award. He appears to be particularly talented at maths”.

My husband then read this:

“I believe there may be a couple of issues that could be of concern to the panel and which I would like to address, firstly the head teachers assessment and secondly the 118 NFER score”.

At this point the chair interjected and said that 1:1 was a very good recommendation.

Husband replied with the following:

“I am not sure as to why the ratings were not very accurate; I personally think that what is written is more important than the actual rating. However we only received this information a few days ago leaving us little time to go into it and also I would question whether it is appropriate that I as a parent, should be questioning a qualified professional on how he undertakes his duties."

“My concern is my son may well be very deserving of his 1:1 rating but because the recommendations are not very accurate it may result in you not attaching as much weight to his written summary.”

The chair then commented that what is actually written in the summary is very much taken into consideration. I’m not sure the panel was expecting this point to be raised by us. At the time I thought that maybe it would have been better if my husband had not highlighted this, being a negative point. However on reflection, I think it was the best thing to do. At the very least I think it showed that we had considered our case closely.

Husband carried on:

“IN ANSWER TO THE 118 on the NFER TEST

“He did have a bit of blip in year 5 and this is evident if you look at the marks for effort in his year 5 school report, I would like to point out that despite this, his achievement marks were very good especially literacy and numeracy in which he achieved A’s. This report states that he is capable of achieving far more, indicating to me, that he has the ability required for grammar school, but had not have been making the best of it for a while. In comparison with his year 4 report there does appear to be a drop in the level of his effort, which could explain him dropping from 130 (yr4) to 118 (yr5) in the nfer test.”

“There were a couple of reasons that were most probably responsible for this blip…………… (He then mentioned issues in our personal situation at the time and told them that our son was also seriously involved with other activities outside of school, one in particular that took up a lot of his time at this period. He said that both of these reasons could have contributed to his downturn in effort as well as a NFER score of 118, and that this wouldn’t in our opinion, be a true reflection of his ability).”

He finished with the following;

“To sum up, I believe that the head teacher’s statement in his summary, unreservedly recommending **** as suitable for a place at a grammar school, is an accurate assessment of ****’s ability.”

We were then asked the following questions:

From the chair:

Q. “How did he think he did in the test?”

A. “He thought he did well and would pass; I think he may have been a bit too confident after the first test and maybe relaxed a bit which could have been why his second score was a bit lower.”

Q. “Did you do any practice with him?”

A. “We got some papers from W H Smiths and went through those a week or two before the test.”

Q. “Did he find any particular type of question difficult?”

A. “Yes, a couple of the word ones, mainly when he wasn’t familiar with the words, but otherwise he was fine, particularly the codes and maths ones.”

Q. “Is his year group single streamed?”

A. “After asking what this meant, we replied ‘yes’!”

From the lay member:

Q. “Can you expand a bit more on the sores on his legs and how much did it affect his sleep?”

A. “Just they wouldn’t heal up, some nights the sheets stuck to his leg and was painful for him, I think the worst was when they appeared on his face, they made him conscious of them and left him feeling a bit miserable.”

Q. “What is the current situation regarding the amount of time spent undertaking his main out of school activity?”

A. “We explained time spent undertaking this is now at a more sensible level and gave the reason why.”

Q. “Can you be sure that his out of school commitments won’t affect his commitment to his school work in the future?”

A. “Yes. He is keen on other activities too, which we encourage, and will let him make his mind up what he wants to do in respect of this particular activity when he is older.”

From the third member of the panel:

Q. “Does your son want to go to a grammar school?”

A. “Yes he was upset when he failed and cried.”

We were then asked if we had said everything that we wanted to, were there any other points, were we satisfied that everything was covered… etc.

We said we had his current maths, literacy and science books, along with the original of his Maths certificate which we then put forward to the middle of the table for them to view. My husband said he also had some photocopies of XXXX’s maths certificate and on the back were a few facts about the award which he had gleaned from the mathematical association’s website, in case the panel were not familiar with it. To our surprise the LEA rep (who had told us at the introduction stage that he was a recently retired head teacher) passed back the original to us stating that he thought the said certificate was a paltry reward for such a prestigious achievement, to our further surprise the chair and the two other panel members nodded in agreement. My husband went on to say that he had looked into the award since we were both wondering whether this was a relevant piece of evidence, and had found out that only 10% of the pupils who take the challenge got a gold award. We were not sure if this was a useful piece of evidence or not, but took the line that it wouldn’t do any harm to mention it, since the head teacher had referred to it in his summary. He actually stated that **** had achieved gold in yr5 (when he wasn’t giving his best effort) as well as in year 6 and was one of only a very few who had achieved this feat. To our further surprise the chair then said it was actually less than 10% of all primary aged school children as the challenge was intended for the top 60% of primary school students and the gold award went to the top 10% of those.

We were asked if there was anything else, which there wasn’t. We thanked them for their time in considering our appeal and left the room with the LEA rep. Less than a minute later the clerk came out to return our books.

Our presentation lasted about 5 minutes and the whole appeal a bit less than 20 minutes.

To sum up I definitely got the impression that how we presented our case was completely irrelevant, it was the content of our case that was being assessed and that was quite reassuring, a couple of times when one of us got a bit tongue tied the panel was most helpful in teasing out of us what we were trying to get across. So as parents I am relieved that it wasn’t us being assessed as to how well we put across our case, or else we would be in trouble!

With regard to the whole ordeal my view was that it was fair, the panel, clerk and LEA rep were polite and did their best to make the whole process relaxed and not intimidating. It was not as worrying as I imagined it could have been.

Another reason I have sat and added these notes is to make sure we got over everything we wanted. In the cold light of day I think I am happy about what we said, the only thing I can think of that we could have mentioned was that my sons school in terms of SAT results was a bit higher than the average for Bucks for having children at level 4 and significantly higher than the average for Bucks at level 5, in conjunction with the points about him being at the top end of his class. Before our hearing I did consider saying about my son being born 6 weeks early and that if he had stayed the full term being over a month younger may have given him another mark when the age standardisation was applied, but thought that by doing so may have given the impression we were clutching at straws and would appear a bit desperate and it also possibly have drawn attention away from the academic points we tried to make. We did have his hospital notes that confirmed this was the case, but didn’t mention it.

I would like to thank this web site and all of its contributors for all of the help we gleaned from it, principally the question and answer section, as well as the most helpful comments we got in reply to our postings and we would wholeheartedly recommend any parent going to appeal to use it. Personally we shaped our appeal on the recommendations and advice we uncovered, it gave us a great insight into how the whole process worked and left us feeling we were as well prepared as we could have been, whatever the outcome. If you had read our initial speech you would see why, we were over emphasising his mitigating circumstances and not concentrating on putting enough by academic evidence. Once we had read your Q & A’s we soon changed that, a fact we are truly grateful for.

A few observations (from Etienne and Sally-Anne)

This was a very well thought out appeal.

We like the way you didn’t say too much about extenuating circumstances in the presentation, but let the panel draw the details out of you in the question session.

You started with the big advantage of a 120 score, but seem to have taken nothing for granted, which is entirely sensible. What is particularly good about your approach is that although your son’s scores were 120 and 118, you did not rely solely on the 120 score, but also addressed the 118 score. Admittedly that is easier to do when both scores are close to 121 – it would be harder on scores of 118/112 for example. However, you did not shy away from it, and we hope that the panel will have appreciated that.

As for being tongue-tied, we have no doubt that you made a much better impression than if you had appeared over-confident.

It was best not to play the premature birth card. In the context of a 120 score, you already had quite enough in the way of extenuating circumstances.

We suspect it’s very unusual for parents to comment on the HTRs in their presentation, so can imagine how surprised the panel were! Unless forced to do so (which sometimes happens), it’s not generally a good idea to appear critical, so we like your husband’s reluctance to question how a qualified professional undertakes his duties.

It is probable the panel would have noted the HTRs and the school’s KS2 performance at the decision-making stage, if not earlier.

The gold certificate may have gone down well. We imagine most panels are used to a reference to participation in the Primary Maths Challenge, and get to see the occasional bronze or silver certificate, but golds may be a bit rarer at appeal hearings!

All in all, it was a very well-considered appeal, and, whatever the outcome may be, we do not believe you could have done a better job of representing your son.

(We subsequently heard that Billy’s appeal was successful)

E26. What is the deadline for submitting evidence for a Bucks selection appeal after the 11+ results are issued in November 2011?

You should return the selection appeal form to the Appeals Team within 10 school days of the notification date on the top right hand corner of the form – but if you’re not ready with all your evidence, there’s nothing to stop you sending off the form saying “Evidence and full details of case to follow”.

Any late evidence or information should normally be sent in at least 10 days before the date of your hearing in January/February. Remember to quote your appeal reference number.

As a last resort, you could take 6-7 copies of late evidence or information with you to the hearing (3 copies for the panel, 1 for the clerk, 1 for the admission authority, and 1-2 for parents), but be warned that if you provide anything too close to the hearing date, the panel might adjourn your hearing to allow all parties time to consider it. A short letter might not be a problem – but anything much longer could be!

Sally-Anne comments:

If you are concerned about the timing of gaining evidence for your appeal, you can make yourself “unavailable” on the appeal form for a week or two in January. Essentially that postpones your appeal date to give you more time if you need it.

You might wish to do that if you are looking for more evidence, such as a report from an Educational Psychologist or other specialist. You may also wish to talk to your child’s class teacher about any forthcoming test papers they might be taking early in January in case they could produce good news. Do also bear in mind that an appeal date before the start of the school term gives you no opportunity to speak to the school again if you have had a sudden revelation about your case!

If you are seeking external evidence, such as an EP report, you will need time to understand the results and to interpret them in the light of the 11+. You will then need to prepare your case, and submit your full evidence 10 working days before the appeal is heard.

Think about the timings and give yourself a little room for manoeuvre. If you submit a large body of evidence after the deadline for your appeal date, you could face an adjournment of your case. That will be something that neither you nor the panel will welcome! [Sally-Anne]

Guest55 comments:

Postponing your appeal will not disadvantage you as there is no ‘quota’ of successful appeals. Each case is considered on its own merit and if all the cases were very strong they would all succeed.

If the appeal does not go your way, then support your child to go for level 5s in English and Maths in the KS2 tests, then that will guarantee they can go for the 12+. [Guest55]

E27. Appeals in Lincolnshire (with acknowledgements to Alex)

Appeals for community and controlled Grammar schools in Lincolnshire will be in two parts if the school is full: that is, both against the failure to reach the required standard and then, if that bit succeeds, against not having been given a place. Both parts will be heard at the same time.

  1. Admission authority must make its case that the child does not have the required ability (done on the basis of the test results).
  2. Discretion – this is where you present your alternative evidence of academic ability and mitigating circumstances.
    If you have succeeded in the above and the panel decides that the child has the required ability and aptitude, then:
  3. Admission authority must make its case that the school is full and that taking extra pupil(s) would cause prejudice (i.e. harm) or increase the prejudice if the school is already in a prejudiced situation.
  4. Balancing the prejudice – this is where you present your evidence about why this is the best school for your child and why the alternative school offered is not suitable.

Parents will need, therefore to submit evidence for both parts of the appeal, but bear in mind that the evidence about the suitability of the school in terms of ethos, curriculum etc will only be considered in the second part of the appeal, that is, if the appeal against non-qualification has succeeded.

The guide which the county produces is useful and the people at the County Secretary and Solicitor’s Office and at the Admissions Appeals Team really do try to be helpful if you have any questions.

E28. Lincolnshire Appeals in more detail

There are no non statutory reviews or “head teachers’ appeals” in Lincolnshire. These were abandoned a few years ago after results began to be released before the deadline for filling in the CAF.

In Lincolnshire you may only appeal against the refusal of a school place, not against the failure to reach the required standard as such. Therefore, all appeals are held after allocation of places on March 1st. This means that many non-qualification appeals will be oversubscription appeals as well.
This also means that you may appeal to more than one Grammar School and the outcome of one appeal will have no bearing on another appeal. Thus you may win your non-qualification appeal at one school, but this win cannot be ‘transferred’ to another school – you will have to make a new appeal. On the other hand, if you do not win your appeal at one school, you can have another go at a different school if you are lucky enough to have more than one school in reasonable distance from your home. Remember that you will have to have applied and been refused a place in order to appeal.
Lincolnshire has both Community/Controlled Grammar Schools where the appeal will be handled by the Local Authority, and Foundation Grammar Schools and selective Academies where appeals will be usually be arranged by the School themselves. I think it is true to say that members of the appeal panels which handle Local Authority appeals tend to be widely experienced and well trained and the Clerk will generally have some legal training. Foundation Schools sometimes share some of their panel members (so check if you appeal for more than one school that the panel members are different) and sometimes use each other’s Clerks to the Governors as appeal Clerks. There has been some concern in the past about the conduct of some Foundation School appeals and the Ombudsman upheld complaints about one school’s appeals in 2007. This school and some others have now handed their appeals over to the Local Authority to arrange.

Secondary school appeals in the normal admissions round should be lodged before the end of March. It is possible to appeal for some schools online. The Local Authority publishes an appeal guide which can be obtained from the Education Team (tel: 01522 782030) or online. The Choice Advisers have Fact Sheets on “Appealing for a School” and “Appealing for a Grammar School” (tel: 01522 552509) or as downloads from Lincolnshire Parent Partnership.

For non-qualification appeals for Community or Controlled Schools the Local Authority used to request a report from the primary school head teacher on a standard form. This no longer happens. The form included requests to comment on attainment in the main subject areas, whether the 11 plus score was what the head would have expected and if not what they expected the pupil to score, and whether they knew of any circumstances which may have affected the child’s performance in the tests. Some Foundation Schools used a very similar form, but others did not automatically request information from the primary school. Even in the few cases where you know a form will be completed it is probably safer to ask your primary school for separate reports to make sure that all the evidence you wish to draw attention to is covered.

Etienne’s extensive guidance on the sort of evidence to present at appeal about academic ability and concerning any mitigating circumstances is equally applicable and useful in Lincolnshire.

Where your appeal is against non-qualification and oversubscription (that is where the school has already filled all its places or has more appeals than it has places left) you will need to present evidence about why you wish your child to attend that particular school so that the panel can weigh the balance of the “prejudice” or harm to the school of taking an extra child or children and the “prejudice” to your child in not gaining a place. This evidence will only actually be considered if the panel decide in your favour on the non-qualification part of the appeal, but will nevertheless need to be presented at the same hearing. You may also wish the panel to consider points about whether prejudice will actually be caused to the school by taking in pupil(s) over its Published Admission Number

E29. Appeal Statistics reported from particular areas

a. Statistics for Slough appeals (with acknowledgements to Catherine):

Foundation schools (Slough Grammar, Langley, Herschel)

Number of appeals from pupils who failed to gain an 11+ score of 111

Year Total/Successful
2006 265/36
2005 257/38

Number of appeals from pupils who gained an 11+ score of 111 or more but were not allocated a place at a preferred grammar school

Year Total/Successful
2006 32/9
2005 32/10
St Bernard’s – All appeals (no break-down between appeal types given)
Year Total/Successful
2006 61/6
2005 62/7

b. Birmingham (with acknowledgements to KenR)

The following are the appeal statistics for 2010 entry for the 5 Birmingham King Edward VI Foundation Grammar Schools (from the KE Foundation Report & Accounts for the seventeen months to Aug 2010):-

Quote:
Number of applicants who took the test in November 2009 for entry in September 2010 was 3,781 (up from 3,585 in 2008).

The number of admission appeals [across all 5 grammars] pursued to a final hearing in 2010 was 84 compared to 96 in 2009. Three appeals were allowed (five in 2009).

c. Wirral

The number of appeals for primary school places is relatively low, at around 55 in total. For secondary schools there are very few appeals for all ability schools – often less than 10, and the number of appeals for grammar school places are fairly consistent at around 130 appeals for places in the 6 grammar schools. The success rate tends to be around 50%.

d. Lincolnshire (with acknowledgements to Alex)

Lincolnshire, at the time of writing, does not collate and publish data on the number of appeals or the success rate for all schools.

These are the figures for 2008 for the Community and Controlled Schools:

Grammar all appeals
Name of School Appeals lodged Appeals heard % heard upheld % upheld
Bourne Grammar School 15 8 53.3 1 12.5
Gainsborough QE 13 13 100 1 7.7
Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School 10 6 60 3 50
Kesteven and Sleaford High School 10 10 100 5 50
Spalding High School 21 21 100 3 14.3
Grammar qualification appeals
Name of School Appeals lodged Appeals heard % heard upheld % upheld
Bourne Grammar School 14 7 50 0 0
Gainsborough QE 10 10 100 1 10
Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School 4 4 100 0 0
Kesteven and Sleaford High School 5 5 100 3 60
Spalding High 9 9 100 3 33.3

A few of the Foundation Schools do have information in their prospectus or in Governors’ reports where these are still produced. Chances at Foundation School appeals for non-qualification seem to vary considerably between schools.

e. Devon (with acknowledgements to Katie)

Churston Ferrers Grammar School, Torbay :

2007 : 5 appeals – none successful.

2006 : 1 appeal – none successful.

None successful in seven consecutive years I’m afraid.

f. Buckinghamshire 2010

  • 952 11+ appeals against non-qualification, 337 upheld (35%), 615 unsuccessful
  • There are around 100 11+ appeals for entry to oversubscribed grammar schools each year and around 15% are successful.
  • There are approximately 90 appeals for entry to oversubscribed upper schools, and some 30% are successful.

(1) Old style selection appeals, 2010

While it is true that those with scores in the range 120-116 stand a better chance at appeal, it is completely untrue that you must have a score of 116+. Each case is considered on its own particular merits.

These figures refer to the old style selection appeals and old style 11+, but we’ve left them here ‘for the record’!
Scroll down to (2) and (3) for figures relating to reviews in 2013 & 2014.

Success rates for selection appeals in Bucks in 2010 (a typical year) were:

Score Total Cases Successful
120 146 74.0%
119 151 59.6%
118 108 45.4%
117 134 24.0%
116 96 22.9%
115 77 14.3%
114 45 11.1%
113 51 7.8%
112 36 8.3%
111 25 20.0%
110 20 15.0%
<110 63 6.3%

E29 f(2). Success rates at review in Bucks, 2013

(2) Success rates, Bucks selection Reviews, early 2013 (last year of the old style 11+):

Score Total Cases Successful
120 119 60.50%
119 118 45.76%
118 90 42.22%
117 114 22.81%
116 82 14.63%
115 73 4.11%
114 53 9.43%
113 42 9.52%
112 44 9.09%
111 30 3.33%
110 28 3.57%
109 16 6.25%
100-108 50 0.00%

Unqualified Grammar Appeals 2013

• 193 cases heard where the appellants had participated in the selection review process and been unsuccessful.
• 55 of these (28.5%) were deemed qualified for a particular grammar school.
• Bear in mind that these cases were only considered because an appeal panel had first found that their review had not been carried out in a ‘fair, consistent & objective’ way.

• 20 cases were heard where the appellants had not participated in the selection review process.
• 2 of these were successful.
• This seems a very low figure. Our suspicion is that these may have been mostly children moving into the area (as opposed to local families who had been misinformed that they had to go through a review!). These parents, on the other hand, were less likely to have been pressured into a review, especially if they were appealing when it had been belatedly acknowledged that there is a legal right to go straight to an independent panel. Coming from other LAs, their academic evidence may have been insufficient (e.g. no KS2 sub-levels, no alternative reasoning tests, no realistic headteacher support).

E29 f(3). Success rates at review in Bucks, 2014

(3) Success rates, Bucks Selection Reviews, early 2014 (first year of the new style CEM 11+):

Score Total Cases Successful
59-95 90 0%
96 4 25%
97 6 0%
98 10 0%
99 13 23%
100 16 19%
101 15 0%
102 14 7%
103 15 0%
104 20 10%
105 15 13%
106 37 14%
107 16 6%
108 19 11%
109 32 16%
110 35 26%
111 40 35%
112 30 30%
113 37 32%
114 46 54%
115 46 67%
116 61 69%
117 43 84%
118 56 91%
119 49 82%
120 51 94%
total 815 42%

E29 f(4). Success rates at review in Bucks, 2015

Note that it’s important to look at the number of cases as well as the percentage. For example, there were two cases with a score of 84, one of which succeeded (presumably a very exceptional case), so the success rate was 50%, which could be somewhat misleading!

(4) Success rates, Bucks Selection Reviews, early 2015 (second year of the new style CEM 11+):

Score Total Cases Successful
52-83 23 0%
84 2 50%
85 1 0%
86 2 0%
87 3 0%
88 - -
89 7 0%
90 4 0%
91 4 0%
92 3 0%
93 1 0%
94 8 0%
95 6 17%
96 10 10%
97 5 0%
98 9 0%
99 5 0%
100 9 0%
101 9 0%
102 12 8%
103 19 16%
104 16 6%
105 18 6%
106 19 21%
107 20 0%
108 15 0%
109 21 14%
110 28 14%
111 35 23%
112 35 26%
113 39 21%
114 46 33%
115 41 24%
116 48 58%
117 53 58%
118 66 86%
119 52 87%
120 49 86%
total 743 37%

E29 f(5). Success rates at review in Bucks, 2016

Note that it’s important to look at the number of cases as well as the percentage. For example, there was just one case with a score of 87, and it was successful (presumably a very exceptional case). The success rate for a score of 87 was therefore 100%, which could be somewhat misleading!

(5) Success rates, Bucks Selection Reviews, early 2016 (third year of the new style CEM 11+):

Score Total Cases Successful
32-86 29 0%
87 1 100%
88 4 25%
89 6 0%
90 3 33%
91 2 0%
92 4 0%
93 7 14%
94 6 33%
95 7 0%
96 5 20%
97 8 13%
98 5 0%
99 6 0%
100 10 0%
101 9 11%
102 14 0%
103 11 9%
104 14 0%
105 15 13%
106 16 13%
107 15 20%
108 18 22%
109 17 18%
110 20 30%
111 24 17%
112 33 21%
113 37 27%
114 40 38%
115 36 33%
116 53 55%
117 49 51%
118 51 57%
119 43 72%
120 69 87%
total 687 37%

E30. Other appeals (e.g. for a primary school place)

While our focus has been very much on 11+ appeals, other school admission appeals usually follow the same ‘normal prejudice’ procedure set out in Section C. (See Oversubscribed schools )

However, there is one major exception. (See E31: Infant Class Size appeals)

E31. Infant Class Size (ICS) appeals

If there are – or will be – 30 children in an infant class (Key Stage one), there are only very limited grounds on which an appeal can be allowed. The result is that only a very small minority of such appeals are likely to succeed.

Parents who are thinking of appealing for an infant class need to consider:

a. whether the admission number is set at 30 or a multiple of 30.

b. whether teaching is organised in such a way that, even with an admission number less than 30, or not a multiple of 30, there will nevertheless be 30 in a class. (For example, there could be an admission number of 20 each year, but if the teaching of reception, year 1 and year 2 is organised in mixed-year classes of 30, an appeal for a place in such a class would be considered as an Infant Class Size appeal.)

Although there is no longer any mention of future prejudice in the current Appeals Code, which led to some uncertainty, the issue has been clarified in R(DD) v Independent Appeal Panel LB Islington (2013) EWHC 2262 (Admin).

His Honour Judge McKenna held that under section 4 of the School Admissions Appeals Code it was lawful for the appeal panel to treat the claimant’s appeal as an ‘infant class size appeal’ on the basis of future prejudice. He stated: “It would to my mind be wholly inconsistent with the context to construe the 2012 Appeal Code as requiring panels when considering whether they would be in breach of the limit on infant class size to look only at a breach that is likely to occur during the first academic year that the child spends at the school.”

c. whether the number of appellants might be such that, even if (a) and (b) above do not apply, the number of successful appeals could bring the number in an infant class up to 30. (For example, if the admission number is 28, and there are 6 appeals, then only 2 of these appeals might succeed on ‘normal prejudice’ grounds, in which case the strict rules of ICS would then apply to the remaining 4 appeals.)

An appeal panel can only allow an ICS appeal if:

  • There has been maladministration on the part of the authority, thereby depriving the child of a place which he/she would otherwise have been given, or
  • The panel decide that the authority’s decision to refuse a place was ‘perverse in the light of the admission arrangements’. This is usually called an ‘unreasonable decision’ – but it would be better to think of it as a ‘perverse decision’, because it is a very stiff test indeed, known to lawyers as ‘Wednesbury unreasonableness’ (a standard of unreasonableness used in assessing applications for judicial reviews of decisions made by public authorities. Under this test, a decision is considered to be unreasonable if it is so unreasonable that no reasonable person acting reasonably could have made it!).

The ombudsman has issued a very useful fact sheet about the limited scope of ICS appeals.

E32. “I’m confused about the new review/appeal system in Bucks.”

You are not alone!

a. Our own guidance regarding the review system can be found here.

b. For a successful review I would suggest you might need the following:

  • Significantly above expectations in reading, writing and maths. Following the abolition of ‘levels’, I think headteachers may be asked to give a predicted range for reading and maths. For writing, there could be a question about ‘greater depth’.
    Whatever the constraints of the new system, it is of course possible for headteachers to comment further in their statement of support.
  • Consistent academic progress
  • A ‘1’ or a ‘2’ recommendation from a headteacher whose recommendations appear to be reliable
  • A statement of support from the headteacher that matches the definition of a ‘1’ or a ‘2’ recommendation. See here. (It doesn’t help if the recommendation is “exceptionally highly recommended” – but there is then a somewhat lukewarm statement of support.)
  • Other evidence as suggested for appeals – see here. [Note: B11 (i) does not apply to Bucks selection reviews – school work will not be considered.]
  • Significant extenuating circumstances. See here.
    I’m not entirely convinced extenuating circumstances are needed if the score is very close to 121, but review guidelines do state: “the SRP will normally expect there to be strong evidence of both high academic ability and exceptional reasons for underperformance in the tests” [our bold print].

c. For a specimen submission, see letter of appeal for Mary.
(This could easily be adapted for a review.)

d. Go through the Q&As as a whole – you may find answers to questions you haven’t even thought of!

e. Even if you intend to skip the review and go straight to appeal, we strongly advise you to keep your options open for a couple of weeks, and to ask your primary school head to complete a “Selection Review Summary Sheet” for your child now, as this could provide very useful evidence if you do go straight to an appeal. (Headteachers are under no obligation to provide this same information later in the academic year.)

Having got the headteacher summary sheet, if you don’t find it helpful, you are under no obligation to submit it for a review or appeal – but it might beg the question “What are they hiding?

There are two exceptions. Firstly, if you go straight to an appeal, it’s easy to explain the absence of a headteacher summary sheet – there’s no reason why you should have one if you skipped the review.
Secondly, if you’re out of county, at a non-partner school, where there are no other parents submitting the headteacher summary sheet, it is of course possible that your headteacher has declined to co-operate. In this case you yourself would have to compile as much evidence as possible. See here.

I’m rather sceptical about anyone’s chances at review without the headteacher summary sheet – but it would depend on what the reasons are, and above all on what alternative academic evidence is being submitted.

Incidentally, I used to hear the occasional case at appeal where parents explained that they hadn’t submitted the headteacher summary sheet because there had been a breakdown in relations with the school, or their child was being victimised by the head. The panel did sometimes accept that this was indeed what had happened – but only after much discussion with parents (not something that is possible at a review) and very careful consideration.

f. It would be advantageous for appeal purposes to include as many grammar schools as possible on the CAF form, provided of course these schools are logistically possible, and provided you have noted all the advice given here: 11 plus Guide to completing the School Application Form.
Different appeal panels can arrive at completely different decisions. If you appeal for, say, three grammar schools, then you get three separate chances. You might lose the first two appeals, but win the third (with exactly the same evidence!).

g. Once you have finished reading, please feel free to ask any questions on the forum. General questions can be posted on the Bucks forum, but specific questions about your own case for review/appeal should be posted on the Appeals forum.

E33. Can you advise whether we would be better off opting for a Bucks selection review or going straight to an appeal?

I’m afraid not – there is no easy answer.

We have set out some of the issues here. (Scroll down to (2) Bucks selection reviews and appeals.)

To comment further on some of the issues:

  • Extenuating circumstances

For a review, the headteachers manual does state “The SRP [selection review panel] will normally expect there to be strong evidence of both high academic ability and exceptional reasons for underperformance in the tests.” [our emphasis]

The Appeals Code, on the other hand, makes no mention at all of ‘exceptional circumstances’. Extenuating circumstances are discretionary. If there is a significant gap between the score achieved and the score required, no doubt an appeals panel would like to clarify any reasons for the underperformance. Could it have been a ‘blip’ on the day? Blips were more obvious with the old style 11+ where there were two VR papers that were meant to be of equal difficulty. The fact that an appellant could have scores of 109 and 120 (instead of 2×109 or 2×120) demonstrates what NFER always acknowledged:

“It is important to appreciate that, however carefully educational tests are constructed, an element of error is likely to appear in the results they produce. For individual children, marks and scores should not be taken completely at their face value; they provide only an estimate of a pupil’s ability. This is …. not so clear when a numerical value is given; its accuracy and precision can easily be overestimated.” (GL Assessment / NFER)

  • Desk exercise

Because a review is a cursory ‘desk exercise’, and parents are excluded from the hearing, there is no opportunity for questions and answers.

It is clear from some of the reports on the forum last year that the review panel sometimes misunderstood the evidence. There was no opportunity for clarification.

  • Amount of time spent on each case

We know that an appeal panel prepares for batches of around just 5-7 cases at a time, and spends at least 40-50 minutes hearing, discussing and deciding on each case.

We are told that review panels in 2013 processed around 30-50 cases per half-day session, having spent an average of 7 minutes (they say) preparing each case.
It gets worse, though – we heard from a reliable source that the last of the 20 Selection Review Panels met early in the week in which the results were posted (a mad dash for the finish line?).
The meeting was scheduled to last 3 hours, and in that time the panel was due to consider 60 cases.
3 minutes per case to decide a child’s future?

Which process is going to give your case the most thorough and careful consideration, a review or an appeal?

  • oversubscription

As we have always pointed out, a successful review result has the benefit of inclusion in the first round of allocations.
If you were thinking of skipping the review and going straight to appeal, you have to consider carefully:

a) whether your preferred grammar schools are likely to be undersubscribed, or alternatively:

b) whether you would have a good case to argue against oversubscription. See C2.

  • Uncertainties

Among the uncertainties is the fact that if you were to go through an unsuccessful review, you have no way of knowing in advance whether an appeal panel will judge the review to have been ‘fair, consistent & objective’. It was clear from reports on the forum last year that different panels arrived at different decisions! If you were lucky enough to have a panel that judged the review process not to be ‘fair, consistent & objective’, you would have your case for qualification considered again.

Moreover:

if your qualification appeal were to be successful, and

if the school was oversubscribed, and

if you would have got a place in the allocations but for a flawed review

(lots of if’s there!), then it is arguable that the admission arrangements were not correctly applied, and that because there has been ‘maladministration’, you should now be offered the place to which you are entitled.
(Whether a particular appeal panel would accept the argument, we cannot say – but in the event of an unsuccessful oversubscription appeal, it’s a point that would be well worth pursuing with the EFA, if not a judicial review.)

  • Advice

We suspect most primary headteachers will be advising parents to go to review simply because “that’s the system”!

Curiously, if you were to decide to go straight to appeal, we strongly advise that you should still ask your headteacher for their ‘Selection Review Summary Sheet’, because we think you’ll need the evidence it will contain for appeal purposes. Ideally it would have been called the ‘Headteacher Summary Sheet for a Review or Appeal’ – but of course the system is all designed to try and push you into a review!

We never advise one route rather than another on the forum, because there are no easy answers. We can only say “Whatever you do will be a bit of a gamble – just be aware of all the issues which no one else will be telling you about”.

I’m afraid if you go straight to appeal, and it doesn’t work out, you’ll be saying “If only we had gone to review.”
And if you go to review and it doesn’t work out, you’ll be saying “If only we had gone straight to appeal”!

E34. Are there any figures for the success rate at Bucks selection reviews?

You can see the figures if you look here

E35. On practical side, if our child is ‘unqualified’ when we fill in the CAF, how does this affect which schools we put on the form?

In this situation it is important that you include your grammar school preference(s) on the CAF, and that you list all the schools in your true order of preference. You won’t, of course, be allocated a grammar school place at the beginning of March, but it keeps open the possibility of allocation if deemed qualified at a later date.

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