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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 2:27 am 
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Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 12:32 am
Posts: 14
Hello to all
My first post here, please be gentle with me.
I will try to be as brief as possible, so here goes:

My DD took the eleven + exam in Sept 09, scored 140 in NVR english, 140 in VR English, & 112 in Maths. Total score 392, passmark for eleven+ 360 but not allocated for Grammar school because she got below the minimum allowed in any in one paper of 117. Completely shocked as maths is best subject and had always scored very highly in this subject (98 percentile in CATS - taken in 19-01-2009). The English subjects were always the weak ones and the maths was always (& still is) strongest (very good at Science too - but not in 11+).

Three weeks before the exam, we had a family tragedy.
My DD is young for her age & is very sensitive and took all this quite badly. It unbalanced her preparation for the upcomming exam and she did not appear her normal happy self.

After the results, I appealed to two grammar schools, mainly on the grounds that the grief & stress involved must have affected performance somewhat (as it was the only logical explanation for the poor performance in the Maths paper- to us anyway).
Did not get much help from the Headteacher but included letters from the Doctor, Headteacher (one 3/4 full A4 page stating that basically she was good at maths exams - and not much else, in fact very reluctant to do even that) extra tuition club (two assesments over 18 months - scored very high in Maths -98 percentile, not so good but still high in the English VR & NVR), & took all necessary assesments & scores with me. I also took along the Key Stage 2 maths test papers (taken after 11+ in Jan 2010) where she scored 36 out of 40, in two papers & 16 out of 20 in another. She got better scores than her friends that will be going to grammar school later this year. (both panels did not pay much attention to these by the way which was surprising - maybe I should have made a bigger effort with these or maybe they did not understand them?)

Had both appeals & thought that they went ok (answered many questions positively & put forward my DD's ability as best I could). The panels both seemed very friendly & understanding with lots of head nodding when I was explaining the details.
I was optimistically hopeful (with fingers very crossed).

Just had the results & we were unsuccessful in both appeals with the schools stating that although they were sympathetic to our cause, there were more deserving cases in front of us & the schools were at full capacity. I think at both schools, they did take extra pupils that were successful at appeal.

What I tried hard to get the panels of both appeals to understand was that the maths score was very uncharacteristic of past and future performance in maths & that the family tragedy etc must have affected concentration somewhat. We had expected her to get a very good score in the Maths exam.

I do not think that the panel(s) fully took on board the difficult & unexpected events going on around our family at the time of the Exam and how this would have an effect on my DD.
We are all very disappointed, not least my DD as you can imagine.

What can I do?
I am thinking of applying to the Ombudsman but it seems very difficult to get very far with that line on attack although there were a couple of things that went on in one appeal that I was not entirely happy with and so may have some grounds for complaint. Has anyone been down that route and if so how did they get on?
I would be grateful for your comments and advice.
We feel my DD will flourish at a grammar school but may wither away if stuck in a class with less able children who do not want to learn.

(Have not had much sleep since receiving the news as I'm sure you will be able to see by looking at the time I posted this letter)

Many thanks for your time.


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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 5:33 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 12, 2005 5:26 pm
Posts: 7059
I'm so very sorry, verysaddad, to read what a traumatic time you've been through as a family.

Opinions about the ombudsman route are probably like opinions about an appeal - they may be coloured by whether or not the outcome is successful!

Traffmum was was one of those who succeeded last year:
traffmum wrote:
Sorry to hear you felt the ombudsmen didn't help, although I have to agree with 'grumpy'. We took our case to an ombudsmen who was very helpful. They found that the admissions code hadn't been followed and we were therefore at an injustice. We were offered a fresh appeal with a new panel and were thrilled to find that we were successful on this occasion and our son got into the school we wanted. My advice would be to give it a try if the code hasn't been followed, you have nothing to lose and at least you know you have tried.

I assume you've see the section in the Q&As about making a complaint?
http://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/11plus ... #section-D

Looking at the decision you received, a possible interpretation of "there were more deserving cases in front of us & the schools were at full capacity" is that you may have lost the oversubscription part of the argument rather than the qualification part. In other words, there could have been other cases where the specific reasons for needing a place at the school in question were more compelling. An appeal panel begins by looking at each case on its own merits, but, if it is minded to allow more appeals than it feels a school could cope with, it is obliged to compare cases and decide which ones to allow.

The clerk's notes might shed more light on your own case, but they cannot, of course, tell you more about the other cases for data protection reasons.

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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 7:32 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 01, 2009 3:43 pm
Posts: 523
Location: Twells
I have very little experience in the appeals process, but a friend of mine did go to the ombudsman last year and managed to get to grammar school with a situation very similar to yours. So I guess everything is worth a try.

I wish you all the best, a truly awful situation.


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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 9:06 am 
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Joined: Tue May 05, 2009 9:26 pm
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I am so sorry to hear about your situation.


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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 9:33 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:23 pm
Posts: 514
Sorry to hear your terrible news.

I went to appeal for my child too who was expected to pass and didn't and did not win appeal either.

I felt that the panel weren't interested in the evidence I took along to prove his ability and kept asking why did I think he hadn't passed. I too know of others that won the appeal on less scores than my DS.

The VR and NVR were taken on the same day and then Maths and English the next day and my appeal panel wanted to know why my child passed VR and not NVR and Maths and it could not be put down to nerves and our extenuating circumstances if he had managed to pass one paper! What I'm trying to say is your appeal panel may have felt too that to pass VR and NVR one day and then not to pass maths the next day would not indicate being upset by the family tragedy? I hope that makes sense.

Like you I know my child would thrive at a grammar school and will not achieve his potential at the allocated school.

If you feel you have a case to take to the Ombudsman then go for it. You never know you may win and get the grammar place your child deserves and wants so much. At least if you try and don't win you know you will have done everything you could have to get her a place rather than just accept the allocated school where you feel she will wither.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.


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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 11:05 am 
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Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 1:51 am
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I am so sorry for the dreadful time your family has had.

Did it not got to a headmasters appeal?
Am going to pm you - msgs are shown top left. :)


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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 12:43 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:12 pm
Posts: 800
Location: Kent
I can only echo what the others have said. We had some very upsetting news (regarding a death) too which we explained at our hearing but the panel gave their reason for siding with the LA that DS was not 'sufficiently distressed' which I found totally unreasonable. I don't think there is a 'my DC was more affected than another DC', the fact is that the child was affected and results show this. My feeling is that I don't understand how a panel can decide how a child sufficiently (if there is a measure I would be interested to know what it is!) has been affected so should view the alternative evidence available, which I am not satisfied happened in either our case or yours.

What to do next is a tough question. You will feel very upset, this drags up all sorts of emotions you had also started to deal with. My only advice is to support your DC and if nothing else consider the 12+ perhaps? I know in our case this is going to be a lost cause because of how full the schools are but am not sure about your area.

Good luck x

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:24 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 12:32 am
Posts: 14
Hi all
Many thanks for your kind words & encouragement.
Sorry for not replying sooner as I have been away for a few days.

I am going to try to appeal to the Ombudsman for both appeals but although there were some points I could argue about regarding one of them, I'm not really sure about the other. At the time when they were running through the technical details of over-subscription/pan etc, I was trying to relax, pour myself a glass of water (so I would not dry up when it was my turn) & did not not really know how to argue or question what they were saying. (By the way, the headteacher was present at one appeal which was a little unnerving - I did not expect that).
As I had never done this before, I was not really sure of the correct procedure/protocol of an appeal hearing so am a bit lost really with what to say to help to get a second appeal.
I think that if I were to get a second chance, then I may go about my approach a little differently than I did before.

Obviously for myself, I do not think at all that either panel understood the full effect of the emotional stress going on in my DD's head & maybe that is because they are not trained to understand that. The problem is though that if they cannot appreciate fully what is going on, then can they make an educated decision or are they just going on gut feeling and if so, is that 1.fair, 2. professional & 3. in my DD's best interest?
I think that one thing that they wanted an explanation for was the reason for getting full marks in the two English papers (on the first day) but doing badly in the Maths paper (on the second day). I tried to explain that the emotional stuff comes out at the most inappropriate times and generally when under stress or when feeling down. Unless they had had a similar thing happen to them, then how could thay have understood this?
Perhaps in a similar type of scenario, they should consult a specialist medical practitioner for an insight of how it would affect performance & concentration in an exam.
(do they not make any allowance for this when taking university exams?)

I do not mean to ramble on here, I'm just really upset for my child & I feel that I have let her down badly by not putting the case better or more strongly. I really tried my best but it was actually very difficult for me to talk (I had a lump in my throat at the time) to five complete strangers about the family tragedy and at the same time tell them how wonderful my DD is and why I think she should go to Grammar School.

It really makes me feel that DD has become a further victim of the tragedy, through no fault of her own except being a little too sensitive & human. Although, to be honest, I would not change this aspect of her character for the world.

You thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:39 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:12 pm
Posts: 800
Location: Kent
I can't advise you on how to go about this but feel I want to say you are not alone here which worries me. Reading your comments is so very similar to mine! I thought it was just me who perhaps hadn't been able to get across everything that needed to be said.
Originally I thought my case was very strong, like you I had a very clear and obvious explanation, how could the panel not accept it? With hindsight I realise because the details were so raw (even after 9 years) that I faltered and will never know if the panel had heard the most sensitive details if it would have made any difference. the fact is I didn't want to be viewed as 'using' our experience to get a place as DS deserved this place on his own ability.
I agree with cases such as ours the panel do not have the proffessional understanding so wonder if I should have comissioned some kind of report but don't have the funds for that kind of thing!
I found the 'easier' cases got through and because the panel did not understand the trama they were not able to accept a child could be affected.
We are looking at a school we hadn't considered but actually suits DS very well so wonder if this has happened for a very good reason.
Good luck, keep checking back on the forum as there is some excellent advice offered. X

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2010 7:42 am 
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So very sorry to hear the disappointing news, verysaddad.

Before we go off in the wrong direction, is there any more information about why each appeal was not allowed? Clearly a panel was going to explore the impact of extenuating circumstances, but do we know as a fact whether or not they accepted the explanation for underperformance?

The only hard information we have about the decision letter is "there were more deserving cases in front of us & the schools were at full capacity" - and, as I said before, this could have more to do with the specific reasons for needing a place at the school in question.

Regarding a possible complaint to the ombudsman, it would have to be shown that the panel broke some rule or failed in its duty to consider properly the points raised, and this was so serious as to cause an injustice. It's not clear what you have in mind, verysaddad, but if you want to run anything past me - either here or privately via the Appeals Box - I'd be happy to try and advise.

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