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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2014 4:05 pm 
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My appeal hearing is on Monday and I thought I was organised, but have just heard something which has thrown me off-kilter a little.

The neighbour of a friend prepares the paperwork for the appeals panel. Whilst he of course couldn’t discuss my son’s particular case, he said he could give her some general advice. A couple of things he said, however, are causing me concern.

1. He said that the Appeals Panel will take academic history for years 4-5 into account. My son was really unlucky with his teachers in reception to year 2. They were all elderly (all since retired) and I feel merely went through the motions, especially with maths. Then, in year 3, two teachers shared his class, whose attention was divided between their teaching and other duties. By the time he got to year 4 he was barely on the average line for maths (although he was quite a way above in English). Luckily, he had a really enthusiastic teacher in her first position who engaged my son in maths and pushed him to his full potential and this has continued with his teacher through years 5 and 6, meaning that he has improved in maths by four sub-levels per year since then as opposed to the average of two. He is now at the levels in English and Maths indicated by the School as being the level most children who pass the entrance exam are at when they take their SATS, ie, of the required academic standards.

2. He also said that successful appellants almost always failed the entrance exam due to illness or bereavement, with hard evidence being produced to support such. He said that extenuating circumstances and proving them is what I should be focussing on more than anything else at the hearing, eg, saying that a child couldn’t cope with the pressure would carry no weight at all, because it couldn’t be proved. Unfortunately, I don’t have any hard evidence to ‘prove’ the reasons I have put forward for him failing.

Up until now I had been working on the basis that an appeal is satisfied if the two criteria in the Schools Admissions Appeals Code are satisfied, ie:

• Firstly that there is evidence to demonstrate that the child is of the required academic standard. Ie, present tense, not was at any particular point or has consistently been during his primary school years, but is at the moment.

• Secondly that, if the above is satisfied, that the prejudice to the child of non-admittance should outweigh the prejudice to the school of admittance.

There is nothing saying that the appeal should also be judged on extenuating circumstances and I am worried that, even if the panel decide that the two criteria are satisfied, they will reject my appeal if the extenuating circumstances are not good enough. Or that they will reject it just because his results in years 4 and 5 weren’t brilliant. Really, what does it matter what level he was at in the past if he is at the same level as his peers when he starts at the school?

I have read your sticky concerning extenuating circumstances and see that you say (in reply to mystery’s first post about whether a panel may dismiss an appeal because there is no particular reason that they didn’t do well enough in the test) that you hope that isn’t happening, but I am worried from what my friend’s neighbour said that it is.

To my mind, the code should apply exactly as it is written. Surely if they make their judgment on how the child performed previously, rather than what standard they are at now, or decide to reject the appeal on the basis that the extenuating circumstances aren’t good enough, they are in breach of code 3.14?

I am wondering whether I should ask the clerk to clarify the position at the beginning of the appeal, as though I am trying to understand, but also as a way of clarifying to the panel what they should really be concentrating on?

I would really appreciate anyone’s thoughts on this. Am beginning to panic!


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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2014 5:03 pm 
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Welcome! :)

Before I try and answer, could you give a bit more information?

Which area is this? If you prefer to keep the answer confidential, you can email it to the confidential Appeals Box:
viewtopic.php?f=35&t=9907

How close to the qualifying score was your son?

Is the school an academy?

Is it organising its own appeals, or are you facing a Local Authority panel?

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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2014 5:46 pm 
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Thank you for such a quick reply Etienne. I have emailed the Appeals Box as suggested with answers to your questions. :)


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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2014 7:19 pm 
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everything crossed wrote:
1. He said that the Appeals Panel will take academic history for years 4-5 into account.
Years 5-6 seem to me most important, and especially recent progress.

However, there's nothing to stop a panel going further back, and some are even known to ask about KS1 levels (presumably on the basis that level 3s in Y2 correlate reasonably well with level 5s in Y6).

Having said that, not all children move forward in uniform steps, and I would suggest most recent progress is arguably what really matters.

Quote:
He said that extenuating circumstances and proving them is what I should be focussing on more than anything else at the hearing
The Code doesn't prevent an appeal panel from considering extenuating circumstances - and if there is evidence to back these up, they could indeed carry more weight that they might otherwise do.

However, to focus on extenuating circumstances "more than anything else" does sound to me 'over the top'.

The problem with schools running their own appeals, and a limited pool of panel members, is that idiosyncracies sometimes creep into the system!

Quote:
I am wondering whether I should ask the clerk to clarify the position at the beginning of the appeal, as though I am trying to understand, but also as a way of clarifying to the panel what they should really be concentrating on?
Telling a panel what to concentrate on could be a high risk strategy! :?
It might be safer to make the point indirectly. Perhaps you could politely ask "Before I begin - as far as the qualification part of the appeal is concerned, could I just clarify that I'm correct in thinking the one criterion in the Code is that there has to be evidence the child is of the "required academic standard"?

When you present your case, I suggest you concede "My son hasn't progressed in uniform steps because of difficulties he faced early on" (don't go into details at this point - let them ask questions later if they want to).

You could then go on to point out that as evidence of those "circumstances" he was achieving only levels 2s (?) at KS1, whereas since year 4 "he has come on in leaps and bounds, improving in maths by four sub-levels per year, and is now at the levels in English and Maths indicated by the School as being the level most children who pass the entrance exam are at when they take KS2".

I'd normally advise giving the panel as much academic evidence as possible:
http://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appeal ... cation#b11
- but this is on the not unreasonable assumption that an appeal panel knows what it's doing ...... :?

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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 6:07 am 
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Thank you very much for your comments Etienne. Unfortunately, not quite what I was hoping to hear with regard to the extenuating circumstances, especially as I remembered after posting my query that in addition to what my friend’s neighbour said, the headmaster also said in an email to me that “the parents would usually need to convince the panel that circumstances prevented the child performing to their potential in addition to the other two requirements”.

I appreciate that telling a panel what to concentrate on would not be wise. I didn’t phrase it very well, but what I meant was that perhaps I could ask a question of the clerk at the beginning which would mean that his answer, whilst not directed at the panel, might mean they think of something in a new light. Ie, could I say something like:

“Before I begin, could I just clarify whether the success of my appeal rests solely on me justifying to the panel that both criterion laid out at 3.13(a) of the School Admissions Appeals Code are satisfied as, if so, I don’t want to waste the panel’s time by referring to matters not appertaining to those two points?”

Presumably, he will then confirm that only those two criterion should form the basis of the panel’s decision, which would hopefully have the side-effect of re-affirming to the panel what they should be basing their decision on. This would of course mean that I would have to miss out the part of my dialogue relating to the extenuating circumstances, but the points are summarised in my appeal letter and the panel could always ask me for further details.

I also have another quick question not relevant to the above. I have prepared a table for myself of the questions I want to ask the panel, leaving a blank box under each question where I can make a note of the response. As I understand it, only the clerk takes notes and I was wondering whether it would be helpful to give him a copy of this question list. Some of my questions contain pertinent points and I think that if I was to do this, I could be sure that when the panel reviews the notes these points are accurately re-iterated. What do you think?


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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 10:33 am 
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Sorry Etienne, just one more question. Do you know where I might be able to find details of the school's net capacity set by the LEA before it converted to an academy, at which time it of course set its own? I have trawled the internet, but all I have found is a 2009 post on your forum saying that it said in the school's case for non-admission that the net capacity for the year was 126 and reference in the Council's Infrastructure Planning Evidence Based Report dated June 2013 to the net capacity for the whole school as at May 2011 being 885. The school said that when they converted to an academy in January 2011, the net capacity was set at 828 so I am not quite sure why the Council's report says that it was the higher figure in May of that year, 4 months later. Do you think the figures were late being updated and the 885 was the previous net capacity that had been set by the LEA? If I ring the DfE, do you think they will be able to give me the info?


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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 6:07 pm 
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Quote:
“Before I begin, could I just clarify whether the success of my appeal rests solely on me justifying to the panel that both criterion laid out at 3.13(a) of the School Admissions Appeals Code are satisfied as, if so, I don’t want to waste the panel’s time by referring to matters not appertaining to those two points?”
That doesn't seem unreasonable - but it all hinges on the one word "solely", and on what the clerk might record in the official notes at this point.

I'm not sure what the response would be. Personally I think the correct answer should be "Those two criteria must be met, but the panel will consider any relevant matters you wish to bring to their attention."

In the light of the headteacher's email, another possibility would be to say that you're a bit confused by what he's written about extenuating circumstances. (Admittedly, he uses the word "usually" and doesn't go so far as to state that extenuating circumstances count "more than anything else".)

As you can see, I would draw a very clear distinction between extenuating circumstances counting "more than anything else", and extenuating circumstances as a 'relevant matter'.

It's arguably a relevant matter because, if the child is indeed bright and academically suitable, it begs the question why he underperformed on the day - and the further away from the qualifying score he is, the more justified a panel could be in posing this question.

Quote:
I also have another quick question not relevant to the above. I have prepared a table for myself of the questions I want to ask the panel, leaving a blank box under each question where I can make a note of the response. As I understand it, only the clerk takes notes and I was wondering whether it would be helpful to give him a copy of this question list. Some of my questions contain pertinent points and I think that if I was to do this, I could be sure that when the panel reviews the notes these points are accurately re-iterated. What do you think?
It's actually very helpful if you give the clerk a copy of your questions and presentation (although I appreciate you may have to keep your options open with regard to the presentation).

However, I think the panel will refer to their own notes at the decision making stage - I doubt they will refer to what you give the clerk.

The advantage of providing the clerk with a copy is that, in the event of your wanting to make a complaint at a later date, you're not wholly dependent on the clerk's notes - there will be alternative evidence of some of what was said.

Quote:
the net capacity for the year was 126
Net capacity is a measurement of how many pupils the whole school can accommodate, so I don't quite understand "net capacity for the year". There is an 'indicated admission number' (IAN) for the year, which is derived from the net capacity assessment.

Quote:
The school said that when they converted to an academy in January 2011, the net capacity was set at 828
It sounds as if this could have been the capacity figure in the funding agreement with the DfE (as opposed to the net capacity).

Quote:
If I ring the DfE, do you think they will be able to give me the info?
You ought to be able to get the information from the LA and/or the school. Start with a polite request to the LA. If necessary, you could then put in writing that you're making this request under the Freedom of Information Act.

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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 9:36 pm 
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Thank you once again for replying Etienne.

Quote:
I'm not sure what the response would be. Personally I think the correct answer should be "Those two criteria must be met, but the panel will consider any relevant matters you wish to bring to their attention."


Ok, so to clarify, if the two criteria are definitely met, are they still allowed to reject the appeal because the other relevant matters brought to their attention aren't good enough?

Quote:
It's actually very helpful if you give the clerk a copy of your questions and presentation (although I appreciate you may have to keep your options open with regard to the presentation).

However, I think the panel will refer to their own notes at the decision making stage - I doubt they will refer to what you give the clerk.


I hadn't realised the panel took their own notes too, but thought the Clerk took notes for their reference. Would it be helpful if I gave copies of my questions and presentation to them too?

Quote:
Net capacity is a measurement of how many pupils the whole school can accommodate, so I don't quite understand "net capacity for the year". There is an 'indicated admission number' (IAN) for the year, which is derived from the net capacity assessment.


Sorry if I wasn't being clear enough. I got the figure of 126 from an old post on the forum which said "it is stated that although the Net Capacity is 126 to admit over 120 would be prejudicial ..." The person posting was quoting from the School's Case for Non Admission. When I put "for the year", I meant for year 7 as opposed to the capacity for the whole school.

Quote:
Quote:
The school said that when they converted to an academy in January 2011, the net capacity was set at 828
It sounds as if this could have been the capacity figure in the funding agreement with the DfE (as opposed to the net capacity).


To quote from this year's School's Case for Non Admission "On conversion to an Academy in January 2011, the Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State set the Net Capacity of the school at 828".

I am confused as to why the Council's document states that the net capacity in May 2011 was 885, but can only assume this was the previous LEA capacity and they hadn't updated it in their document (although by June 2013, you would have thought they would have known the correct figure). Do you agree that 885 was probably the LEA net capacity figure?

Quote:
You ought to be able to get the information from the LA and/or the school. Start with a polite request to the LA. If necessary, you could then put in writing that you're making this request under the Freedom of Information Act.


Thank you, I will try ringing the county council tomorrow. The problem I have now is time, so if they won't tell me it will be too late to request the information under the FIA. I have already emailed the person who signs off as "For the Appeals Clerk" at the school as she has been very helpful up until now. However, they are of course closed for half term and I don't know if she will have time to reply before I have to leave to go to the Appeal on Monday.


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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 10:29 pm 
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Quote:
Ok, so to clarify, if the two criteria are definitely met, are they still allowed to reject the appeal because the other relevant matters brought to their attention aren't good enough?
In those explicit terms, I wouldn't have risked it! :)

If they were to state explicitly that your son was academically suitable, but they were refusing the appeal for lack of extenuating circumstances, it would be worth a challenge to the EFA.

However, decision letters can be carefully worded ......


Quote:
I hadn't realised the panel took their own notes too, but thought the Clerk took notes for their reference. Would it be helpful if I gave copies of my questions and presentation to them too?
My experience of panels was that they were already drowning in paperwork, and weren't keen to have more!
It's different for the clerk because he/she is responsible for the official record of the hearing.


Quote:
Sorry if I wasn't being clear enough. I got the figure of 126 from an old post on the forum which said "it is stated that although the Net Capacity is 126 to admit over 120 would be prejudicial ..." The person posting was quoting from the School's Case for Non Admission. When I put "for the year", I meant for year 7 as opposed to the capacity for the whole school.
I think the original poster was using the wrong terms. I suspect 126 was the IAN.


Quote:
To quote from this year's School's Case for Non Admission "On conversion to an Academy in January 2011, the Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State set the Net Capacity of the school at 828".
I've a feeling the figure in the funding agreement should be "capacity" rather than "net capacity". Net capacity is based on a formula. Capacity in the funding agreement is just an agreed figure.

(I would accept that for converter academies, the two figures usually seem to be similar if not identical.)

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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 11:23 pm 
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Quote:
I think the original poster was using the wrong terms. I suspect 126 was the IAN.


You are right Etienne. I hadn't heard of IAN before and when I googled that it directed me to the previous page of the same post where another poster had written that it was the IAN which was 126.

Just want to thank you so much for all your help, not just in regard to your replies to my post, but also to all the helpful information which is on the website (which I have spent much time trawling through, picking out the bits relevant to my case). This site has steered me through what would otherwise have been an uphill struggle and, thanks to you, no matter what happens I will not spend the next few years berating myself for letting my son down, as I know that all bases are covered (at least as far as it is possible to do so) and there really is nothing more I can do. Que sera sera.


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