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This is our Guide to appealing for a Y7 Bucks GS place for September 2021 entry.

Index:

      Introduction
      Foreword
      Difference between waiting lists & appeals

      Section A:
      Buckinghamshire Council guidance
      Deadlines
      Appeal forms
      The two stage process
      Decision letters
      Oversubscription

      Section B:
      Your child has qualified (either via the transfer test, 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

      Section E:
      The Bucks appeal process during covid-19:
      (There will be no face to face hearings for parents - written submissions and written questions & answers only.)

      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 Buckinghamshire Council's Parents Guide (see A1 below) and other official guidance relating to appeals.
• Where appropriate we will refer to information published by Buckinghamshire Council [BC], 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 BC 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.


SECTION A

A1. Essential reading: see the Parents Guide to Appeals 2021 published by the Appeals Team at Buckinghamshire Council.

A2. Deadline for submitting appeals:
      Quote:
      "Completed appeal forms must be received by the Appeals Team by 5pm on 28 March 2021 [for the appeal to be heard before the end of the summer term, July 2021]. [BC]"

    A3. After the first working day in March you can appeal for any secondary school for which you have applied and been refused.
        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 there will be a separate appeal. [BC]
        "

    A4. An online appeal form can be found here. Remember - 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. BC's Appeals Team 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 BC 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 submit late information up until the date specified.
    "For secondary appeals submitted by 28 March – your evidence must be received by the Appeals Team by 5pm on Friday 16 April." [BC]

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

    A8. For stage one the admission authority will put forward its case in writing.

        (i) The case will include an explanation of the transfer test 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 for that school have been made in accordance with its published admission arrangements, 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 send in written questions about the review process (whether it was fair, consistent & objective), and - if the school is oversubscribed - all parents will be able to question in writing the school's case for prejudice.

        (iv) At the end of stage one there is a decision by the panel on whether or not the school has made its case for prejudice (assuming the school is oversubscribed).

        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 case has been considered, and it will only apply to your case (i.e. it will have no bearing on other cases).



    A9. Each parent's individual written case will be considered at stage two.
    There will be three possible parts to stage two (depending on the bits in brackets below), and all parts will be considered at the same time:
        (i) 'Fair, consistent & objective' (any points you have raised, 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)

    A10. 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).
    There will be a separate decision letter for each appeal after all the cases for that particular school have been decided.
    Decisions are not communicated by phone or email.

        • Because panels are completely independent, be prepared for the possibility that different panels could reach different decisions on your case with regard to 'fair, consistent & objective' and to qualification. If your first GS appeal is unsuccessful, you may have better luck with a second.

        • 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.
            "

    A11. 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.

    A12. Oversubscription
    You must work on the assumption that the school will be oversubscribed, and you must argue against the prejudice of admitting another child by putting forward good reasons for wanting a place.
    Prejudice needs to be addressed in all three sections B-D 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 do you think 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 transfer test, 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.

    Remember - it's not what you write that matters.
    What really matters is the evidence.

    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 which says:
        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
        You must provide .....
        Quote:
        ..... 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. [DfE]



    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 were under no obligation to go through a review, but if there was a good reason for not doing so, it would be worth mentioning.

        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."

    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 up to half-a-page of A4. 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. Supporting evidence would be additional to this, and should be attached as appendices.)

        Remember - it's not what you write that matters.
        What really matters is the evidence.

    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. What not to do!
        (i) Do not claim the review was flawed because you now have evidence that was not available at the time.
        For example, sometimes an educational psychologist's report is obtained after the review, and a learning disability is discovered.
        This does not mean that the review panel was at fault. They could only consider the evidence put in front of them.

        (ii) Just because your review was unsuccessful, do not try to argue "They couldn't possibly have considered my case properly" (subtext - "or they would have agreed with me")!
        Assertions won't help. What is needed is proof - for example, a serious error in the clerk's record of your review.

        (iii) Do not question the review panel's judgement. Focus on the process.


    D4. The LA has improved its review paperwork, and we estimate that there could now be less than a 20-25% chance of a review being found not to be fair, consistent and objective.
    Nevertheless we think there are a number of grounds on which the process might be challenged where applicable in a particular case.
    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 process restricted what evidence could be taken into account by refusing to consider school work.
            • 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.


        (iii) If the review clerk's notes state:
        Quote:
        "Extenuating circumstances are not sufficient to explain the shortfall in marks." .....
            ..... it would be worth contrasting this statement with the policy on special needs, because elsewhere the LA has written:
            Quote:
            "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 a shortfall of x number of marks in a particular child's case?


        (iv) 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?


        (v) 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'?

        (vi) These and other issues, if applicable to your case, could be raised.

            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. Academic evidence
        (i) You must provide .....
        Quote:
        ..... 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. [DfE]

        (ii) See our guidance: Appealing against non-qualification
        and especially: Academic evidence. (Covid-19 is likely to limit the sort of evidence that can be provided this year - but there will still need to be sufficient compelling evidence to persuade the panel with regard to academic ability.)
        See also any relevant bits of the Miscellaneous Section (for example: letter of appeal for Mary)

        (iii) Consider how to re-do and submit an improved case, bearing in mind that "The child’s review paperwork and decision letter will be provided to the Independent Appeal Panel should an appeal subsequently take place", so the evidence you submitted previously - which didn't satisfy the review panel - will be included in the appeal papers.

        (iv) Be prepared to address any significant weaknesses in the component parts of the transfer test (VR, Maths or NVR), as the panel might well look at 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) Consider whether there is any other 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, perhaps as a result of greater maturity in Y6,
        - one hopes they would be willing to give their support.


        (vi) 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.

        For appeal purposes, our current advice is that usually the only thing you should write about extenuating circumstances is "Please see attached evidence"!!!

    D7. 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, which you do by putting forward good reasons for wanting or needing a place at the school in question.
        See: Reasons for wanting a place.


    D8. 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':

        • 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 up to half-a-page of A4.)

        (ii) The case for qualification:
            (Ideal length of your submission: anything up to half a page of A4 on academic ability, plus less than half a page on any significant extenuating circumstances. 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.

            Remember - it's not what you write that matters.
            What really matters is the evidence.

            Note: As all the documentation that originally went to review will automatically be included in the appeal papers, there's no point in re-sending it.
            Of course, if you are making changes or improvements, you must send in your revised paperwork.


        Section E:
        The Bucks admission appeals process during Covid outbreak

        Quote:
        Step 1
        Parent submits appeal (with evidence) to Appeals Team

        Step 2
        Appeals Team writes to Parent with:

            Details of appeal process & timing
            Date for submission of additional information
            Reference number

        Step 3
        Parents send additional information to Appeals Team

        Admission Authority (AA) sends its case to Appeals Team

        Step 4
        Appeals Team sends case papers (Parents’ appeal & evidence and AA case) to Parents, AA, IAP & Clerk

        Step 5

        Stage 1 of Appeal

            IAP & Clerk (by telephone/video Teams meeting) discuss & formulate Questions on AA Case
            Questions sent to Parents who are asked to send any additional, relevant Questions on AA case by deadline date
            IAP’s & Parent’s Questions sent to AA with request for Answers by deadline date
            Answers from AA sent to IAP & Parents
            IAP & Clerk (by telephone/video Teams meeting) deliberate & make Stage 1 decisions

        Step 6

        Stage 2 of Appeal*

            IAP & Clerk (by telephone/video Teams meeting) discuss & formulate Questions on Parent’s case
            AA is asked to send any additional, relevant Questions on Parent’s case by deadline date
            IAP’s & AA’s Questions sent to Parent with request for Answers by deadline date
            Answers from Parent sent to IAP & AAs
            IAP & Clerk (by telephone/video Teams meeting) deliberate & make Stage 2 decisions

        Step 7
        Appeals Team sends decisions to Parents & AA within 7 calendar days of decision/s

        *In multiple appeals (where there are two or more appeals for a school) the same Appeal Panel must consider all the appeals for the school before making its decisions, so there will be multiple IAP and Clerk’s Teams meetings at Stage 2.
        [BC]




        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'
            BC - Buckinghamshire Council

    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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