11 plus appeals

Section B: Appeals Against Non-Qualification

B1. Introduction

a. This section deals with appeals where you are addressing the issue of non-qualification in the 11+ entry test(s) for grammar school. (In all probability, though, you will also need to address the issue of oversubscription. See section C2 .)

b. This section might also be relevant if the 11+ score was one of the admission criteria, and the score achieved was not high enough to gain a place. If you have relevant evidence of very high academic ability – and possibly of extenuating circumstances too – then, in addition to any arguments dealing with the oversubscription part of the appeal, you may wish to argue that your child was expected to perform even more highly in the 11+ than he/she did. An example of this could be if your child underperformed in two 11+ papers (VR and maths), and you have alternative evidence of very high VR scores and of very high ability in maths. I think you would need to explain to the panel why you are introducing the evidence.

It is entirely up to you – depending on the circumstances and on what evidence you have – to decide what sort of case you wish to put forward. (And it is entirely up to the panel as to what arguments they will be receptive to!)

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Note 1: Links to external websites were correct at the time of writing, but can easily become out of date.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

Note 3: Some admission authorities operate a review system prior to appeals. See B18.

B2. I have a query relating to maladministration in the administration of an 11+ exam paper ………The school has email evidence, and invigilator report to support this issue. I’ve tried to find any examples of this so called ‘maladministration’ of an exam that can be brought to bear forcefully at an appeal hearing by citing other cases which have gone before education ombudsman or the Courts, but have thus far drawn a blank.

Maladministration in this context would mean that the authority made a mistake as a result of which the pupil was denied a place to which he/she would otherwise have been entitled.

Sometimes this is easy to prove objectively. For example, in a case involving oversubscription, if the authority has incorrectly measured the distance between home and school, the correct measurement can be compared with that of the last child to be offered a place under the distance criterion, and there is no difficulty in determining what should have happened.

In the case of disruption to the test arrangements, I think it would be very difficult to demonstrate objectively that, had the disruption not occurred, a particular child would definitely have passed. However, there is no reason why you should not ask the appeal panel to consider “whether the authority correctly applied the admission arrangements”.

In addition, the disruption could be mentioned as a ‘mitigating circumstance’. The closer your child was to achieving the required score, and the stronger the academic evidence of high ability, the more persuasive your case is likely to be. This is probably the best chance of winning an appeal.

B3. Would a report from an educational psychologist help at an appeal against non-qualification?

Such a report can sometimes be helpful, although it won’t be cheap! In March 2013 one of our members wrote:

“I had approx 8 quotes and they ranged from £550 – £750.”

An EP report will consist of the results of a battery of tests (usually Wechsler or BAS), and an analysis of what those results mean.

It might provide evidence of high intellectual ability, or of a specific learning difficulty that has disadvantaged the child.

The diagnosis of a learning difficulty might give some useful pointers, but the wording can be cautious (e.g. “These results could be indicative of dyslexia”).

An appeal panel might wish to consider:

  • whether the results for cognitive ability are superior – or close to superior.
  • whether there is a low or below average processing speed (standardised score of less than 90)
  • whether there is more than 20 points difference between cognitive ability and performance (i.e. verbal and performance IQ)
  • whether the working memory is sufficient for the child to be able to access the tests.

As far as the results are concerned, it’s difficult to make direct comparisons between different kinds of tests, and I think a degree of caution should be exercised. Educational psychologists’ tests are not all timed. They are administered one-to-one, often at home, but in any event in a situation likely to be more relaxed than that of a classroom where children sit the 11+. It’s disappointing that some educational psychologists do not advise parents of the margin of error associated with a single test result. There are ‘confidence band’ tables that might say, for example, “with a score of x there is a 95 percent chance that the true score lies within such-and-such a range”.

EP reports will be only one bit of the evidence considered by an appeal panel. Other factors, such as the closeness of the 11+ score, will be important.

I used to hear many appeals involving EP reports, and it would be true to say that the success rate varied. However, those appellants whose cases were strengthened by an EP report, and were successful, will most likely think that the expense was worthwhile. Interestingly, even when the appeal is unsuccessful, parents often tell me that the EP report was money well spent (albeit rather a lot!) because they learned some useful things about their child!

You need to be careful how to present an EP report at appeal, as the panel may want to question you about it in more detail than you will feel comfortable with. I think the best approach would be to say “I’m not an expert and don’t claim fully to understand the report, but believe it goes some way to explaining the 11+ result. I’m not sure how much it assists my case, but I wanted to be open about this and for you to have access to all the information that might help inform your decision.” Finally you could say “I trust you to make the right decision for my child, and will respect whatever judgement you come to.”

You may well be asked whether you think your child has a ‘disability’ as defined in law. Unless you are confident that the answer is “Yes”, I suggest you insist you don’t know. If the report simply mentions indications of a mild learning difficulty, I suggest you say “All I know is that the report refers to some indications of a learning difficulty, and I’d be grateful if the panel would consider that as an extenuating circumstance.”

If you are concerned about one particular aspect of the 11+ results (for example, an unexpectedly low result in non-verbal reasoning) it might be possible to limit the cost of an EP report considerably by asking if just this one area could be tested (using the British Ability Scales NVR tests, for example). It may not be easy to find an EP willing to do this, however, as most will probably want to give the full battery of tests.

WISC tests

See here for details of the format of WISC tests (scroll down to “Test Format”, then to “WISC-IV”, and finally to the list of subtests)

See also B29 for an explanation of NVR
B38 – How can I find a good educational psychologist?
B45 – I have a few questions regarding the results of an educational psychologist’s report.
B39 – Is it possible to have CATs tests done privately?

B4. Would a very high CAT (Cognitive Ability Test) score be regarded as equivalent to an 11+ pass?

Panel members may well have been advised in their training to avoid making direct comparisons between the 11+ and other types of test. Different tests measure different things, might be carried out under different conditions, and could be standardised differently.

Beware, too, of a single isolated result. A Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT) score comes with the usual “health” warning:

a pupil’s score is only an estimate of true ability ….. (GL Assessment / NFER)

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)

Each standardised score comes with a ‘confidence interval’ – there’s a 90% chance the true score lies within a certain range. For example, with a score of 120 there is a 90% chance that the ‘true score’ might lie in a range as wide as 109-126.

“Our Primary school has stopped giving these CATs tests since they said they did not provide a very good guide as to whether a child would pass the 11+ (my youngest daughter scored 128 in year 3, 126 in year 5, but 116 in the 11+!). I think the school got tired of parents complaining to them: ‘But she got X in the CAT test. Why didn’t she pass the 11 plus?’ etc. So… treat with caution and don’t feel that taking these tests would necessarily help with 11 plus (or anything else!).” [Jed]

The correlation is more reliable, of course, if there is a series of consistently very high CAT results, as opposed to just a single snapshot.

Take the case of MostHappyDad in Kent who had to prove at appeal that the 11+ maths result was a blip. He had the results of a series of CATs tests, taken over an extended period, where quantitative reasoning came out at the 99th, 98th, 98th and 95th percentile. Even allowing for confidence intervals, the sheer consistency of these excellent results made for a compelling academic case.

What helps at an appeal against non-qualification is to have as many different indicators as possible of very high academic ability (not simply above average ability). CAT scores with accompanying percentiles near the top of the range can be useful as part of the overall academic evidence.

The fact that the result of an individual reasoning test may be unreliable raises questions about the reliability of reasoning tests used in the 11+, but it’s not a good idea to challenge the system at appeal, or to argue that your child should be given the “benefit of the doubt”. Whatever the system is, that is the system that must be used (apart from reasonable adjustments for special needs). However, at an appeal you have the opportunity to come up with alternative academic evidence to try and prove that the result was not a true reflection of your child’s ability.

(See also B28: What are CATs? , and B29: What is NVR? )

B5. A (probably very cynical) parent said that we don’t stand a chance at our son’s selection appeal because he is at an Independent Prep School and the panel will assume that we can just keep paying for the next 7 years. Sadly we can’t afford to – it has cost us everything we can afford to get him this far, and we only did it because our catchment primary school is absolutely awful.

Explain to the panel at the hearing that it has cost you everything you could afford to get him this far, but sadly you cannot continue. You only did it in the first place because there was no acceptable alternative in the state primary sector. Rest assured that you should not be discriminated against because your son has attended a private school. The only thing that matters to the panel is the evidence, and whether it is sufficiently compelling for them to be able to overturn the decision of the admission authority.

B6. How crucial will presentation be at our selection appeal?

Obviously you will try to put your case forward in the best possible light. I will give some advice on this matter, but in my experience a slick presentation makes little difference. I think most panels are sufficiently astute to be swayed not by the presentation but by their own analysis of the available facts (which is not necessarily going to be the same as the parental analysis!).

If there is any scope for presentation, then I suspect that it is better to understate rather than overstate your case. (Of course, you must still get your main points across.)

Don’t exaggerate, avoid clichés. (Panel members might be tempted to groan inwardly when they hear for the umpteenth time: “We both went to grammar school. We’re not pushy parents. We’re only here because it’s what little Johnnie wants. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think he could cope. We know our child better than anyone and he’s a genius. His teachers agree with us and they should know. Our older child is already at grammar school, and we think little Johnnie is a lot cleverer, so that proves our case. He wasn’t coached, and with the benefit of hindsight that was a mistake. Huge mitigating circumstances. He’s been through so much, the poor dear. Still finds time to help old ladies cross the road. A paragon of virtue. A candidate for sainthood.” (OK, I’m the one exaggerating, but you get the point.)

Be truthful. A few parents aren’t, and it’s a very high risk strategy! Attempts to embellish the truth are likely to be spotted. At best these points will carry no weight; at worst the loss of credibility in one or two aspects of the case could raise questions about the credibility of the whole case. Some panel members might be tempted to think that their role is to work out who is telling the truth and who is lying, and there is no doubt they are usually very adept at doing so.

Feel free to read your presentation word for word, or have it in front of you as a prompt. Some of the most disjointed and poorly presented cases I ever heard were when parents had only thought in general terms about what they were going to say, and on the day did a double-act, ad-libbing incoherently.

Be courteous. Come across as a very reasonable parent!

B7. What sort of questions might I be asked?

When the panel ask you questions, don’t feel threatened if the questions seem negative. There’s little point in the panel asking you about things they fully understand or agree with! For all you know they could be 95 percent in agreement with you, but they will still want to probe, to find out more, or to explore something that hasn’t even been mentioned.

Sometimes (especially when all the important questions have already been put) a panel member will ask you a question of no real significance so that you don’t leave thinking “Panel Member X showed no interest at all – couldn’t even be bothered to ask me anything”! Favourite ‘filler’ questions at a non-qualification appeal are sometimes “What does your child do in his/her free time?”, “What did he/she say on returning home after the test?”, “Does he/she know you’re here today?”

Then there are questions such as “What does your child like reading?” Don’t imagine that you’ll necessarily get any credit for an impressive-sounding list of books ranging from ‘War and Peace’ to the complete works of Shakespeare, because there’s unlikely to be any evidence that your child has actually read these books. On the other hand, you could seriously damage your case if the answer is “He/she only reads comics”!

The important questions will relate to any extenuating circumstances and to academic evidence.

It’s not easy for the panel to ask you about the technicalities of the academic evidence, because that has been provided by the school, and there’s no particular reason why you should necessarily know the answers. You could be asked, as parents, for your reaction to something (“Do you think the criticisms in the maths report are fair comment?”)

If you have raised extenuating circumstances, the panel may wish to try and understand the extent to which performance really was affected.

If nothing has been mentioned, the panel might still check with parents (“How was he/she feeling on the day of the tests?”, “Can you think of any reason why one score was lower than the other?”)

Cases vary, of course, and if there’s anything unusual, the panel may seek to elicit further information. For example, if a child has come from abroad, they will want to try and understand what sort of schooling he/she has had.

Before the hearing, try to write down every difficult question that you think could be asked, and work out how you would respond. You’re unlikely to anticipate everything, but it might help.

During a hearing it can be very difficult for parents to work out what is in the mind of a panel. (Is this just a ‘filler’ question they’re asking, or are they probing for something? Why are they asking so many questions? Why so few questions?”) Best not to expend energy worrying about it!

If you feel that an important aspect of your case has not been covered in questions, remember that you can also ask the Chairman and panel a question about it! For example: “I would just like to check whether you feel that you have all the information you need about the incidents that occurred in the classroom during the tests?”

B8. How does a panel decide an appeal against non-qualification? Are they influenced by the pressure on places?

If the appeal is purely against non-qualification, and oversubscription is not an issue, the panel should take no account of the pressure on places.

They are likely to apply two tests:

  • Do the extenuating circumstances really explain the whole of the shortfall in marks? (Personally I don’t think the circumstances have to be overwhelming if the score is very close to the pass mark.)
  • Is the overall academic evidence sufficiently compelling to indicate the child ought to have achieved a pass mark under normal circumstances? (The more indicators of very high ability, the better, as one bit of evidence is unlikely to be sufficient.)

Appeals with scores close to the pass mark are more likely to succeed, but each case is considered on its own merits. The further away from the pass mark, the stronger the case needs to be.

B9. After the LEA Representative has presented their case, parents are offered the chance to question him/her. Bearing in mind that the LEA Representative basically reads a standard statement, is it deemed worthwhile asking questions, and if so, what sort of questions should I ask? What I don’t wish to do is to ask questions just for the sake of it and in turn bore/annoy the panel. However if we don’t ask any questions will it be deemed that we have accepted the LEA’s statement and therefore our appeal collapses?

In effect, all the presenting officer is likely to say is that the pass mark was not achieved. My experience was that the vast majority of parents never asked any questions of the admission authority because they had no reason to dispute this basic fact. (Some parents launch into a general attack on “the system”, but I doubt that this is appropriate for an appeal and would certainly not recommend it!)

I agree that there’s no point asking unnecessary questions. If you wish, you could quite simply say “We have no questions – we have no argument with the authority and do understand their case.” It makes you sound very reasonable! Your appeal will not collapse as a result. After all, the point of your appeal is (in most cases) not to demonstrate that the authority has done something incorrectly, but to persuade the panel of the strength of all the alternative academic evidence and extenuating circumstances.

B10 (a). What sort of extenuating circumstances are likely to impress a panel at an appeal against non-qualification?

Example A: The night before the test father was taken into hospital, everybody was stressed, nobody got much sleep. There is a letter from hospital confirming that the events were traumatic. I think it would be reasonable to conclude that the score was affected.

Compare this with:

Example B: Grandmother far away in Scotland fell seriously ill 9 months ago, and has been in hospital ever since. However, subsequent school reports indicate no dip in performance: the child is doing very well indeed and is predicted level 5s at KS2. It might be reasonable to assume that the 11+ score was not affected.

Where there is an ongoing problem, or a series of incidents, a panel might reasonably expect some evidence that school work was also affected at the time in question (for example, a dip in performance, or unexpectedly erratic work).

Some children show great resilience. They may be genuinely distressed by what is going on around them, but still retain a remarkable capacity to cope.

The fact that the death of a relative is followed a month or so later by an unsuccessful 11+ result may be coincidental. It does not in itself establish a connection or prove anything. Circumstances are just circumstances. What matters is whether there is evidence of the effect on the child – quite apart from the 11+. Then those circumstances may become extenuating circumstances.

Note that the new Code of Practice which came into force on 1st February 2012 makes no mention at all of extenuating circumstances. This is not necessarily to say that extenuating circumstances might not be discussed at a hearing, but they shouldn’t be the basis of an appeal. The main focus should always be on academic evidence.

If your extenuating circumstances are not too strong (in the sense that there isn’t any evidence at all to show that your child was affected) -

….. in this situation the best approach is to appear reluctant to ‘offer excuses’, to let the panel drag the information out of you bit by bit, if the opportunity arises, rather than to build it up as a major issue. Understate the point, or you risk diluting your case as a whole.

For example, if there was a minor disturbance during the test, but no evidence in the invigilator’s report, I suggest it’s best to say little or nothing about this in your written submission or in your presentation. Someone is almost certain to ask during the Question & Answer session whether anything might have affected the 11+ result, at which point you can provide a brief explanation, adding: “I wasn’t sure how much this could be taken into account as there doesn’t seem to be any hard evidence ….. I do understand that some distractions in an exam room full of 10 year olds is inevitable …..”

There might be a lot of sympathy on the panel for this sort of reasonable approach. The mistake most people make with extenuating circumstances is to overplay them – much better to underplay them!

In the unlikely event that no one asks a suitable question, and you sense that the hearing is drawing to a close, then you would need to take the initiative and say “I wasn’t sure whether to mention this, but ……….”

B10 (b). Links to other items dealing with extenuating circumstances:

B31. Is it necessary to inform the admission authority about any extenuating circumstances at the time of the 11+?
B32. Issues to be considered with regard to non-qualification
B33. How might a panel deal with disability?
B34. Premature birth as an extenuating circumstance
B37. If my child has attended an under-achieving school that has been under Special Measures, would this in itself count as an extenuating circumstance?
B56. Disturbance during the test. Is this an extenuating circumstance?
B59. Are “moderate dyslexia” and “severe dyslexia” official terms and, if so, how are they defined?

B11. And what academic evidence might impress?

As many of the following academic indicators as possible:

  • a. Respectable 11+ test scores (i.e. as close as possible to the score required).
  • b. Very strong support from the head teacher. – It helps to have a head teacher who is supportive (“This appeal has my strongest possible support”), but also credible (i.e. the support is not clearly exaggerated and over-optimistic); who does not write exactly the same thing for every single appeal; and who does not introduce irrelevancies (“super monitor,” “very good games player”), but keeps the focus on academic ability/extenuating circumstances. His/her words will probably be scrutinised to see whether there is some sort of reference to “very high academic ability” or “huge potential”, and any indication of something exceptional about the case. References to “hard work” won’t really help because the emphasis should be on results achieved through ability.
  • c. Encouraging SATs predictions, e.g. level 5s for English & maths – preferably 5As or 5Bs. (Unfortunately schools are under no obligation to provide sub-levels unless they choose to do so.) See Note 3 below for how KS2 predictions might be viewed.
  • d. Optional SATs test results, or ‘working at’ levels, showing that the pupil is on target for level 5s in May of year 6. (Normal progression is two sub-levels per year.)
  • e. High standardised reasoning test scores from school – the higher the better, e.g. 95th percentile, although this might vary depending on the individual appeal panel’s expectations, and on local circumstances such as how much competition there is for places, and the type of 11+ (was it VR only? – how was it standardised?). Unfortunately some schools do not do CATs or alternative reasoning tests.
    See (h) below.
    (See also B28: What are CATs? )
  • f. A reading age 2 years above average (but see Note 4 below).
  • g. Recent school report (especially if there is reference to well-above average achievement). It’s not usually necessary to go further back than year 5. See Note 5 below.
  • h. An educational psychologist’s report – this may or may not help – see B3.
    (Might be useful if the other academic evidence is limited, or where there is no alternative evidence of reasoning ability).
  • i. Good routine academic work, in the child’s own handwriting, that has not been specially selected (e.g. routine exercise books for Maths, English and Science), full of complimentary remarks by the teacher about achievement (e.g. “level 5 standard”). See also Note 1 below.
  • j. SATs tests, taken in year 6, and clearly marked “level 5” standard.
  • k. High achievement in intellectual activities – for example, music grade 4 (because of the theory content in the higher grades), getting through to the finals in Primary Maths Challenge, chess champion.

The basis of an appeal against non-qualification should be the strength of the alternative academic evidence. You might win an appeal with strong academic evidence but no extenuating circumstances. You cannot win an appeal with extenuating circumstances but insufficient academic evidence.

Be aware that, however good a case you may have, appeals for some schools (especially heavily oversubscribed schools that allocate places strictly according to score) may be very difficult to win. It is worth finding out the previous success rate of appeals for a particular school. See A39.

Note 1:

Different areas may vary in the way they approach school work. Generally speaking, I would have thought most appeals administrators will not want to be deluged with school work submitted in advance of the hearing.

Photocopies of school work might be discouraged, although it depends on local practice (the panel might not even be interested in school work!). The problem with photocopies is: (1) it might look as if you are carefully selecting specific pages while concealing others, and (2) photocopies are not always clear, and the teacher’s comments (which are what ought to matter), if made in red, may be less obvious.

If the work for key subjects such as English and maths is of high quality (with very good marks and/or very positive comments), take it with you to the hearing, and ask the panel if it would be helpful. They may not be very interested (perhaps taking the view that they already have a letter from the headteacher or SATs levels summarising the quality of the work), and they may not even have time, but at least you will have given them the option.

Another reason why some panels may prefer not to look at school work is that it’s not their role to assess it. However, I doubt that anyone is really asking them to do this – all they should be asked to do is look at the evidence of the teacher’s marks and comments! They are under a duty to consider any academic evidence the parent wishes to submit, and a panel should think carefully before refusing to accept relevant evidence, especially if it is pointed out that they are not being asked to assess the work.

Having said that, I would accept that there’s little point pressing the matter if the panel are not interested – except in situations where parents are short of evidence (perhaps because the primary school will not co-operate). or where parents are seeking to demonstrate the impact of extenuating circumstances at a particular point in time. In these situations, school work – depending on what it reveals – would be an essential part of the case.

Otherwise, the suggestion that exercise books for the main academic subjects could be taken to the hearing, and made available only if they would assist the panel with their decision, would seem a very reasonable approach.

Note 2:

Being on the ‘Gifted & Talented’ register for an academic subject would be worth a mention, but it’s difficult to say exactly what it means because the standard varies from school to school. ‘Gifted & Talented’ in a high performing school ought to be quite a strong recommendation, especially if it fits with the rest of the academic evidence (e.g. well-above average SATs levels).

Note 3:

Usually a panel is likely to expect level 5 predictions for English and Maths. Anything less than this shouldn’t necessarily rule out a successful appeal, especially if there are extenuating circumstances, but I would have thought the rest of the case would need to be pretty strong.

I’m aware of one or two authorities where very strict appeal panels appear to be rejecting curriculum-based evidence such as current SATs levels and KS2 predictions out of hand on the grounds that it is completely unrelated to reasoning tests as used in the 11+. It seems extreme to me, but I would always recommend the inclusion of some non-curricular academic evidence (e.g. CATs) wherever possible.

The Code of Practice makes quite clear that parents can submit alternative academic evidence, and even refers to curricular evidence:

….. evidence to demonstrate that the child is of the required academic standards, for example, school reports giving Year 5/Year 6 SAT results or a letter of support from their current or previous school clearly indicating why the child is considered to be of grammar school ability;"

I believe the vast majority of panels will quite properly take KS2 predictions into account, but in my view level 5 predictions are just the starting point for a strong academic case, and ideally the evidence should be as wide-ranging as possible,

Note 4:

Some test results are capped (meaning that the maximum reading age is limited). This is usually indicated by a ‘+’ sign next to the reading age.

Bear in mind that a single test result may not be reliable.

Note 5:

It’s not usually necessary to go further back than the year 5 report – unless there is a good reason. The issue for the panel is usually going to be high ability as shown by recent performance (not consistency, sustained hard work, etc., etc.).

An obvious exception could be if extenuating circumstances caused a dip in performance in year 4, for example. It would then be very interesting to examine progress ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Another exception might be the print-out of KS1 results (if they were straight 3s) because:
• the information is very concise,
• it’s an early indication of potential ‘grammar school standard’,
• and there’s a reasonable correlation between level 3s at KS1 and level 5s at KS2.

B12. Any do’s and don’ts for an appeal against non-qualification?

Here are some suggestions:

a) Parents sometimes seem to think that the more they write, and the more they say, the stronger their appeal. I would suggest that the best appeals can be presented on one side of A4, plus supporting evidence. The more succinct you are, the clearer your key points will be.
b) Don’t spend time saying how wonderful your child is at extracurricular activities unless the panel ask you a specific question. Non-academic extracurricular activities won’t influence a panel’s decision.
c) Letters of commendation from relatives, neighbours, club secretaries, sports coaches, private tutors and MPs won’t impress!
d) “My child hasn’t been coached” rarely makes much of an impact, unless tutoring is specifically recommended by the admission authority, and you have only just moved into the area.
e) Don’t spend time saying how wonderful grammar schools are. Whether a panel member believes in selection or not should have no bearing on the result of an appeal, and I would discourage parents from giving their own views about the system at a hearing.
f) Do submit all your evidence in advance, or if that is not possible bring it on the day (and preferably six or seven copies). It really doesn’t help to say “If you’d like a letter from my doctor I’m sure he’ll write one”!
g) Do not submit project work as evidence (the panel will wonder how much of it was done by parents or downloaded from the internet!).
h) Do not submit certificates (unless they relate purely to academic achievement).
i) There is no point engaging someone to test your child unless they are appropriately qualified and their independence is beyond question. An appeal panel would usually expect to see a note of their qualifications and of the relevant professional body to which they belong. [Chartered Educational Psychologists, for example, appear on a register, have had their qualifications checked, and are required to adhere to a code of professional conduct.]

B13. Do you know please, if Year 6 teachers are allowed to give a written statement of support to evidence a child’s ability which could be taken along on the day of the hearing? I ask this because the Head has stated that he cannot provide any further written evidence to support our appeal. Therefore, other than Year 5 SATs and old school reports, we do not have any further recent evidence of high ability to make our case stronger.

It is not unknown for Year 6 teachers to write a separate letter of support. Have a private word with the class teacher to see if he/she can do anything to help. (This could put the class teacher in a difficult position, if what you are requesting is contrary to school policy, but the worst they can do is say “No”.)

With regard to the late submission of evidence, the Code of Practice says:

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

2.10 ….. An appeal panel must decide whether any material not submitted by the specified deadline is to be considered, taking into account its significance and the effect of a possible need to adjourn the hearing.

As far as the day of the hearing is concerned, if you were to turn up with 5-6 copies of some strong new evidence that you had only just received, I think the panel would be wise either to accept it or to ask for an adjournment to have time to consider it. Otherwise I believe you might have grounds for a complaint. The panel must be seen to be acting reasonably in the circumstances.

B14. We are going to take a barrister who specialises in educational law with us as our son who is dyslexic and missed passing by 2 marks but the LEA refused him any reasonable adjustments (even though he gets this in all other exams) and there was a disruption in the exam that our headmaster failed to mention in his first appeal. The school our son has been allocated only offers single award science, and the grammar school we are appealing to offers all 3 sciences to GCSE. Our son is on the gifted and talented register for science, attends a science club for gifted and talented children, and wants to be a scientist when he leaves school). My questions are should we fight our appeal on all these points or just focus on the fact that he was discriminated against? Should we let the barrister do all the talking or should I contribute too? Also do you think this case has a chance of winning.

I think disability discrimination could just be one of those areas where it might be useful to have legal representation, unless you are confident that you understand the legislation.

When you say “Should we fight our appeal on all these points or just focus on the fact that he was discriminated against?”, I take it that the three points are:

  1. disability discrimination
  2. mitigating circumstances (+ academic evidence)
  3. reasons for needing a particular school (science)

Now, it seems clear to me that you should certainly argue both points one and two, because if you are unsuccessful in getting your appeal upheld on disability discrimination grounds, you will still want the panel to consider disability as a mitigating circumstance to explain why the pass mark was not achieved.

If oversubscription is one of the issues to be addressed at this appeal, then you must also argue point 3 above.

Do I think the case stands a chance of winning? I don’t know enough about the extent of your son’s dyslexia, or how serious the disruptive incident was, but you do have some good points to make: only two marks short, the fact that extra time is already permitted in all other exams, the disruptive incident, ‘gifted and talented’ (if it’s a high achieving school). In my view it certainly stands a chance.

B15. My daughter took a late 11+ test when we moved into the area. She failed with by just two marks, which seems unfair as she is very bright academically. She is a very sensitive and caring girl and I really feel we under-estimated the pressure of the move and sitting the 11+ test which all took place within a month. As my other children currently attend schools out of county, on the night before both tests they had to stay with relatives so that we could get to the testing venue by 9:10am. In hindsight I think this all added to the pressure. I want to appeal but am unsure if pressure and exam nerves will be considered extenuating circumstances.

I’m afraid exam nerves and pressure are all too often put forward as extenuating circumstances, and probably won’t carry a great deal of weight unless there is some sort of objective proof as opposed to supposition. The disruption of the move may help here – not usually a strong argument, unless you can prove how upset she was, but this may not matter when the score was so close.

I think you might just have enough in the way of extenuating circumstances to explain a gap of only two marks. If you could also point convincingly to previous occasions when your daughter’s sensitivity has been so extreme as to be a real problem, it would be something extra in your favour.

B16. My friend’s daughter took her test in April and had her results this weekend. They are very disappointed and not sure what to do next. Her score was 8 points below the required mark. The child is bright and attends a very good school and was predicted to get a very high score. Hence the disappointment! It just does not add up (looking at her results from practice papers and school report etc.). Is it worth appealing?

It’s not surprising when there’s a mismatch between the standard of schoolwork and the results of a reasoning test. They measure different things. As for practice tests, whether or not the most appropriate ones were used, the less pressurised conditions under which they were done, and the lack of standardisation tables, make comparisons difficult.

Whether or not it is worth appealing depends entirely on the strength of the case you can put forward. The further away from the pass mark, the stronger the case needs to be.

B17. I would like to warn everyone that attending an appeal is quite hard going, Obviously you may have different people to me, but they don’t make you feel at ease. I have never been in court, but I felt like I was. I would also make sure that you go through all the ‘evidence’ you sent as they may have missed some very important facts (as I felt my panel had). They also asked me questions that made me feel like a bad parent because I did not know the answers, like ‘did your child finish the paper?’.

I was very sorry to hear that you found the experience so distressing. Panels do have a ‘judicial function’ to perform, and although they are meant to try to put parents at their ease, even so there’s inevitably a lot of stress and pressure associated with an appeal. (Some panels, of course, will handle this situation better than others.)

Moreover, parents react in different ways. You say you felt like a bad parent because you didn’t know the answer to the question “Did your child finish the paper?”. It is quite understandable that a parent, under stress, might react in this way, but this, of course, was not the intention of the questioner. ‘Did your child finish the paper?’ is a perfectly reasonable question that is often asked.

As for the panel missing some very important facts, please see section A18 .

B18. Have seen this mentioned before. Can anyone clarify what a Head teachers appeal is? Do all counties have these?

a. Non-Statutory Reviews

The use of the word ‘appeal’ in this context is confusing. Some admission authorities have what is technically a non-statutory review. It is in effect an ‘optional extra’, a review of (usually) borderline cases, which takes place before the formal appeals process. In Kent it is called a head teacher assessment. In North Yorkshire it is the independent selection review panel. In the Wirral, I think, it is the independent assessment board. In Buckinghamshire it is the selection review (Bucks abandoned reviews in 2004, but reintroduced them in January 2013 and took away the opportunity to have a separate ‘selection appeal’ in January/February).

Do not confuse a non-statutory review with a formal appeal heard by an independent appeal panel which is strictly regulated by the DfE Code of Practice on Appeals.

Important! Where a local review has taken place, your rights could be seriously curtailed because the Code now says that, provided the review was fair, consistent and objective, no other issues can be considered at appeal.

This change was introduced in the Code of Practice that came into force for appeals in respect of decisions on admission communicated on or after 1 March 2008. It seemed very unfair suddenly to change the rules mid-way through the 2007/08 process, when arrangements for reviews were already in hand. It might not have mattered if there were an equivalence between a review and an appeal, – but we know that most reviews are more limited and less transparent than an appeal. Moreover an appeal panel is independent – a review is an internal admission authority procedure, and arguably not independent.

When you receive the appeal papers, check carefully to see whether you are informed in advance that this is to be a key issue at the hearing, and whether the authority’s written case attempts to justify the review as having been fair, consistent, and objective.

Some admission authorities in 2007/08 (e.g. in Lincolnshire) readily conceded that their internal reviews could not be considered ‘fair, consistent and objective’. (In Kent, I believe, the LA took the view that theirs was an ‘assessment’ rather than a review, and part of the 11+ process!)

Of those authorities that didn’t concede the argument, some lost at the appeal hearing, and some were later overruled by the ombudsman.

Be warned that the scope of a LA review might be strictly limited. In Medway, for example, “Your child’s primary school will be asked to provide work in maths, science and English and this will be reviewed by a panel. Supplementary material supplied by parents or other agencies will not be admissible.” Unless you are confident of succeeding on this basis, and have the support of your current headteacher, it would be safer to opt for an appeal (without a review) where you are allowed to put forward other academic evidence or extenuating circumstances.

I believe Medway is one of those authorities where the review is a key issue at any appeal, so in determining whether their review is fair, one question to be asked is: “Does the review panel consist of subject specialists in English, Maths and Science with recent experience of year 7 at grammar school?”.

By contrast, the North Yorks review is so wide-ranging ( “we will ask the head teacher of your child’s school to provide a report and additional information on your child. The independent selection review panel will consider this information, together with all the other evidence you provide.” ) that I suspect it could be difficult to arrive at consistent judgements.

b. How would I know if the review had been conducted in a fair, consistent and objective way?

It ought to be part of the admission authority’s case (if they want to try and limit the scope of the appeal). The onus should be on them to prove that the review was fair, consistent and objective – it should not be on you to disprove it.
In my view it’s a high threshold, and it ought to be quite difficult in practice to prove that a review really was ‘fair, consistent & objective’ in any particular case.

Having said that, we are aware that different appeal panels in Medway and Buckinghamshire have previously arrived at different conclusions.

The appeals panel, and you, have the opportunity to question and challenge the authority’s case. For example:

  • What guidelines were the review panel operating under to ensure objectivity and consistency?
  • Did the same panel members consider every case, and, if not, how was consistency ensured?
  • Are the contemporaneous notes of the review panel meeting available, and do they really prove that in your case the process was applied ‘fairly, consistently & objectively’?
  • What measures were in place to ensure that the notes were a true and accurate record?
  • What measures were in place to ensure that panel members did not consider any cases where they had knowledge of the child or a link to the primary school?
  • Was the review panel operating a quota?
  • Was there any restriction on the evidence that the review panel could consider?
  • How thorough was the review? – What was the average length of time they spent on each case, and what was the length of time they spent on your case?

The appeals panel then has to make a judgement about whether or not it accepts the authority’s case.

Depending on local circumstances and the nature of the review, some of the points discussed in the following posts may be of wider interest:
I’m confused about the new review/appeal system in Bucks!
and
Can you advise whether we would be better off opting for a Bucks selection review or going straight to an appeal?

B19. I am moving back from abroad, and my daughter has taken the 11+, achieving a score 3 marks below what is required. My appeal will be based on the fact that living abroad in countries such as Thailand for many years will not expose a child to a decent range of “British English” as required to succeed with UK based VR. Instead one is exposed more to international (American) English. If we had stayed in the UK where constant exposure to British English would have been the norm, it is most likely she would have achieved a qualifying score. I would be grateful for your opinion as to whether you feel the basis for my appeal is reasonable and likely to succeed. I would just add that the head teacher does recommend my daughter as suitable for grammar school.

I think what usually matters is the totality of the evidence, and at the moment my honest opinion is that more might be needed.

Are you able to produce a typical VR paper, and say “Look at question X – a child with American English would clearly be at a disadvantage”? Two or three such examples would be very useful indeed.

It is worth mentioning at the appeal the issue of the range of vocabulary. A panel is likely to accept that it is a disadvantage, but the extent of the disadvantage is difficult to quantify.

I’m not sure what academic evidence you will be putting forward (not easy to establish when coming from abroad). A good school report will help, but it is difficult for an appeal panel to know objectively how the standard of work compares with that of a local school. How would you prove that your daughter’s current school has very high standards? The more evidence you have of the school’s academic reputation, preferably in writing, the better.

I note that you have the head teacher’s support, but there is bound to be a question mark over how well a foreign-based school understands the standard required for the 11+.

Time and money permitting, a report from a qualified educational psychologist (using WISC or BAS tests) could provide useful additional evidence, especially if the outcome is very favourable (e.g. results at the 90th+ percentile). See B3.

B20. My son sat the 11+ in a neighbouring authority, and we are now going to appeal. The head teacher at the current school says that he is unable to support us because our local authority is opposed to selection and has instructed its schools not to co-operate in any 11+ procedures. What academic evidence can we provide? And what sort of extenuating circumstances might the panel be looking for?

a) I’m afraid this does happen. Put together as much academic evidence as you can: above average KS1 results, some excellent school reports, and exercise books showing a very high standard of work will all help. As in the case above, an educational psychologist’s report might provide valuable additional evidence. You need as many different indicators of high ability as possible – no single thing on its own is likely to be regarded as equivalent to an 11+ pass.

b) Extenuating circumstances are not as important as academic evidence (the new Code makes no mention of them at all!) The best extenuating circumstances are those that can be ‘proved’. For example, was there also a temporary dip in school performance at the time? Did the school phone you up to say “Little Johnnie seems very upset at the moment, and isn’t concentrating on his work”? Ideally you need the school to confirm that schoolwork was affected, which in your case they may or may not be willing to do. It’s worth asking them because, writing a note to confirm that a child’s work was temporarily affected, is not the same as writing a letter of support for selective education.

c) School Records
(with acknowledgements to Sally-Anne)

Remember that, under the Data Protection Act, you have a legal right to your child’s school record. In the first instance, it’s best just to ask to see the record. If the school doesn’t co-operate fully, the following makes clear what your rights are.

“Technical Guidance Note – Access to personal information held by schools in England.”

The following extract is relevant:
under the Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005, referred to here as the Regulations, a parent has the right to access their child’s educational record. Under the subject access right parents will only be able to see all the information about their child when the child is unable to act on their own behalf or gives their consent.

Who has responsibility for requests for information?
Under the Regulations, requests from parents to view their child’s educational record should be dealt with by the Board of Governors. All other requests for personal information from the pupil, or someone acting on their behalf, should be dealt with by the school. In practical terms this will make little difference in dealing with requests. However, it is important that requests for personal information are passed to the appropriate person as soon as possible after the request is received.

Requests for information from pupils, or parents, for information that contains, wholly or partly, an educational record must receive a response within 15 school days.

Unless a parent simply asks to see the official educational record under the Regulations, schools and authorities are entitled to receive any fee first.

The scale of charges for a copy of the record is shown further down. Note that the correct approach is actually to make your request to the Governors, not the Head. I suggest that you copy the Head though, because the clock will need to start ticking as quickly as possible.

B21. Could you provide a specimen letter of appeal? I hear that a really good letter will improve our chances.

There have been a number of requests for a specimen letter for an appeal against non-qualification. I’ve thought long and hard about this, but hesitate to provide anything too detailed because:

  • I think the whole concept that anyone’s chances can be enhanced by copying or adapting a detailed specimen letter is deeply flawed. I do not believe that the quality of a written submission makes the slightest difference to the outcome of an appeal, except perhaps when parents do not attend the hearing (but even then the focus is likely to be on supporting written evidence (e.g. letters from head teacher, GP, etc.).
  • Having said that, I will offer the following general advice:
    • Use your own words; stay calm; write simply, briefly and to the point.
    • Don’t try to impress the panel (“We have spoken to our MP,” “We both have higher degrees,” “My father, who is a professor of Education …..”)
    • Be as factual as possible. Avoid emotional phrases like “We were shocked at such an unexpected result”, “Our child should be given the place he/she so richly deserves”.
    • No one is going to object if you adopt the following simple format:
      • a. Begin courteously “We should be grateful if the panel would consider the following points.”
      • b. This could be followed by a paragraph headed “Academic Evidence”. (e.g. “Please see the statement of support from the head teacher, and also the letter …….”)
        • Let the evidence speak for itself – no need to give a blow by blow account.
        • Avoid lecturing the panel (“Our child’s SATs predictions are above the nationally expected level”).
      • c. If applicable, there could then be a short paragraph headed “Extenuating Circumstances”.
        (e.g. “Just before to the 11+ ………”, “Please see the letter from our GP confirming that …….”)
      • d. Conclude courteously “Thank you for taking the time to consider our appeal.”

At the hearing you will have the opportunity to expand on your case and to respond to detailed questioning. It is this (along with the written supporting evidence) that will determine the outcome of your appeal.

PS. After much arm-twisting from forum members, I have now drafted a specimen letter for an appeal against non-qualification. It appears in the Miscellaneous section (E11), and relates to Buckinghamshire, but could be adapted for other authorities. Please note that in most cases it will also be necessary at this point in time to give reasons for wanting a particular school. See section C2 . See also section E27 .

B22. Is it a good idea to submit VR practice papers, and practice SATs papers, as evidence?

a) I doubt whether the results of VR practice papers would be considered valid evidence, unless they have been officially marked and standardised.

b) I don’t think most panels would be happy to interpret SATs marks, and to accept that a ‘practice’ was done under test conditions, without confirmation from the school. They might take the view “If the school wishes to comment on current performance or to provide/update KS2 predictions, it should provide parents with a letter notifying us officially”.

However, if there’s a supportive comment on the paper from the teacher (e.g. “level 5, test conditions, well done!”), it could be useful to show some examples that your child has already been working at level 5.

B23. Do we need to mention how our child scored at KS1 in our presentation?

I’d be inclined not to mention KS1 in your presentation. (It won’t do any harm if the results were really good (level 3s), but I wouldn’t want to over-emphasise.)

A panel may not be very interested in what happened as far back as year 2. The KS1 results would really become relevant when parents say “We’ve had ongoing extenuating circumstances for the past three years”. A panel might then be interested to see how the child was performing before all the problems started. Another reason for going back to the early years might be if there is a lack of recent evidence.

It would be a good idea to have the official KS1 results with you at the appeal – just in case anyone asks.

B24. This site has provided fantastic information and guidance over the past few weeks which I thank you for. Although there is a lot of information I could not find any information about twins going through the 11+.

a. If this is an appeal purely against non-qualification, then a twin’s case has to be decided strictly on its own particular merits, irrespective of the other twin. The criteria remain the same:

  1. Are there any extenuating circumstances sufficient to explain the shortfall in marks? See B10 extenuating circumstances.
  2. Most importantly, is the overall academic evidence sufficient to indicate that the child should have qualified? See B11 academic evidence.

Generally speaking, the further away from the pass mark, the less likely the appeal is to succeed.

b. Having a twin is more relevant when appealing for a place at a particular school that is oversubscribed. (“They couldn’t bear to be parted,” “It would be logistically difficult for us to get them to two different schools,” “Here is a letter of support from our GP warning of the emotional consequences of splitting them up”, etc.) Sadly, these are not issues that can really be considered at an appeal focusing purely on non-qualification.

c. The same sort of approach would apply to siblings – if the appeal is purely against non-qualification, then the child’s case has to be decided strictly on its own particular merits (especially with regard to academic ability), irrespective of the other sibling.

See the next main section (Section C) for advice on appealing for a place at an oversubscribed school.

B25. The main argument in my case will be that my son was not well when he sat the 11+.

Unless your son became unexpectedly unwell during the test, and told the teacher supervising, then this will not impress. If you decided to send your child in to school, the assumption has to be that he was in a fit state.

Too often panels hear the argument “With the benefit of hindsight we shouldn’t have allowed him to take the test, but he pleaded with us not to postpone it. He desperately wanted to be with his friends. We had to let him do what he wanted.”

A child who is not fit to attend school must NOT be allowed to sit the test. If parents want to abrogate their responsibilities, and then appeal on this basis, they should not be surprised if a panel perceives this to be an abuse of the system.

B26. Do children successful at appeal go on to cope well at grammar school? A small part of me wonders if my son will be OK at grammar school as he didn’t get the required 11+ score.

“As Guest55 has often posted, very many successful appeal children cope extremely well at GS. Whether it is because the system is flawed and they always deserved the place, or whether it is because, having initially been denied a place, they are more motivated, no one knows.” (Sally-Anne)

Guest55 has written:

“I am a teacher. I have only once found a problem with a pupil that got in on appeal – overcoached by a private school – stuck out like a thumb from day one. I have quoted elsewhere a pupil who succeeded at appeal that got 4 As at A level and went to a top medical school – one of the most able pupils I have taught!”

Etienne comments:

“I have only anecdotal evidence, but it all suggests – without exception – that children successful on appeal are treated no differently by their fellow pupils (or by teachers).”

Appeal Mum has written:

“I felt the same way, after going all out to appeal. I think it’s natural to feel that way – after all, the 11+ is designed to pick out the brightest kids. But ask yourself this: How many children who passed the 11 plus would have got through on appeal? – An appeal where you have to show consistent high grades and strong evidence that your child will cope well at grammar school. I think appeal children have to prove themselves more – but that’s my opinion. DD said nobody would ever ask each other their scores, I think it’s just accepted that you’re in grammar school, therefore you must have passed the exam. Besides, aren’t there more important things to talk about at High school when you’re 11/12? I mean, who would still be talking about the 11+ exam months later? Little story for you: DD’s friend (of sorts) who passed with flying colours, and rubbed my DD’s nose in it, is really struggling. DD on the other hand has made me so proud with the A1 grades she keeps getting, (She isn’t satisfied – apparently she wants an A*! and HT awards.) She has made lots of wonderful new friends and has been picked for various school sports teams. Most important of all, though, is she is extremely happy. It just goes to show that if you truly believe in your heart that your child belongs in a grammar school, you have to go with it for all it’s worth.”

White Knight has posted:

“I am a teacher at a grammar school with responsibilities for monitoring pupils. I have access to vrq scores, SATs scores and GCSE/AS/A level exams. I have witnessed several boys win appeals who have gone on to read, for example physics or maths, at Oxbridge. Out of my own interest, for years 7 and 8, I spend a good deal of time analysing school exam results and comparing them with entry vrqs. Being as professional and confidential as I can, I have also made enquiries as to whether pupils were tutored and/or went to private junior schools. In our school about 80% of pupils were either tutored, went to private junior schools or both. All I have come up with is not that surprising; it is the best I have. Generally then: Many pupils who score high vrqs have rarely gone on to shine as one might predict. Yes they are good but no better than most. Those who have not been tutored tend to do better than might be expected based on their vrq. Those who were tutored and have low vrqs tend to struggle. Those who were tutored and get in on appeal struggle the most. Those who had no tutoring and get in on appeal tend to do fine. (Please treat all of this with great caution. There are many exceptions!)”

B27. Some panel questions translated (with acknowledgements to Sally-Anne)

Was your child tutored? = Did she fail despite months of preparation?

How did she seem on the day of the exam (before/after)? = Was there any illness or other cause for concern that could have affected the result?

Did she finish the test? = Did she just get a few questions wrong, or was it that she didn’t even get to the end of the paper? Implications about the speed at which she works.

What books is she reading? = Is she reading age-appropriate material or anything well above her age level?

How will she cope with fast paced GS? = Can she keep up – as for finishing the test?

What will happen if the appeal is unsuccessful? = Consequences for the child of turning the Appeal down, wanting to know what alternative offer there is.

B28. a) What are CATs?

The Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT) is published by nferNelson who provide the following explanation:

The third edition (CAT3) was published in June 2001. The complete series of tests, from levels A to H, cover the age range 7 years 6 months to 17 years. Level D is the level taken by most Y7 students. Levels G and H which take the test to Y11-Y13 were published in September 2003. Roughly 70 percent of all secondary schools use CAT to assess their pupils on entry to Y7, and approximately 25 percent also test in Y9. Many primary schools also use CAT, predominantly in Y4. Approximately one-third of LEAs use CAT strategically across all their schools. Three-quarters of customers, and nearly all secondary schools, use the computer-scoring service provided by nferNelson.

b) What does CAT measure?

CAT is actually nine tests grouped into three batteries which assess a pupil’s ability to reason with and manipulate the three different types of symbols that play a substantial role in human thinking:

  • verbal – thinking with words
  • quantitative – thinking with numbers
  • non-verbal – thinking with shape and space.

CAT scores indicate general transferable abilities, such as the ability to recognise similarities, analogies, patterns and relationships, all fundamental to understanding and assimilating new information. They are designed specifically to minimise the role of prior learning and can therefore provide an indication of potential. They differ from the national tests (or SATs) which indicate attainment in some core areas of the curriculum and reflect how well pupils have acquired and retained specific knowledge in these areas.

c) How are scores reported?

For easy comparison, pupils’ raw scores are converted to standard age scores (SAS), stanines and percentiles. Figure 1 shows the link between these different scores.

  • Standard ages scores (SAS) have a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, which shows how widely spread the data are around the mean of 100. Around two-thirds of pupils in the national age group will score between 85 and 115 (up to one standard deviation away from the mean on each side), 95 percent score between 70 and 130 (up to two standard deviations from the mean) and 99 percent score between 60 and 140. The upper and lower quartiles of the distribution are an SAS of 90 or below (bottom 26 percent) and 111 or above (top 26 percent) respectively.
  • Stanines, short for “standard nines”, are nine summary score bands ranging from 1 (lowest) to 9 (highest). The table below shows the percentage of pupils expected in each stanine if the school has a national average intake.
  • National percentile rank (NPR) shows the percentage of pupils nationally who obtain a SAS at or below a particular score. An NPR of 50 represents the 50th percentile, which is the median for the age group.

d) Table:

Description /Stanine /Percentage of pupils / Corresponding percentile (NPR) / Corresponding standard age score (SAS)

Description St % pupils percentile score
Very high 9 4 97+ 127+
Above av. 8 7 90-96 119-126
Above av. 7 12 78-89 112-118
Average 6 17 59-77 104-111
Average 5 20 41-58 97-103
Average 4 17 23-40 89-96
Below av. 3 12 12-22 82-88
Below av. 2 7 5-11 74-81
Very low 1 4 4- 73-

B29. What is NVR?

A Non-Verbal Reasoning Test provides a measure of reasoning ability that is relatively unaffected by verbal skills. NVR specifically identifies ability towards science, engineering and mathematics. This is thought to be a more all round indicator for high potential in these fields than a specific mathematics test. The test also helps to identify high ability in pupils where English is not their first language.

B30. The whole process is too subjective. How can it be that these people – who’ve never even met my child – decide his/her future in this way?

The appeal process cannot possibly be 100% objective. Some schools do not do SATs. Some schools do not do CATs. Some schools are over-optimistic. Some heads – outside the LA – refuse to co-operate. Some parents show school reports, some don’t. Some parents bring school work, some don’t. Sometimes the academic evidence is contradictory.

No set of criteria could encompass all the possibilities, and there’s plenty of scope for subjective judgement. I have been posing the following question on the forum for some years: “How many marks allowance would you make for a ‘much loved grandparent’ who died a week before the tests? How about two weeks before the test? Three weeks? Four weeks? (The really difficult bit, of course, is that different children react in different ways, so please come up with a workable solution.)” No one has yet offered a definitive answer!

If you want a more objective, more transparent system, you already have it – it’s called the 11+. The 11+ provides rough justice (because no testing system is perfect), but it’s very clinical. There are no arguments. You reach the qualifying score or you don’t. There is no discretion.

The appeals system also provides rough justice (because it can never be a clinical exercise). I suspect that it does come up with the right answer in the majority of cases, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Borderline cases are particularly difficult.

Think of an appeals panel as a bit like a jury consisting of three ordinary people. They are not meant to be experts (although at least one of them must have a background in education). They are not allowed to do their own assessment of the child. They are there to judge the evidence. Your task as the appellant is to convince at least a majority of the panel that your child should be deemed qualified.

(See also E24)

B31. Is it necessary to inform the admission authority about any extenuating circumstances at the time of the 11+?

a. If we’re talking about a short-term problem, such as a very bad cold, you have to decide whether your child is fit enough to take the test.

  • If your decision is ‘No’, follow whatever instructions have been given by the admission authority – or in the absence of any instructions, contact the admission authority for advice about the possibility of sitting the test at a later date.
  • If your decision is ‘Yes’, and you send your child in to take the test, trying to argue later on at an appeal “He/She really wasn’t fit enough” risks looking like a lame excuse!

b. If we’re talking about an ongoing problem (e.g. protracted marriage breakdown or long-term illness of a family member), where sitting the test at a later date is probably not going to help, it’s usually a good idea to inform the admission authority (whether it be the LA or an own-admission authority school) in writing without delay. Make clear that you realise there’s nothing they can do at this stage, but that you felt the matter should be noted in their records.

  • Some admission authorities may request or require notification of any extenuating circumstances before the test. I recall the governor of a foundation school writing on the forum some years ago that the appeal panel for his school tended not to look sympathetically on extenuating circumstances that were known about, and could been brought to the school’s attention at the time, but weren’t.
  • The previous Appeals Code (but not the present one) stated:

the panel should consider any factors which appellants contend may have affected the child’s performance (e.g. illness, bereavement); whether the family made the admission authority aware of these before they sat the test [my emphasis]; and whether it offered alternative testing arrangements or made reasonable adjustments (e.g. in the case of children with disabilities)……

  • Where there is an ongoing problem, or a series of incidents, it could help an appeal if there is also evidence that school work has been affected at the time in question (for example, a dip in performance, or unexpectedly erratic work).

B32. Issues to be considered with regard to non-qualification

The current Code of Practice states:

3.13 An appeal panel may be asked to consider an appeal where the appellant believes that the child did not perform at their best on the day of the entrance test. In such cases:

a) where a local review process has not been applied, the panel must only uphold the appeal if it is satisfied:

i) that there is evidence to demonstrate that the child is of the required academic standards, for example, school reports giving Year 5/Year 6 SAT results or a letter of support from their current or previous school clearly indicating why the child is considered to be of grammar school ability; and

ii) where applicable, that the appellant’s arguments outweigh the admission authority’s case that admission of additional children would cause prejudice.

It is for the individual panel to judge whether a child should be deemed qualified in the light of the evidence available. It may wish to take into account:

* Whether the admission authority was notified in advance of any extenuating circumstances

* Whether, in the case of ongoing circumstances, there is evidence that school work was affected

* And, most importantly, whether there is a range of academic evidence pointing to very high ability (since no bit of academic evidence on its own is likely to be comparable with the 11+).

B33. How might a panel deal with disability?

I think the following issues need to be addressed:

  • Is there a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act?
  • If so, did the responsible body fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that the pupil was not placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with non-disabled pupils?

Note: if the responsible body did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, about the disability, then there is a ‘lack of knowledge’ defence, making it rather difficult to establish any failure on the part of the responsible body to take reasonable steps.

  • If the responsible body failed to take reasonable steps, on the balance of probabilities would a successful mark have been achieved if reasonable steps had been taken? (This is where the gap between the mark achieved and the cut-off score is considered.)

If the argument is lost at any of the above points, the panel has finished with disability as a specific legal issue, and moves on to consider the case as an ordinary appeal:

  • Were the extenuating circumstances (including any issues previously considered under the Equality Act) sufficient to explain the gap between the mark achieved and the cut-off score?
  • If so, is there sufficient academic evidence of grammar school ability?

Then, if oversubscription is also being considered:

  • If so, and if there are no places available, do the parents’ reasons for wanting a place outweigh the prejudice to the school?

Parents are sometimes surprised to discover the panel have considered disability, when they (the parents) had never raised it as an issue – but the panel were simply ‘having regard to’ the Equality Act, as they are legally required to do.

Some parents are also concerned about the possible implications of a finding of ‘disability’. There is nothing to worry about. The panel’s decision doesn’t affect anything other than the appeal.

B34. Premature birth as an extenuating circumstance

We are sometimes asked whether this could be used as a mitigating circumstance when appealing against non-qualification.

2 or 3 weeks is unlikely to count, but 2-3 months could be worth a mention, especially if you provide some evidence of the effect of premature birth on development. See here

However, as mentioned elsewhere, the new Code does not refer to extenuating circumstances.

B35. Is it best to use your strongest ‘key point’ first or save it till last?

I honestly don’t think it will make the slightest difference. If this is a non-qualification appeal, present all your academic arguments together, and then any mitigating circumstances. Or you could do it the other way round. It’s the strength of your arguments that matters, rather than how you present them.

B36. Our local 11+ consists of VR only, and this is unfair. I feel there should be two papers, one VR and one Maths. My child is very good at Maths but not so at VR. I have been told by numerous people she is grammar school material, but I think vocabulary will let her down in the VR. Is this a strong enough reason at appeal?

Yes, it’s possible. Some appeal panels will be more receptive than others to this line of argument, but there ought to be some strong evidence (e.g. 5a prediction for maths, 130+ score in NVR/quantitative reasoning, perhaps G&T in Maths or a gold certificate in Primary Maths Challenge).

Bear in mind too that, the further away from the score required, the harder it usually becomes to win an appeal, whatever the reasons.

You should draw the panel’s attention to the fact that your child is stronger on the maths side, and the 11+ (limited as it is to VR) may not have given the most rounded picture of her ability. It would be unwise, though, to set out to criticise the system, as this rarely goes down well! If the local admission arrangements are lawful, an appeal panel has to accept them. An appeal gives you the opportunity to ask the panel to consider alternative evidence of high ability.

B37. If my child has attended an under-achieving school that has been under Special Measures, would this in itself count as an extenuating circumstance? Should I submit a copy of the Ofsted report in advance?

It probably wouldn’t work as a general argument. It rather depends on what specific point you are setting out to prove. If your local 11+ consisted solely of reasoning tests, then an appeal panel might query the relevance of a poor Ofsted report. On the other hand, if the 11+ included some curriculum related tests in maths or English, then you have a possible explanation for any underperformance in these specific areas. It might also help provide an explanation if your child’s KS2 predictions are not as high as one would expect for grammar school entry.

Whatever the extenuating circumstances,of course, the panel will still need to see evidence of very high ability. This might be from earlier on in a child’s career (e.g. level 3s at KS1, if he was lucky enough to attend a good infants school), or it might consist of non-curriculum related evidence (e.g. 140 in a non-verbal reasoning test, grade 4 music, membership of MENSA, regional chess champion!).

I don’t think they’d thank you for sending in an Ofsted report that then has to be photocopied, issued to everyone, and studied by the panel in advance. My advice would be to keep it low key, just read out a couple of the main points from the report at the hearing, and leave a copy with the clerk “for the record”.

B38. How can I find a good educational psychologist?

Like many things, it helps if you’re lucky enough to get a personal recommendation from someone you trust.

Failing that, I would make the following observations:

  • a. It’s not quite like looking for a tutor – chartered educational psychologists are regulated, with accreditation through the BPS, and there is now a requirement that they are registered with the Health Professions Council.
  • b. They are highly qualified.
  • c. No matter who you go to, they are all likely to come up with the same sort of report, using the well-respected WISC or BAS tests. I suppose some EPs might appear ‘nicer’ than others, but I’m not sure the outcome will be any different!
  • d. If you decide to pursue this option, I would suggest ringing up two or three local EPs from the register to discuss why you’re thinking of having your son tested. I doubt that whether they are any ‘good’ is likely to be an issue – you might wish to select on the basis of whether you get the right ‘vibes’, how experienced they are in providing reports for the sort of purpose you have in mind, and what their fee will be.

Find a Chartered Psychologist

B39. Is it possible to have CATs tests done privately?

It’s not usually possible to take CATs outside of school. (I’m aware of a large tutoring organisation that uses them for assessment purposes, but an appeal panel might have concerns about any tutor-administered test.)

If you need evidence of reasoning ability that is not available from the current school, you might possibly wish to consider whether to pay for a report from an educational psychologist.
See B3 – Would a report from an educational psychologist help at an appeal against non-qualification?

B40. What should be the balance (in terms of length and detail) between the written submission and the presentation at the hearing?

“I’ve been reading various threads and have come across advice that appellants should submit minimal information (bullet points) in writing prior to the hearing & then go into more detail at the hearing. Can I do it the other way round? – I’m much more confident and focused when writing a letter than I expect to be when in front of an appeal panel!”

If you’re worried about giving a speech, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t do it the other way round – your written case in full, and a few words at the hearing summarising the main points (you could even say “Would you be willing to take my case as read? If so, I’m happy to answer any questions”).

Even so, unless the case is extremely complex, I see no reason why it can’t be set out in full on a single sheet of A4 (plus supporting evidence). Bullet points are an aid to clarity and conciseness!

Under normal circumstances I see no reason for either a lengthy submission or a lengthy presentation. What really matters is the evidence, not what you write or say.

To take this one step further:

Because decisions are going to be based mainly on the available evidence, all the evidence (both academic + any extenuating circumstances) could be left to speak for itself.

I don’t attach much importance to the appeal submission. Essentially all it need say is, for example:

Our appeal is based on alternative academic evidence and [where applicable] extenuating circumstances and reasons for wanting a place at this school.

Please see:

Appendix 1: Letter from GP

Appendix 2: Letter from class teacher confirming how my child was affected during the week/month of the tests

Appendix 3: Letter of support from headteacher

Appendix 4: Year 5 report

etc.

Setting out the evidence in appendices makes it easy for the panel to find their way around the paperwork. If there’s a lengthy document such as an educational psychologist’s report, it would also be a good idea to ensure that the pages of that particular document are numbered. When referring the panel to a specific point, you can then say “If you turn to appendix 5, page 2, you’ll see that ………”

By all means ‘top and tail’ the above: “Dear members of the panel …………………………………… Thank you very much for taking the time to consider our appeal.”

I would keep the presentation fairly brief, and suggest its purpose is just to remind the panel what your case is basically about and to highlight the main points in the evidence.

Appellants who go on for too long about extenuating circumstances can finish up sounding as if they are just making ‘excuses’.

If the panel want or need to know more, let them draw the information out of you during the Q&A session. No one will think you are making excuses if you respond briefly to a question you’ve been asked. In my view it’s better to underplay any extenuating circumstances than to overplay them. For example:

“….. we’re not sure how much this can be taken into account …..”

“….. we do understand that some distractions in an exam room full of 10 year olds are inevitable …”

(See also ‘Could you provide a specimen letter of appeal?’ B21)

B41. What different words can a headteacher use to indicate his level of support for a child?

Compare the following:

1. I support with some reservations

2. I support

3. I strongly support

4. I very strongly support

5. I support wholeheartedly and without the slightest reservation

6. I support wholeheartedly and without the slightest reservation …… has great academic potential ……….

Of the cases I heard, I would hazard a guess that the proportions would have been roughly as follows:

1. I support with some reservations: 10%

2. I support: 25%

3. I strongly support: 20%

4. I very strongly support: 15%

5. I support wholeheartedly and without the slightest reservation: 8%

6. I support wholeheartedly and without the slightest reservation …… has great academic potential ……….: 2%

7. Not clear (intentionally or unintentionally!): 20%

B42. We have an educational psychologist’s report (WISC) which was administered abroad in our own language, and which shows a very high IQ (136). Can we submit it as evidence?

I’m doubtful that a report in a foreign language – without an independent translation – is going to carry much weight. I would advise you to have it properly translated, and to submit the certified translation along with the original.

[With acknowledgements to Marylou]

We don’t have an official system of “certified translators” in this country, though there are plenty of highly qualified and experienced translators with professional credentials who would be able to help you. I am a freelance translator and whenever I am asked to provide a certified translation I am able to self-certify as a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

If you contact that organisation on http://www.iti.org.uk under the “search for translator” section, choose “translators” then state your language (or the language the report is written in) as the source language and English as the target language, and under subject area choose “Humanities” then “Education and training”, you will be shown a list of translators who match your criteria and have passed a fairly stringent process to qualify for membership of the ITI. You can contact them directly, therefore cheaper than going through an agency! {Marylou]

B43. My son is at a high achieving out-of-county school, and the headteacher has written that he is in the top sets. Would it help our case to provide evidence of the school’s position in the SATs league tables? It is very high… top 3 out of 50 in our own LA [or joint 8th out of roughly 90 in the LA to which we’re appealing, based on average points per pupil].

Being in the top sets of a high achieving school is a point well worth making. Don’t burden the panel will extra paperwork (or it starts to look like ‘overkill’), but have a copy with you, hold it up very briefly as you speak, and say “You’re welcome to see the evidence for this, if you wish.” (Have another 5 copies of the evidence in reserve – but don’t mention this unless they seem interested in looking at the details.)

B44. Is it worth asking the class teacher for a separate letter of support?

It depends whether the class teacher is going to write anything useful that is additional to what the head has already provided!

It is not unknown for Year 6 teachers to write a separate letter of support, although most appeals come with just a report from the headteacher. You could have a private word with the class teacher to see if he/she can do anything to help. (This might put the class teacher in a difficult position, if what you are requesting is contrary to school policy – in some schools all such requests are dealt with by the headteacher – but the worst they can do is say “No”!)

B45. I have a few questions regarding the results of an Educational Psychologist’s report.

a) I have read that panels are looking for results in the range of 95th percentile.

Generally speaking, I would suggest the 90-95th percentile (and the higher, the better) would be ideal, but I think it depends on the local area (because the standard of the 11+ could vary), and also on the individual panel.

b) Is that the overall centile or specifically for verbal reasoning?

It depends what sort of case you want to present.

Example A:

Your 11+ was based solely on VR, and a qualifying score was not achieved. The EP comes up with a verbal comprehension score at the 95th percentile. You could quite reasonably ask the panel to take into account your alternative evidence. Looking at all the evidence, they will then have to decide which score they believe to be a more reliable indicator of ability.

Example B:

Your 11+ was based solely on VR, and a qualifying mark was not achieved. The EP comes up with a perceptual/NVR score at the 95th percentile. You could quite reasonably ask the panel to take account of the fact that your son’s academic strengths lie more on the maths/science side, and may not be fairly reflected in an 11+ based solely on VR. They will then have to look at all the evidence and decide whether or not they find the argument persuasive. They may wish to consider, for example, whether there is a level 5a predicted for maths, but only a 5c for English, whether your child is in the top set for maths but not for English, whether he is on the Gifted & Talented register for maths but not for English, whether he is doing well at science.

Example C:

Irrespective of the format of the 11+, a qualifying mark was not achieved. The EP comes up with a composite score at the 95th percentile. You could ask the panel to consider this as evidence of your child’s overall ability.

N.B. The overall/composite score in WISC is called the FSIQ (Full Scale IQ).

In BAS (British Ability Scales) the overall/composite score is called GCA (General Conceptual Ability).

B46. How detrimental would it be to admit our child was tutored? If asked, should we tell the truth?

You should always tell the truth.

If the question were to arise, it is most likely to be in the form: “Did you do any additional preparation with your child?”, rather than “Was your child tutored for the 11+?”

I have to say the issue of tutoring is not going to be critical at an appeal.

Although it doesn’t exactly make a ‘good impression’ to say “My child was tutored,” I don’t believe panel members – whatever their private thoughts – would actually take that into account when making their decision. I certainly never heard a single appeal where it was a factor.

The reason we advise caution where tutoring is concerned is that some parents go out of their way to volunteer the information “We paid for him/her to be tutored for 2 years!”, presumably thinking it will show an appeal panel what good parents they are, and how committed they are to the 11+!

Although it may not in reality harm their case, it does nothing to assist it!

Best to say nothing unless asked. And, if asked, Sally-Anne has suggested a very reasonable answer which would fit the majority of cases: “Yes, our child was tutored. We were very conscious that everyone around us was buying into tutoring and we felt under pressure not to place our child at a disadvantage.”

B47. We were informed that our son failed to reach the required standard after taking the entrance exam for our local grammar school. On phoning the school to find out his scores, we were told we can’t have them.

We think you have a legal right to this information – although it may take time.

The Information Commissioner’s Office have said that under the Data Protection Act, Section 7, parents can request individual scores for each of the tests. The School is entitled to charge a fee of up to £10 for providing this information.

Exam scripts cannot be requested under the Data Protection Act.

Further advice if needed is available from the Information Commissioner’s helpline .

Here is a specimen letter or email for the relevant admission authority:

(Be sure to include your full name and address)

Dear Sir/Madam

Subject access request (Data Protection Act 1998)

Child’s full name: ………………..

I am writing to you to ask formally for a copy of ………………………. This request is being made under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Please advise if you require payment of a fee.

Thank you for your kind assistance in this matter.

Yours faithfully

……………

It is best to send your request by recorded delivery or by email, and to keep a copy of the request and any other correspondence. This will be important as evidence if you need to complain that the organisation has not given you the information you think you are entitled to.

The organisation has to reply promptly, and at the most within 40 days, starting from the day they receive both the fee and any details they need to identify you and the information you are requesting.

B48. We have spoken to the school and they are willing to support our appeal. As this is going to be new for them, they want to know what to put in their supporting letter.

If qualification is an issue at appeal, then ideally one would like to see in a letter from the head:

1. In a state school:
a) ‘Working at’ levels from year 5 or autumn term year 6 (on target for level 5s at KS2);
b) optional SATs results from year 5 or year 6, if available;
c) predicted levels for KS2 (preferably higher than 5c)

2. In an independent school:
a) an estimate of SATs levels;
b) school exam results, e.g. 85% for English, ranked 1st out of 15 pupils in our top set;
c) an indication of the academic calibre of the school, e.g. Most of our pupils go on to secure a place at grammar school or at one of the well-regarded public schools.

3. Any available test results, e.g. CATs, other NFER tests, reading age

4. Any other academic-related information, e.g. in the top sets of a high performing school, Gifted & Talented for English, gold certificate in Primary Maths Challenge, keen member of the school’s science club

5. A clear and positive statement of support, e.g. This appeal has my strongest possible support …… an extremely able pupil with very considerable academic potential …… would be ideally suited to this school* ….. I urge you to allow this appeal.

*If oversubscription will be an issue at appeal, it would help to have some support for why this particular school would be suitable (for example, ‘a keen interest in science’ if the school specialises in science)

katel’s story

We have been using the fantastic guidance from Etienne and others on here and we were well on the way when we went to see our son’s head teacher yesterday who threw us into a panic by talking about letters from choir masters and scout masters and football coaches and stuff about “the whole child” – directly contrary to Etienne’s advice and what we had been doing. When we got home, we rang the LEA Secondary Admissions Team, who confirmed what the Head had said. All we could think was that things had changed somehow. We were completely confused!

Then, late last night the Head rang us at home. He said that he had just talked to the Clerk of a Kent appeals panel, who said that both he (the Head) and the Admissions Team were absolutely wrong, and Etienne’s guidance is spot on!

The Clerk said that the only time letters from coaches and so on could possibly be useful is if it is a specialist school and they provide solid, independent evidence from a qualified person of a particular aptitude. He also said that sometimes evidence of independent thinking and leadership might help a bit, but not much. He said that the crucial element is hard evidence. The Head’s recommendation is very important, which needs to be incredibly carefully worded. Any element of “he deserves a place because he’s a lovely lad with beautiful manners” and the whole letter is called into question. And SATs levels, CAT scores and an Ed Psych’s report. So, basically, what the fantastic Etienne says. I am shocked at our Head getting it so wrong, but I am beyond furious at the Admissions Team. Who knows how many people they have misinformed and sent on wild goose chases!

B49. How to sum up.

In the summing up, neither party should introduce any new evidence or add significant new points. You need only highlight very briefly the important issues.

As we often point out, the evidence should speak for itself, and although everyone is naturally concerned about what to say at the hearing, it is not nearly as important as people think. My advice is to be as brief as possible – don’t try the panel’s patience by inflicting on them a lengthy, repetitive summing up!

A minute or two is all it should take (I’m afraid too many appellants see this as yet another opportunity to bore the panel to death, reminding them of the minutest details about their case!). You do not need to sum up at all if you don’t want to, and rest assured that not repeating your main points isn’t going to make the slightest difference! However, I would recommend having the last word as follows:

Example of a simple summing up

(1) We’ll be quite brief. (2) Thank you very much indeed for being so generous with your time [if applicable], and for having given us the opportunity to present our case. (3) We fully understand the authority’s position, (4) but would ask you to take into account the extenuating circumstances [if applicable], and to consider the range of alternative academic evidence that suggests a grammar school place would be appropriate.

(Point 1 – muted sighs of relief from the panel! Point 2 is just good manners, point 3 only goes to shows how reasonable you are, and point 4 is what your case has been about.)

If oversubscription is an issue, as it usually is, you could then add:

(5) [Our child] is desperately keen to join the school. (6) We do understand the school’s reservations about the possible impact of an extra pupil, (7) but we respectfully ask you to weigh up the reasons we have put forward, and to consider allowing this appeal on the basis that the prejudice to [our child] of not being admitted would outweigh any prejudice to the school. Thank you.

(Point 5 might elicit a bit of sympathy, point 6 shows again how reasonable you are, and point 7 refers to the substance of your case.)

The panel really don’t need reminding about the individual arguments you’ve put forward, so what’s the purpose of summing up? My feeling is that, if you can win the sympathy of the panel by conveying how really keen your child is for a place at the school, and impress them by how reasonable you are, they might just start looking a bit harder for reasons to allow the appeal!

It may only work when the decision is finely balanced, and you will probably need some luck on your side too ……

B50. Is it worth mentioning at appeal my child’s good results in other 11+ tests?

a. Tactically you need to consider whether it’s a good idea to talk about other applications when the message you’re trying to put across at appeal is “This is the school my child really wants ……”!

b. However, there are parts of the country where it is well-known that children will be entered for multiple 11+ tests locally, so in this particular situation it may not harm your case. It depends whether the appeal panel know enough about the standard of local 11+ tests to draw reliable conclusions.

c. An 11+ test for one admissions authority may not be acceptable evidence elsewhere because of differences in the cohort, the format of the tests, and the method of standardisation. If there are differences, then an appeal panel may well take the view that the two tests cannot be directly compared.

d. Ultimately it will be up to the individual appeal panel to decide how much weight – if any – to give to the evidence.

B51. Just received 11+ results. Can I appeal now, or do I have to wait until March?

Usually, in order to appeal, you have to have applied and been formally refused, which means waiting until March (if this is a routine application for year 7 entry in September).

The admission authority ought to tell you in March (if they haven’t done so already) how to appeal.

Most appeal hearings are likely to take place in the summer term.

See also What are my chances at appeal?’ A36

B52. Our case will refer to the death of a grandfather. Are we expected to provide evidence such as the death certificate?

Probably not. You could as a precaution take the death certificate with you to the hearing, but it’s unlikely anyone will want to see it.

What really matters would be hard evidence of any impact on the child.

“The fact that the death of a relative is followed a month or so later by an unsuccessful 11+ result may be coincidental. It does not in itself establish a connection or prove anything. Circumstances are just circumstances. What matters is whether there is evidence of the effect on the child – quite apart from the 11+. Then those circumstances may become extenuating circumstances.” See B10

B53. Do I cover ‘fair, consistent & objective’ in my appeal submission? Do I say I will be challenging it and give the reasons why?

a) If you’ve been through an unsuccessful review, the admission authority could include evidence as part of their case that the review was ‘fair, consistent & objective’ – and if they succeed in convincing the panel, they have effectively won the appeal because according to the Appeals Code:

“3.13(b) where a local review process has been followed, the panel must only consider whether each child’s review was carried out in a fair, consistent and objective way and if there is no evidence that this has been done, the panel must follow the process in paragraph 3.13(a)…..”

Just for the record, paragraph 3.13(a) says:

“An appeal panel may be asked to consider an appeal where the appellant believes that the child did not perform at their best on the day of the entrance test. In such cases:
a) where a local review process has not been applied, the panel must only uphold the appeal if it is satisfied:
i) that there is evidence to demonstrate that the child is of the required academic standards, for example, school reports giving Year 5/Year 6 SAT results or a letter of support from their current or previous school clearly indicating why the child is considered to be of grammar school
ability; and
ii) where applicable, that the appellant’s arguments outweigh the admission authority’s case that admission of additional children would cause prejudice.”

b) If the admission authority is trying to enforce ‘fair, consistent & objective’, then in my view it is for them to prove their case, and I see no need for you to do anything other than ask some pertinent questions at the hearing.
After all, most appellants won’t even have had sight of the school case at the point in time when they are filling in their appeal form.
It’s no different really from how one approaches the school’s oversubsciption case. See C29

c) If you like, though, you could include a short paragraph in your written case:

“If the admission authority intends to argue that the review process was ‘fair, consistent & objective’, we shall wish to question and challenge that case at the hearing. [We have not yet had sight of the school case, and therefore are not yet in a position to comment on it.]”

d) However, if you do happen to have evidence that something was done incorrectly (which would call into question whether the review process was ‘fair, consistent & objective’), then it is important to submit that evidence in advance of the hearing.

e) Most appellants will not have evidence against ‘fair, consistent & objective’ – they will instead question and challenge the admission authority’s case at the hearing.

f) If anyone tries to make you responsible for disproving the admission authority’s case for ‘fair, consistent & objective’, your response should be:

“Paragraph 3.13(b) of the Appeals Code refers to whether or not there is any evidence that each child’s review was carried out in a fair, consistent and objective way. It does not appear to require evidence from parents that the review was not carried out in a fair, consistent and objective way.”

“I respectfully submit that the onus is on the admission authority to prove its case to the satisfaction of the Appeal Panel – not on parents to disprove it.”

“However, there are several points I would like to raise, and bring to the panel’s attention. Could the presenting officer please tell us …….”

g) Possible questions:

“What objective criteria were used to determine which review cases to allow?” (Without this information, how can it be shown that the process was objective?)

“Are there contemporaneous notes showing how long was spent on our case, and exactly how the review panel arrived at its decision?” (Without such evidence, it is arguable that the process cannot be shown to be fair.)

“How can the admission authority prove to the satisfaction of the appeal panel that all the review decisions were totally consistent?”
(I would suggest it is not enough to claim that someone ‘reviewed’ or ‘moderated’ the review panel decisions. What objective criteria were used to ensure consistency? How is anyone to know whether complete consistency was achieved in practice?)

h) It probably would not be a good idea to submit probing questions in advance, thereby giving the other side time to prepare!

B54. For anyone who thinks a failed 11+ followed by an unsuccessful appeal is the end of the world ………

KT36 wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

I just wanted to update you both as you were so helpful last year. A very happy and proud mum.

Heartmum commented:

What a wonderful, heartwarming post – it’ll give a lot of hope to parents and DCs alike.
Many, many congratulations to you and your DC – a well deserved result! x x x

Etienne added:

I endorse what everyone else has said. Heartmum encapsulates it all when she writes “What a wonderful, heartwarming post – it’ll give a lot of hope to parents and DCs alike”.

We spend so much time supporting those who’ve been bitterly disappointed by the 11+ and then by an unsuccessful appeal, and I hope we may console them with the thought that things often have a strange way of working out well in the longer term. Your case proves the point. The moral is ‘Never give up!’.

“Courage is not defined by those who fought and did not fall, but by those who fought, fell and rose again.”

Every year we hear of cases where heartbreak has been replaced by tears of joy ……..

Totally_gutted has written:

“I just wanted to say to all of you going/gone through appeals process that even if you don’t win at appeal it may not be the end of the road.

DS missed out on qualifying score for GS last year and our appeal was unsuccessful so he took up his place at the local (and vastly improved) comprehensive. Top sets, great target grades, ATL marks etc – decided he wanted to try for in-year admission for Y8 so took the school’s own tests in English, Maths and Science at the start of May.

7 long weeks later he has been offered a place!!!!

We are so proud of him for giving it a go and putting himself on the line once again, and really proving to everyone that actually, yes, I deserve that place at GS and I’ve done it through proving myself on the basis of “real” subjects – not a VR test where I was tutored to death.

Thanks to Etienne and everyone else for their support over the last years."

Woody551 has written:

“I just wanted to share our own good news.

We had a very similar experience to Totally_Gutted 12 months ago, son missed out by a few marks, unsuccessful at appeal and then had a complaint to the EFA rejected.

Son has thoroughly enjoyed his year at his comp but about a month ago and totally out of the blue decided he would like to try the test again.

Sat the test 2 weeks ago and received the brilliant news that he passed last Friday, and has been offered a place in Yr8 but will be starting next Monday!

So proud of him for showing that even when you get a knock back in life, if you work hard and show great resilience you will eventually get your rewards."

Buzzybee’s news (long overdue recompense for the heartache of the previous year):

“Just checking in to say that dd got a place at SHF for this September. What a long journey it’s been! Dd loves her current school, is doing really well and made lots of friends there but is looking forward to the new opportunity at SHF. Think it will be easier for her to move as she knows 4 others from her primary school that are also going and the bonus is the school does dance GCSE! Hope anyone waiting for results of a school place got what they wanted.”

ConfusedAylesburyMum adds:

“Great news buzzybee. My daughter also got a place at SHF, so tears of joy and sadness in our house when she realised she was going to have to say goodbye to her friends.

She knows of one other from her school, couple from another Aylesbury school, so knows some people going, and already knows quite a few there. Music is her thing and I know the music department is phenomenal.

Yes it’s been a long journey with Selection Review Panel, appeal, and 12+ – but got there in the end.

Now on to my son who takes 11+ in September!!!!!"

At the GCSE stage there is great news from Looking for Help:

I think it was just before Christmas 2008, when we opened the result of my youngest son’s 11 +. I had always thought from the minute he was born, that he was the clever one in the family. He took to all educational activities straight away , could read and write really well, really early and his mathematical skills were very good for his age.

He went to a very good primary school, was challenged and rose to those challenges all the time. He was very well rounded, lots of friends, after school activities etc. I had three children who had already passed the Slough consortium exam and were sailing through their secondary school careers at this time.

It never evened entered my head that he would not pass, but when we opened the envelope, there it was in black and white, disaster.

Although we appealed, we failed that too. It was an awful time for the whole family.

Anyway we had a halfway decent back up plan, but it broke my heart that he couldn’t go to the same school as his brother and sisters.

Well to cut a long story short, he is now a very proud student with 9 A*s and 4 As, admittedly 3 were taken last year, but he has far surpassed the achievements of his brother and sisters who had the ‘better’ education. We keep looking at the bit of paper to try and find the Bs and the Cs but they just aren’t there.

I am not putting this here to boast, it is just the end of a huge journey that started 6 years ago so miserably. And it is well worth remembering for those of you who have children who just didn’t cut it in stupid N/VR tests, that it is not the end of the world. His school is ok, but not amazing, so it is down to the individual child to realise their potential.

Great news, too, from Copella who writes:

LFH, congratulations to you and your DS. Like yours my DS did not pass the 11 plus but we did not have a good back up place. He ended up going to the secondary which everyone put 6th on the list. There were many tears here too especially when his school went into special measures the year before his GCSEs, but yesterday we were overjoyed. He did not do as well as your DS, but came away with 4 A’s, 4 B’s and 2 C’s of which we are so proud. He is able to take the A levels he wants and even make a change if he desires. He can move to an outstanding school with a consistently good record which has good pastoral care. I could not be happier. Some of his friends came away with a clutch of A*s and A’s. I think he could have picked up a grade or two in some subjects if he went to a different school which had less stress and difficulties to deal with, however he has done very well and now has the opportunity to really shine.

The 11 plus should not mark a child out as a failure. With support and encouragement they can thrive. Well done again to your DS, LFH. You must be so proud.

B55. The 11+ score doesn’t seem right. Can I ask to see the papers? Can I request a remark?

First of all it should be noted that remarks rarely come up with a different result.

Unfortunately exam scripts are specifically exempt from the Data Protection Act, so you have no legal right to see the papers. (Admission authorities could still make them available at their discretion, but most are unlikely to do so.)

  • Kent

In the past Kent have had the most generous arrangements – they have allowed parents to view the papers by appointment, and have even been willing to do a remark at the same time free of charge.

  • Gloucestershire

Amber tells us:

“It was certainly the case three years ago that a parent could request a re-mark; there was no charge for it and it was jolly quick. However the caveat was applied that should the mark go down, the lower mark would stand. It was also mentioned that only once in living memory had a mark ever been changed.

The official guidance this year states:

Papers are marked twice electronically by computer and manual checks are also carried out. It is highly unlikely that an error could be made in the marking of the papers. However, parents/carers can request a manual remark of their child’s test paper as part of the appeals process."

DC17C adds:

“Last year I was told that the appeal process would automatically include a remark. The paperwork sent to me as part of the schools case included a results sheet for each paper showing which questions were answered and which were right or wrong with the raw scores and SAS for each paper.”

  • Essex (CSSE)

We are told that any queries related to the papers should be made in writing to the school where the tests were sat. Each school is responsible for its own testing and marking procedures.

Our understanding is that the schools will not normally do a remark, but that they might be willing to carry out a clerical check to ensure that the marks were added up correctly.

  • Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire have the following policy:

Where a child has taken part in the transfer testing process we will agree to provide, upon
payment by the parent of a £25 charge, a re-mark, by hand plus a re-calculation of the
standardised scores. We are not authorised to release raw scores in any circumstances.

The council will only provide this service at certain times of the year immediately following the release of test results, and therefore all requests must be made within 21 days of the parents receiving notification of their child’s performance in the tests. Where a request is received after this date, the LA may refuse to provide the information.

Under Schedule 7(9) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the grammar schools are not required to provide exam scripts or the information recorded in them, hence we will only provide this information on the payment of a £25 fee as we are required to undertake extra work in order to provide the requested information.

In all instances, we would suggest that the parent discusses their intention to request such
information with you [the headteacher]. All requests must be made in writing and be accompanied by the appropriate fee.

Parents will be able to request, and pay for, the service above online.

Any parent paying by cheque should make it payable to Buckinghamshire County Council.

Where this information is requested it will, in all cases, be provided to the Selection Review Panel.

Note: Despite the statement “We are not authorised to release raw scores in any circumstances”, we think it likely that a request to Admissions under the Data Protection Act would result in CEM agreeing to the release of raw scores by the LA.
However, one of our members who obtained the raw scores says that they are of no use without knowing how many questions there were in each section.
Sally-Anne adds: “Remarks of CEM papers are providing very little additional information compared to the old Bucks test.”

  • Other admission authorities

Individual schools that are their own admission authority and run their own 11+ are sometimes more reluctant to make arrangements (perhaps because of lack of resources):

“Upon request they refused to remark, I was just wondering if I am within my rights to request TGS to remark stage 2 11+ entrance exam papers/scripts by appealing.”

I’m not sure you can insist on a remark for appeal purposes.

In your case, I would want to know exactly what checks were in place to lessen the chances of human error. If they won’t answer, bring up this point at appeal.

When you say your request was refused, do you have that in writing?

They may be reluctant to comply because it might encourage others to bombard them with the same request! Have you tried offering to pay an appropriate fee to cover the extra work they would have to undertake? If not, it’s worth a try, because to an appeal panel it would show how very reasonable you have been.

Keep a copy of all correspondence for the appeal.

Will your current headteacher confirm in writing that the score was completely unexpected and ought to be checked? That could strengthen your case for appeal purposes.

B56. Disturbance during the test. Is this an extenuating circumstance?

a) As Capers once wrote:

“There are often lots of disturbances – rubbers being dropped, rhythmic tapping of pencils, sobbing, vomiting, persistent coughing, children getting up to pop to the loo mid-exam, football matches outside the window, planes flying over, dogs barking outside – the list is endless.”

To be honest, these ‘routine’ events may not carry much weight at an appeal.

b) If you think the incident was serious, I suggest you write to the relevant authority and ask if it was recorded in the invigilators’ log.
Make clear that you are not asking for any names (or it will set the data protection alarm bells ringing!).
Explain why you need this information – i.e. to help prepare for an appeal.
It is important to get their response in writing.

c) With external events such as (a) the prolonged illness of a close relative, or (b) disturbances in the test, I think what really matters is any evidence of the impact on the individual child.

For (a) this could be written confirmation from the school of signs of distress, or of a deterioration in the standard of routine school work.

For (b) an appeal panel might ask “Was your child’s distress noted during the test?” “Did you inform the relevant authority of the impact on your child as soon as possible after the test?”

See also B58 and B10.

B57. Our son didn’t get the qualifying score of 121 in the Bucks 11+. Would an alternative reasoning test score of 121 be good evidence?

Your alternative evidence would have been a nationally standardised test, which cannot be compared directly with the Bucks 11+. An alternative score of 121 on its own might not impress at review or appeal, even though it’s round about the 92nd percentile on a national scale.

A nationally standardised test will reflect children of all abilities!
The Bucks 11+, on the other hand, is standardised for the cohort. It’s thought to be a very high standard, reflecting both the area and the fact that it’s ‘opt-in’. Even though something like 30% are successful, it would be wrong to equate this to the 70th percentile nationally.

So what’s wrong with a nationally standardised 121 if it’s around the 92nd percentile?

There may be nothing wrong with it – but we have to keep in mind that we’re talking about evidence that’s going to convince a review or appeal panel.

121 might look borderline to a panel – especially taking into account confidence intervals (the ‘true score’ could be higher or lower).

When I was hearing appeals, my feeling – in so far as one can generalise – was that panels felt reassured by scores around the mid-120s. There was no guideline or ‘rule’, however – it was up to individual panel members to weigh up the evidence as a whole.

The issue is what a panel might perceive to be a ‘safe’ score.

Someone on the forum once wrote:

“It’s like seeking to adopt a child – you have more to prove than an ‘ordinary’ parent would!”

B58. Do I have the right to ask for a copy of the invigilator’s report?

If you simply need to know whether an incident during the 11+ was recorded, it may be sufficient to ask the admission authority to confirm (preferably in writing) whether or not it was.

If the precise detail of what was recorded could be significant to your appeal case, then you could ask for a copy of the invigilators report with the names of children – other than your own – redacted (blotted out). Point out to the admission authority that you need this information to help prepare for an appeal.

Here is a specimen letter:

(Include your full name and address)

Dear Sir/Madam

Subject access request (Data Protection Act 1998)

Child’s full name: ………………..

I am writing to you to ask you formally for a copy of any entry relating to my child in the invigilators report for the 11+ test on [date], with the names of any other persons redacted.

This request is being made under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

I am seeking this information to help prepare for an appeal, and with respect would also draw attention to the Appeals Code which states:

“2.21 Appeal panels must operate according to the principles of natural justice. Those most directly relevant to appeals are ……
c) written material and evidence must have been seen by all the parties.”

“2.8 Admission authorities must comply with reasonable requests from parents for information which they need to help them prepare their case for appeal.”

Thank you for your kind assistance in this matter.

Yours faithfully

………….

Ensure that any request from you, and any response from the admission authority, is in writing.

If the admission authority declines to co-operate:

Submit a copy of the correspondence in advance of the appeal (or, if there isn’t time, take 5-6 copies to the hearing), notifying the panel that the admission authority failed in its duty to provide reasonable information which you needed to help prepare for the appeal, a requirement set out in paragraph 2.8 of the Appeals Code: “Admission authorities must comply with reasonable requests from parents for information which they need to help them prepare their case for appeal.”

You could also make a complaint to the Information Commissioner, but this might take a very long time.

See reference to Data Protection Act.

B59. Are “moderate dyslexia” and “severe dyslexia” official terms and, if so, how are they defined?

There are arguments about that! See this discussion.

There are a lot of cases at appeal where the dyslexia seems rather mild.

If the dyslexia is moderate to severe, it is more likely to carry weight as an extenuating circumstance.

Moreover, to qualify as a disability the Equality Act says the impairment has to be “substantial” – and it defines that as more than minor or trivial.

Looking at it from what might be the panel’s perspective, I’m inclined to think that an appeal panel will sit up and take more notice if the dyslexia is moderate or severe. I don’t mind where the label comes from – so long as it’s from an educational psychologist or other appropriate professional who’s carried out an assessment.

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