I am new to this forum, it was mentioned to me by a friend but I have read through lots of the posts and wanted to tell my story because I felt it may help some people feel that they are not alone.
We have three daughters and do not live in the catchment area of a grammar school. Our two elder daughters attend Southend High School for Girls.
Daughter number three took the 11+ in November 2004, this being the first round of the new allocation system. We chose Southend High as our first choice for her, as her sisters had been really happy there and done well. Also, daughter three was desperate to attend the same school. She had met many of her sisters' friends, who had always been really nice to her and she had attended the school for concerts, etc, on various occasions.
She did not get offered a place. She had "passed" the exam within the allocated cut off mark "under which noone will be admitted" but she did not have enough marks for a place at the school.
We began the long route of appeal. I worked really hard to put together a decent appeal on her behalf, the details of which I wont go into but suffice it to say that I felt it was an excellent appeal.
As I said above, going into all details would make this post even longer but I will add that one member of the panel, a Head teacher at a local school, if I remember rightly, did comment that it was "a really good appeal".
My daughter was not successful. The school had 40 appeals and only one child was offered a place. The reasons for choosing this particular child, again I will not go into for the sake of their privacy.
2005 intake at SHSG was the first intake to the school of 150. Previous to this the school had taken 140 annually and this quite possibly made the difference.
A discussion with the Head Teacher after the event revealed that daughter three would have gained a place the previous year and the year before that but, unfortunately, not that year.
Our daughter "passed" the exam, had the school as a first choice and had two siblings there and still they would not take her. The sad thing for me was that I was aware of several other girls who had got places on appeal in previous years. In almost all cases, these were girls who had no siblings in the school and who had not always even put the school as first choice. One parent I know had absolutely no reason for her daughter to attend the school at all, apart from the fact that they wanted the best school possible (don't we all?). They had a tough time, apparently, putting excuses together for their appeal but their daughter had been successful.
Our third daughter was obviously born in the wrong year and I write this story because, as someone previously has said, the appeal system is not as fair and clear cut as we think. I would be really interested to see what appeals have succeeded in previous years and compare them to the appeal we made on behalf of our daughter because I would be willing to take a very large bet that our appeal was better than most of them.
To dig the knife in further (not their fault, I realise) SHSG have a policy of taking a whole school photo every five years. This meant that the photo was due to be taken in Autumn 2005. Thus, I have a rather nice picture of all the pupils at Southend High School for Girls, taken last Autumn, with two of our daughters in. If daughter three had been born earlier she would have been in that photo and it will always be a sad reminder to me of how, I believe, the system failed her. Daughter three, of course, has to gaze upon the photo which, not only contains her two sisters but also various ex members of her junior school year who did get places.
I am not suggesting that our daughter should have got a place over someone with a higher mark. Of course, this should not be the case and the criteria for entry is the criteria for entry and there is no getting away from that. What I abhor is the fact that the appeal panels can make decisions which are not individually related to the child and the appeal made but seemingly related to the numbers of children being admitted that year.
I imagine, that as far as Southend High School for Girls is concerned, that it will now always be more difficult to get a place on appeal because they will always be taking 150 pupils.
They system let our daughter down and I still feel the pain of the whole experience.
Daughter three could, obviously take the entrace exam if a place comes up in a year group further down the line. However, she has been fortunate to gain a place at a top Essex comp (by way of their specialist entrance test) and is very happy. I would only move her at her own request. There is always, of course, the additional fact that she might not get the place!! Thus, she would feel that she had "failed" twice.
I guess she must be quite bright. After all, she "passed" the 11+ and gained a place at the school she is at after gaining high marks in tests which included non verbal reasoning, something she had never seen before she took the test.
We are, of course, immensely proud of her but it doesn't put her in the picture does it!!