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 Post subject: Some useful information
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:23 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 09, 2010 9:30 am
Posts: 2
Dear Parents,

We are parents who went through this appeal process last year. We know how stressful it is and we really wish you all the very best of luck.

After much thought we have decided to post on this website a short synopsis of our own journey through the Bucks appeal system, in the hope that it will hearten parents rather than throw things for you.

Our daughter has always been amongst the top achievers in her class. She had no professional coaching for her 11+ and got 117 and 118. Her current and past primary schools gave her maximum support and both Head Teachers expressed in their letters of support incredulity at how such an able child could not pass the exam. She had a reading age of 2.5 years over her real age, she was working at level 5 in all three subjects from the beginning of year 6 and she had been on the Gifted and Talented Register during her entire primary school. She failed on appeal. Her rejection was unanimous. She went on to be first in her class in the SATs tests and on the 93 percentile of ability in her MidYIS test, one of the most reliable tests of academic potential.

After much hand wringing at home we decided that it was in the best interest of our child to do two things: to prepare her confidently for her transfer to secondary school so that even though we felt it was an inappropriate school for her, she would feel positive about going there. At the same time we would question in every way we possibly could a decision which we felt was profoundly wrong. We felt that a selection system which causes so much stress in children and their families should have as its redeeming feature that there are very, very few mistakes. In fact, at our school alone, there were 4 children out of a class of 34 who were blatantly obvious ‘grammar school material’ who ended up going to the secondary modern. The appeals system is meant to calibrate an imprecise test and in our opinion does so inefficiently and ineffectively.

We then took it upon ourselves to research every aspect of the appeals system and to pursue every avenue of complaint. Our journey has taken us past the Ombudsman three times, numerous County Councillors, countless civil servants in the Council, the Department of Children, Schools and Families and the Information Commissioner’s Office. We have had the unstinting support of our MP John Bercow who has been absolutely fantastic from day one. We have also scoured our family and friends for people who knew something about the issues we were dealing with and we now have a team of people helping us.

Quite a lot of the issues we have been dealing with are still confidential and as our daughter’s schooling is still not resolved, we want to tread very carefully in what we share with parents as we need to give the County Council every opportunity to set things right. However, there is one aspect of the appeal process that is quite straight forwardly wrong that we can share with you.

In your case papers you will find a table that shows the number of children who were recommended at each level vs the children who passed the test. This table contravenes Data Protection legislation. When data about you or your child are published you should be aware that the data exist. In this case most of the parents of the children who appear in the table are not aware the Head Teacher was ever asked to make recommendations on all the children in the class. This issue is exacerbated by two things:
a. the number of children in the table is usually quite small (less than a hundred but more often far less than that) and these are lots of children you know
b. there are two different sets of data in the table which makes it easier to identify individual children. Four children in our school’s table were immediately identifiable and by the end of the appeal process we had worked out with little effort the Head Teacher recommendation of every child in the class.
This means that data that parents were not aware existed have been released to a small subset of parents and panels without their knowledge. This is not allowed.
The second Data Protection issue is a generic one: when releasing anonymous data as done in this table, there is a standard rule that says it is unsafe to do so when numbers are smaller than 5. So, in this case 10 (5) is allowed but 10(4) and 10(6) are not. The former as it has a number smaller than 5 and the second because the two numbers are related and therefore it also has a number smaller than 5 in it.

The Council has been aware of the Data Protection issue for several years (this set of data has gone through several incarnations) and was told by its own Data Protection Officer in September 2009 to make changes. One straightforward change would be to notify all parents in their results letter in November what information would be shown to panels and to give parents an opt out clause if they did not want their child included in the tables – this is standard Data Protection practice. As far as we are aware this was not done. Secondly, the Council should simply not show any figures lower than 5 as it is in explicit breach of Data Protection. John Bercow MP has now written to the Information Commissioner about this issue, as the Council appears to make no effort to resolve it. It is in our eyes unacceptable to run an appeals process in which a key piece of evidence from the LEA is in breach of the Data Protection Act.

It is not our role to advise parents what to do, but we think it would be unwise for parents to mention this information at their appeal hearing. The LEA is aware of the issue and it will only get proceedings off to a bad start and might even prompt the chairman of the panel to halt the hearing. However, if you get turned down and want to take your case further, it is important that you are aware of this issue.

Good luck to all of you!

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:48 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 7:10 pm
Posts: 8762
Location: Buckinghamshire
Hi Parents 08/09

Thank you for taking so much time to post that information, and I have the greatest admiration for you for having pursued the concerns that you had about your appeal.

I wish your daughter the best of luck in future.

Best wishes


 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2010 2:23 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:40 pm
Posts: 359
Location: Chiltern District, Bucks
Interesting post - thanks.

Not a big point but the "less than 5" point draws me back to the general spreadsheet of 11+ results which is released under FOI in Autumn (for the previous year). In that spreadsheet there are 3 particular columns which are

1. "Number of Pupils on Roll for application process"
2. "Number of Pupils withdrawn from 11+ test"
3. "Number of Pupils registered to take 11+ test"

For some schools, it looks something like:

1. 31
2. <5
3. 30

However the <5 is clearly superfluous as one can easily work out the real number (31-30 = 1)

Mind you, that spreadsheet is also flawed in that the columns for independent schools and OOCs should be labelled differently (but aren't). For them, column 1 should say something like "Number of pupils who express an interest in taking the 11+". Column 3 should say "Number of pupils who actually sat the 11+ test". That leaves Column 2 which should say something like "Number of pupils who expressed an interest but later withdrew before taking the test".

The point being that the spreadsheet currently gives a misleading impression that, for independents/OoCs, Column 1 shows ALL those who are on the roll at those schools and are of the right age to take the 11+. That's what it does for all state schools in the list so it's an easy mistake to make.

This flaw can lead some commentators to assume that to get a legitimate pass rate for independents/OoCs (directly comparable to state schools' pass rate), all one has to do is divide the number who passed by the number in either Column 1 or 3.

But you can't because the numbers mean different things for the different types of school.

Have I lost you yet ? :lol:

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