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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 11:12 am 
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Joined: Sun May 13, 2007 8:03 pm
Posts: 1827
Location: Gloucestershire
Hurrah! Appeals are over for another year (well, apart from the odd one-off appeal that may happen).

We spent two days from 8:45 to 6:30 hearing about 30 appeals. They were scheduled 20 mins apart, but we don’t stick to that – parents are allowed as long as they need, and whilst we occasionally get parents who only need 10 mins, most use at least 20 mins, and a few more. And we also spend a few minutes before reminding us of the notes and discussing the case afterwards. Hence after our first two appeals on the 1st morning we were already ½ hour late. So if you find yourself sitting in a waiting room, getting more nervous, please be aware that the panel are wanting to give the parents a fair hearing!

We don’t often get children coming with the parents. “But it’s all about the child” – well, so it may be, but we often ask very personal questions that it would be so embarrassing for the child to hear the answers to.

“I’ve sent in a big appeals pack, and don’t think the panel had read it”. We had our documents delivered last Wednesday evening, with supplementary packs arriving on Friday and Saturday – partly because many parents were late submitting them. I then spent 2 evenings reading through them, and also taking them with me to Ballet lessons, music lessons – anywhere that I can get time to read them without distraction (easier said than done with 2 primary school daughters) and without anyone else seeing them. I can assure you that every pack got read.

There are, however, some items I tend to skim over because the appeal is on why your child did not do well on the day of the exam, not on how good a sportsman he is. So my ‘skim’ list includes letters from scout/guide leaders, sports coaches, music teachers, and certificates from school for trying hard. Musical ability equate with academic ability, but I also know musicians who are pretty average.

I also skim through SATS practice papers and page after page of school work - the guidelines state that we must not try to make our own academic assessment of the child – after all, it would be easy to assume that scruffy writing means less able – but that’s not always the case. If the school have submitted a letter or filled in a form saying what the expected KS2 SATS results are, then that is useful.

Letters from the head or class teacher are good for us – but many are not allowed to send an individual letter of support – just factual information – so don’t get angry if they will not write one for you. I’ve noticed that in some cases I know that the head dislikes grammars, so either won’t write on principle or delegates out to the form teachers; this year we had 2 appeals from one school where the children were in different classes – one teacher sent useful information to us, the other sent nothing.

Medical evidence is good, but breaking his arm in Rugby 9 months before the exam is probably not going to swing it for you, even if it still twinges.
Emotional factors can also be quite relevant – gravely ill grandparent, or parents going through a messy divorce, hamster dying the night before the exam (but please don’t kill a hamster just in case your child needs to appeal). We are interested in troubled relationships not so we can put blame on a party, but so we can work out how your child was affected on the day.

Occasionally we will ask if there were any ‘home problems’ and you’d be surprised how many parents don’t think that they are relevant to us and haven’t mentioned it.

We know that some parents are more eloquent than others, some have legal training, others have been coached in how to appeal, some are in tears. We take you how you come and are not interested in what you look like, how you dress, what accent you have, which schools you (or great-uncle Jack) went to.

Anyway, after we’d finished hearing the appeals the hardest part of the job starts. Deciding firstly which appeals are good enough to allow, then balancing the needs of the children already on the roll against those appealing. For instance, we had a full tour of the school to look at capacity, and we are aware that it would be impossible to fit more than 32 desks in many of the classrooms – it would be a fire risk, for a start. So if we’ve decided that 10 out of 30 appeals are good enough to be allowed, and then that it would be dangerous to allow more that 8, we’ve got to sift out some of the ‘Yes’ children. So then we get tough and re-read all our notes (and those of our clerk). It’s so difficult for us – we are aware that its children’s lives we’re working with. Sometimes after the second sift we find that we’ve only got one or two who we feel really happy with allowing, so even though its below the total capacity of the school, that’s it!

I’m from a small town, and have active children of primary school age. It is inevitable that I know some of the parents appealing. Some I don’t recognise until the day, and some even come from my daughters school. I’m scrupulously fair – I always declare that I know them both as soon as I get the docs, in private when we start to look at the notes before they come in, and once the parents come. I have never given any preference to them – in fact last year one person was a friend, and we turned that appeal down (I could have told her that that was the likely outcome as soon as I looked at the paperwork, but didn’t).

Being on an appeals panel is in some ways a horrible job. For a start, whilst we could claim out of pocket expenses, loss of earnings, etc, I know that this would come out of the schools budget, and would prefer it to go on resources. Then we get to see parents whose appeals we turned down – once I had a long chat with one at the tip, others at folk festivals – and what can you say to them?

My own daughters won’t be going to this school (there’s a slight matter of gender to consider), but when eldest gets to Y6, I will retire from the panel, as I would be too closely involved if they apply for the ‘sister’ school.


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 Post subject: PS - letters
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 11:23 am 
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Joined: Sun May 13, 2007 8:03 pm
Posts: 1827
Location: Gloucestershire
One other thing. We have to put on our letter reasons the appeal was not successful. This is rather hard - when we hear the appeal we're looking for reasons that we SHOULD allow the appeal, and all our notes are related to those positive reasons, rather than negatives.

One of our members also does a little sketch of the parents on her notes - not always flattering, but after 30 or 40 sets of parents, we need something to remember what you look like, and asking you to pose for a digital photo would freak some people out!


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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 11:40 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 12, 2005 5:26 pm
Posts: 7063
Dear capers123

Your observations resonated with me, and I think you have given a very fair picture indeed - one that will be of great interest to all forum readers.

I was a bit surprised to hear about the tour. The code of practice says:
A statement referring to accommodation, class sizes, capacity, etc should be supported by factual information, as panel members cannot be led on ’tours’ of schools to make their own assessments – this would call into question their independence, and could lead to allegations of lobbying (if considered necessary, evidence can be produced in the form of photographs or a video, as well as layout plans of a building).

Kind regards

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Etienne


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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 12:00 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 13, 2007 8:03 pm
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Location: Gloucestershire
Yes, we were aware of that when we requested the tour. It was for a case where a parent was requesting a place mid-term for a child who had moved away from the school but wanted to come back. The school was a full capacity, and we requested a tour with that parent present so that we could all see what the classrooms were like. Prior to that we'd had to take the schools word for it that they couldn't fit more than 32 in a classroom in.

So whilst we've not been round with this years appeals, it was with parents from that appeal present, and we were not 'got at' by the school. We felt we were following the spirit rather than the letter of the guidelines.

Next year, we've been told that the guidelines are being re-written!


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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 12:38 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:29 pm
Posts: 1805
Location: Berkshire
Capers123,


Thankyou for a very interesting and highly informative insight into the appeals system. I am sure it will be alot of help to alot of people.

:)

BW


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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 12:46 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 29, 2006 10:04 am
Posts: 144
Capers123 thank you so much for putting all this on the site - it made absolutely facinating reading! A glimpse of the otherside. You sound like a lovely panel member....I have now decided that in order to calm myself I shall simply imagine two of my panel members to be Etienne and Capers.

Some of what you wrote had me giggling at my computer screen:

Quote:
hamster dying the night before the exam (but please don’t kill a hamster just in case your child needs to appeal).


The thought never crossed my mind - honest!!!!

Quote:
One of our members also does a little sketch of the parents on her notes - not always flattering, but after 30 or 40 sets of parents, we need something to remember what you look like, and asking you to pose for a digital photo would freak some people out!


I would so love to see some of those drawings! :lol:

Some of the things scared me to death...not sure which bits though! Just the general thought that our appeal panel won't be as fair as yours obviously works hard to be. We've always been scared that it's simply a matter of 'rubber stamping' - going through the motions when they've already decided long before we got there that there are no places and no one is going to be successful.

Thanks again for the interesting read!



[/quote]


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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 1:00 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 13, 2007 8:03 pm
Posts: 1827
Location: Gloucestershire
[/quote]
Some of the things scared me to death...not sure which bits though! Just the general thought that our appeal panel won't be as fair as yours obviously works hard to be. We've always been scared that it's simply a matter of 'rubber stamping' - going through the motions when they've already decided long before we got there that there are no places and no one is going to be successful.
[/quote]

Our panel has a reputation for being 'easy' - on a couple of occassions we allowed 10 appeals. This year we allowed 4 out of 29, but some panels for other schools in our county allow none or 1. It all falls down to what the majority definition of 'valid reason' is, and how many physical seats that can fit into the classrooms. I don't know what other schools do - maybe they have already allocated the maximum intake so leaving no space for appeals.

I know that 'our' school doesn't like us allowing appeals - they'd like to give the places to the next x children on the waiting list (therefore the next brightest) - but I would argue that the list could be wrong - the appealants children could be brighter than those next on the list - or maybe not. We're unbiased!

Capers


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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 3:27 pm 
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Joined: Mon Dec 12, 2005 5:26 pm
Posts: 7063
Dear Bo Peep

It's well-known (among panel members at least) that the mortality rate of pet hamsters shoots up dramatically in the lead up to the 11+ .......

:cry:

_________________
Etienne


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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 3:32 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2006 8:54 pm
Posts: 1770
Location: caversham
Have there been reports at appeal of passed away parrots of the Norwegian Blue variety? :lol:


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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 3:38 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:07 pm
Posts: 1149
Location: Finchley - Barnet
Dear All,

Quote:
It's well-known (among panel members at least) that the mortality rate of pet hamsters shoots up dramatically in the lead up to the 11+ .......

:cry:


An equally well known fact among panel members of extenuating circumstances in Universities is the alarmingly high mortality rate of beloved grandfathers and grandmothers shortly before or during the univeristy exam period. Suspicions that these were purely because of the warm weather conditions that prevail during the summer period proved unfounded when we moved some of the exams in January and elderly people close to the hearts of our students started dropping dead during the Christmas vacation as well.
The prize for gravest family loss goes to a student who managed to experience the loss of no less than 3 grandmothers during his university years, all during examination periods: according to his statement he was adopted and this explains the slightly higher than average number of grandparents.

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sj355


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