Lessons Learned - Part 1
I cannot stress how important it is to know the School Admission Appeals Code 2012.
No matter how strong you believe your case to be, you need present your case with direct reference to specific clauses in the appeal code. In our case, our DD became unwell during the 11+, there was no prior warning, but she did not tell the invigilating team. We followed the book on the day, we informed the school, we wrote a letter explaining the situation obtained a note from the doctor. Unfortunately, she failed the 11+ by 2 marks
In our original appeal, we did bring a letter from her school, together with predicted SATs, reading age, spelling age etc (we did not have and CATs). At the appeal, the school very effectively analysed DD's 11+ papers to demonstrate that she was not of sufficient academic ability - however, none of this forensic analysis had been provided to us ahead of the appeal (apparently they were contextualizing their case). The school also pointed out that there was lots of opportunity for DD to speak to a member of the invigilating team (There were specific reasons why this was not possible).
We were incredibly naive, we should have asked to stop the appeal when the school started to read out its "new" case - however, we did not and were therefore unable to question the school effectively about their case. At today's appeal we were much more effective in challenging the school's case. The appeal panel directed the questions exclusively towards the circumstances of the illness on the day; if we had known the code better we would have been able to point out that the current version of the code no longer refers to mitigating circumstances, however, the onus is to prove that there is sufficient academic evidence to demonstrate that the child is of grammar school ability. The original appeal panel did not want to talk about evidence of academic ability, even when we tried to engage them on the topic.
Ultimately, the reason given in the decision letter was that our DD had ample opportunity to talk to the invigilating staff, she did not demonstrate any particular strength in any subject (she missed the pass mark by 2 points), and that her 11+ mark indicated that she was not of a sufficient academic standard. Other evidence of academic ability, L5 and L6 predictions in SATs, L5 Sats at the end of yr5, reading age, spelling age etc, were all ignored.
Had we known the code, we would have raised a concern that the same panel had heard hearings for the school for many years (hence ceasing to be independent), we would have tied our case to specific sections of the code, we would have had it put on record that the panel did not follow the code by asking repeatedly about the illness and not about evidence of academic ability and we would have demanded more time to review the school's case.
One of the "Game Changers" that we missed was the examination timings. We did not ask for the event logs, or exam timings on the day; had we asked for these, we would have seen that the English paper had been stopped early by 1 to 2 minutes. Don't be embarrassed to ask to see details, no matter how strong you believe your case to be
Don't be bullied, if you are not comfortable with the way that the appeal is proceeding, ask for it to be adjourned or postponed, it is your right and the clerk must accommodate any reasonable request.
My final advice is possibly the most important. before you sit your appeal, contact the clerk with the following line:
"if the school intends to present or say anything that is not contained within the case that the school has already provided to us, please ensure that we have copies of the text or script ahead of the appeal"
We did this on our final appeal and were provided (very late) with some essential information