This is the 2013 thread.
Not everything will necessarily remain the same in 2014.
We have no way of knowing for certain what changes might be made this year, so I doubt whether we will be in a position to update our guidance before the end of February or early March 2014 at the earliest. (Don't worry - although you would be invited to appeal in early March, you can return the form saying "Details of case to follow" if you need more time.)
http://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/appeal ... cation#b53
In 2013 Sally-Anne and I argued quite strongly that we thought it unlawful for parents to be told categorically they had to go through a review if they wanted to keep open the option of an independent appeal. We were even attacked on the forum for doing so!
It was belatedly conceded that we were entirely right, and we note that this time the correct position was made clear by Admissions, so parents will find it harder to argue that they felt 'forced' into a review.
Last year many parents complained on the forum that the clerk's notes of their review were utterly inadequate. In reality this made it easier for them to argue that there was no evidence the review process had been 'fair, consistent & objective'. It would be a reasonable guess that this year there will be an effort to improve the review clerk's notes!
It can be seen, therefore, that some of the arguments in the coming year could change.
6/2/2014(a) Introduction to GS Appeals, 2013(a)1
. The reason for this sticky is that, following the introduction of Selection Reviews, appeals in Bucks (some of them, anyway!) are going to be more complicated than in the past!
What follows includes our
advice, based on our understanding of appeals. It's a 'work in progress', and may be modified at any time if further information comes to light.(a)2
. For the official guidance, please see A GUIDE TO BUCKINGHAMSHIRE SCHOOL ADMISSION APPEALS. (a)3
. The official timetable for Bucks appeals can be found here: BCC timetable.(a)4
. Note that, following the allocation of secondary school places on 1st March, the deadline for submitting a secondary school appeal to BCC's Appeals Team is said to be the end of the working day on 28 March 2013
(You could submit an appeal after the published deadline, but the consequence is that your hearing might be delayed until after the main batch of hearings.)(a)5
. After the secondary school allocations on 1st March, you are entitled to appeal for any
school for which you have applied and been refused.(a)6
. If you feel you need more time to prepare your case, fill in an appeal form, but under "Reasons for appeal" just write:
"I wish to appeal against the decision to refuse a place at ***** School. Full details of case to follow."
Provided you submit your case at least 8 school days before the hearing (or whatever date is stipulated by the admission authority), there will be no problem:
If there is evidence that you wish the IAP to consider, it can be sent to the Appeals Team separately after returning the appeal form. You should not, therefore, delay returning your appeal form until you have gathered all of the evidence on which you wish to rely. We will write to inform you of the deadline to submit any further evidence for the appeal. [A GUIDE TO BUCKINGHAMSHIRE SCHOOL ADMISSION APPEALS]
. One grammar school appears to be running its own appeals. They're legally entitled to do this, but I'm afraid it may not be good news for the parents concerned. Historically the average success rate for own-admission authority appeals has been consistently lower than for appeals arranged by local authorities - and historically there have consistently been many more complaints about the conduct of own-admission authority appeals.
In 2008 the then Secretary of State published an unprecedented warning: “I appreciate the burden on schools of administering appeals. But it is also a concern to me that appeal panels established by own-admission authority schools are so often found failing .......
More recently the chair of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council has written: "In the case of schools/academies that are their own admission authorities, it is unsatisfactory that Foundation and Voluntary Aided schools and academies run their own appeal panels. Full independence needs to be ensured, following the principle of natural justice that no-one should judge her/his own case
Our general concerns about own-admission authority appeals are set out in the Q&As A6
.(b) Your child has qualified (either via the 11+, or as a result of a successful Selection Review), but the school is oversubscribed(b)1
. • See: Appealing for an oversubscribed school
• and especially: Reasons for wanting a place
.(c) Your child has not qualified, and has not been through a Selection Review(c)1
. The advice we have previously given on this forum was correct - anyone who did not have a Selection Review is guaranteed a full hearing of their case in front of an independent appeal panel.
If you are appealing against the refusal of a place at a grammar school, your child is an unqualified child (i.e. he or she achieved a score of 120 or less on the verbal reasoning test) and you did not apply to have a selection review:
If you did not take part in the selection review procedure, then the IAP will want to understand why your child did not perform as expected in verbal reasoning test. The IAP will require evidence to support your claim that your child is of the required academic standard for a grammar school. You may wish to consider providing school reports and a letter of support from your child’s previous or current school. [A GUIDE TO BUCKINGHAMSHIRE SCHOOL ADMISSION APPEALS]
This fully complies with 3.13 (a)(i) of the Appeals Code:
"3.13 An appeal panel may be asked to consider an appeal where the appellant believes that the child did not perform at their best on the day of the entrance test. In such cases:
a) where a local review process has not been applied, the panel must only uphold the appeal if it is satisfied:
i) that there is evidence to demonstrate that the child is of the required academic standards, for example, school reports giving Year 5/Year 6 SAT results or a letter of support from their current or previous school clearly indicating why the child is considered to be of grammar school
ii) where applicable, that the appellant’s arguments outweigh the admission authority’s case that admission of additional children would cause prejudice."
. • See: Appealing against non-qualification
• and especially: Academic evidence
. Bearing in mind that the school may already be oversubscribed - or might become oversusbcribed as a result of successful appeals - you should also give good reasons for wanting or needing a place.
• See: Appealing for an oversubscribed school
• and especially: Reasons for wanting a place
This may or may not prove to be necessary at this point in time - it depends how the appeals are going to be organised. It's not yet clear whether there will be separate hearings to deal with oversubscription. However, it would be wise to be prepared.(d) Your child has not qualified, and has had an unsuccessful Selection Review(d)1
. This is going to be the most complicated section!
According to the Appeals Code:
b) where a local review process has been followed, the panel must only consider whether each child’s review was carried out in a fair, consistent and objective way and if there is no evidence that this has been done, the panel must follow the process in paragraph 3.13(a) above."
. Admission authorities are intending to use this provision in the Code. They don't have to do this, but they are legally entitled to, as the quotation above makes clear.
• Whatever we may feel about the system, there is absolutely no point attacking the principle of Selection Reviews at an appeal.
• When raising concerns, make clear that you are talking about the review process as it was applied in your particular case.(d)3
. We think that it will be for the admission authority to demonstrate that the Selection Review was
'fair, consistent & objective'. Bearing in mind that - at this point in time - you don't know exactly what arguments they will be putting forward to substantiate each of those three points, it would be sufficient to write on the appeal form: "We wish to challenge whether the Selection Review process was 'fair, consistent & objective
. We think there will be a number of grounds on which the process might be questioned.
(i) Will the Review paperwork to be included in the appeal papers be comprehensive, and clearly show:
• how the Review Panel arrived at their decision in your child's case,
• and that the process really was 'fair, consistent & objective'?
(ii) Will the clerk's contemporaneous notes be made available and in full?
• If not, how is anyone to know whether what has been transcribed is correct?
Note: the headteachers' manual makes no mention of contemporaneous notes. It says only that "The Clerk to the Selection Review Panel will record the review decision for each child on an individual pro forma".
(Contrast this with an appeal where - in the event of an investigation - the first thing the ombudsman or EFA would expect to see are adequate contemporaneous notes, showing whether the correct procedures were followed, and how the panel arrived at their decision in the particular case.)
(iii) The Review Panel was dealing with a matter of enormous importance to you.
Will the review paperwork show how long was spent on your individual case?
• If no one can tell you how long was spent considering your case "because it's not been recorded", then how is anyone to know that your case received proper consideration, and that the decision was not rushed?
• Ask how many cases were scheduled per day. (That sort of information ought to be available.)
Then ask how many cases were scheduled per hour ....... !
• If you are told that it really doesn't matter how long the panel spent together on a case, because "individual panel members would have studied all the paperwork carefully in their own time before they met", then how is anyone to know whether this unrecorded private work was done thoroughly and consistently in all cases?
(iv) Did you feel forced into a Review because you were told by Admissions or by your primary school head that it was obligatory if you wanted to keep open the option of going to an appeal?
Or were you influenced by hearing of numerous other cases where parents were told that they had to go through a review?
• If so, ask the appeal panel to consider whether this was lawful.
• Where is it stated in the Appeals Code that, if a local review is available, non-participation in that review deprives you of the right to a full hearing in front of an independent appeal panel?
Clearly, if you would have preferred to opt out of a review, you would have faced the possibility of an oversubscribed school - but you might have preferred that situation to one in which your right to a full and independent hearing could be severely curtailed by the 'fair, consistent & objective' test!
(v) The review process restricted what evidence could be taken into account by refusing to consider school work.
• If your child's school work is of such quality that you (or - even better - your primary school head) think that the Review Panel could well have arrived at a different decision if they had had the opportunity to consider it, then it is arguable that the process was unfair.
• Similarly, if you had extenuating circumstances, and school work showed a significant dip in performance at the time - proving the extent to which your child was affected - it is arguable that the process was unfair by excluding this evidence.
(vi) Did Review Panels follow their own stated rules? For example, the headteachers' manual refers to a normal expectation of 'exceptional extenuating circumstances'.
• Ask how many successful reviews actually had exceptional extenuating circumstances. (This is an extraordinarily high threshold, and it seems inconceivable that even a majority did!)
(vii) Ask for the names of who sat on your Review Panel.
• If that information is refused, ask why you have been given no opportunity to satisfy yourself that no one on the panel had a 'conflict of interest' in hearing your case.
The answer is likely to be "Don't worry - panel members were asked to declare any conflict of interest".
• But what if they didn't?
• What if a panel member's perception of what might be a conflict of interest is not the same as yours?
• Surely both sides should have the opportunity to raise any concerns?
Contrast this one-sided approach with the appeals system where there is an absolute requirement that parents must be notified of the names of panel members in advance of the hearing.
2.10 The clerk must send all the papers required for the hearing, including the names of the panel members, to both the parties and the members of the panel a reasonable time before the date of the hearing. This will allow opportunity for any objections regarding impartiality of panel members to be notified to the clerk. [Appeals Code]Which approach stands out as being fair and transparent?
(viii) These and other questions, where appropriate, could be asked at the appeal hearing.
• If satisfactory answers are not given, it would be open to the appeal panel to reject the admission authority's argument that there has already been a fair, consistent and objective review.
. There are numerous other points we could raise in addition to the above, but our advice is not to expend too much energy on 'fair, consistent & objective
'. You're not the one 'on trial' at this point, and any reputable appeal panels (such as those arranged by BCC's Appeals Team) are likely to have some probing questions of their own.(d)6
. • For the moment we think that your focus should be on the issue of qualification (however cruel it may be under this system that you don't yet know whether your case for selection will be taken into account).
• This may be a secondary hurdle, but it could prove to be the major one.
• There's little you can do to prepare for 'fair, consistent & objective
' at this point in time, but you do need to give a great deal of thought to how you can convince an appeal panel with regard to qualification - especially when your case wasn't successful at review.(d)7
. • See: Appealing against non-qualification
• and any relevant bits of the Miscellaneous Section
(for example: letter of appeal for Mary
• and consider whether you should re-do and submit an improved case, even though "The child’s review paperwork and decision letter will be provided to the Independent Appeal Panel should an appeal subsequently take place
", so everything you submitted previously will be included in the appeal papers.
Looking at some of the review submissions parents shared with us, we feel that many were much too long, lacked impact as a result, and focused too much on extenuating circumstances (encouraged to do so - understandably - by the 'normal expectation of exceptional extenuating circumstances', and the fact that there was no opportunity to present the case in person).
• For appeal purposes, our current advice is that usually the only thing you should write about extenuating circumstances is "Please see attached evidence
. Consider whether there is any additional evidence you could submit in support of your appeal. After all, the time scale for review submissions was quite tight, and there wasn't really much time to prepare a review case at what was a very busy point in the year for most families (the lead-up to Christmas). If this applies to you, be sure to tell the panel, otherwise they might take the view that the evidence should have been submitted to the review panel.(d)9
. Although we attach infinitely more importance to evidence than to presentation, think about how you will present your case.
You will find advice if you follow all the links in (d)7, for example: How to sum up
. Last - but not least - you ought to give good reasons for wanting or needing a place at the school you're appealing for.
• See: Reasons for wanting a place
• This may or may not prove to be necessary, but you ought to be prepared and to provide any relevant evidence in advance.(d)11
. To summarise section (d):
• On the information available to us at present
we suggest there should be three parts to your case, clearly set out:
(i) Something about 'fair, consistent & objective':
• it could be as simple as "At the hearing we shall wish to challenge whether the Selection Review was 'fair, consistent & objective'" -
• or, if you prefer, you could go into more detail now, listing your concerns ("We don't think the review process was fair, consistent & objective, because .........."), and adding "There may be further points we shall wish to raise at the hearing, having heard the Admission Authority's case."
(Ideal length: anything from a single sentence up to half-a-page)
Any questions as such should be left until the hearing.
(ii) The case for selection: either "Please see our previously submitted Selection Review case and accompanying evidence" - or set out your updated case.
(Ideal length: anything from a sentence up to a page. Any supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.)
(iii) Reasons for wanting or needing a place.
(Ideal length: approx. half-a-page. Any supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.)
. • The space available on an appeals form for giving reasons for the appeal is usually quite small. If you need more room, simply write "Please see attached case
• It is up to you whether your case is handwritten or typed - but, depending on the handwriting, a typed case may be much easier to read!
• Fill in a form for each
school you are appealing for. (Remember - you are entitled to appeal for any school for which you have applied and been refused.) If there are any questions, please feel free to ask in a thread about your own case on the Appeals Forum - and please stick to one thread, as it helps us to have everything to do with your case in one place. Thank you!