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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 7:24 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:40 pm
Posts: 69

Cant find much feedback from Birmingham members on the 11+ appeals pages so thought Id try getting some feedback from here.

Had my appeal hearing last week for Sutton Girls. Was wondering if their are any other appealant out there.

Any feedback on your experience of the appeal process would be of interest as mine was not a pleasant one. :( .

Im thinking if complaining to the Admissions and appeals dept regardless of the outcome because I amreally unhappy about the way the whole thing was conducted.

Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 7:48 am 

Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 12:06 pm
Posts: 2093
Location: Birmingham
I have heard from other parents that there have been nightmares with Bham over appeals, with one having all their original letters and documents lost, despite having hand delivered them.
I do feel sorry for those parents who are struggling with the process, although that is little consolation, I know.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 11:12 am 

Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:40 pm
Posts: 69
My panel had all the relevant paper work but the attitude of the chair was really off. Im putting in a complaint regardless of the outcome.

Not had much response for info on B'ham appeals. Guess not many appealants using the site. All feedback in the appeals forum seems to be from the Kent / Bucks areas.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 11:31 am 

Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2009 1:35 pm
Posts: 290
Location: kent
i can't be much help I'm afraid, but I'm sorry that you had such a negative experience at appeal. I can't say that we enjoyed ours much (Kent) but I can say that we came out feeling relieved and 'satisfied' that we had done all we could, and that we had been listened to, everything considered and treated fairly. Happily it was successful! But, although it would have been a huge blow and hideously disappointing, I think in all honesty, I would still say the same had the decision not gone our way.

I am sorry that it was not that way for you. There seems to be a great deal of variation in how these appeals are conducted.
Good luck with whatever you decide to do about this.


PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:59 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:40 pm
Posts: 69
Lost the appeal despite having evidence of strong extenuating circumstances with letters from GP and seperate letters from HT and year 6 Teachers supporting the appeal.

Birmingham appeal successes seems to be extremely rare in comparison to the successes in other areas eg Bucks.

Any ideas as to why?

PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:34 am 
I can only speculate on this.

My impression is that Bucks and Kent still have an 11 plus 'system' in place whereby the top 30% (I am guessing this) go to grammar schools. When a top 20% student misses out, then it may be relatively straightforward to gather evidence to support the fact he or she was definitely grammar school calibre.

In Birmingham (and Sutton ), we do not have a grammar school system as such. We just have a few grammar schools which have survived the dismantling of the grammar school system. KE and Sutton have no boundaries, either, so they are open to any clever child who is prepared to travel.

There are about 600 Birmingham places and another 250+ in the Sutton schools. In any one year, there are probably 10,000 children in Birmingham alone who could potentially sit either exam, and then there are the children who can come in from Worcestershire etc..

In reality only about 4000 do sit for the 600 KE places so the chances are about 10 to 15% for the children who sit the exam, as opposed to the top 10 to 15% of the general population. At least the top 2000 of children who sit are probably ones who would pass a typical Bucks/Kent exam yet 1400 of these are going to miss out despite being firmly in the top 20% of children in the West Midlands region.

So you are faced with the problem of trying to prove that your child is actually not just clever but top 10% clever. Sat level 5's aren't going to do it because frankly almost all my pupils who have failed to pass go on to score these (although oddly enough not all my grammar schools passes, some of whom used to pass on the back of fabulous non-verbal scores). Support from a Head of a primary school will probably also not carry much weight unless your son/daughter was at the top of a very high performing primary school. Gifted and talented is also not really evidence as it is really particular to the school rather than national whereas being a nationalist finalist in the Maths Challenge may just swing it.

Family breakdown, temporary or otherwise, inevitably does affect a child's performance but, if my small statistics are anything to go by, between 5 and 10% of children sitting the exam on any one year will be faced with this during the year. Indeed I think the stress of 11 plus may just contribute to an already fragile relationship breaking down. I would not be surprised if a significant number of appelants do cite this as their extenuating circumstances so, while it is a very valid reason for underperformance, it may be too common to make one case stand out over another.

To be quite honest, I do not know what would 'swing' it for an appellant because, to my knowledge, no successful Birmingham appellant has ever posted their success on this site. I do know a girl on my daughter's year who has admitted being there on appeal but I do not know why she would have won such. It is not the sort of thing you'd ask parents or child. It certainly couldn't have been on evidence of really high ability as she is towards the bottom of the year so I can only assume they must have put forward some very powerful extenuating circumstances.

I am truly sorry you've had such a bad experience but I do hope you will at least take pride in the fact you attempted the virtually impossible and did all you could for your child. I can only hope you can draw comfort from the fact that many grammar school 'failures' go on to do better than their counterparts at grammar school, provided they stay focused and work hard. Indeed I know that comprehensives will go the extra mile for their most able students whereas there is a very much 'it's up to you how your child performs' attitude at the KE's.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:04 am 

Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2006 8:51 am
Posts: 8112
Thanks fm - very useful explanation of the situation in B'ham. Interesting how much it varies between areas who all do the test compared with those where it is essentially by a parent's choice and hence the kids are pre selected.

Happens a bit here in North Yorks - not all the kids opt to do the exam - hence the apparent 28% passing actually accounts for a much smaller percentage of the eligible population.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:17 am 

Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 9:51 pm
Posts: 2236
I think we have a particularly unforgiving system in Birmingham. Here it's stated in relatively blunt terms that selection is based entirely on performance on the day, so questions of actual ability don't really get a look in and successful appeals are so rare that it's difficult even to see what grounds for appeal are worth considering. Even Warwickshire, which is approximately as selective as B'ham, has a review process to try to make sure that children of recognised ability who don't perform on the day still have some prospect of a place.


PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2011 12:17 pm 
children of recognised ability

But that's also fraught with problems. My youngest had a year 5 teacher who more or less suggested I shouldn't put her in for the exam. Not only did I not take the teacher seriously but I didn't even take it very personally, as she was expressing similar views to the parents of some fairly bright pupils I was actually tutoring who have gone on to do very well at their various grammar schools.

The year before my daughter had been performing in the top 5% of her largish primary school, but thanks to this teacher, every vestige of confidence drained away as the teacher made it clear she didn't think much of her. Had my daughter needed a review (she passed for CHG and was in top 10 for Sutton), I am fairly sure this teacher would have contributed a very negative report.

I have had several bright pupils who have not been recognised as such at their schools, either. I have had ones from independents who have also been told not to bother entering them for the KE exam. I am afraid it is a fact of life that teachers are only human beings and, as such, do have and show preferences for certain children, but not for others.

I have also had the reverse--children who were not especially able but felt they were, as they were highly regarded at school for a variety of reasons, some quite spurious. This can actually be a disadvantage as far as 11 plus is concerned because such children are often less likely to be encouraged by parents to go the extra mile to secure a place.

Ultimately I would trust a test more than I would trust a teacher to recognise ability.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2011 1:29 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 4:38 pm
Posts: 109
"Birmingham appeal successes seems to be extremely rare in comparison to the successes in other areas eg Bucks."

In areas with a state-operated 11+, presumably appeals are held by the education authority, just as any other admission problem. Whereas in Birmingham, the appeal is to the foundation who operates the schools. The authority has no skin in the game: they're operating comprehensive schools, not a binary system, and although they still voluntary aid the KE schools, the admission policy isn't really much to do with the LEA beyond compliance with the national rules.

The foundation make it quite clear that admission is on test results: not the test results as a proxy for some other ability, but the test result itself. If your child was ill on the day, arrangements can be made to take it at a later date. Otherwise, unless you can show that they failed to follow their own rules (and you almost certainly can't), it's hard to see why they have any incentive to do other than point at the test results and say "well, there you are".

Although KEHS takes a report, I don't think the voluntary aided schools do. As fm explains, the pass rate out of the overall population of Birmingham is low, and the chances of a particular school being able to make "would pass // wouldn't pass" judgements with precision are equally low. Why would a primary school head be able to, or indeed be expected to, make that judgement? How would it be standardised? As fm again points out, G&T is defined to be the top 10% within a given school --- there's even a G&T programme at KECHGS, when in any other school every child would fall into that category --- so being on a G&T programme in your primary school means little at a city-wide level.

And anyway, the foundation has made their position clear: it's the test, not the test as a proxy. Unless you can show a clear reason why you couldn't take the test or the re-take, that's pretty much the end of the conversation.

My hands are dirty, because I have two children at KE schools. But Birmingham has the worst system of all: a voluntary, high-threshold 11+ for which only children whose parents make plans well in advance have much chance of passing. The children who get into the KE schools would all, without exception, do well at comprehensive schools because they have impeccable parental support, strong primary education and a lack of special needs (because the KE schools pretty much ignore statements when considering test results).

And in a vicious circle, it's the absence of those children and more particularly their supportive, engaged parents that hampers the comprehensives. In the 1970s, there were a lot of academics whose children went to the better comprehensives (in those days, for example, Shenley Court was a shining city on the hill) and their results were within a grade or two of their contemporaries who went elsewhere (my two "as bright" friends at primary went to KEFW and KES, while I went to Shenley: we all got the same grades at A Level plus or minus one, and went to directly equivalent universities). In 1976, everyone was so glad to see the back of the main 11+ (I was the second cohort not to take it) that the comps were able to be genuinely comp --- everyone I knew who went to grammars were younger siblings whose older siblings were already there, whereas I am the eldest in my family.

But over the years, that solidarity (for want of a better word) has leached away, and the middle classes are back into the grammar schools and hence out of the comps. Maybe the children do better, although I'd take some convincing. The music's better, for sure, because there's a critical mass of the middle classes in one place (although the demographic changes at KECH mean that won't necessarily remain true in ten years' time). But the middle classes have re-created for themselves a past world, where a high-stakes exam with uncertain outcomes is all that keeps you from schools that in some areas are secondary moderns in all but name. But now that exam is higher-stakes than it was before, and much harder to pass.

For any given parent, the best strategy is to get your child into a KE school: you have to be a lot more politically committed than I am to opt out as people did in the 1970s. But the effect on the city at large is negative, because motivated bright children and engaged parents now have no stake in their local schools. It's a classic example of the Tragedy of the Commons: the rational, moral position for an individual is not sustainable, but it would neither be rational nor moral for them to do otherwise.

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