This topic has now been superseded by the 2015 version.SECTION A: Introduction to GS Appeals, 2014A1
. This thread is about appealing for a year 7 grammar school place in Bucks for September 2014.
There are four sections:
(a) Introduction to GS Appeals, 2014
(b) Your child has qualified (either via the 11+, or as a result of a successful Selection Review), but the school is oversubscribed
(c) Your child has not qualified, and has not been through a Selection Review
(d) Your child has not qualified, and has had an unsuccessful Selection Review
and some footnotes.
What follows is largely our own advice, based on our understanding of appeals. It's a 'work in progress', and may be modified at any time if further information comes to light.
Where appropriate we refer to information published by BCC and to the DfE Appeals Code.A2
. For the official BCC appeals guidance, please see A Guide to Buckinghamshire school admission appeals. A3
(You could in fact submit an appeal after this deadline, but the consequence is that your hearing might be delayed until after the main batch of hearings.)
. After the secondary school allocations on 3rd March, you are entitled to appeal for any
school for which you have applied and been refused.A5
. An online form for requesting an appeal pack can be found here.
(Two grammar schools appear to be missing from the drop-down list. If the school you are interested in is not available, it will almost certainly mean that it is arranging its own appeals, and you will therefore need to contact the school directly for an appeal pack, and will need to return the completed appeal form to the school.)
If the appeal is being arranged by BCC (most are), then the completed appeal form:
"must be posted to The Appeals Team, Legal Services, Buckinghamshire County Council, County Hall, Aylesbury, HP20 1UA. You can also email the form to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, you can deliver the appeal form by hand to the reception area of the offices of Buckinghamshire County Council at the above address.
Due to the large number of appeal forms we receive, we are not able to confirm receipt of the form or evidence over the telephone or collect forms in person from Reception. However, the staff on Reception will be pleased to provide a receipt for any documentation left with them.
. If you feel you need more time to prepare your case, fill in an appeal form, but under "Reasons for appeal" just write:
"I wish to appeal against the decision to refuse a place at ***** School. Full details of case to follow."
Provided you submit your case at least 8 school days before the hearing (or whatever date is stipulated by the admission authority), there will be no problem:
If there is evidence that you wish the IAP to consider, it can be sent to the Appeals Team separately after returning the appeal form. You should not, therefore, delay returning your appeal form until you have gathered all of the evidence on which you wish to rely. We will write to inform you of the deadline to submit any further evidence for the appeal. [BCC]
. One or two grammar schools appear to be running their own appeals. They're legally entitled to do this, but it's very disappointing and may not be good news for appellants. Historically the average success rate for own-admission authority appeals has been consistently lower than for appeals arranged by local authorities - and historically there have consistently been many more complaints about the conduct of own-admission authority appeals.
SECTION B: Your child has qualified (either via the 11+, or as a result of a successful Selection Review), but the school is oversubscribedB1
In 2008 the then Secretary of State published an unprecedented warning: “I appreciate the burden on schools of administering appeals. But it is also a concern to me that appeal panels established by own-admission authority schools are so often found failing ......."
More recently the chair of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council has written: "In the case of schools/academies that are their own admission authorities, it is unsatisfactory that Foundation and Voluntary Aided schools and academies run their own appeal panels. Full independence needs to be ensured, following the principle of natural justice that no-one should judge her/his own case."
Our general concerns about own-admission authority appeals are set out in the Q&As A6.
. • See: Appealing for an oversubscribed school
• especially: Reasons for wanting a place
• and: How to sum up
.SECTION C: Your child has not qualified, and has not been through a Selection ReviewC1
. The advice we have consistently given on this forum is correct - anyone who did not have a Selection Review is entitled to a full and 'unfettered' hearing of their case in front of an independent appeal panel.
If you are appealing against the refusal of a place at a grammar school, your child is an unqualified child (i.e. he or she achieved a score of 120 or less on the .... reasoning test) and you did not apply to have a selection review:
If you did not take part in the selection review procedure, then the IAP will want to understand why your child did not perform as expected in .... reasoning test. The IAP will require evidence to support your claim that your child is of the required academic standard for a grammar school. You may wish to consider providing school reports and a letter of support from your child’s previous or current school. [BCC]
This fully complies with 3.13 (a)(i) of the Appeals Code:
"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
ii) where applicable, that the appellant’s arguments outweigh the admission authority’s case that admission of additional children would cause prejudice."
. • See: Appealing against non-qualification
• and especially: Academic evidence
. Bearing in mind that the school may already be oversubscribed - or might become oversubscribed as a result of successful appeals - you should also give good reasons for wanting or needing a place.
• See: Appealing for an oversubscribed school
• and especially: Reasons for wanting a place
This may or may not prove to be necessary at this point in time - it depends how the appeals are to be organised. It's not yet clear whether there will be separate hearings to deal with oversubscription. However, it would be wise to be prepared.C4
. You might be asked why you didn't opt for a review, but it's unlikely as it's of no significance for an appeal panel.
SECTION D: Your child has not qualified, and has had an unsuccessful Selection ReviewD1
In the unlikely event that you are asked, then a number of answers are possible. For example:
• We needed more time to prepare our case.
• We wanted the opportunity to have our case heard in full by an independent panel, and the opportunity to answer any questions face to face.
. This is going to be the most complicated section!
According to the Appeals Code:
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) above."
[3.13(a) can be found in Section C further up this page]
. Admission authorities are intending to use this provision in the Code. They don't have to do this, but they are legally entitled to, as the quotation above makes clear.
• Whatever we may feel about the system, there is absolutely no point attacking the principle of Selection Reviews at an appeal.
• When raising concerns, make clear that you are talking about the review process as it was applied in your particular case.
. We think that it will be for the admission authority to demonstrate that the Selection Review was
'fair, consistent & objective'. Bearing in mind that - at this point in time - you don't know exactly what arguments they will be putting forward to substantiate each of those three points, it would be sufficient to write on the appeal form: "We shall wish to challenge whether the Selection Review process was 'fair, consistent & objective', but have not yet seen the school's written case
. We think there will be a number of grounds on which the process might be questioned.
(i) Is the clerk's record of the review comprehensive, and does it clearly show:
• how the Review Panel arrived at their decision in your child's case,
• and that the process really was 'fair, consistent & objective'?
(ii) The Review Panel was dealing with a matter of enormous importance to you.
Does the clerk's record show how long was spent on your individual case?
• If no one can tell you how long was spent considering your case "because it's not been recorded", then how is anyone to know that your case received proper consideration, and that the decision was not rushed?
• Ask how many cases were scheduled per day. (That sort of information ought to be available.)
Then ask how many hours the review panel was sitting for in a day ....... !
• If you are told that it really doesn't matter how long the panel spent together on a case, because "individual panel members would have studied all the paperwork carefully in their own time before they met", then how is anyone to know whether this unrecorded private work was done thoroughly and consistently in all cases?
(iii) Did you feel forced into a Review because you were told that it was obligatory if you wanted to keep open the option of going to an appeal?
• There were many cases last year where parents were misled either by Admissions or by their primary school head.
• It shouldn't have happened this year - but there may be some schools that were still giving out the wrong message.
• If you were misled, ask the appeal panel to take this into account.
Clearly, if you would have preferred to opt out of a review, you would have faced the possibility of an oversubscribed school - but you might have preferred that situation to one in which your right to a full and independent hearing could be severely curtailed by the 'fair, consistent & objective' test!
(iv) Did you opt for a Review because the BCC yellow guidance form "Moving up to secondary school in September 2014 - The selection review process" failed to make clear to you that your right to a full hearing of your case by an independent appeal panel could be severely affected?
The 'fair, consistent & objective' criterion is referred to briefly in the main 'Moving up to secondary school' guide, but few parents are going to take in all ~80 pages.
The purpose of the two-page yellow guidance form must surely be to draw attention to all the key points parents need to be aware of when considering a review.
It seems curious indeed that it contains not the slightest mention of the 'fair, consistent & objective' rule, nor of the possible consequences.
Admissions have given themselves a bit of cover by providing a link to Appeals, but they've certainly not made it easy! There's a vague mention of 'possible outcomes' - which is unlikely to prompt most parents to follow the link to Appeals and plough through all the finer points of Infant Class Size legislation etc. before finally arriving at the crucial wording relating to reviews ......
They also keep absolutely silent on the yellow form about the right to go direct to an appeal.
If the official guidance had been much clearer, you might have chosen to opt out of a review. You would then of course have faced the possibility of an oversubscribed school - but you might have preferred that situation to one in which your right to a full and independent hearing could be severely curtailed by the 'fair, consistent & objective' test!
(v) The review process restricted what evidence could be taken into account by refusing to consider school work.
• If your child's school work is of such quality that you (or - even better - your primary school head) think that the Review Panel could well have arrived at a different decision if they had had the opportunity to consider it, then it is arguable that the process was unfair.
• Similarly, if you had extenuating circumstances, and school work showed a significant dip in performance at the time - proving the extent to which your child was affected - it is arguable that the process was unfair by excluding this evidence.
(vi) Did Review Panels follow their own stated rules? For example, the headteachers' manual refers to a normal expectation of 'exceptional extenuating circumstances'.
• Ask how many successful reviews actually had exceptional extenuating circumstances. (This is an extraordinarily high threshold, and it seems inconceivable that even a majority did!)
• If this rule wasn't strictly applied, how could the process have been consistent?
(vii) Ask for the names of who sat on your Review Panel.
• If that information is refused, ask why you have been given no opportunity to satisfy yourself that no one on the panel had a 'conflict of interest' in hearing your case.
The answer is likely to be "Don't worry - panel members were asked to declare any conflict of interest".
• But what if they didn't?
• What if a panel member's perception of what might be a conflict of interest is not the same as yours?
• Surely both sides should have the opportunity to raise any concerns?
Contrast this one-sided approach with the appeals system where there is an absolute requirement that parents must be notified of the names of panel members in advance of the hearing.
2.10 The clerk must send all the papers required for the hearing, including the names of the panel members, to both the parties and the members of the panel a reasonable time before the date of the hearing. This will allow opportunity for any objections regarding impartiality of panel members to be notified to the clerk. [Appeals Code]Which approach stands out as being fair and transparent?
(viii) What guidelines were review panels operating under? (For example, when considering alternative academic evidence, what CAT score would have been deemed 'acceptable'?)
Without clear guidelines, how could the process have been consistent?
(ix) The purpose of moderation was presumably to show consistency?
• How many moderators were there, and who were they?
• How many cases did moderators sit in on?
• Were individual moderators assessing different cases?
• What guidelines were they operating under to ensure consistency?
• Is it clear from the clerk's record that - thanks to moderation - the review process as applied to your particular case was indeed 'fair, consistent & objective'?
(x) These and other questions, where appropriate, could be asked at the appeal hearing.
• If satisfactory answers are not given, it would be open to the appeal panel to reject the admission authority's argument that there has already been a fair, consistent and objective review.
. There are numerous other points we could raise in addition to the above, but our advice is not to expend too much energy on 'fair, consistent & objective
'. You're not the one 'on trial' at this point, and any reputable appeal panels (such as those arranged by BCC's Appeals Team) ought to have some probing questions of their own.D6
. • For the moment we think that your focus should be on the issue of qualified status (however cruel it may be under this system that you don't yet know whether your case for qualification will be taken into account).
• This may be the secondary hurdle, but it could prove to be the major one.
• There's little you can do to prepare for 'fair, consistent & objective
' at this point in time, but you do need to give a great deal of thought to how you can convince an appeal panel with regard to qualification - especially when your case wasn't successful at review.D7
. • See: Appealing against non-qualification
• and any relevant bits of the Miscellaneous Section
(for example: letter of appeal for Mary
• and consider whether you should re-do and submit an improved case, even though "The child’s review paperwork and decision letter will be provided to the Independent Appeal Panel should an appeal subsequently take place
", so everything you submitted previously will be included in the appeal papers.
Looking at some of the review submissions parents shared with us last year, we feel that many were much too long, lacked impact as a result, and focused too much on extenuating circumstances (encouraged to do so - understandably - by the 'normal expectation of exceptional extenuating circumstances', and the fact that there was no opportunity to present the case in person).
• For appeal purposes, our current advice is that usually the only thing you should write about extenuating circumstances is "Please see attached evidence
. Consider whether there is any additional evidence you could submit in support of your appeal. After all, the time scale for review submissions was quite tight, and there wasn't really much time to prepare a review case. If this applies to you, be sure to tell the appeal panel, otherwise they might take the view that the evidence should have been submitted to the review panel.D9
. Although we attach infinitely more importance to evidence than to presentation, think about how you will present your case.
You will find advice if you follow all the links in D7, for example: How to sum up
. Last - but not least - you ought to give good reasons for wanting or needing a place at the school you're appealing for.
• See: Reasons for wanting a place
• This may or may not prove to be necessary, but you ought to be prepared and to provide any relevant evidence in advance.D11
. To summarise Section D:
• On the information available to us at present
we suggest there should be three parts to your case, clearly set out:
(i) Something about 'fair, consistent & objective':
• It could be as simple as "At the hearing we shall wish to challenge whether the Selection Review was 'fair, consistent & objective'".
We're inclined to think that this is the best approach (to ask questions at the hearing, and not reveal in advance what they're going to be).
• However, if you have some really strong points to make now, you could go into more detail, listing your concerns ("We don't think the review process was fair, consistent & objective, because .........."), and adding "There may be further points we shall wish to raise at the hearing, having heard the Admission Authority's case."
(Ideal length: anything from a single sentence up to half-a-page)
Do not use the appeal form to ask questions - questions should be left until the hearing.
(ii) The case for qualification: either "Please see our previously submitted Selection Review case and accompanying evidence" - or set out your updated case.
(Ideal length: anything from a sentence up to a page. Any supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.)
(iii) Reasons for wanting or needing a place.
(Ideal length: approx. half-a-page. Any supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.)
. • The space available on an appeals form for giving reasons for the appeal is usually quite small. If you need more room, simply write "Please see attached case
• It is up to you whether your case is handwritten or typed - but, depending on the handwriting, a typed case may be much easier to read!
• Fill in a form for each
school you are appealing for. (Remember - you are entitled to appeal for any school for which you have applied and been refused.) FootnotesThis thread is for general points only. If there are any specific questions about your own case, please feel free to start your own thread on the Appeals Forum - and please stick to one thread, as it helps us to have everything to do with your case in one place. Thank you!
See also: FCO generic questions.
See also: Analysis of the school case.