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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:19 pm 
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This is our Guide to appealing for a Y7 Bucks GS place, March 2020.


Index:

      Introduction
      Foreword
      Waiting lists & appeals

      Section A:
      BCC guidance
      Deadlines
      Appeal forms
      Group hearings
      Individual hearings
      Generic Questions about reviews
      Non-generic questions about reviews
      Decision letters
      Oversubscription

      Section B:
      Your child has qualified (either via the 11+, or as a result of a successful Selection Review), but the school is oversubscribed

      Section C:
      Your child has not qualified, and has not been through a Selection Review

      Section D:
      Your child has not qualified, and has had an unsuccessful Selection Review
      Notes of FCO ('fair, consistent and objective') questions & answers from a group hearing in 2014
      Footnotes

      Abbreviations

      Final points


Introduction
(i) Foreword
• This guide is mostly our opinion and advice, based on official publications, reports sent to us by forum members, and our understanding of the appeals process. Parents are of course responsible for their own appeals, and must do their own research. Please study carefully BCC's Parents Guide (see A1 below) and other official guidance relating to appeals.
• Where appropriate we will refer to information published by BCC, and to the DfE Appeals Code.
• Reference is also made to our own Appeal Q&As - version 11 is available here.
• This guide is a 'work in progress' and may be modified at any time. We try to keep up to date, but rely on parents and other forum members to alert us if any changes or corrections need to be made.


(ii) Waiting lists & appeals
If you have been refused a grammar school for which you applied, you can:
      • go on the waiting list (if qualified)
      • or appeal (whether qualified or not)

Normally you should go on the waiting list (if qualified) and ask for an appeal.

The waiting list is handled by Admissions, and is a completely separate procedure from appeals.

      To summarise the key points regarding waiting lists & appeals:
      1. You can only appeal for a school you have been refused, so this means that as at March you can only appeal for your preferences as they stand in the first round
      2. You can appeal even if not qualified; the online form can be completed multiple times for schools that use the BCC appeals team.
      3. You can change/add preferences for the second round, and if refused in the second round, that triggers the right of appeal. These appeals are likely to happen after the appeals triggered in the first round, but may be combined, depending on the timeline.
      4. Non qualified pupils are not included on waiting lists - they do not have to be on a waiting list to be successful at appeal. However they do have to have expressed a preference to trigger appeal.
      5. Occasionally last year the Independent Appeal Panel decided a child should have been qualified for the school, but then felt the school's case outweighed the child's, so - from the time of the appeal decision only - they were put on the waiting list.



A1. Essential reading: see BCC's Parents Guide to Appeals.

A2. Deadline for submitting appeals:
      Quote:
      "Completed appeal forms must be received by the Appeals Team by 12 noon on 27 March 2020 for the appeal to be heard before the end of the summer term, July 2020." [BCC]


    A3. After the first working day in March you can appeal for any secondary school for which you have applied and been refused.

    You need to complete a single form for each school you're appealing for. (We have been asked in the past if there are separate forms to deal with 'fair, consistent & objective', qualification and oversubscription. There are not.)

        Quote:
        "You can appeal for any school which you have applied for and been refused.
        For each school you appeal for, you must complete a separate appeal form and attend a separate appeal hearing.
        " [BCC]

    A4. An online appeal form can be found here. Scroll down to "Request a secondary school appeal".
    You cannot appeal before the first working day in March.

    If you need a paper form, contact Admissions (not the Appeals Team):
    http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/admissions-contact-form

    A5. BCC handle the appeals for most Bucks schools (whether you live in or out of county).

    For the past few years, one or two grammar schools have chosen to run their own appeals. They're legally entitled to do this, but it's disappointing and may not be good news for appellants. Nationally the average success rate for academy run appeals is thought to have been lower than for appeals arranged by LAs - and historically there have been many more complaints about the conduct of own-admission authority appeals.

    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.


    The BCC online process will tell you if a particular school is arranging its own appeals, in which case you must contact the school directly for an appeal pack, and will need to return the completed appeal form to the school.


    A6. If you feel you need more time to prepare your case, you can provide further information up until 10 school days before hearings begin.
    See B3, C6 and D11(i).

    However, we do not think it is fair on the Appeals Team, who are already dealing with hundreds of appeals and masses of paperwork, if you keep on and on submitting various bits and pieces of information from March onwards.

    If you are able to submit your full case in March, please do so.
    Otherwise, we suggest you submit your appeal form in March, and no more than one further batch of papers later on.

    A7. Each appeal will normally consist of a group hearing (Stage 1) attended by all parents, followed by an individual hearing (Stage 2).

    A8. At the group hearing the admission authority will present its case.

        (i) The case will include an explanation of the 11+ and selection review arrangements. This will be the same for every grammar school because they all followed the same process.

        (ii) There will also be information about how the allocations have been made, and a case for prejudice (if the school is oversubscribed). Each school's case for prejudice will be different - to take account of its particular circumstances.
        See our guidance: Appealing for an oversubscribed school - stage one.

        (iii) Parents who've been through an unsuccessful review will have the opportunity to ask generic (non-personal) questions about the review process (whether it was fair, consistent & objective), and - if the school is oversubscribed - all parents will be able to question the school's case for prejudice.

        (iv) At the end of the group hearing there is a decision on whether or not the school has made its case for prejudice (assuming the school is oversubscribed), but FCO ('fair, consistent and objective') is handled differently: there is no 'overall decision' on FCO - because FCO can only be decided with reference to individual cases.
        The reason for this is that para 3.13(b) of the Appeals Code specifically refers to "whether each child’s review was carried out in a fair, consistent and objective way", so there is no provision for the school's case for FCO to be considered as a whole.
        It follows that no decision on FCO can be taken until after your individual hearing, and it will only apply to your particular case (i.e. it will have no bearing on other cases).

        (v) The group hearing is an important opportunity for appellants as a group to try and dent the school's case. There is strength in numbers - don't be afraid to ask questions and challenge the school case. It is in your interests to do so.

        (vi) See D12 below for a report compiled by parents of the FCO questions and answers at a group hearing in 2014.

        (vii) Attendance at the group hearing is not obligatory, but it would be a courtesy to inform the Appeals Team beforehand if you won't be present.
        We would, however, always advise parents to attend. In addition to the important question & answer session, a group hearing provides a useful opportunity to 'size up' up the panel members and presenting officer in advance of your individual hearing, and to hear what other parents have to say.

        (viii) It's difficult to say how long a group hearing will take. One hour is likely to be the minimum. Two hours or thereabouts is certainly a possibility. One group hearing in May 2015 lasted three hours, but that is probably exceptional!
        The length of the hearing depends in part on what questions are asked.
        It depends too on how talkative the chair and presenting officer happen to be.
        Also bear in mind that things do not always go according to plan. In 2013 a stage one was reported on here as starting 2 hours late (presumably because a key participant was missing!).


    A9. Non-generic (personal) questions would not be appropriate for a group hearing attended by other parents, so these should be raised at your individual hearing.
    Examples of personal questions might be:

        (i) I have the following concerns about the clerk's record of my case ........

        (ii) Our headteacher told us to go to review, but didn't warn us about 'fair, consistent & objective', and the way in which any subsequent appeal could be prejudiced. We feel misled. How can that be fair?

        (iii) My child has been home schooled, so we do not have the 'normal' sort of academic evidence. How can it be fair that we weren't allowed to let the panel see what work he has been doing? Would you agree that the review process discriminates against us because we've been out of the system?

    A10. Generic questions (questions that do not reveal any personal information) are best dealt with at the group hearing.

        Although generic questions should be raised initially at the group hearing, some of them might be a significant factor in your personal case. If this is so, then at your individual hearing it would be a good idea to point out to the panel (very briefly - ideally in your summing up) which general arguments you think apply to your specific case.

    Examples of generic questions are given below. Some of these points are amplified in Section D.

        (i) The LA has stated in writing: "We cannot offer extra marks to compensate for any special needs your child may have. This is because each child's case is different. It is impossible to say exactly how many marks would be appropriate."
        How then is it possible for a review panel to determine objectively whether exceptional circumstances are sufficient to account for the shortfall in marks?

        (ii) What guidelines were review panels operating under? (For example, what KS2 predictions and what alternative reasoning test scores were deemed 'acceptable'?)
        Without clear criteria for academic evidence, how could the process have been consistent?

        (iii) What evidence is there that headteacher recommendations are reasonably consistent across all schools?
        It is widely believed that the standard of headteacher recommendations varies from school to school, with some heads being relatively optimistic, while others are stricter.
        How can a process that uses such subjective recommendations possibly be 'fair, consistent & objective'?


        See D4 below for further questions that could be raised.


        A11. There will be three parts to each individual hearing (subject to the bits in brackets below), and all three parts will be heard at the same time:
            (i) 'Fair, consistent & objective' (any points you wish to raise, if you've had an unsuccessful review)
            (ii) Qualification (your academic case, if unqualified)
            (iii) Your reasons for wanting a place (if the school is full, or likely to become so)

            You won't be given the decision on 'fair, consistent & objective' at the end of part 1, as there is no break in the proceedings - so you have to go through the whole of your case without knowing whether parts 2-3 of your case will actually be considered. (In any case, the Appeals Code appears to rule out the early release of decisions - see A13 below.)

        A12. Most parents will be appealing for more than one grammar school (and it is in their interests to do so because it will maximise their chances), and will therefore have more than one group hearing and more than one individual hearing to attend.
        There will be a separate decision letter for each appeal.
        Decisions are not communicated by phone or email.

            • Be prepared for the possibility that different panels could reach different decisions on your case with regard to 'fair, consistent & objective' and to qualification. (This might seem puzzling, but it is lawful, and it is in your interests to get more than 'one bite of the cherry'!)

            • In 2013 Sally-Anne summed up the situation very well:
                "It's also worth saying that panel members are very independent-minded - so much so that different panels could come to completely different conclusions about 'fair, consistent and objective'. That has happened in other areas of the country in the past.
                The wording in the Appeals Code about "fair, consistent & objective" is pretty minimal and open to interpretation by individual Independent Appeal Panels.
                "

        A13. It will depend on the number of appellants, and on how the hearings are spaced out - but be prepared for the possibility of a long wait for the panel's decision on your case.
        The Appeals Code does not allow any decisions to be released until all the appeals for a particular school have been heard.
        Decision letters would normally be sent out within one week of the last appeal. You can ask at the group hearing for an indication of when that is likely to be.

        A14. Oversubscription

        You must work on the assumption that the school will be oversubscribed. You can argue against the prejudice of admitting another child by putting forward your reasons for wanting a place.
        Prejudice needs to be addressed in all three sections below, not just section B. The importance of "outweighing the prejudice" often seems neglected by those to whom section C or D applies.

        If submitting an educational argument, be sure to research the individual grammar school so that you can prove why that particular school would best meet your child's needs.

        Which of the following cases is strongest?
            1. "I've heard it has a good SEN department."
            2. "The Ofsted report some years ago said it has a good SEN department."
            3. "It was very busy at the Open Evening, but I did manage to have a few words with someone from special needs."
            4. "I made an appointment to see the SenCo at both schools, showed them what my son's needs are (see attached evidence), and found out exactly what they could offer him."





        SECTION B: Your child has qualified (either via the 11+, or as a result of a successful Selection Review), BUT the school is oversubscribed

        B1. You must put forward reasons for wanting a place, hoping that they will be strong enough to outweigh any prejudice to the school.
        See our guidance: Appealing for an oversubscribed school

        B2. Ideal length of your submission: approx. half-a-page to a page of A4. Any supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.

        B3. If you need more time to prepare, you could as a minimum write on your form:

              (i) I would very much like a place at the school for reasons which I hope the panel may consider sufficient to outweigh the prejudice to the school.
              I am currently collating evidence, and will forward it before the deadline.


              or

              (ii) I would very much like a place at the school for the following reasons which I hope the panel may consider sufficient to outweigh the prejudice to the school:
              ............
              ............

              Please see attached evidence:
                1. ...........

              I may wish to submit additional evidence before the deadline.


              or

              (iii) I would very much like a place at the school for the following reasons which I hope the panel may consider sufficient to outweigh the prejudice to the school:
              ............
              ............

              I am currently collating evidence, and will forward it before the deadline.




        SECTION C: Your child has NOT qualified, and has NOT been through a Selection Review

        C1. Despite the misleading statements in 2013 of those who said it was not possible to bypass a review and go straight to appeal, the advice we have consistently given on this forum has been proved correct - anyone who did not have a Selection Review is legally entitled to a full and 'unfettered' hearing of their case in front of an independent appeal panel.
        The current arrangements now comply with 3.13 (a)(i) of the Appeals Code:
            Quote:
            "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 ability; and
            ii) where applicable, that the appellant’s arguments outweigh the admission authority’s case that admission of additional children would cause prejudice."
            [DfE]

        C2. Evidence.
            Quote:
            You must provide academic evidence such as: school reports, SATs results, other school test results where available and letters of support from current or previous schools clearly showing why your child is academically suitable for grammar school. [BCC]



        C3. Oversubscription.

        Because the school may already be oversubscribed - or might become oversubscribed as a result of appeals - you must also give good reasons for wanting or needing a place.



    C4. You might possibly be asked at the hearing why you didn't opt for a review.

        If so, then a number of perfectly reasonable answers are possible. For example:
        (i) "We needed more time to prepare our case."
        (ii) "We wanted the opportunity to have our case heard in full by an independent panel, and the opportunity to answer any questions face to face."

    C5. To summarise Section C:

        There should be two parts to your written case, clearly set out with headings:

        (i) The case for qualification:
            Your academic case plus (briefly) any extenuating circumstances.
            (Ideal length of your submission: anything from a few sentences up to half-a-page of A4. Any supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.)

        (ii) Reasons for wanting or needing a place.
        (Ideal length: up to half-a-page of A4. Any supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.)

    C6. If you need more time to prepare, you could as a minimum write on your form:

            (i) I believe that my child is suitable for a grammar school place on the basis of a range of alternative academic evidence / evidence of extenuating circumstances which I am collating. Full details to follow.

            or

            (ii) I believe that my child is suitable for a grammar school place on the basis of the alternative academic evidence / evidence of extenuating circumstances.
            I attach:
              1. Letter from ......
              2. Most recent school report
              3. ........

            Any additional evidence will be submitted before the deadline.


    If you need more time to prepare, see also B3 for the minimum you could write on your appeal form with regard to oversubscription.
    (Remember - you must counter oversubscription by having reasons for wanting or needing a place.)





    SECTION D: Your child has NOT qualified, and has had an UNSUCCESSFUL Selection Review

    D1. This is going to be the most complicated section.

    According to the Appeals Code:
      Quote:
      "3.13
      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."
      [3.13(a) can be found in Section C further up this page]

    D2. Admission authorities are free 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.
        (i) Whatever anyone may feel about the system, there is absolutely no point attacking the principle of Selection Reviews at an appeal.

        (ii) It is important to distinguish between 'judgement' and 'process'. You cannot challenge the review panel's judgement - but you can question whether the process was flawed. If an appeal panel decides that your review was not 'fair, consistent & objective', it is then free to take a completely fresh look at your case for academic suitability.

        (iii) When raising concerns, ultimately what matters is how the review process was applied in your particular case.

        (iv) We suspect many parents will be arguing that without clear, objective criteria, no one can actually tell whether the review was 'fair, consistent & objective'?
        In addition, if there are any omissions, inaccuracies or contradictions in the clerk's notes, such errors could cast doubt on the process.


    D3. Para. 3.13b of the Appeals Code implies that it is for the admission authority to prove that the Selection Review was 'fair, consistent & objective'.
    Bearing in mind that, at this point in time, you don't know exactly what arguments the admission authority will be putting forward to substantiate each of the three points (fair, consistent & objective), it would be sufficient to write on the appeal form: "We shall wish to challenge whether the Selection Review process was 'fair, consistent & objective', but have not yet seen the school's written case.
    We would also respectfully point out that para. 3.13b of the Appeals Code puts the onus on the admission authority to prove its case for 'fair, consistent & objective', not on parents to disprove it
    ".
    You have to put something down for this section of the online form (anything will do!), or you cannot proceed to the next section. You may be made to feel under an obligation to state why the review was not FCO, but it really isn't necessary at this stage. You can leave any comments until the hearing, by which time you will have had sight of the school's case.

    D4. We think there will be a number of grounds on which the process might be questioned at the hearing.
    For example:

        (i) Does the clerk's record clearly show:
          • that all the important points of your case were considered,
          and
          how the Review Panel reached their decision.
          The reasons given for the Review Panel's conclusions are critical.
          If an appeal panel cannot understand how the decision was arrived at, they ought to find that the review was not FCO.

        (ii) The Review Panel was dealing with a matter of enormous importance to you.
        Does the clerk's record 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? Where is the evidence?

            • Ask how many cases were scheduled per session. (We believe it is 30 or more.)
            Then ask how many hours were scheduled for a session. You may be told "The session continued for as long as necessary" - in which case the next question should be "What was the average length of a session?"
            (In 2013 Sally-Anne estimated the average length of time spent on each case during the actual meetings at less than 10 minutes, with some cases receiving no more than 3 minutes' attention.)

            • 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? Where is the evidence?
                    (The 2013 school case - see here - did contain some anecdotal evidence:
                    "[Selection Review] Panel members reported that they had spent on average a total of five hours' preparation in advance of each meeting."
                    That might have sounded impressive - until someone worked out that it amounted to an average of less than 7 minutes per case! 6.9 minutes to be precise.
                    The 'five hour figure' disappeared from the 2014 school case!)


        (iii) When you were considering whether to ask for a review last October, and were feeling vulnerable and under enormous pressure, what guidance were you given?

        • Were the adverse consequences of an unsuccessful review prominently displayed and made crystal clear to you in the guidance published by the LA?

        • Did your headteacher make sure you understood that an unsuccessful review could have a negative impact on any subsequent appeal? - or did you feel 'pushed' into a review by your primary school, without a clear explanation of all the issues?

        Even worse - did you actually feel 'forced' into a Review because your headteacher said that it was 'obligatory' if you wanted to keep open the option of going to an appeal?
        There were many cases in the first year of reviews where parents were misled - they were told that they had to go to review if they wanted to keep open the option of a subsequent appeal.
        We said at the time we thought this was unlawful.
        It shouldn't still be happening - but a few schools have been reported in recent years as still giving out the wrong message.

        If you feel you were misled, or that the process was inadequately explained to you , ask the appeal panel to take this into account.
        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! At least you would have been making an informed choice.


        (iv) 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 - preferably - 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.

            • Home schooled children, and others who have been out of the system and lack the 'normal' sort of evidence, may well have been disadvantaged if they were prevented from letting the panel see what work they had been doing.


        (v) Did Review Panels follow their own rules? For example, the headteachers' manual refers to a normal expectation of 'exceptional extenuating circumstances'.
        • The LA's online guidance for parents clearly states "The Panel will also want to see evidence of any exceptional reasons to explain why your child may not have done as well as you, or their headteacher, had expected in the Secondary Transfer Test" - and yet parents on here have reported winning a review without any exceptional circumstances.
        If the exceptional circumstances rule wasn't strictly applied, how could the process have been consistent?

        • The LA has written: "We cannot offer extra marks to compensate for any special needs your child may have. This is because each child's case is different. It is impossible to say exactly how many marks would be appropriate."
        How then is it possible for a review panel to determine objectively whether any exceptional circumstances are sufficient to account for the shortfall in marks?

    (vi) Why have parents not been given an opportunity to satisfy themselves that no one on the panel had a 'conflict of interest' in hearing their case?

    Why have the names of who sat on your Review Panel been kept secret? What is there to hide?

      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?
      For the process to be fair, 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.
      Quote:
      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?

    If certain primary heads sat on review panels, did it not put their own schools at an advantage (even though they shouldn't have heard cases involving their own pupils)?
    They knew exactly how the system works, and how best to support their own pupils.
    Fair, consistent & objective?


    (vii) What guidelines were review panels operating under? (For example, what KS2 predictions and what alternative reasoning test scores were deemed 'acceptable'?)
    Without clear criteria for academic evidence, how could the process have been consistent?


        One headteacher was asked at a group hearing: "Without clear guidelines, how could the process have been objective and consistent?"
        The gist of the exchange was as follows:

              Question from parent: "What objective criteria were used?"
              Response by headteacher: "There is no tick list. It's a 'weighing up' of the evidence."
              Question: "Isn't that subjective then?"
              Response: "The information needed is clear."
              Question: "Yes, the form specifies what school results should be given, but it does not set out what thresholds are required?"
              Response: "There is no tick list or list of criteria but a 'weighing up' of the information provided which is different in each case."
              Question: "So it's a subjective judgement?"

        At another group hearing, the presenting officer was reported as giving a more direct and frank answer:

              Question: "Was the decision making process objective?"
              Response: "No!"


    (viii) The purpose of moderation was presumably to try and prove consistency?
        • Were the moderators independent of the review process, or did they also sit on review panels?
        • How many review cases did moderators observe? (We suspect the answer might be "none". Another 'desk exercise'?)
        • Did moderators all assess the same cases? If different moderators were assessing different cases, what guidelines were they operating under to ensure consistency?
        • Isn't a moderation process that is partly based on headteacher recommendations inherently flawed? (See point x below.)


    (ix) What evidence is there that headteacher recommendations are reasonably consistent across all schools?
    It is widely believed that the standard of headteacher recommendations varies from school to school, with some heads being relatively optimistic, while others are stricter.

    How can a process that uses such subjective recommendations possibly be 'fair, consistent & objective'?

    (x) These and other questions, where appropriate, could be asked at the appeal hearing.

        • Generic questions (questions that do not reveal any personal information) should be raised at the group hearing.
        • Non-generic (personal) questions should be raised at your individual hearing. It is also worth reminding the panel very briefly - ideally in your summing up - of any generic arguments you think apply to your specific case.
        • See Sections A11-A12 above for some examples showing the difference between generic and personal questions.

        • Keep on and on asking the fundamental question: Where is the evidence?
        • If the admission authority cannot come up with satisfactory answers, 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.

    D5. 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' (FCO) for the present.
    The time to prepare for FCO is just before the hearing, because someone on the panel will probably ask you why you think your review was not FCO.


    D6. (i) For the moment we think that your focus should be on the issue of qualified status (however cruel it may be under this system that you don't yet know whether your case for qualification will be taken into account).
      (ii) This may be the second hurdle, but it could prove to be the major one.
      (iii) You need to give a great deal of thought to what academic evidence you can put together that will convince an appeal panel with regard to qualification - especially when your case wasn't successful at review.

    D7. Evidence.
        Quote:
        You must provide academic evidence such as: school reports, SATs results, other school test results where available and letters of support from current or previous schools clearly showing why your child is academically suitable for grammar school.
        [BCC]

                (i) See our guidance: Appealing against non-qualification
                (ii) and any relevant bits of the Miscellaneous Section (for example: letter of appeal for Mary)
                (iii) 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.

                (iv) Be prepared to address any significant weaknesses in the component parts of the 11+ (VR, Maths or NVR), as the panel might well want to query these. For example, if the VR score was weak, can you prove that this was a blip on the basis of an excellent VR score from CATs or from an educational psychologist, plus strong support from the school with regard to progress in English? (Additional evidence can be provided nearer the time of the appeal hearing - see A6.)

                (v) Looking at some of the review submissions parents have previously shared with us, we feel that many were much too long, lacked impact as a result, and focused too much on extenuating circumstances.
                (vi) For appeal purposes, our current advice is that usually the only thing you should write about extenuating circumstances is "Please see attached evidence"!!!


        D8. (i) Consider whether there is any additional evidence you could gather in support of your appeal. For example, a letter of support from school showing a significant improvement in a relevant subject area. Schools are permitted - but not obliged - to provide additional evidence (additional to what they supplied for the review) before an appeal. There would be little point in headteachers merely repeating what they have already written - but
            • if there is something in the review paperwork that really needs clarifying, or
            • if there has been recent rapid progress,
        - one hopes they would be willing to give their support.

            (ii) If you found the time allowed for review submissions insufficient, be sure to tell the appeal panel, otherwise they might take the view that any extra evidence which you are now introducing could in some cases have been submitted to the review panel.

                The time scale for review submissions was increased from 2 to 3 weeks some years ago, but it still compares unfavourably with independent appeals.
                Parents have 20 school days (i.e. almost a month) in which to submit an appeal case, and it is also made clear that appeal evidence can be sent in at a later date.

            (iii) Extracurricular interests are mentioned in the Q&As B11(k), but pitched at quite a high level. (Too many appeal submissions have music grades 1-2!)
            Nevertheless it would be worth considering whether this is an area that could be developed. Are there any academic interests your child would be willing to pursue?

                • Science/History? Visits to museums? Is there a topic of interest that could be investigated?
                • Would your child be interested in starting a foreign language, perhaps online? (If this could be matched with an option available at the grammar school you're appealing for, that would also help at the oversubscription stage!)
                • Literature? How widely does your child read? Is it age appropriate or higher?
                • Current affairs? What newspapers does he/she read? What programmes are watched regularly?

                Of course, it won't be easy to come up with hard evidence as convincing as a grade 4 or 5 music certificate.
                But these things, if they're to be done at all, should be worth doing for their own sake.
                There's no suggestion that they will necessarily make a difference to an appeal - but you never know.
                It might help make your case stand out from the 'run of the mill' cases.
                It's just possible it could be that little bit extra that tips the balance in your favour.

                Many years ago there was an ethnic minority family who had moved out of London.
                Their son was in year 6, which is never the ideal time to move.
                He carried on commuting all the way back to his old primary school for continuity in his education.
                It meant an extremely long day, and a very tiring journey.
                And yet this little boy from an underprivileged background did all his homework dutifully and still managed to attend an after-school French club.
                When it came to an appeal hearing, parents thought this point went down very well with the panel!

                And yes, they did win their appeal.



        D9. Last - but not least - do not neglect the final hurdle. You must assume the school will be oversubscribed, and counter the admission authority's case for prejudice by putting forward good reasons for wanting or needing a place at the school in question.


        D10. 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 the links in D7, for example: How to sum up at the end of a hearing.

        Here is an example of a simple summing up that includes FCO:

                We’ll be quite brief. Thank you very much indeed for being so generous with your time, and for having given us the opportunity to present our case. We do appreciate it.

                We submit that in our child's case the Admission Authority has not provided you with evidence to satisfy all three of the criteria 'fair, consistent & objective'. The onus is on the Admission Authority to prove its case.

                We would ask you to take into account the extenuating circumstances
                [if applicable], and to consider all the alternative academic evidence that indicates a grammar school place would be appropriate in this case.

                [If oversubscription is an issue, as it usually is, you could then add:]
                Our child is desperately keen to join the school. We do understand the school’s reservations about the possible impact of an extra pupil, but we respectfully ask you to weigh up the reasons we have put forward, and to consider allowing this appeal on the basis that the prejudice to our child of not being admitted would outweigh any prejudice to the school. Thank you very much.



        D11. To summarise Section D:

            On the information available to us at present, there should be three parts to your written case, clearly set out
            :

            (i) 'Fair, consistent & objective':

                  • The admission authority has not yet put forward a case stating why the review was FCO, so in our view parents should not feel compelled to refute a case that hasn't yet been made.

                  • You need only write "At the hearing we shall wish to challenge whether the Selection Review process was 'fair, consistent & objective', but have not yet seen the school's written case explaining why the process was FCO.
                  We would respectfully point out that para. 3.13b of the Appeals Code puts the onus on the admission authority to prove its case for 'fair, consistent & objective', not on parents to disprove it
                  ".

                  We're inclined to think that this might be the best approach (to ask questions at the hearing, and not reveal in advance what they're going to be).

                  • However, if you have some strong points to make now, and are happy to give the other side advance warning, you could perhaps go into more detail, 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, but we have not yet had sight of the Admission Authority's case for FCO.
                  Moreover, we would respectfully point out that para. 3.13b of the Appeals Code puts the onus on the admission authority to prove its case for 'fair, consistent & objective', not on parents to disprove it
                  ."

                  • Remember: you cannot challenge the review panel's judgement - but you can suggest there was a fault with the process.

                  (Ideal length of your submission: anything from a sentence or two up to half-a-page of A4.)

                  Do not use the appeal form to ask questions - questions should be left until the hearing.

            (ii) The case for qualification:
                • either "Please see our previously submitted Selection Review case and accompanying evidence" -
                • or set out your updated case.
                (Ideal length of your submission: anything from a sentence up to a page of A4. Any supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.)

            If you need more time to prepare this part of your case, see C6.

            (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.)

            If you need more time to prepare this part of your case, see B3.


            Note: All the documentation that originally went to review will automatically be included in the appeal papers, so there's no need to re-send it.
            Of course, if you want to make changes or improvements, you must send in your revised paperwork.



        D12. Notes of FCO questions & answers from a group hearing in 2014
        Many thanks to the parents who kindly made this available.
        What follows is an edited version with names removed.
            Quote:

            Chair referred to info on the "selection test" & wanted to know how "think a problem through" could be defined - question passed to headteacher - not much of a reply.

            Lot of argument centred around test being Y5 curriculum but not testing curriculum based skills, therefore why are SATs so important? - bit of a circular argument. Could argue that good teaching in Primary School is very important for a child to be able to access this new test. Headteacher said it meant that content knowledge not required - We took that to mean it was not a test covering things such as the "What is the capital of Brazil?" etc. Headteacher said it is the application of knowledge - parents kept coming back to quality of teaching.
            Headteacher said "English skills is the single best predictor of ability" - thinks the test is robust in nature. If you are working at L5 in the classroom then you should have been able to access the test.

            Headteacher explained that as a Review Panel Member he puts aside one whole day¹ to go through his 30 cases. When they get together with other panels members a decision may be made very quickly if they have all independently reached the same decision. This was in response to a question from a Parent who said she had calculated that on average less than 7 mins was spent on each case.

            Extenuating circumstances (question to Headteacher) - most of the cases in his opinion that succeeded at SRP had extenuating circumstances² - these are needed to explain the shortfall in marks. Of course suitable academic evidence must also be presented.

            Question to Headteacher - "How important was the HT's recommendation?" - this was a very significant factor, he replied. Felt academic ability more important than motivation. Talked about 1:2's and 2:1's - We got the impression that 2:2 was no longer regarded as GS material - he said they would give less weight to a candidate with a 1:1 rating if HT had recommended 18 at 1:1 and only a handful had got through - nevertheless all 1:1's > 107 went for Moderation (there was some confusion here with Presenting Officer saying he thought all 1:1's went for moderation regardless of score). Someone pointed out that it was unfair that children scoring <107 with a 1:1 didn't get a 2nd opinion.
            We asked how consistency was managed across all HT's - again did not get much of answer - other than it is in the HT's interest to be as accurate as possible. We said it was important as it could determine this "second opinion". Neither Headteacher nor the Admission Authority could answer adequately (in our opinion) how consistency was achieved on this metric.

            A parent asked the admission authority about communication to parents - Presenting Officer said that the guide "Moving up to secondary school" was published to budgetary constraints. He agreed it wasn't clear enough (Headteacher was taking copious notes at this point!).

            He said that it is in everyone's interests to do the SRP as then if their child is deemed qualified they go into the pot for National Allocations Day - this is why County gives advice about SRP - if we wait for an Independent Appeal Panel then there is the possibility all school places will have been allocated. However he said it was up to the parents to decide what to do for their child - people then moved to showing the yellow form³, urging review if results not as expected - that there wasn't clear advice etc.
            14 days not long enough to get professional advice (Headteacher said form could have been submitted afterwards). Presenting Officer adamant info is available and pointed to the fact that some parents in the room had not gone for SRP and therefore they knew - a number of "Well, we did not know's" could be heard echoing round the room!

            Lots of debate back and forth about how can a process be 'fair, consistent & objective' if it doesn't set out what criteria it is using to evaluate candidates.
            Headteacher said range of criteria was all the things we had talked about such as steady progress through KS2, HT recommendation, SATs (or alternative evidence)
            How can we as parents determine 'fair, consistent & objective' if the review is an internal process and not subject to detailed note keeping. No answer to that - other than that is the process for internal reviews!

            Parents asking if "Bad day" was suitable excuse - given that the old 11+ took highest of 2 test scores on 2 separate days. Again we were told CEM recommended 1 day, Primary HTs said 2 days was too disruptive, specialists said 1 day lessened stress etc., and then we came back round to why then are extenuating circumstances so important. Again Headteacher said "We have to understand why a candidate does not meet 121 if they are deemed to be of the right academic level"
            A parent asked for a definition of "thrive", and Headteacher very kindly replied "to succeed at GS" !!!

            Re 'fair, consistent & objective' - The chair clearly stated that it was for the AA† to prove 'fair, consistent & objective' - but then kept saying he was looking forward to our arguments that prove it wasn't 'fair, consistent & objective' in our individual cases!
            Other panel members seemed quite weak - they didn't say anything - one was a school helper who had been through appeal process with her DD, other we think was a librarian or LSA (sorry, we can't remember). Chair seemed in control of the entire situation and a formidable force.


        Footnotes

        ¹ How many hours in practice, we wonder? In 2013 headteachers reported spending an average of 5 hours preparing for each session. See D4(ii).

        ² But were these extenuating circumstances exceptional?

        ³ The yellow form came in for a lot of criticism in 2014 because of what it didn't say! As far as we're aware, it has not been issued again.

        So what was the absolute deadline, and how were parents supposed to know this?

        We note that the word "thrive" was subsequently removed from the Clerk's Record!
        "The evidence does not indicate academic suitability for the pupil to thrive in a grammar school" was replaced by:
        "The evidence does not indicate academic suitability for the pupil to be placed in a grammar school".

        Parents are of course entitled to raise questions, but in our view the Appeals Code does not put the onus on them to disprove 'fair, consistent & objective'. However, if asked why you think your review was not FCO, you need to be ready with a response.



        †Abbreviations:
            FCO - 'fair, consistent & objective' (with reference to reviews). This is a quote from paragraph 3.13b of the Appeals Code. See D1 above.
            IAP - 'Independent Appeal Panel'
            SRP - 'Selection Review Panel' (comprising two grammar school heads and one primary school head)
            CATs - The 'Cognitive Abilities Test' used by some schools
            EP - 'Educational Psychologist'
            AA - 'Admission Authority'

    Final points

    1. See also: Analysis of the schools' review case 2015.
    The schools' review case has since been revised in parts, and we cannot be sure about this year's case until it becomes available in the summer term.
    The rules regarding which parental cases are eligible for moderation seem to change frequently.


    2. This thread is for general points only. If there are any specific questions about your own case, please start your own thread on the Appeals Forum
    - and please stick to your one thread, as it helps us to have everything to do with your case in one place. Thank you! :)


    3. We hope other parents will be willing to submit their own reports in due course - with a view to helping future appellants.
    Please PM any reports to "Moderators", or email to AppealsBox[at]elevenplusexams.co.uk
    - replace [at] with @

    _________________
    Etienne


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