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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2016 10:34 am 
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Is there anyone out there who can offer some advice about whether we have a case to take to the EFA about our recent academy grammar school admission appeal?

1. The Panel's decision letter omitted any reference to the evidence we gave to account for the shortfall in marks - this was a key part of our case and I had thought from the Appeals Code that it should have been addressed in the decision letter to show that it had been taken into account. This leaves me wondering whether they did take that part of our evidence into account or not - they certainly did not ask any questions about it at our hearing which was frustrating and with the benefit of hindsight I wish I had gone back and emphasised it.

In our case, the Panel said that they had read everything and did not ask any relevant questions, so it was difficult to know how to pitch our case. My advice to anyone still to have their hearing is that if the panel do not ask you any relevant questions, why not ask them if they have any further questions on the aspects of your case you think most important. If a panel feels unconvinced about an aspect of your case, it is only fair in my opinion that they should ask you about it, so giving you a chance to explain further.

2. The Panel's dismissal of our appeal seemed to focus on us having weak mitigating circumstances rather than any lack of evidence on academic ability. Leaving aside our concern at 1 above that they might have omitted to take account of part of our case, is this approach correct when the requirement for panels to take account of mitigating circumstances was deleted from the Appeals Code in 2012? I thought the tests in the code were about ability and prejudice only.

Please can either of the moderators or anyone offer else any advice?

Has anyone any experience of bringing a successful complaint? I tend to get the impression that successful cases are few and far between.

Thanks to everyone.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2016 11:33 am 
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A decision letter should summarise your salient points of grounds for appeal and confirm that the panel did take these into account. Why not apply for a copy of the clerk's notes of your appeal so that you can see what they did consider in their deliberations? You should be able to obtain these under the Data Protection Act.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:10 pm 
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JJ2016 wrote:
In our case, the Panel said that they had read everything and did not ask any relevant questions, so it was difficult to know how to pitch our case. My advice to anyone still to have their hearing is that if the panel do not ask you any relevant questions, why not ask them if they have any further questions on the aspects of your case you think most important. If a panel feels unconvinced about an aspect of your case, it is only fair in my opinion that they should ask you about it, so giving you a chance to explain further.

2. The Panel's dismissal of our appeal seemed to focus on us having weak mitigating circumstances rather than any lack of evidence on academic ability. Leaving aside our concern at 1 above that they might have omitted to take account of part of our case, is this approach correct when the requirement for panels to take account of mitigating circumstances was deleted from the Appeals Code in 2012? I thought the tests in the code were about ability and prejudice only.

Please can either of the moderators or anyone offer else any advice?

Has anyone any experience of bringing a successful complaint? I tend to get the impression that successful cases are few and far between.

Thanks to everyone.

Hi,

The big problem that you will have, if you ask for the clerk's notes, is that they will only tell you about your appeal. You may have given plenty of academic ability evidence, but you will never know what the ability of the other children who had appeals was.

I look at all the paperwork I receive, in detail, and make copious notes of my own. I have to convince myself that the ability of the children in the appeals I allow is high enough to cope with that school. Often I find that there are - say - 20 suitable from the appeals, so then look at prejudice against the school, when I find that the prejudice against the school is at '8'. That leave 12 potentially suitable children loosing the appeal.

Of course I do look at any mitigating circumstances as to the result in the test, but even if there were great mitigating circs, if the academic evidence doesn't add up, then they may not win the appeal.

For instance (all very hypothetical), child scored 200 in the 11+ . Pass mark was 230. Granny died the night before the test, and child was so upset they fell down the stairs and broke their leg, but insisted on taking the test the following day. It would be reasonable to assume that they would have scored better. However, the school reports supplied said that for the last couple of years, the child was broadly working at national expectations with maybe one year where they were better in maths, and had mean CAT scores of 106. The child is probably above average, but not a lot.

Compare that with another child who also scored 200. No mitigating circumstances, but the mean CAT score was 122, got 2A's at KS1 sats and school reports consistantly said "working well above national expectations".

If a panel found that the prejudice mean only one could be allowed, which should get the place?

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:28 pm 
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Every time I read that a panel would take into account performance at KS1 my heart sinks. How very sad that performance on tests at age 6 or 7 can be used to write a child off, or, conversely, influence others to assume it will perform well at secondary school. Only in England. Very depressing IMHO.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 4:23 pm 
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I was asked what my DS's KS1 results were at my appeal last week and I just could not honestly remember. I did not realise it would be important - after all boys, especially, can change a lot between 7 and 11. Were they really that important for the current Year 6? I thought they were all teacher assessed so isn't that pretty subjective?


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 6:31 pm 
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There are a number of previous discussions of complaints to the EFA - the most recent from mattsurf is here:

viewtopic.php?f=35&t=45581&p=551781&hilit=EFA#p551781

If you put EFA into the the search facility ( see top of page on the right) with "11 Plus Appeals" as the section it will bring up several more to have a look at.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 9:51 pm 
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Quote:
How very sad that performance on tests at age 6 or 7 can be used to write a child off
We don't believe that a child would ever be "written off" on the basis of KS1 tests. A panel may show some interest in a child's academic record as a whole, and in how that child has progressed - but Y5/6 is usually going to be infinitely more important than Y2. (We say "usually" because there may sometimes be significant extenuating circumstances affecting Y5/6 in particular, in which case attention would be drawn to the period before Y5.)

But let's get back on topic ....... :)
JJ2016 wrote:
Is there anyone out there who can offer some advice about whether we have a case to take to the EFA about our recent academy grammar school admission appeal?

1. The Panel's decision letter omitted any reference to the evidence we gave to account for the shortfall in marks - this was a key part of our case and I had thought from the Appeals Code that it should have been addressed in the decision letter to show that it had been taken into account. This leaves me wondering whether they did take that part of our evidence into account or not - they certainly did not ask any questions about it at our hearing which was frustrating and with the benefit of hindsight I wish I had gone back and emphasised it.
Based on what you've told us, it seems quite possible the EFA would find there to have been a breach of para. 2.25 of the Appeals Code: "The panel must ensure that the decision is easily comprehensible so that the parties can understand the basis on which the decision was made. The decision letter must contain a summary of relevant factors that were raised by the parties and considered by the panel ......"
However, on its own, this is unlikely to amount to a serious injustice, and the only action is likely to be that someone's knuckles get rapped for the quality of the decision letter.

The real issue is whether your main arguments were properly considered, and for that you should follow the advice of an earlier poster, and try to find out what (if anything) the clerk's notes reveal.
http://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appeals/ombudsman#d4

Be aware that, if the school resists making the notes available, the Information Commissioner is overloaded with various cases, and our previous experience is that it might possibly take a year or so for enforcement action to be taken!

In this situation it might be preferable to go ahead with a complaint to the EFA, and trust them to do the investigating. They will certainly get hold of a copy of the clerk's notes, although they are unlikely to share them with you, so the process will be less transparent.

Quote:
2. The Panel's dismissal of our appeal seemed to focus on us having weak mitigating circumstances rather than any lack of evidence on academic ability. Leaving aside our concern at 1 above that they might have omitted to take account of part of our case, is this approach correct when the requirement for panels to take account of mitigating circumstances was deleted from the Appeals Code in 2012? I thought the tests in the code were about ability and prejudice only.
It might be worth querying this, but the absence of extenuating circumstances from the Appeals Code isn't quite the same thing as a prohibition.
The key issue is whether the clerk's notes show that the panel did give proper consideration to the case you put forward.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:48 am 
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Thank you to everyone for their comments and advice.

Our appeal was thoroughly depressing. We felt that there was no interest at all in our case and the panel only asked a few questions, one of no relevance to our appeal and two for which the answer was there right in front on them already. It would have felt a fair appeal if they had probed if any doubt about ability and suitability but the panel did not ask a single question on this.

Interestingly, the clerk in our appeal intimated that panels are looking for 5As at the end of year 5, we had 5B/5C levels at the end of year 5 (which we know from experience with our other child are normally indicative of a child on track to achieve good strong KS2 results). But the requirement for 5As in year 5 is in my mind unrealistic because it would mean that those children would then go on to achieve level 6 in each of the core subjects by the end of year 6. But this is not supported by the KS2 results which shows that only a very, very low proportion of pupils ever achieve level 6 in all 3 core subjects. On this basis, there would not be enough potential pupils to fill all the grammar places that are available, if level 6 across all subjects was the required standard.

Lessons learned: be sure to make some form of statement about addressing the shortfall if you can. If there are just filler questions from the panel, why not ask them directly if they have any concerns they wish to discuss? If I could have my time again, this is most certainly what I would do, because if you get little interest or relevant questions from the Panel, you can be sure you've already lost the case and this might be your only hope of getting the panel to listen. In our case, we knew that the Panel had already prejudged the situation, otherwise they would have probed more if they genuinely were interested.

Thanks, I hope others might benefit from our lessons learned.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:55 pm 
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JJ2016 wrote:
..... if you get little interest or relevant questions from the Panel, you can be sure you've already lost the case .....
This may have been your experience, but one cannot really generalise. At the other extreme, there are probably going to be panels that seem disengaged, because they've already found the appellant's written case to be so persuasive!

In either situation, though, one would have hoped that, with a good panel, at least 1 or 2 of its members ought to be able to come up with some sensible questions.

Quote:
But the requirement for 5As in year 5 is in my mind unrealistic .......
It does seem 'over the top'!
With the benefit of hindsight, this would be best tackled at stage 1 (Questions to the Admission Authority):
"What percentage of your pupils in recent years entered Y7 with 5As in both English and maths?
Do you have any evidence showing what proportion of these pupils had already reached 5a standard at the end of Y5?"

It might be an idea to get this sort of information out of the school in advance of the appeal, quoting the Freedom of Information Act, so that they cannot claim at stage 1 that they "don't know".

If the facts do not bear out the view that 5As in Y5 are necessary for grammar school suitability, the panel is at risk of breaching 3.14 of the Appeals Code:
      Quote:
      3.14 ....... the panel must not devise its own methods to assess suitability for a grammar school place unrelated to the evidence provided for the hearing. [my bold print]

Quote:
Interestingly, the clerk in our appeal intimated that panels are looking for 5As at the end of year 5
This sounds as if it may have been a private comment outside the appeals room - or was it stated explicitly during the hearing?
Even if it was said outside of the hearing, how categorical was "intimated"?

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2016 5:23 pm 
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Moderators wrote:
Quote:
How very sad that performance on tests at age 6 or 7 can be used to write a child off
We don't believe that a child would ever be "written off" on the basis of KS1 tests. A panel may show some interest in a child's academic record as a whole, and in how that child has progressed - but Y5/6 is usually going to be infinitely more important than Y2. (We say "usually" because there may sometimes be significant extenuating circumstances affecting Y5/6 in particular, in which case attention would be drawn to the period before Y5.)


The amount of evidence parents submit varies from 1 page on the back of the appeals form, through to 100's of pages. Some might send the Y5 school report, others every report since reception (along with samples of work). Some school reports give marks for attainment and effort, others just for effort.

Some will submit Y2 SATs, but most won't; quite a few don't submit any previous year or predicted SATs. A few primaries will send some kind of reference - be it a couple of lines saying that DD is a lovely child to teach, through to estimated SATS and Y5 CAT's.

We have to take everything into account, but how much weight we give to any one piece of evidence provided is very much down to each individual panalist.

Very, very occasionally, having read the paperwork, I feel like saying "go away" to the parents as soon as they enter the room, because on paper they have either such a good case, or absolutely no hope of winning. But a) I don't say that, and b) it's just as well, really, because you'd be surprised how many times we change our initial minds from what's been said at the hearing. :?

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