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 Post subject: Failed Appeal Concerns
PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:52 am 
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We have recently been to appeal for a grammar school place on grounds of oversubscription (DC obtained a pass mark but ranked too low to be offered a place) We used advice from the forum and the Q&A section to formulate our appeal, which was based mainly on a particular educational need and travel logistics. We had no strong extenuating circumstances relating to DC's score that we could back up with evidence but understood that as this appeal was for oversubscription and not non-qualification this was acceptable (a previous conversation with the headteacher seemed to confirm this).
During the appeal, reference was made to DC's original ranking and the 'chair' asked the school's representative for DC's position on the waiting list (which we did not think was allowed). During the final summing up they asked if we thought DC should/could have scored better on the day.
Our appeal was not upheld, but we do not fully understand a couple of things from the letter which states that 'the panels duty was to balance any prejudice to the school against any extenuating circumstances affecting DC's score'. It does list the issues we raised, but makes no reference to them, only that there were not enough extenuating circumstances and it also confirms DC's original ranking postion.
There are two main points which are unclear and concern us - firstly, were the panel only considering extenuating circumstances and not our other issues and if so this was not made clear to us in any way during the 25 minute appeal and secondly, whether DC's ranking (and also waiting list postion) were taken into account.
We are wondering whether to request further clarification from the 'chair' and really need some advice as to whether this sounds like a fair hearing!


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:54 am 
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Sorry you probably need Etienne to answer this one, but my gut reaction is that if this was a superselective (one that usually has a v. high cut-off score and admits children by score rather than distance according to its published admissions policy) you needed to be arguing why your child was of the academic ability to have got in, but did not score highly on the day.

Is there a non superselective grammar school that your child has qualified for a place at by passing the 11+ or do you live in an area with superselectives only?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:27 pm 
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Appeals where applicants were ranked by score can be a problem. The advice we usually give on here is "if in doubt, include any academic evidence or extenuating circumstances that might be relevant."
See, for example:
viewtopic.php?f=35&t=15068&p=182808&hilit=if+in+doubt#p182808

It rather depends on exactly what information you were given about the appeal in advance, and what sort of explanation the chair gave at the start of the hearing.
Quote:
2.31 At the start of the hearing, the panel chair must:
.....b) explain the procedure clearly and simply, giving details of the issues which the panel will be addressing and in what order, including the two-stage process ....... [Code of Practice] - my bold print
I'm not sure how an appeal could be viewed as fair if you were not made aware, in broad terms, of the issues to be considered.


The question about the waiting list is potentially a breach of the Code.
Quote:
3.51 The School Admission Code at paragraph 3.19 requires admission authorities to maintain waiting lists for oversubscribed schools. When hearing appeals, panels must not take account of where the admission authority has placed a child on the waiting list, or of the fact that appeals have not been made in respect of other children on the waiting list.
3.52 When making decisions on appeals, panels must not determine where a child should be placed on that list.
The chair could try and argue that the panel's decision was not actually influenced by the position on the waiting list. Why then would he have asked the question?!

It wouldn't be in order for you to correspond with the chair.

Could you tell me if this was an LA appointed panel, or a foundation school appointed panel?

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:48 pm 
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Thankyou Mystery and Etienne for your replies.

Etienne, it was a foundation school that we were appealing for.

(I made a mistake with my previous post - I meant should we seek clarification from the Clerk, not the chair!)

Is there any possibility that I could send you the letter that we recieved? or PM you some more details?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:22 pm 
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Quote:
Is there any possibility that I could send you the letter that we recieved? or PM you some more details?
There's a facility here for emailing confidential information.
viewtopic.php?f=35&t=9907

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Etienne


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:07 pm 
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Looking at the decision letter, I think it's wrong of them to say that they had to balance the prejudice to the school against extenuating circumstances (affecting the test score). What they had to do was balance your case as a whole against the prejudice to the school. I would have thought the advice given by the current headteacher was more or less correct.

As you point out, the decision letter seems to ignore completely the issues that you raised at the hearing and which they had a duty to consider.

As far as I can tell, there are matters here that need looking into, and you could certainly raise your concerns with the clerk. However, I suspect that they may be reluctant to admit any serious errors, as it seems entirely plausible that all the appeals would have been conducted in the same way, and they are going to be less than enthusiastic about a possible re-run of the whole process!

The questions you were asked at the end of the hearing would not be considered good practice (the only question they should have asked was whether you had been given sufficient time to state your case), so it does raise a question mark in my mind about just how competent and up-to-date this panel was. It's also worth noting that it was the clerk's role to ensure that the hearing was fair and conducted properly.

If I were you, I would ring the ombudsman's advice line, and see what they think of the various issues we've discussed.
Quote:
For advice on making a complaint, or to make a complaint over the telephone, please call the LGO Advice Team on 0300 061 0614 or 0845 602 1983. (Calls to 03 numbers will cost no more than calls to national geographic numbers (starting 01or 02) from both mobiles and landlines, and will be included as part of any inclusive call minutes or discount schemes in the same way as geographic calls. Please note that calls may be recorded for training and quality purposes.) The Advice Team are available Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5.00pm. You can also text ‘call back’ to 0762 480 4299.
If you do this, it's best to be ready with all the information that might be needed (see the verysaddad thread).

Do let me know if I can be of any further help.

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Etienne


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:41 pm 
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Thankyou very much Etienne for your advice. It will be very helpful to us in forming a view as to how we should proceed with this problem.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:14 pm 
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Following Etienne's previous reply we did contact the Clerk from our appeal to find out exactly what was taken into consideration in their decision process.

The Clerk's response confirmed our fears that only extenuating circumstances affecting DCs score on the day and the associated ranking were taken into consideration and stated that it was not within the panel's remit to consider any other issues eg our transport issues. We are surprised by this statement as it would appear to us to be at odds with the appeals code and Etienne's previous advice.

We would be grateful for your confirmation that the panel should have been obliged to consider all of the issues that we presented (as the Appeals Code and forum advice seems to suggest that this is the case) before we approach the Ombudsman.

(We are sending the relevant part of the letter to the appeals box for your perusal!)


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 6:07 am 
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Thanks for copying the letter.

The Code states:
Quote:
Second stage: balancing the arguments
3.6 At this stage the panel must consider whether the appellant’s grounds for the child to be admitted outweigh any prejudice to the school. The panel must take into account the appellant’s reasons for expressing a preference for the particular school (e.g. why they want that school in particular ......[note the word must]
If transport/logistics was one of the arguments you wished to put forward, I fail to understand why this issue was considered to be completely outside the panel's remit.

As I understand it, your child achieved a qualifying score, but failed to get a place when the oversubscription criterion (ranking) was applied.

With reference to grammar schools, the Code states:
Quote:
In addition to considering the issues set out in paragraphs 3.1 to 3.7 [I have quoted 3.6 above], 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 and, as a consequence, did not reach the required academic standard. [note the word 'may']

As I said before, I do not quite see how it could be a fair hearing if the issues to be considered were not made clear to you. According to the Code:
Quote:
1.31 ....... Appellants are appealing over a matter that is very important to them. Admission authorities must give appellants appropriate guidance and information before the hearing to enable them to prepare their case for appeal ........
Moreover:
Quote:
2.31 At the start of the hearing, the panel chair must:
.....b) explain the procedure clearly and simply, giving details of the issues which the panel will be addressing and in what order, including the two-stage process ....... [Code of Practice] - my bold print

Finally, the chair's question about your place on the waiting list looks like a breach of the Code.

There are certainly grounds for requesting the ombudsman to investigate - to find out what view he takes of these matters.

_________________
Etienne


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