Time I gave something back, having been a lurker for the past 6 months!!
Our child scored 120 / 117 in the bucks 11+, had absolutely no support what so ever from our bucks headteacher (HT) and not surprisingly our child's selection review was not successful. The IAP hearing was yesterday... we have no idea how it went, but wanted to post our experience now before our impression is swayed by the result! Hopefully others may find it of use in the future, as we have found so much of the information offered on this totally addictive, not to mention brilliant website / forum. So...
• 1. Local Authority area in which the appeal took place: Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire
• 2. What you were appealing against? non-qualification (and oversubscription IF successful at 1st (FCO) & 2nd (Qualification) stage!).
• 3. Name of school you were appealing for: Royal Latin School
• 4. Was this a school where the governors are the admission authority? Yes - academy
• 5. Approx. date of appeal hearing: 10/05/13
• 6. How many days in advance of the hearing, including weekends, did you receive the case papers? 9 days
• 7. Where was the appeal held? County Hall, Aylesbury
• 8a. Did your individual hearing start more or less on time? No
• 8b. If not, how late was it in starting? 40 mins
• 9. What sort of independent appeal panel did you have?
• c. A Local Authority appointed panel acting at the request of the school? - because it's an academy, foundation or VA school where the governors are the admission authority, and they 'hired' a panel from the LA.
• 10. Who was on the panel? A retired business man (who is a Chair of Governors of a school), a mum of two (who is a parent governor) and a retired mother of 5 who has no knowledge of the bucks school system who worked for a mental health charity. (They had 6 cases to hear on the day, one every hour / 3 either side of lunch)
• 11. Was there a group hearing? No
• 12. Did the appeal follow the recommended order of business? Yes
• 13a. Had your case already been considered by a Review Panel? Yes
• 13b. If so, were you told that, because your case had already been reviewed, the only issue for the appeal panel was whether the review had been conducted properly? Yes but the panel did assure us they would be considering all the evidence put towards them in making that judgement.
• 14. What questions were you asked about your case?
Questions relating to special needs - evidence which could not be produced in time for the review.
Questions relating to progress and levels of attainment - specifically relating to the accuracy of the evidence supplied by the HT for the review / recommendation.
Were there any siblings, (Yes eldest of 4)
Did we have any concerns regards the pressure put on children at a Grammar school. (no)
Were all the test questions answered / how did our child feel after the test/ was there time to go back and check the answers ?
• 15. What were the panel like?
Official but friendly and seemed genuinely concerned by some of the evidence presented.
• 16. As far as you know, was the representative of the admission authority left alone with the panel at any point in time? No
• 17. Were you asked at the end of the hearing whether you had had sufficient time to state your case? Yes
• 18. Did you feel rushed? Yes and No – The fair, consistent and objective hurdle was a clear annoyance imposed on the panel. We could have gone into miniscule detail to argue the case and were encouraged not to do so, as we had already covered specific evidence we had relating to our specific case :-
We would not have applied for a Selection Review (SR) had we known we could wait for an Independent Appeal (IP) – misleading advice from LA / HT - had been told by the HT we would not be successful at the SR but it was the only option available, (evidenced by info sent out with test results, RLS admissions policy – section read out which is identical to wording in the HT manual) The Admissions rep conceded it was vague and not as clear as it should have been. The clerk interrupted quoting the number who were appealing who had not gone to a SR (i think 30 out of 160 cases approx.) saying some people knew! – I should have pointed out they may have been told in December they had no chance of success at a SR and accepted there child would not be going to a grammar, but now 6 months on they may have new evidence to support their case and are giving it a ‘nothing to loose attempt’... but i didn't think quick enough!! ( The clerk also asked that we did not take any notes then accepted we could by hand, but not on an Ipad!?!)
10 working days is not enough time to get an appointment with an Ed psych, to have a lengthy assessment carried out (6-7 hrs) and for the Ed psych to analyse data, write and issue a comprehensive report and so we were unable to give weight to our extenuation circumstances – Our child has high functioning autistic spectrum disorder (ASD)
The evidence supplied by the HT was not accurate and did not fairly represent our child – the SAT’s levels were lower than now expected, the language used on the review form was distinctly cold and our child was not included on the advanced recommendation form at all (4.2)! We had evidence to indicate this lack of support / recommendation was not fair or consistent with the cohort (analysis of the matrix recommendation data verses child's position within ability sets, inclusion on AGT programme – why if intellectually challenged, 2012 league table data % of children level 5 in Maths and English and also in other subjects, % passing 11+ in 2012 cohort v 2013 - over twice the number this year). We also had written evidence from the HT of a discrepancy between the yr 5 report and HT data. (HT claimed for SR her data was correct and the report was an error – now SAT’s levels indicate the report was accurate after all!)
It was clear to the IAP the reason given by the HT on the review form for not giving our child a recommendation was an excuse and totally conflicted with the matrix evidence. (The HT had stated on the review form our child was not recommended as our child was not performing in the top 25% of the year group – the matrix evidence indicated 53% received a positive recommendation with 62% included on the recommendation form (Very high performing state school!!).
We suggested the personality traits (ASD) may have been a factor in the non recommendation... yes that would be discrimination ~(we refrained from mentioning the big ‘D’ word)!!
We also quoted the ombudsman's advice that they consider the HT is acting as an officer of the LA in submitting evidence (pg. 19 HT manual). In our opinion therefore the HT is fundamentally part of the process ~ – arguing if the HT evidence was proved to be not FCO then the process as a whole could not be viewed as FCO even if later procedures had been followed.
Gently reminded the panel of their duty to ensure natural justice for our child.
We actually spent relatively little time talking about the academic evidence itself but rather the circumstance surrounding it. The chairman said our submission contained updated levels which they would consider (5B – Maths, Science, Reading and AGT - ICT) and did we have anything extra to add...
We discussed English writing, as this is the weak area (level 4) and suggested we believe specific targets were holding back progress which were linked to the ASD i.e how can a child effectively write about a characters ‘feelings’ and ‘interaction’ between characters if this is an area the child struggles with in real life (abnormalities in verbal communication and social interaction).
We highlighted no additional support has been given at the current school to date (taken off IEP in yr3 when our child joined the school as our child was / is not disruptive and was / has made good progress – we explained in hindsight our child should not have been taken off the IEP (ASD doesn't just go away!) and explained up until yr 6 it had not been necessary to give a label.
We suggested with extra support all levels including writing may have been higher.
We highlighted our child’s poor handwriting (common with many ASD children). Our child's school is totally inflexible – ALL KS2 children write in pen therefore it’s not easy to re-structure sentences without work looking a total mess. We suggested our child had learnt to prioritise presentation over content. Extra hand writing lessons were given as a solution (in yr 3,4,5 and 6!) no alternatives were offered i.e to use a pencil or a keyboard (even though our child has been able to touch type since year 3/4!) We highlighted that the mechanics of writing – grammar, punctuation , spelling were sound and took the target book, literacy & big write book for evidence.
We highlighted Bucks grammar schools don't consider English writing a measure of ability but rather a measure of attainment ( CEM consultation Q&A – no 46)
We highlighted the RLS SEN policy which confirms literacy catch up sessions for sub level 5 literacy students - which suggests some students regularly pass the test with lower levels in this subject. Therefore we believe it would not be consistent (relative to children who pass the test) to refuse qualification purely on writing.
We also looked at the test analysis - the panel confirmed no areas of weakness just one too many silly mistakes (VRTS 120 / 117) and we linked the results back to the new extenuating circumstances evidence (ASD – changes to routine at home – dad called away suddenly, school timetable changed due to tests and start of a new academic year - still adjusting to new teachers, worrying in test situations - confirmed by teacher etc)
Discussed exceptional progress - in KS1 (under the circumstances – very poor speech and language skills and disruptive). In KS2 has made 2 full and 2 sub levels since KS1 in all subjects, in the middle sets (which don't progress as well as top and bottom – evidenced by league tables)
We thanked the panel for their time, apologised that the case was so complicated and that their lunch break would be very short as a result! We confirmed we had asked the HT to provide updated evidence and a few lines in support of our case (on headed paper) but that the school had been unable to accommodate our request and so we had no option but to include the entire email thread relating to our child’s current academic data, as it was our only evidence (to which they smiled!).
• 19. How long did the hearing last? 1hr 20mins
• 20. Were you told you could telephone for the decision? No – by letter within 5 working days
• 21. If you have the result, was your appeal successful? Don't know the result yet! Successful at FCO stage but unfortunately not successful at qualification... writing level just too low I guess !
• 22. How long did you have to wait for the decision, including weekends? TBC
• 23. Success rates for appeals for this school (if applicable, and if known):
• a. on this occasion no idea
• b. in previous years no idea
• 24. Any other comments: Regardless of the outcome of our case my advice would be...... be realistic of your child's abilities but also trust your instinct. Mistakes and misjudgements do happen even by very experienced and well respected professional members of the teaching community! Professionals are people and some people will never admit when they have made a mistake! I would hope our child's case is exceptionally rare! With regards to the 11+ always follow up any verbal discussion had with the school by email to confirm what was said and always query any discrepancies you believe to exist in writing / by email. You really don't know at the time how important a hasty, poorly conceived reply will be! As the moderators of this forum continually say evidence, evidence, evidence!