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 Post subject: Stage 1 "Group" Appeals
PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:26 pm 
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Apologies if this is covered elsewhere, I couldn't find it but if someone steers me in the right direction I will happily go and post there.

I wanted to ask if anyone has gone through the "group" stage 1 appeal hearings - I believe they're a reasonably new thing and I'm not quite clear how they work although it makes sense not to have to repeat the same information in every appeal.

The school presumably states its case which I assume is much the same as the info they have sent us, emphasising how full the school is, how they're tripping over each other, yada yada.

Then we get to ask questions - along the lines of, well has there been an accident due to the overcrowding? Are the children all slowly starving to death because there's no time to shuffle them all in and out of the canteen ?

Has it ever happened that the school at this point has to go "mm well no actually, we don't have any evidence, you're quite right, we were hoping you wouldn't raise that particular point - you're all in!" :D
I'm kind of guessing that has NEVER happened! So wonder what the point of the meeting is at all really. :?

And suppose we did have some knock 'em dead evidence (you know who you are on this forum - and thankyou again!) that it's not that squashed - surely the head isn't going to just admit it!?

Do many people ask questions? (Does it get heated?!) Is it as horrific to stand up and speak as I imagine it is ? :shock: :shock:

Ours is in a couple of weeks - not looking forward to it so any advice much appreciated !


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:01 pm 
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BTW I have read the "sticky" about stage ones - just wanted to hear some personal experience.

Also in the sticky it says don't go in too agressively and attack the school's case - so is it just time for them to state their case and we should try and argue against it in our personal appeal hearing later ?


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:06 pm 
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Quote:
I believe they're a reasonably new thing .....
No, they're not! :)

Quote:
Has it ever happened that the school at this point has to go "mm well no actually, we don't have any evidence, you're quite right, we were hoping you wouldn't raise that particular point - you're all in!" :D
Yes, just very occasionally there have been cases when the school said "To be honest, there wouldn't be any prejudice ........"
It would be for the panel to decide, however, and they're the only ones who can say "You're all in!"

Quote:
I'm kind of guessing that has NEVER happened! So wonder what the point of the meeting is at all really. :?
If you mean 'Why have a group hearing?', it's because it's a much more efficient way of doing things, as you've suggested further above, rather than having the same case repeated again and again at individual hearings.
If you mean 'Why have a stage 1?', it's because the panel has to make its own mind up about the school case - the school may claim that there will be prejudice, but the panel still has to be persuaded! Parents and panel members have the right to question the school case.

Quote:
And suppose we did have some knock 'em dead evidence (you know who you are on this forum - and thankyou again!) that it's not that squashed - surely the head isn't going to just admit it!?
It certainly has happened.
However, secondary school cases are rarely limited to just accommodation - all sorts of points could be raised, e.g. health & safety (technology groups must not exceed 20), resources (two children might have to share a computer), delivery of the curriculum (less teacher time per pupil), etc.

Quote:
Do many people ask questions?
Usually, yes.

Quote:
Does it get heated?!
Sometimes, yes!

Quote:
Is it as horrific to stand up and speak as I imagine it is ?
Probably not - parents are usually in the majority and feel emboldened!

Quote:
Also in the sticky it says don't go in too agressively and attack the school's case - so is it just time for them to state their case and we should try and argue against it in our personal appeal hearing later ?
The best way to attack the school's case is by asking probing questions.
http://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appeal ... school#c30

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:03 pm 
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MarbleRun wrote:
The school presumably states its case which I assume is much the same as the info they have sent us, emphasising how full the school is, how they're tripping over each other, yada yada.


Yes - in our case a great deal was made of the size of the desks and how the design of the rooms meant they needed to get slightly smaller ones which were not really adequate for two teenagers sitting side by side. :?

MarbleRun wrote:
Then we get to ask questions - along the lines of, well has there been an accident due to the overcrowding? Are the children all slowly starving to death because there's no time to shuffle them all in and out of the canteen ?

Has it ever happened that the school at this point has to go "mm well no actually, we don't have any evidence, you're quite right, we were hoping you wouldn't raise that particular point -


Possibly, but at this point the LEA rep would probably rifle through their papers and mutter something about health and safety... :wink: Or the head will say that you can prove anything with statistics. :roll: [/quote]

MarbleRun wrote:
So wonder what the point of the meeting is at all really. :?


It's possible to chip away at the LEA case so that, while concluding that it would be prejudicial to the school to admit all the appellants (especially if there is a large number), there might be scope for one or two.

MarbleRun wrote:
And suppose we did have some knock 'em dead evidence (you know who you are on this forum - and thankyou again!) that it's not that squashed - surely the head isn't going to just admit it!?


Like Etienne says, there are lots of things to take into consideration - but if you have really strong evidence you can be sure the panel will take it into account. However, remember that presenting something like this at stage 1 is just as likely to help another case as your own, as your evidence might prove that the school can admit more pupils but there could be someone else at stage 2 with a stronger case than yours!

MarbleRun wrote:
Do many people ask questions? (Does it get heated?!) Is it as horrific to stand up and speak as I imagine it is ? :shock: :shock:


Yes, yes and maybe. :lol: Seriously though, our strategy was to wait and see if someone else asked any of the questions we wanted to raise (they did) and then just address any issues not mentioned by someone else. That way it doesn't look as though you are dominating the proceedings and gunning for the LEA!

MarbleRun wrote:
Ours is in a couple of weeks - not looking forward to it so any advice much appreciated !


Also agree with Etienne about asking probing questions - the panel are more likely to be well-disposed towards appellants who make their point by calmly asking a few salient questions, than towards someone having a rant. It's important to stay cool, even if you are absolutely seething inside with disappointment for your child!

Best of luck. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:52 pm 
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MarbleRun wrote:
Are the children all slowly starving to death because there's no time to shuffle them all in and out of the canteen

I've never heard that one before - I fear if a parent did say that, I might just have to adjourn the hearing so I could laugh without either side hearing- there's only so far my 'poker face' can stretch... :D

I can certainly see the time benefit from having Stage 1 done as a group appeal - it can get very hard to concentrate on the school side once you've heard the same statement over 30 times (it tends not to differ - if it did, we'd wonder why). However, my concentration is restored once the parents start questioning the school side.

Even then, often so many of the questions to the school side are the same from all the parents; it probably amounts to a third of each appeal - so 10 mins in the average one near me times x appeals.... thats 10x minutes longer I could have been on annual leave, at work or just picking my children up from school :o but being a nice person, I'm happy to give up my holidays to hear your appeals - my own children are now used to the ever-decreasing parental holiday care.

The up-side from your point of view is that parents do get chance to question the school side without 'other parents' hearing their questions, and basically getting it out of their system so they can go on and do their best when making their case for the children getting a place.

Which brings me to my annual appeal on behalf of appeals panels. Please Volunteer! It doesn't matter if you've lost or won an appeal - it's great to have people experience in preparing and/or making an appeal on panels. It's been a volunteer position since way before 'Big Society'. If you feel unsure or too close to grammar appeals, offer to do ones for primaries (usually via your LEA Democratic Services department). I Thank You, as will parents and the schools.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:11 pm 
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Thanks for comments. Don't think I'd be much good on a panel to be honest Capers, I'd want to say yes to everyone!

Quote:
However, remember that presenting something like this at stage 1 is just as likely to help another case as your own, as your evidence might prove that the school can admit more pupils but there could be someone else at stage 2 with a stronger case than yours!


Yes, I did wonder whether, if you were going to try and argue along the lines of "look you've coped perfectly well with this number of children in previous years, they've now left, so there's room for you to do it again" you should mention it in the group part or try and hog the argument for your own bit of the appeal, but ***** says in his summary of the appeals:

"In the second stage there is no discussion of oversubscription issues."

So it sounds like there's nothing for it but to blurt it out in front of everyone - unless someone else gets there first, here's hoping!


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:04 pm 
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With individual stage ones, although parents have the opportunity to put their questions in private, there is a risk of breaching the requirement that all appellants must have access to the same information (unless, of course, it is of no real significance).
Quote:
2.19 ..... Hearing multiple appeals individually means holding a series of consecutive appeal hearings. The panel must ensure that the presenting officer does not produce new evidence in later appeals that was not presented in earlier appeals as this would mean that appellants whose cases were heard earlier in the process would not have the opportunity to consider and respond to the new evidence. If material new evidence comes to light during the questioning of the presenting officer, the clerk must ensure that the panel considers what bearing that evidence may have on all appeals. [Code of Practice]

From the Q&As, C1:
Quote:
Note 2: The admission authority might present its case in front of all the parents at the beginning of the appeals (this is referred to as a ‘group hearing’), or it might repeatedly present its case at each individual hearing. The former will mean that parents have to attend twice, but it has the advantage that the authority’s case will come under greater scrutiny, as parents will feel more confident in a group, and one question will often prompt another. The problem with individual stage ones, quite apart from the fact that they are a less efficient use of time, is that significant new information might emerge during the course of the appeals, especially during the question & answer session – and were that to happen, it would be necessary to recall all the previous appellants to pass on the same information and give them an opportunity to question it.

I have little doubt that group hearings are in the best interests of parents, and suspect that those authorities which prefer individual stage ones, even when there are many appellants, might be shying away from the more intense scrutiny of a group hearing.

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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 11:02 am 
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Etienne wrote:
If material new evidence comes to light during the questioning of the presenting officer, the clerk[/color] must ensure that the panel considers what bearing that evidence may have on all appeals. [Code of Practice]


The appeals I hear are individual stage ones. I read that statement as 'if a parent comes up with a question to the presenting officer that brings out new information, then the clerk must make sure that the panel considers that new information for all of the previous appeals'.

In practice, it rarely happens, as we'll have hopefully thought up and asked most of the questions to the PO for the first appeal (and obviously asked them again for the rest of the appeals so all parents hear the answers).

The reason for this is so the schools case is the same for all the appeals; just because one parent happens to have asked a 'clever' question of the school side does not put them at an advantage.

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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 3:08 pm 
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Etienne wrote:
If material new evidence comes to light during the questioning of the presenting officer, the clerk must ensure that the panel considers what bearing that evidence may have on all appeals. [Code of Practice]
Capers wrote:
I read that statement as 'if a parent comes up with a question to the presenting officer that brings out new information, then the clerk must make sure that the panel considers that new information for all of the previous appeals'.
I don't think that goes far enough, Capers! :)

You've just written in another thread, "All parties ......... would have the right to hear and question the new material ........."
That applies equally to other parents (if it's anything to do with the admission authority's case).

We're dealing now with a slimmed down Code, which in some ways is unfortunate. The meaning was more explicit in the previous Code: "During the first stage, where the presenting officer is arguing that prejudice would arise, the case will always be the same. At the start of the hearing, the panel must explain that the presenting officer should not produce new evidence or expand on the case in subsequent appeals, as appellants whose cases were heard earlier in the process will not have had an opportunity to consider and respond to that new evidence. However, if material new evidence comes to light during the questioning of the presenting officer, the clerk must ensure that the panel considers what bearing that evidence may have on all previous and subsequent appeals and advise the panel on how to proceed fairly. This may entail adjourning the hearing to give all appellants the opportunity to consider and challenge the new evidence."

Capers wrote:
we'll have hopefully thought up and asked most of the questions to the PO for the first appeal (and obviously asked them again for the rest of the appeals so all parents hear the answers).
There really shouldn't be a problem with the panel's questions - they are usually capable of asking the same questions at each individual hearing, and eliciting the same information. The problem comes with the unpredictability of what parents are going to ask!

Capers wrote:
just because one parent happens to have asked a 'clever' question of the school side does not put them at an advantage.
Not all parents ask 'clever' questions - some are going to ask perfectly reasonable (and unexpected) questions!

Capers wrote:
In practice, it rarely happens
I suspect it happens more than is realised. It is, of course, always open to debate how significant a new bit of information may be - but the logistical nightmare of adjourning to give all appellants the opportunity to consider and challenge new evidence hardly encourages panel or clerk to think long and hard about "what bearing that evidence may have on all appeals"!

Having done both individual stage ones and group hearings, I am in no doubt that group hearings are better for the parents in that
    (1) the admission authority's case comes under more intense scrutiny, and
    (2) it is beyond dispute that all appellants are given the same information and the same opportunity to question or challenge it.

Group hearings are more efficient, more interesting, more transparent, and more likely to be fair!

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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 6:22 pm 
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Capers wrote:
we'll have hopefully thought up and asked most of the questions to the PO for the first appeal (and obviously asked them again for the rest of the appeals so all parents hear the answers).
Quote:
There really shouldn't be any problem with the panel's questions - they are capable of asking the same questions at each individual hearing, and eliciting the same information. The problem comes with the unpredictability of what parents are going to ask!


A little while ago I went to appeals for 5 children, all in Y9 and Y10, for their local school. They were held as individual appeals. It was interesting to see that despite the same questions being posed by the panel and the appellants different bits of information emerged at different appeals with one very important thing not coming into the arena until the 4th appeal.

Capers wrote:
In practice, it rarely happens
Quote:
I suspect it happens more than is realised. It is, of course, always open to debate how significant a new bit of information may be - but the logistical nightmare of adjourning to give all appellants the opportunity to consider and challenge new evidence hardly encourages panel or clerk to think long and hard about "what bearing that evidence may have on all appeals"!


I was absolutely confident that the panel would be taking into account the bearing all the evidence that emerged would have on all the appeals. However, I don't think any consideration was given to calling back the previous appellants to give them the opportunity to raise further questions. I also think most of the appellants would have been horrified at an adjournment as the appeals were being held on the last possible day to be within the statutory time limit for 4 out of 5 of them.

A couple of years ago I went to an appeal in another county where there were 2 appeals for the same school and same year group. I was at the second and clearly new evidence emerged because of the questioning as the Panel found against the school/LA at Part 1 and they would not even have had to hear the second appeal if this had happened in the first appeal.

Quote:
Having done both individual stage ones and group hearings, I am in no doubt that group hearings are better for the parents in that
    (1) the admission authority's case comes under more intense scrutiny, and
    (2) it is beyond dispute that all appellants are given the same information and the same opportunity to question or challenge it.


Quote:
Group hearings are more efficient, more interesting, more transparent, and more likely to be fair!
[/quote]

And an awful lot less tedious!


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