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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:02 am 
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We do not anticipate any major differences, but we will update this thread around 1st March 2017, by which time we shall know what changes - if any - are needed.

What follows is our Guide to appealing for a year 7 grammar school place in Bucks for September 2015.


Index:

      Introduction
      Foreword
      Waiting lists & appeals

      Section A:
      BCC guidance
      Deadlines
      Appeal forms
      Group hearings
      Individual hearings
      Generic Questions about reviews
      Non-generic questions about reviews
      Decision letters

      Section B:
      Your child has qualified (either via the 11+, or as a result of a successful Selection Review), but the school is oversubscribed

      Section C:
      Your child has not qualified, and has not been through a Selection Review

      Section D:
      Your child has not qualified, and has had an unsuccessful Selection Review
      Notes of FCO† questions & answers from a group hearing in 2014

      Footnotes
      Abbreviations


Introduction
(i) What follows is mostly our opinion and advice, based on official publications, reports sent to us by appellants, and our understanding of the appeals process.
Where appropriate we refer directly to information published by BCC, and to the DfE Appeals Code.
This is a 'work in progress' and may be modified at any time.


(ii) Waiting lists & appeals
If you have been refused a grammar school for which you applied, you can:
      • ask to go on the waiting list (if qualified)
      • or appeal (whether qualified or not)

Normally you should ask to go on the waiting list (if qualified) and ask for an appeal.

Please note that the waiting list is handled by Admissions, and is a completely separate procedure from an appeal.

      To summarise the key points:
      1. You can only appeal for a school you have been refused, so this means at this point (March 2015) you can only appeal for your preferences as they stand in the first round
      2. You can appeal even if not qualified; the online form can be completed multiple times for schools that use the LA appeals team.
      3. You can change/add preferences for the second round, and if refused in the second round, that triggers the right of appeal. These appeals are likely to happen after the appeals triggered in the first round, but may be combined - this will depend on the timeline.
      4. Non qualified pupils are not included on waiting lists - they do not have to be on a waiting list to be successful at appeal. However they do have to have expressed a preference to trigger appeal.
      5. Occasionally last year the IAP decided a child should have been qualified for the school, but then felt the school's case outweighed the child's, so - from the point of the appeal decision only - they were put on the waiting list.



A1. For the official BCC appeals guidance, please see A Guide to Buckinghamshire school admission appeals.

A2. Deadline for submitting appeals:
      Quote:
      "The enclosed green appeal form should be returned to the Appeals Team within 20 school days of the notification date (this can be found on the top right hand corner of the form). This is the date on which the Admission Authority notified you that the application for your preferred school was unsuccessful." [BCC]
      (You could in fact submit an appeal after this deadline, but the later you are, the greater the chance that your hearing might be delayed until after the main batch of hearings.)


A3. After National Offer Day (the first working day in March), you are entitled to appeal for any secondary school for which you have applied and been refused.

You need a single form for each school you're appealing for. (There are not separate forms to deal with 'fair, consistent & objective', qualification and oversubscription.)
      Quote:
      "You are able to appeal against each decision refusing you a place at a school. You are entitled to lodge more than one appeal if you wish but separate forms must be submitted for each school." [BCC]

A4. An online form for requesting an appeal pack can be found here: Appeals Information Request.
        (If the school you are interested in appears to be missing from the drop down list, it is likely to be 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.)


A5. For the past couple of years, one or two schools have chosen to run their own appeals. They're legally entitled to do this, but it's very disappointing and may not be good news for appellants. Nationally 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.

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. If the appeal is being arranged by BCC (most usually are), then the completed appeal form has to be returned to BCC by post, by email or by hand:
      Quote:
      "The appeal form must be posted to The Appeals Team, Buckinghamshire Law Plus, Room G51, New County Offices, Buckinghamshire County Council, Aylesbury, HP20 1UA.
      You can also email the form to the following address; appeals@buckscc.gov.uk
      Alternatively, you can deliverthe 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.
      " [BCC]

A7. The space available on an appeals form for "grounds for 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.)

A8. If you feel you need more time to prepare your case, fill in an appeal form, but under "Grounds 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 deadline is given to you), there will not be a problem:
      Quote:
      If there is evidence that you wish the IAP† to consider, it can be sent to the Appeals Team separately after returning your appeal form. You should not delay returning your 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]

A9. If appeals organised by BCC follow the same pattern as last year, each appeal will consist of a group hearing attended by all parents, followed by an individual hearing.

A10. At the group hearing the admission authority will present its case, which should include an explanation of the 11+ and selection review arrangements.

      (i) There will also be information about allocations and a case for prejudice (if the school is oversubscribed) - See: Appealing for an oversubscribed school - stage one.

      (ii) Parents who've been through an unsuccessful review will have the opportunity to ask generic (non-personal) questions about FCO (fair, consistent & objective), and - if the school is oversubscribed - all parents will be able to question the school's case for prejudice.

      (iii) At the end of the group hearing there is a decision on whether or not the school has made its case for prejudice (assuming the school is oversubscribed), but confusingly FCO is different!
      There is no 'overall decision' on FCO - because FCO can only be decided with reference to individual cases.
      The reason for this is that para 3.13(b) of the Appeals Code specifically refers to "whether each child’s review was carried out in a fair, consistent and objective way", so there is no provision for the school's case for FCO to be considered as a whole.
      It follows that no decision on FCO can be taken until after your individual hearing, and it will only apply to your particular case (i.e. it will have no bearing on other cases).

      (iv) The group hearing is an important opportunity for appellants as a group to try and dent the school's case. There is strength in numbers - don't be afraid to ask questions and challenge the school case! It is in your interests to do so.

      (v) See D12 below for a report compiled by parents of the FCO questions and answers at a group hearing in 2014.

      (vi) Attendance at the group hearing is not obligatory, but you should inform the Appeals Team beforehand if you won't be present.
      We would, however, always advise parents to attend. In addition to the important question & answer session, a group hearing provides a useful opportunity to 'size up' up the panel members and presenting officer in advance of your individual hearing, and to hear what other parents have to say.

      (vii) It's difficult to say how long a group hearing will take. One hour is likely to be the minimum. Two hours or thereabouts is certainly a possibility. One group hearing in May 2015 lasted three hours, but that is probably exceptional!
      The length of the hearing depends in part on the questions.
      It depends too on how talkative the chair and presenting officer happen to be.
      Also bear in mind that things do not always go according to plan. In 2013 a stage one was reported on here as starting 2 hours late (presumably because a key participant was missing!).


A11. Non-generic (personal) questions would not be appropriate for a group hearing attended by other parents, so these should be raised at your individual hearing.
Examples of personal questions would be:

      (i) Why was this tick box on the clerk's record of my case left unticked?

      (ii) Our headteacher told us to go to review, but didn't warn us about 'fair, consistent & objective', and the way in which any subsequent appeal could be prejudiced. We feel misled. How can that be fair?

      (iii) My child has been home schooled, so we do not have the 'normal' sort of academic evidence. How can it be fair in this case that we had no opportunity to let the panel see what work he has been doing? Would you agree that the review process discriminates against those who have been out of the system?

A12. Generic questions (questions that do not reveal any personal information) are dealt with at the group hearing.

      Although generic questions should be raised initially at the group hearing, some of them might be a significant factor in your personal case. If this is so, then at your individual hearing it would be a good idea to point out to the panel (very briefly - ideally in your summing up) which general arguments you think apply to your specific case.

Examples of generic questions are given below. Some of these points are amplified in Section D.

      (i) Why does the clerk's record not show how long was spent on a case? Why the reluctance to reveal this information?

      (ii) The notes accompanying the 11+ result made no mention at all of 'fair, consistent & objective', or of the potential impact of a review on any subsequent appeal.
      • This crucial information is in the Moving Up Guide (see page 53), but we think it should be in bold type.
      • Admissions are to be commended for improving the flowchart on pages 50-51, although we do not find white print on a green background easy to read (especially using an online version).
      • It is important to realise that, when parents were considering whether or not to ask for a review last October, they were feeling under enormous pressure, if not in a state of panic, and needed all the relevant information about reviews (including possible consequences) set out with absolute clarity.

      (iii) Did Review Panels follow their own stated rules? For example, the headteachers' manual refers to a normal expectation of 'exceptional extenuating circumstances'.
      How many successful reviews actually had exceptional extenuating circumstances? How was 'exceptional' defined? (This is an extraordinarily high threshold, and it seems improbable that even a majority had exceptional circumstances!)
      If this rule wasn't strictly applied, how could the process have been consistent?

      (iv) Why are the names of who sat on the Review Panel not recorded in the clerk's record?
      Why have parents not been given the opportunity to satisfy themselves that no one on the panel had a 'conflict of interest' in hearing their 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 the parent's?
              Surely both sides should have the opportunity to raise any concerns?)

      (v) What guidelines were review panels operating under? (For example, when considering alternative academic evidence, what CAT† or alternative reasoning test score would have been deemed 'acceptable'?)
      Without clear guidelines, how could the process have been consistent?

      (vi) The purpose of moderation was presumably to try and prove consistency?
          • How many moderators were there, and who were they? Were they independent of the review process, or did they also sit on review panels?
          • How many review cases did moderators observe? (We suspect the answer might be "none". Another 'desk exercise'?)
          • Did moderators all assess the same cases? If different moderators were assessing different cases, what guidelines were they operating under to ensure consistency?
          • Isn't a moderation process that is partly based on headteacher recommendations inherently flawed? (See point vii below.)
          • 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'?


      (vii) Where is the evidence that headteacher recommendations are consistent across all schools?
      It is widely believed that the standard of headteacher recommendations varies from school to school, with some heads being relatively optimistic, while others are stricter.

      How can a process that uses such recommendations - to determine whether cases with scores between 117 and 113 should go for moderation - possibly be 'fair, consistent & objective'?


      A13. If appeals organised by BCC follow the same pattern as last year, there will be three parts to each individual hearing (subject to the bits in brackets below), and all three parts will be heard at the same time:
          (i) 'Fair, consistent & objective' (any points you wish to raise, if you've had an unsuccessful review)
          (ii) Qualification (your academic case, if unqualified)
          (iii) Your reasons for wanting a place (if the school is full, or likely to become so)

          You won't be given the decision on 'fair, consistent & objective' at the end of part 1, as there is no break in the proceedings - so you have to go through the whole of your case without knowing whether parts 2-3 of your case will actually be considered. (In any case, the Appeals Code appears to rule out the early release of decisions - see A15 below.)

      A14. Most parents will be appealing for more than one grammar school, and will therefore have more than one group hearing and more than one individual hearing to attend.
      There will be a separate decision letter for each appeal.
      Decisions are not communicated by phone or email.

          • Be prepared for the possibility that different panels could arrive at different decisions on your case with regard to 'fair, consistent & objective' and to qualification. (This might seem puzzling, but it is lawful, and it could be to your advantage to get more than 'one bite of the cherry'!)

          • In 2013 Sally-Anne summed up the situation very well:
              "It's also worth saying that panel members are very independent-minded - so much so that different panels could come to completely different conclusions about FCO†. That has happened in other areas of the country in the past.
              The wording in the Appeals Code about "fair, consistent & objective" is pretty minimal and open to interpretation by individual IAPs†.
              "

          • †Abbreviations are explained in the footnotes following Section D.

      A15. It will depend on the number of appellants, and on how the hearings are spaced out - but be prepared for the possibility of a long wait for the panel's decision on your case.
      The Appeals Code does not allow any decisions to be released until all the appeals for a particular school have been heard.
      Decision letters would normally be sent out within one week of the last appeal. You can ask at the group hearing for an indication of when that is likely to be.





      SECTION B: Your child has qualified (either via the 11+, or as a result of a successful Selection Review), BUT the school is oversubscribed

      B1. See: Appealing for an oversubscribed school

      B2. Ideal length: approx. half-a-page to a page. Any supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.




      SECTION C: Your child has NOT qualified, and has NOT been through a Selection Review

      C1. Despite the misleading statements in 2013 of those who said it was not possible to bypass a review and go straight to appeal, the advice we have consistently given on this forum has been proved 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.
      The current arrangements comply with 3.13 (a)(i) of the Appeals Code:
          Quote:
          "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."
          [DfE]

      C2. Evidence.
          Quote:
          In all cases for an unqualified appeal (whether you followed the selection review process or not), the IAP† needs to consider why your child may not have performed as expected in the qualification tests. The IAP† will require evidence to support any claim that your child is of the required academic standard for that grammar school. You should consider providing school reports and any letters of support from your child's previous or current school with your grounds of appeal.

          If you wish to submit examples of schoolwork to support your appeal, this should be brought on the day of the appeal and will be returned to you by the clerk following the hearing. Please do not send in samples of schoolwork as this will not be distributed in advance.
          [BCC]




      C3. You might be asked at the hearing why you didn't opt for a review, but this is probably unlikely as it's of no real significance for an appeal panel.

          In the unlikely event that you are asked, then a number of answers are possible. For example:
          (i) "We needed more time to prepare our case."
          (ii) "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."

      C4. To summarise Section C:

          There should be two parts to your written case, clearly set out with headings:

          (i) 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.)

          (ii) 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.)





      SECTION D: Your child has NOT qualified, and has had an UNSUCCESSFUL Selection Review

      D1. This is going to be the most complicated section!

      According to the Appeals Code:
        Quote:
        "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) above."
        [3.13(a) can be found in Section C further up this page]

      D2. 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.
          (i) Whatever anyone may feel about the system, there is absolutely no point attacking the principle of Selection Reviews at an appeal.

          (ii) It is important to distinguish between 'judgement' and 'process'. You cannot challenge the review panel's judgement - but you can question whether the process was flawed. If an appeal panel decides that your review was not 'fair, consistent & objective', it is then free to take a completely fresh look at your case for academic suitability.

          (iii) When raising concerns, ultimately what matters is how the review process was applied in your particular case.

          (iv) We suspect most parents will be arguing that there's a lack of transparency, and that it is not clear how the panel arrived at their decision about academic suitability.
          Without clear, objective criteria for the decision making, how can anyone actually tell whether the process was 'fair, consistent & objective'?
          In addition, if tick boxes have been left unticked, or if there are inaccuracies or contradictions in the notes, such errors could well cast doubt on the process.


      D3. 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".

      D4. We think there will be a number of grounds on which the process might be questioned.
      For example:

          (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? Where is the evidence?

              • Ask how many cases were scheduled per session. (We understand the usual figure was 30.)
              Then ask how many hours were scheduled for a session. You may be told "The session continued for as long as necessary" - in which case the next question should be "What was the average length of a session?"
              (In 2013 Sally-Anne estimated the average length of time spent on each case during the actual meetings at less than 10 minutes, with some cases receiving no more than 3 minutes' attention.)

              • 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? Where is the evidence?
                      (The 2013 school case - see here - did contain some anecdotal evidence:
                      SRP† members reported that they had spent on average a total of five hours' preparation in advance of each meeting.
                      That might have sounded impressive - until someone worked out that it amounted to an average of less than 7 minutes per case! 6.9 minutes to be precise.
                      The 'five hour figure' disappeared from the 2014 school case!)

          (iii) Was the official guidance sent to you with the 11+ result last October adequate?
          It simply provided a link to http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/schooladmission
          and stated:
              "in sections 2 and 3 of the Moving up to Secondary School Guide available on our website ..... we explain what you may do next if you feel strongly that *** would be suitable for grammar school. This includes information about the Selection Review Process, how to request a Selection Review and/or, once the allocations have been made, the admission appeal process.
              .... you will still have the right of appeal to a particular grammar school even if you did not apply for a review or if the review was unsuccessful .......
              "

              • No mention in the above text of 'fair, consistent & objective', or of the potential impact of a review on any subsequent appeal.
              • This crucial information is in the Moving Up Guide (see page 53), but we think it should be in bold type.
              • Admissions are to be commended for improving the flowchart on pages 50-51, although we do not find white print on a green background easy to read (especially using an online version).
              • It is important to realise that, when parents were considering whether or not to ask for a review last October, they were feeling under enormous pressure, if not in a state of panic, and needed all the relevant information about reviews (including possible consequences) set out with absolute clarity.
              • Reviews are fully explained in the Appeals section of the BCC website, but the issue is about last October when parents were being invited to apply for a review, not an appeal.
              Even those parents with the foresight and patience to research appeals at that particular point in time would have had to plough through all the finer points of Infant Class Size legislation etc. on the website before finally arriving at the crucial wording relating to reviews!

          (iv) If the published guidance seemed inadequate, what sort of support were you given by your headteacher? Did you feel 'pushed' into a review, without a proper explanation of all the issues?

          (v) Even worse - 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 in the first year of reviews where parents were misled either by Admissions (acting on behalf of the grammar school heads) or by their primary school head - they were told that they had to go to review if they wanted to keep open the option of a subsequent appeal.

              It shouldn't still be happening - but there were a few schools reported last year as still giving out the wrong message.

          (vi) If you feel you were misled, or that the process was inadequately explained to you , 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! At least you would have been making an informed choice.


          (vii) 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.

              • Home schooled children, and others who have been out of the system and lack the 'normal' sort of evidence, may well have been disadvantaged if they were prevented from letting the panel see what work they had been doing.


          (viii) Did Review Panels follow their own stated rules? For example, the headteachers' manual refers to a normal expectation of 'exceptional extenuating circumstances'.
              • Ask how 'exceptional' was defined, and how many successful reviews actually had exceptional extenuating circumstances. (This sounds like an extraordinarily high threshold, and it seems improbable that even a majority had exceptional circumstances!)
              • If this rule wasn't strictly applied, how could the process have been consistent?

          (ix) 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.
            Quote:
            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?


          (x) 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 objective and consistent?
              One headteacher was asked this question at a group hearing last year. The gist of the exchange was as follows:

                    Question: "What objective criteria were used?"
                    Response: "There is no tick list. It's a 'weighing up' of the evidence."
                    Question: "Isn't that subjective then?"
                    Response: "The information needed is clear."
                    Question: "Yes, the form specifies what school results should be given, but it does not set out what thresholds are required?"
                    Response: "There is no tick list or list of criteria but a 'weighing up' of the information provided which is different in each case."
                    Question: "So it's a subjective judgement?"

              At another group hearing, the presenting officer was reported as giving a much more direct answer:

                    Question: "Was the decision making process objective?"
                    Response: "No!"


          (xi) The purpose of moderation was presumably to try and prove consistency?
              • How many moderators were there, and who were they? Were they independent of the review process, or did they also sit on review panels?
              • How many review cases did moderators observe? (We suspect the answer might be "none". Another 'desk exercise'?)
              • Did moderators all assess the same cases? If different moderators were assessing different cases, what guidelines were they operating under to ensure consistency?
              • Isn't a moderation process that is partly based on headteacher recommendations inherently flawed? (See point xii below.)
              • 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'?


          (xii) Where is the evidence that headteacher recommendations are consistent across all schools?
          It is widely believed that the standard of headteacher recommendations varies from school to school, with some heads being relatively optimistic, while others are stricter.

          How can a process that uses such recommendations - to determine whether cases with scores between 117 and 113 should go for moderation - possibly be 'fair, consistent & objective'?


          (xiii) Ask what percentage of review cases that went to appeal last year were found by an independent panel not to be 'fair, consistent & objective'. And the year before?
                  If on average it's approximately half (which is what we suspect), that would raise very serious doubts about the reliability of the process.
                  If you are told that this information is irrelevant because "improvements have been made", ask for full details of the improvements.

                  Have all the concerns raised here in earlier questions really been addressed?


          (xiv) These and other questions, where appropriate, could be asked at the appeal hearing.

              • Generic questions (questions that do not reveal any personal information) should be raised at the group hearing.
              • Non-generic (personal) questions should be raised at your individual hearing. It is also worth reminding the panel very briefly - ideally in your summing up - of any generic arguments you think apply to your specific case.
              • See Sections A11-A12 above for some examples showing the difference between generic and personal questions.

              • Keep on and on asking the fundamental question: Where is the evidence?
              • If the admission authority cannot come up with satisfactory answers, 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.

      D5. 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 shouldn't be the one 'on trial' at this point, and a good appeal panel ought to have some searching questions of its own.


      D6. (i) 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).
        (ii) This may be the secondary hurdle, but it could prove to be the major one.
        (iii) 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. Evidence.
          Quote:
          In all cases for an unqualified appeal (whether you followed the selection review process or not), the IAP† needs to consider why your child may not have performed as expected in the qualification tests. The IAP† will require evidence to support any claim that your child is of the required academic standard for that grammar school. You should consider providing school reports and any letters of support from your child's previous or current school with your grounds of appeal.

          If you wish to submit examples of schoolwork to support your appeal, this should be brought on the day of the appeal and will be returned to you by the clerk following the hearing. Please do not send in samples of schoolwork as this will not be distributed in advance.
          [BCC]

                  (i) See: Appealing against non-qualification
                  (ii) and any relevant bits of the Miscellaneous Section (for example: letter of appeal for Mary)
                  (iii) 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.

                  (iv) Be prepared to address any significant weaknesses in the component parts of the 11+ (VR, Maths or NVR), as the panel might well want to query these. Extra letters of support from the primary school, or relevant CAT†, EP† or other standardised test scores, might help here. (Additional evidence can be provided nearer the time of the appeal hearing - see A8.)

                  (v) 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).
                  (vi) For appeal purposes, our current advice is that usually the only thing you should write about extenuating circumstances is "Please see attached evidence"!!!


          D8. (i) Consider whether there is any additional evidence you could gather in support of your appeal. For example, a letter of support from school showing a significant improvement in a relevant subject area. Schools are permitted - but not obliged - to provide additional evidence (additional to what they supplied for the review) before an appeal. There would be little point in headteachers merely repeating what they have already written - but
              • if there is something in the review paperwork that really needs clarifying, or
              • if there has been recent rapid progress,
          - one hopes they would be willing to give their support.

              (ii) If you found the time allowed for review submissions insufficient, be sure to tell the appeal panel, otherwise they might take the view that any extra evidence which you are now introducing could in some cases have been submitted to the review panel.

                  The time scale for review submissions was more generous this year (3 weeks instead of 2), but still compares unfavourably with appeals.
                  Parents have 20 school days (i.e. almost a month) in which to submit an appeal case, and it is also made clear that appeal evidence can be sent in at a later date.

              (iii) Extracurricular interests are mentioned in the Q&As B11(k), but pitched at quite a high level. (Too many appeal submissions have music grades 1-2!)
              Nevertheless it would be worth considering whether this is an area that could be developed. Are there any academic interests your child would be willing to pursue?

                  • Science/History? Visits to museums? Is there a topic of interest that could be investigated?
                  • Would your child be interested in starting a foreign language, perhaps online? (If this could be matched with an option available at the grammar school you're appealing for, that would be great!)
                  • Literature? How widely does your child read? Is it age appropriate or higher?
                  • Current affairs? What newspapers does he/she read? What programmes are watched regularly?

                  Of course, it won't be easy to come up with hard evidence as convincing as a grade 4 music certificate.
                  But these things, if they're to be done at all, should be worth doing for their own sake.
                  There's no suggestion that they will necessarily make a difference to an appeal - but you never know.
                  It might help make your case stand out from the 'run of the mill' cases.
                  It's just possible it could be that little bit extra that tips the balance in your favour.

                  Many years ago there was a family who had moved out of London.
                  Their son was in year 6, which is never the ideal time to move.
                  He carried on commuting to his old primary school for continuity in his education.
                  It meant an extremely long day, and a very tiring journey.
                  And yet this little boy from an underprivileged background did all his homework dutifully and still managed to attend an after-school French club.
                  When it came to an appeal hearing, parents thought this point went down very well with the panel!
                  And yes, they did win their appeal.



          D9. 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.


          D10. 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 the links in D7, for example: How to sum up at the end of a hearing.

          Here is an example of a simple summing up that includes FCO:

                  We’ll be quite brief. Thank you very much indeed for being so generous with your time, and for having given us the opportunity to present our case. We do appreciate it.

                  We submit that in our child's case the Admission Authority has not provided you with evidence to satisfy all three of the criteria 'fair, consistent & objective'. The onus is on the Admission Authority to prove its case. We do not believe it has recorded or justified its reasoning for non-qualification in a manner that stands up to scrutiny.

                  We would ask you to take into account the extenuating circumstances
                  [if applicable], and to consider all the alternative academic evidence that suggests a grammar school place would be appropriate.

                  [If oversubscription is an issue, as it usually is, you could then add:]
                  Our child is desperately keen to join the school. We do understand the school’s reservations about the possible impact of an extra pupil, 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 very much.



          D11. To summarise Section D:

              On the information available to us at present, there should be three parts to your written case, clearly set out with headings:

              (i) 'Fair, consistent & objective':

                    • You need only write "At the hearing we shall wish to query 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."
                    • Remember: you cannot challenge the review panel's judgement - but you can suggest there was a fault with the process.

                    (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.)


              Note: All the documentation that originally went to review will automatically be included in the appeal papers, so there's no need to re-send it.
              Of course, if you want to make changes or improvements, you must send in your revised paperwork.



          D12. Notes of FCO† questions & answers from a group hearing in 2014
          Many thanks to the parents who kindly made this available.
          What follows is an edited version with names removed.
              Quote:

              Chair referred to info on the "selection test" & wanted to know how "think a problem through" could be defined - question passed to headteacher - not much of a reply.

              Lot of argument centred around test being Y5 curriculum but not testing curriculum based skills, therefore why are SATs so important? - bit of a circular argument. Could argue that good teaching in Primary School is very important for a child to be able to access this new test. Headteacher said it meant that content knowledge not required - We took that to mean it was not a test covering things such as the "What is the capital of Brazil?" etc. Headteacher said it is the application of knowledge - parents kept coming back to quality of teaching.
              Headteacher said "English skills is the single best predictor of ability" - thinks the test is robust in nature. If you are working at L5 in the classroom then you should have been able to access the test.

              Headteacher explained that as a Review Panel Member he puts aside one whole day* to go through his 30 cases. When they get together with other panels members a decision may be made very quickly if they have all independently reached the same decision. This was in response to a question from a Parent who said she had calculated that on average less than 7 mins was spent on each case.

              Extenuating circumstances (question to Headteacher) - most of the cases in his opinion that succeeded at SRP† had extenuating circumstances** - these are needed to explain the shortfall in marks. Of course suitable academic evidence must also be presented.

              Question to Headteacher - "How important was the HT's recommendation?" - this was a very significant factor, he replied. Felt academic ability more important than motivation. Talked about 1:2's and 2:1's - We got the impression that 2:2 was no longer regarded as GS material - he said they would give less weight to a candidate with a 1:1 rating if HT had recommended 18 at 1:1 and only a handful had got through - nevertheless all 1:1's > 107 went for Moderation (there was some confusion here with Presenting Officer saying he thought all 1:1's went for moderation regardless of score). Someone pointed out that it was unfair that children scoring <107 with a 1:1 didn't get a 2nd opinion.
              We asked how consistency was managed across all HT's - again did not get much of answer - other than it is in the HT's interest to be as accurate as possible. We said it was important as it could determine this "second opinion". Neither Headteacher nor the Admission Authority could answer adequately (in our opinion) how consistency was achieved on this metric.

              A parent asked the admission authority about communication to parents - Presenting Officer said that the guide "Moving up to secondary school" was published to budgetary constraints. He agreed it wasn't clear enough (Headteacher was taking copious notes at this point!).

              He said that it is in everyone's interests to do the SRP† as then if their child is deemed qualified they go into the pot for National Allocations Day - this is why County gives advice about SRP† - if we wait for an Independent Appeal Panel then there is the possibility all school places will have been allocated. However he said it was up to the parents to decide what to do for their child - people then moved to showing the yellow form***, urging review if results not as expected - that there wasn't clear advice etc.
              14 days not long enough to get professional advice (Headteacher said form could have been submitted afterwards‡‡). Presenting Officer adamant info is available and pointed to the fact that some parents in the room had not gone for SRP† and therefore they knew - a number of "Well, we did not know's" could be heard echoing round the room!

              Lots of debate back and forth about how can a process be 'fair, consistent & objective' if it doesn't set out what criteria it is using to evaluate candidates.
              Headteacher said range of criteria was all the things we had talked about such as steady progress through KS2, HT recommendation, SATs (or alternative evidence)
              How can we as parents determine 'fair, consistent & objective' if the review is an internal process and not subject to detailed note keeping. No answer to that - other than that is the process for internal reviews!

              Parents asking if "Bad day" was suitable excuse - given that the old 11+ took highest of 2 test scores on 2 separate days. Again we were told CEM recommended 1 day, Primary HTs said 2 days was too disruptive, specialists said 1 day lessened stress etc., and then we came back round to why then are extenuating circumstances so important. Again Headteacher said "We have to understand why a candidate does not meet 121 if they are deemed to be of the right academic level"
              A parent asked for a definition of "thrive", and Headteacher very kindly replied "to succeed at GS" !!!

              Re 'fair, consistent & objective' - The chair clearly stated that it was for the AA† to prove 'fair, consistent & objective' - but then kept saying he was looking forward to our arguments that prove it wasn't 'fair, consistent & objective' in our individual cases!††
              Other panel members seemed quite weak - they didn't say anything - one was a school helper who had been through appeal process with her DD, other we think was a librarian or LSA (sorry, we can't remember). Chair seemed in control of the entire situation and a formidable force.


          Footnotes

          *How many hours in practice, we wonder? In 2013 headteachers reported spending an average of 5 hours preparing for each session. See D4(ii).

          ** But were these extenuating circumstances exceptional?

          ***The yellow form came in for a lot of criticism in 2014 because of what it didn't say! As far as we're aware, it has not been issued again.

          Abbreviations:
              FCO - 'fair, consistent & objective' (abbreviation used on the forum). This is a quote from paragraph 3.13b of the Appeals Code. See D1 above.
              IAP - 'Independent Appeal Panel'
              SRP - 'Selection Review Panel'
              CAT - The 'Cognitive Abilities Test' published by nferNelson, and administered by some schools
              EP - 'Educational Psychologist' (abbreviation used on the forum)
              AA - 'Admission Authority'

††Rather worrying - parents are of course entitled to raise questions, but the Appeals Code does not put the onus on them to disprove 'fair, consistent & objective'. Probably grounds for a formal complaint.

We note that the word "thrive" has been removed from this year's Clerk's Record!
"The evidence does not indicate academic suitability for the pupil to thrive in a grammar school" now reads:
"The evidence does not indicate academic suitability for the pupil to be placed in a grammar school".

‡‡So what was the absolute deadline, and how were parents supposed to know this?



• See also: Analysis of the schools' review case 2014.
We cannot comment on the 2015 review case until it becomes available at the end of April/beginning of May.
Update: Comments on the schools' review case 2015 can now be seen here.



• This 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! :)


• We hope other parents will be willing to submit their own reports in due course - with a view to helping future appellants.
Please PM any reports to "Moderators", or email to AppealsBox[at]elevenplusexams.co.uk
- replace [at] with @

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 1:05 pm 
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Etienne, this is so helpful. Thank you so much.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:08 pm 
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Thank you! :D

The thread will remain open for any general questions about the process - and, of course, for mutual support.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:43 pm 
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Incredibly helpful! And will be used thoroughly!! Thanks sooooo much! :)

Now - roll on Monday - I need to know what I am dealing with!!!!! :roll: :roll: :roll:


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 5:30 pm 
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Very helpful, thanks for the update :)

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 5:39 pm 
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As ever this is brilliant - I'm sure all Y6 parents are very grateful - well done! :D :D


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:28 pm 
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Thank you! :D

Version 2 of the "How to ...." guide is now showing above.

The Introduction has been expanded to include "(ii) Waiting lists & appeals"
A12(ii) and D4(iii): references to the 'Moving up' Guide have been corrected
D8 (Additional evidence) has been expanded

Numerous other tweaks and minor improvements are being made almost daily.

Quote:
This is a 'work in progress' and may be modified at any time.
Very true!

Suggestions welcome. Please let me know if you think anything could be improved.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 5:17 pm 
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Some comments on points raised in the allocations thread:

Quote:
if going to appeal, if we win part 1 and 2, what are the chances on oversubscription? We live close to both and have a sibling at one.
We give advice in the Q&As C2 http://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appeal ... -school#c2
about the sort of arguments you might put forward at appeal, but it is important to understand that there are a number of ‘variables’ that are completely outside of your control:

* How strong a case the admission authority puts forward to resist further admissions.
* (Probably) how strong a case any other appellants may have.
* How strict the appeal panel is in exercising its judgement.
http://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appeal ... school#c20

Quote:
Be warned, they dismiss sibling as a trivial thing, they have to really as otherwise they would admit the whole grammar/upper thing is not in a family groups best interest.
That may be an individual experience of appeals, but be wary about generalising. The average panel won't dismiss sibling link as trivial. (It is, after all, one of the admission rules.)

Just how much weight it is given in practice depends on the panel and on the circumstances.

If you were the only appellant, in catchment, with a sibling, and the school were still at PAN, I'd rate your chances rather high!

On the other hand, if there are lots of appellants with good cases, and the school is strongly resisting further admissions, a sibling probably wouldn't be enough.

Quote:
They also have to concede that an upper school education is suitable for all children, otherwise they would be arguing against the local school bus transport policy.
This isn't a matter for an appeal panel. They're not going to argue for or against the transport policy. Whatever the system is, they should be neutral.

Quote:
I think Sally Anne has the info collated, but the school will provide you with the info as its case against accepting over pan, it has to do this ten days prior to the appeal.
Agreed, although not necessarily 10 days. It has to be a "reasonable time" before the hearing. In practice this is likely to be around 7-10 days.

Armed with the numbers on roll in years 7-11, you can ask questions about previous admissions at the group hearing. You don't really need the information now as it wouldn't be part of your individual case.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 5:26 pm 
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It's also worth looking at whether they have chosen to 'grow' their sixth form.

The school can't be full if it is doing so ..


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 5:52 pm 
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Etienne wrote:
Armed with the numbers on roll in years 7-11, you can ask questions about previous admissions at the group hearing. You don't really need the information now as it wouldn't be part of your individual case.



I thought the group hearing was just for the FCO bit?
Is it also for things like PAN numbers?
Am confused what goes where!! :roll: :roll:
Also - BHS sent out letters last year adding a whole extra class - and yet their current roll number is 155 - 5 over PAN for 150. Did they not have enough interest to add the extra class in the end?


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