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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2006 12:29 am 
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Very few people seem to be aware that BCC has changed its policy on sibling link as a criterion for school allocation. If a school is oversubscribed, preference is now only given to a sibling of a pupil already attending the school if the older sibling is in year 7 - 11 at the time when the younger child is due to start. If the older sibling is in years 12 or 13, they are ignored for allocation purposes. This may be only a minor change but it directly affects us and possibly other families.

Our elder daughter, in Year 8, attends a Bucks grammar school as an out of county pupil. We live a couple of miles from the county boundary, and she won her place, which we understand was offered after all qualified in-county applicants had been allocated places, on the strength of a high test score, before the main oversubscription factor was changed from score to distance. Having said that, we still live within the radius in which places were allocated this year (just!). We have worked out that our younger daughter will be disadvantaged by the change in the sibling rule as there are five school years between her and her elder sister, and she has less chance of obtaining a place as a "non-sibling" at the edge of the allocation area - whatever her test score.

Buckinghamshire parents were consulted about a proposal to drop the sibling link rule and they firmly opposed such a move; however they agreed that, if such a change were implemented, then it should be phased in. BCC had likewise stated that such a change would not apply "to younger siblings of children who are attending secondary schools before September 2005." However, the committee handling the reorganization decided independently to limit the sibling link to existing pupils of statutory school age with no reference to a phasing-in period. Thus our elder daughter, who started in September 2004, will not count as a sibling when we come to apply for a place for her sister (who is currently in Year 3 but we are thinking ahead!)

It also became apparent, at the AGM of the school attended by my elder daughter, that the governers were unaware of the change in policy. It had been quietly rubber-stamped by a BCC committee, without consultation or announcement other than a few lines in the minutes of the meeting at which the decision was taken(http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/cabinet_paper ... inutes.pdf)! I have been unable to get a satisfactory explanation out of BCC, who merely argue that the large number of students switching schools at the end of Year 11 make it impossible to use sibling link as a selection criterion. My view is that they should at least honour their promise in the consultation document which clearly states that the new arrangements would only have applied to siblings of children who had joined the school after 2005 (without specifying any restrictions regarding the age of the older child).

I'm not sure what to do now - should I pursue the matter with the school and risk creating bad feeling for my elder daughter, or let it bug me for the next two years with the aim of raising it at appeal if my younger daughter qualifies but is refused a place on the basis of the change in oversubscription criteria? Does it count as "maladministration"? I would really welcome comments - especially from Etienne or Patricia or anyone else familiar with the mysterious workings of the BCC! :?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2006 6:34 am 
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Dear Marylou

I suspect you will have to take this one to appeal. However unfair it may seem, I rather doubt whether there is anything binding about a consultation document, so I think "maladministration" is unlikely.

If it's any comfort, I heard on the grapevine of a similar case that went to appeal last year (out-county, older sibling about to start 6th form) and was successful. Apparently parents made much of the distress caused to the younger child whose expectations had been dashed. I don't know if they highlighted the manner in which the change to the sibling rule was made. In your case you would also be able to point to the added stress of a couple of years' uncertainty. It would also help if you could demonstrate how inconvenient it would be to have two children at different schools.

Unfortunately the outcome could be influenced by other factors, such as the strength of the school's case, and of the other parental cases.

I do sympathise. It does seem unfair that this particular change was not phased in.

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Etienne


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2006 10:33 am 
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Thanks, Etienne, for your response. It was interesting and helpful to hear of the other case. I suspect that perhaps the parents involved may not have even been aware of the change in policy as it was implemented in such a subterfuge way. Still, since there are a couple of years left before I have to apply for my younger daughter, is there anything I can do now to persuade BCC to look at this again? Or perhaps I could attempt to get the school on side - after all, the governing board didn't appear to know about the change, the reasons for which don't really apply to grammar schools anyway as most of the pupils remain in the 6th form to do A-levels. What I don't want to do is be branded a "troublemaker" and prejudice my position if the case should indeed come to appeal. I e-mailed BCC over a year ago and asked them to explain this change, but was unhappy with their response. I pressed them to explain why they did not honour their assurance that any change to the sibling policy would be phased in, but have so far not received a reply to that particular question.

Thanks again for your comments.

Regards

Marylou


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2006 11:42 am 
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Dear Marylou

I suspect it won't be easy to get BCC to revisit this, which is why I focused on an appeal. If you had lived just within Bucks, I would have suggested an approach to your local county councillor.

However, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t raise the matter with the school. You won’t be labelled a troublemaker simply for asking (as opposed to constantly pestering!). Try the parent governors - one would hope they would be sympathetic to parental concerns. Are there any county councillors on the governing body, or do any of the governors have links with county councillors who could be asked to help?

Good luck

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Etienne


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